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THIS ONE’S FOR YOU BOB

As I sit in the airport headed to Paris for the French Open, I am left with my thoughts preparing for the event. This is nothing new as it has become a bit of a ritual for me to get focused for the tough week ahead. This time though, the thoughts are different. The recent loss of my good friend Bob Harrington is flooding my thoughts.

Bob was an incredibly important person in my life, especially in my younger years, and played a huge role in the successes I have today. Bob was both my teacher and my fathers teacher at Aiken Prep School, and was one the first people to hop on the court tennis court with me. Alongside that, he was the first person willing to take a smart mouthed young red head on as a doubles partner. Bob and I competed, and won, more than a few doubles titles with his years of experience and my fiery competitiveness. Bob was the ultimate gentleman both on and off the court, and was always willing to take the time for anyone who needed it.

My longest lasting memory of Bob is also the most important. While in school Bob taught me a poem, which has stuck with me to this day. The poem, and the lesson he taught with it, became a way of life for me, teaching me the importance of believing in myself and my dreams, as well as how to carry yourself as a person. A fitting lesson from a man who did both better than anyone I know. The poem was “Couldn’t Be Done” by Edgar Guest and it goes:

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
I have carried this poem in my tennis bag for as long as I can remember, always relying on it during tough times. I know that I will need it this week more than ever, as this week I am going to French Open with a different goal. I am playing to show Bob the person I have become on and off the court thanks to him, and how much those times and memories with him mean to me.

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