“So, what the hell is going on in Weston?” you may be wondering, if you’re a particularly curious type. After all, I’ve been going there almost every day since last Friday and have yet to write a damn word about it. But keeping my Westonian insight and experience from the world only increases it as a commodity by making it scarce and in demand, don’tcha know?* And yet here I go cheapening things again by pressing fingers to keyboard.
Well, after witnessing the madness that was the Jesse Witten vs. Daniel Garza USA F2 Tamarac semi on Friday, I hightailed it over to the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, a gorgeous and sprawling 25-court establishment located off the same lot as the Weston City Hall (which is decidedly less gorgeous and sprawling); the sign on the street literally directs you to the “City Hall/Midtown Athletic Club.” Which is a pretty convenient setup when it comes to enforcing code violations, I suppose. I thought it was strange at first, but after five days I’m starting to kind of like it. If I ever run for office now, it’ll be on a “racquet club for every city hall” platform, I think.
So tennis? Of course. A ridiculous amount of it. Sickening, even. Or maybe that was just the smell of the wet clay – hard to say. The 128 qualifying draw format employed on these USTA Pro Circuit Futures events ensures an orgy of frenzied activity in the early going. On the first days, with 64 matches, no posted court assignments, and no on-court officials, it’s as close to athletic anarchy as one could hope to find at a combination tennis club/city hall.
On the way past one of my favorite signs on the grounds…
…I catch my first recognizable player sighting, and it’s none other than Wayne Odesnik, walking back to the clubhouse, sweaty, towel around his neck. Since it’s only about 45 minutes after his match was scheduled to begin, I just assume that Wayno took Nikki Madregallejo to the cleaners. Turned out, however, that Odesnik retired in the first set tiebreak. Some spectators I spoke with later told me they saw Odesnik actually win that breaker (which wouldn’t be the first time the ITF, the USTA, the spectators and/or the players haven’t been in agreement on the score or even outcome of a particular match). Hard to say for sure either way, and I haven’t yet been able to determine what exactly happened in that one.
I wander out near Court 23-ish to the player check-in and ask annoying questions about court assignments. Then I complete my trek over the spacious layout and plop my ass in the comfy grass near Court 22, where Austin Smith takes on 7th seed Joel Kielbowicz. For those who don’t remember (or never knew in the first place), it was Austin who’s credited with coming up with that infamous B-word on then-girlfriend Melanie Oudin’s sneakers during her spirited US Open run (“Believe”, by the way – I have no idea what you’re thinking). Kielbowicz is a 27 year-old four-year UNLV product with a monster serve. As there are no chair umps and players only sometimes call the score (or call it loudly enough when they do), the only way to determine where one is in a match is by checking the tennis ball scoring devices or by paying very close attention.
I’m not doing a good job of either, but it seems like Smith is handling the heat from Kielbowicz, so I amble away to the opposite corner of the grounds; there, 18-year-old, 12th-seeded 1,068th-ranked Brit Jack Carpenter, semifinalist of the 2009 Eddie Herr International junior championships, is taking on unranked 19-year-old American Kurt Thein. The only other people watching the match are each player’s coach. That is, until the affable Alex Ward comes round the corner. The 8th seed in the main draw and the funniest sub-250-followed tennisser on the twitter had seen me skulking about Tamarac for the better part of the week, and now here I am in the furthermost corner of the complex at the other place, watching his roommate play quallies. What else was there to do but point and laugh? (Amiably, of course.)
I pick myself up out of my comfy chair to have a chat. I plead guilty to their suspicion that, yes, I am the idiot who’s been tweeting every last bit of nonsense from Tamarac the past few days (although they phrase their accusation in a much friendlier fashion). I, in turn, ask Alex whether Katie O’Brien is still kicking his ass in fantasy footy, but he insists he’s had a good week. He tells me about a race to 500 Twitter followers he’s having with another British player and I promise to aid him in his quest. Later, I send out an urgent plea to my loyal minions (or so I thought) to start following him immediately, but his numbers don’t budge. Come on, disloyal minions – do what I tell you, damn it! You’re making me look bad. The next day, I see him again (the entire Brit crew must be convinced I’m stalking them at this point, but it’s not my fault they’re always at the damn tennis) and I ask, “Ya hit 500 followers yet?” “Not quite,” he says, diplomatically. Anyway, here’s you’re last chance to get in on the ground floor of the next Tennis/Twitter superstar. Follow him, you fools.