It's 2pm, I'm on the couch in my pajamas staring at a pile of toasty laundry trying decide what I need to pack for my week-long sojourn to San Diego. It's stressing me out already.
But then I remembered I can keep procrastinating by summarizing my last three days covering Stanford. It was a blast.
- If you can only go to a tournament for one day, you could do worse than shelling out the cash for a ticket to Quarterfinal Friday. Especially this year at Stanford where, for the most part, you had the top eight seeds into the quarters. Putting the Aga/MaKiri match aside (a bagel? really?) we had some fantastic matches that day. All three setters, all tightly contested. In fact, it got too much for me. I finally took off my media badge during Sam's match and let out a few choice "C'mon, Sams" from the upper deck. Sometimes you just got to let a little pressure out to keep the bottle from exploding. I wasn't proud of it.
- I spent a bit of the day trying to help my new friend from Seattle, Meghan, get her picture with Sam. While Sam was warming up for her match I gave Meghan the rundown of where she'd be after the match (the track), where best to stop her for a picture (while she's walking from the track to the locker room), and where to get her autograph (when she's leaving the site from the player exit). Meghan, bless her, almost chickened out on the Sam photo-op. But I finally had to step in. "Sam! Can we get a picture over here?" I yelled as I literally shoved Meghan into her. Sam smiled, stopped, did a "Where are we looking? Where are we looking?" (which is much funnier if you see me imitate it) said thanks, and continued on to the locker room for a shower and then press. Well done, Meghan. That picture came out awesome.
- The blockbuster match on Friday was Maria/Elena, which brought in a solid crowd for a Friday night. There was much oohing and ahhing as both ladies put on a hitting clinic. Not so much a serving clinic.
- I have a feeling Maria doesn't shower on site. She's usually ready for press 30 minutes after the match, which, with cooldown and showering and stuff, is pretty quick. I think she cools down, changes out of her kit, and then leaves the site. Random tidbit, I know.
- Sam's dad Tony is really nice. He was meandering around the player entrance because he forgot his badge and had to wait for Sam and the team to get back. He was happily talking to anyone and everyone. The Corgi tendencies don't come from him.
- I haven't asked many questions in the pressers. Not because I'm shy but because I don't want to be part of the story or inject myself into the narrative. I'm not am not, nor do I plan to be, the Perez Hilton of tennis. The questions I have asked have been pretty inane and harmless. But I found myself at times, particularly during Ana, Sam, or Maria pressers, thinking of questions that were totally relevant from a journalist's perspective, but I could not, as a fan of those players, bring myself to ask them. I don't want to heap more pressure on them, make them think about something negative that they've never even considered, force them to justify their decisions, etc. I mean, could you ask your favorite player "Wow. Played like crap out there. What happened?" I thought I could but when it came down to it, I just didn't want to hurt their feelings. I leave that to the professionals who do this for a living and are paid to put aside any attachment to the players. And credit to them. Because if it were just a bunch of fankids in the press room, all we'd end up doing is play Scrabble with the players and drink hot coco. Not exactly hard-hitting news, there.
- Got to watch some of the national playoffs as well. Quite a stark contrast to some of the glamour you see with the top players, these were women of different ages and backgrounds slugging away on a far court trying to win a wildcard into the US Open qualies. I mean, can you even imagine that kind of pressure? Tennis Channel was here covering the event and they'll be putting together a one-hour documentary on the players and the process, which will air closer to the Open. Check it out.
- I never watch doubles on TV but I love watching it live. Really fun stuff.
- I do have to give a lot of credit to the journos in the media center. I know from a fan perspective it can be frustrating sometimes to read pressers and think "why wasn't this question asked?" or "really? we're going to ask that question again?" or "why is this presser so short?" But seriously, if you see these players every single day and you have to ask them questions, it's really quite difficult. After the obligatory 2 minutes of "So what happened out there?" you're kind of at a loss. But the pros know what they're doing and one of the things I was really impressed/happy to see is that for the most part, the pressers ended on a light note. Whether it was asking Sam about surfing or Vika about whether she plans on having a beer on her birthday, it was a skilled way to end things positively and lighten the mood. I could tell that the players appreciated it.
- Did I mention that Cari Champion is impossibly nice? It really really pisses me off.
- It's alternately embarrassing and really cool to hear that people in the ATP/WTA read Forty Deuce. And don't want to shiv me.
- The highlight of the last three days was sitting in on Billie Jean King's press conference on Saturday. She talked about the formation of the WTA (she remembers laying down the courts here at Stanford 40 years ago), going through the 70's on four hours of sleep nightly, why she let her tennis career suffer in order to help set up the tour, and the importance of Title IX. It was amazing to listen to her speak and realize that this sport that we love and these players that we love, these opportunities area all because of her. I'll write more on this later.
- A few people have emailed me this. As far as I know, it wasn't me (I've never emailed Doug Robson). But I do have some thoughts on this but I need to pack for a weeklong trip in 15 minutes. So I'll do a separate post on it.
- One thing that became clear to me this week is how little tennis people know about the rabid tennis underground that exists on blogs and Twitter. I hope that changes.
- Never underestimate the impact of a late night match/day match turnaround. Hell, I was just blogging the thing and by the time I woke up at 10:30am on Sunday to get to the final at noon, the fatigue of the week hit me like a ton of bricks. Sure, these are professional athletes and they should be prepared. But they're also human beings. It's tough, is all I'm saying.
- Vika's ability to use her cell phone to stave off fans is pretty impressive.
And that's all she wrote for now. It was a really fun week and it was privilege to be there. I did my best to stay out of everyone's way and I think I succeeded. I hope that everyone enjoyed the coverage and I did the tennis fan/blogosphere proud. Hopefully tournaments will come to see the value that we add and come to a better understanding of what this new breed of tennis fans want.