Well it’s all over for us crazy tennis fans in 2010. The Australian Open Wildcard play-offs have finally come to an end here in Atlanta and I must admit that I already miss my friends, the fans, and the players of this wonderful sport.
Personally, this was such an incredible event for me because I was able to meet so many new people who are actively involved in the tennis world in one form or another. I got to know UVA Senior Michael Shabaz since I was the lucky one to pick him up from the airport, and what a terrific guy he is. I found out so much about him (mainly because I can’t keep my big mouth shut and I like to ask a lot of questions). This is what Italian people do by the way, they talk a lot.
Anyway, Michael is a 23-year-old anthropology major and lives in Fairfax Virginia (a suburb of Washington DC). As we conversed, and I subsequently bored him to tears, he proudly told me that his grandfather, who was a talented soccer player, went to high school with Andre Agassi ‘s dad in Iran (many decades ago). As most of you know, Agassi’s father was an Olympic boxer. You can read more detail about that in Agassi’s autobiography “Open”, which I highly recommend by the way! I learned to love Andre even more than I already did after I read his book, and of course his wife shares my name. I just wish I could have a modicum of her tennis talents. Dare to dream …
There is no better way to learn about tennis players then by spending time in the players lounge of any tournament, and the AO WC event was no exception. I was able to talk to, and listen in on many conversations and it was truly so much fun for me as the huge tennis fan that I am. I am a huge sports fan in general, but tennis is undoubtedly one of my faves. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I also play A LOT of tennis too.
Anyway, in the course of one day I met Ryan Harrison, Rhyne Williams, Jack Sock, Melanie Oudin, Coco Vandeweghe, Jamie Hampton, Denis Kudla, Jordan Cox and Tim Smyczek. I learned so many neat things about these players. For instance, did you know that Tim Smyczek and John Isner are roommates? They live in Tampa, Fla and train at Saddlebrook together. And they also just played in a charity event up at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where Tim is from.
Coco has a mean game of table tennis, Melanie Oudin is such an absolute sweetheart, and Rhyne Williams is one BIG guy! When he got up to play table tennis with Kudla, I was like, “Whooaa dude!” He is very funny by the way. Ryan Harrison on the other hand was a bit harder to get to know, which at first I took for pretention, but learned that this wasn’t the case at all. He is a truly a very nice guy, just very serious about his profession I guess. He was really cracking the jokes on the court and had me in stitches, really.
So, I have to save one of new favorite players for last I guess and that couldn’t be anyone else but Jack Sock. Not only is he one of the sweetest young men that you will ever meet, but his whole family and camp are this way. His brother Eric, his aunts and uncles and his coach, Mike Wolf, were just so gracious and appreciative of everything you did for them. They all must have said “thank you” a thousand times and to be honest, I really didn’t think I did anything to help them, not enough anyway.
Jack Sock serving one up at the Racquet Club of the South
I can’t wait to see all these young players go out and compete again in the near future. The Australian Open cannot come soon enough for me, I can assure you, but we have Auckland (amongst others) to look forward to. Smyczek, for one, will be going to Auckland by the way, and his “roomie” is the defending champion. When I mentioned to Tim that several top 20 players are now competing in that tournament, he made it very clear that Isner was to have NO problem defending his title. It was very, very cute. I definitely backed off at that point and went and got myself a beer, to which Tim replied, “oh could you get me one as well?” LOL! To which I replied, of course, “Regular or lite?” No, I really didn’t say that; I just said that they all had to go out and play Team Tennis with Patrick McEnroe so it probably wasn’t a good idea.