`86 minutes.' That's how long it takes to get next to Madison keys. Keys, a rising young tennis superstar grew up in Rock Island, IL the origin of Love GIRLS Magazine (LGM). Considering we have a population just shy of 40 thousand, only two junior high schools and two high schools, it feels as if you know everyone around here. It's safe to say that the teenage girl who beat Venus Williams is no exception.
She caught the attention of the media for beating Serena Williams in an exhibition match at only 14 years-old. I still had to ask, "Who the heck is this girl?" I came to find out with the knowledge of my tennis-savvy father and google that it was Keys, a talented teen that zoomed her way through the tennis rankings. So, I asked her two years after that exhibition match to be a cover girl for my newly formed publication in the spring of 2012, and alas, my first meeting with Keys was in order.
Well, sort of. I remember it was tricky getting in touch with her for a phone interview, but Rock Island is a small city and we tracked her down. She was in California training for a tournament. The girls and I sat around my dining room table asking her questions with a cordless house phone on speaker. She fit us in after her morning workout and before her afternoon training regimen. We had about 15 minutes to ask our questions.
We asked her if she missed home. She said yes, especially friends, family and Whitey's Ice Cream. I could appreciate this, living just a short walk from Whitey's. It was a summertime favorite. We asked her if she ever had a boyfriend, she said no, explaining her schedule was just too hectic for a relationship. We asked her if she knew anyone famous, again she answered no. That would change. She said when she was in town maybe we could hang out. We were flattered. Later we tried to find her Facebook, but she didn't really have one, just her picture popped up when you searched for her. Her cover made The Dispatch and we handed out the magazine with her on the cover at our launch celebration in April of 2012. I have just one copy of that issue left because our readers ate it up, although my dad, the tennis guru, may be hiding another copy.
February 2015, it was like deja vu. Keys beat a Williams' sister, Venus, but this time in the Australian Open. Now she was a celebrity. During our first interview she was ranked in the top 100 tennis players. Today she was ranked one of the top 10 players in the world. It was unlikely her life would ever be the same. The journalist in me wanted a second interview. The Rock Island girl in me was bursting with pride. I searched all my email contacts, but this time she was out of reach. CNN and ESPN interviews were among her Facebook posts, her followers climbed by the thousands. Huh. I remembered when she didn't even have Facebook. I felt a new sense of hope in tracking her down when she hinted to fans that she was home. This was my chance for the follow-up story. She was scheduled to be at the Quad City Tennis Club on a cold Saturday morning and I would make the hour and a half journey from Western Illinois University in Macomb. In hand I would bring the last, 2012 vintage copy with Keys on the cover. I was determined I wouldn't leave without it signed.
Saturday morning the Tennis club was crowded with young tennis players scurrying about in neon yellow t-shirts with #thrive and Madison Keys written across the front and back. Whitey's showed up with free shakes for everyone.
I imagined they had read that in my first article. They handed out the last few just as I was arriving. Dang it, I was hungry. I waited patiently for her to complete her tennis lessons with the young fans. I followed behind, ESPN, Channel 4 and a line of 86 MINUTES.
"I wondered what it was like to be suddenly wanted by so many people."
Devoted fans were armed with sharpies, tennis balls, racquets, t-shirts and picture frames to be signed, but she always seemed out of reach. She was escorted about by security and local police officers who were having a lot more luck talking to her than I was.
I waited, getting what photos I could through the glass windows where she had her interview. Yes, I had turned into paparazzi.
I entertained myself by chatting with fans and tennis club employees. The girl at the counter had been accepted to Yale, good for her! Note-to-self, follow up with her for an interview. Time was ticking; I watched some leave unable to wait any longer for an autograph or selfie. I saw the disappointment across their faces and hoped they got a chance like this again.
I was among a retired teacher from Bettendorf and few fans that absolutely refused to leave; people who grew up with Madison and even taught her. We all crowded around the door, and every so often the ESPN guy would poke his head out to tell us to quiet down so he could finish his interview.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for. Madison opens the door. She looked about for a sharpie and three people handed her one, including me. She eventually signed my magazine. I asked for a photo. She said yes. I held up the rare copy and smiled.
I looked at my phone. I was starving, time for lunch. Mission accomplished. Time, 86 minutes.