Three teammates and I are spending the second half of their summers playing tournaments in France. It has been fun getting used to the European red clay, meeting fellow players at various tournaments and keeping our games sharp for the 2013-14 season. Here is the third blog entry:
After our tournaments in Dax and Urt, the team headed to Sarlat. This would be the last tournament that all four of us would be competing in together. When I booked my plane tickets in March, I knew I would be in France for one week longer than my three teammates. Sarlat proved to be unique from the other clubs as this was the tennis club where the famous French Tennis player, Younes Aynaoui, grew up playing tennis (he played the second longest professional match against Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals of the 2003 Australian Open). To our surprise, he entered the tournament, and unsurprisingly, he won the tournament without dropping a set. Obviously, he is a very good tennis player, but I was taken aback by how nice and humble he was. After the tournament ended, he was nice enough to invite me to hit, and was really keen on offering advice.
After the tournament, we dropped my three teammates(Alex, Conor, and Nicky) at the Bordeaux train station. As the train pulled around the corner, I felt twinge in my heart. It was sad to see them leave, but we had so many great experiences these past four weeks, and knew we would have these memories for the rest of our lives.
While competing in the Sarlat tournament, I met a Harvard Alumni who grew up in the area and also played tennis at the club. It was nice to have the same college connection and he invited us to have dinner at his house and meet his family. Since we had a couple of days off before the next tournament he offered to show the rest of the team(Bells, Will[our coach], and myself) around the city. Traveling through each town you don’t always realize how much history lies there, and it is fascinating to think all the important historic events that have happened over the years. Most of the landmarks in this particular city included castles that were constructed during the Hundred Year’s War between France and England. I’ve always had a fascinations for castles, so I am really thankful that they took time out of their busy schedule to show us around.
From Sarlat, we drove to the town, Le Bigue. This was one of my favorite tournament of the whole trip. Like the other clubs, everyone was hospitable, but every night, the club had dinner for the members and players and they wouldn’t let you leave until you had three or four helpings. There was a vegetable garden right next to the club, and everything tasted great. While my French had been getting better throughout the trip, most of the members spoke English which made the communication process much more fruitful. As this was one of my last tournaments it was great to reaccount all the adventures my teammates and I had, and I had a nice little fan base by the last day of the tournament. I played one of the best matches of the trip in the finals, and was really sad to leave Le Bigue.
After Le Bigue, I played my last tournament in Northern France at Normandy. It was my 9th and final tournament, and I knew would feel remorse after the last match. When I got to the club, I found out the matches were going to take place in the indoor clay courts, which was a little surprise. Clay is my least favorite surface and it was fitting I had one more chance to prove myself on the surface. I reached the final without dropping a set, and found myself against a veteran clay court player in the finals. His experience showed as I dropped the first set 3-6. With much support on the sidelines(my coach Will, and close friend Bella), I was able to event the match with a 6-3 win in the second set. In the third he struck first and took a commanding 3-1 lead. Whether it was my last match, or that I had played so many matches on the trip, I was able to find another gear and won the final set 6-4. After his forehand went wide I glanced at my coach as we couldn’t believe I won a tournament on clay. While the club lacked the community feel of the many other great clubs I’ve played at, it was fitting last tournament, and will always have a special place in my heart.
After the tournament we packed up the campervan, for the last time, and headed to the Paris Airport. That’s it for my adventures in France! It was an unforgettable five weeks, but am looking forward to head back to the states and spend a week at home. At the end of the week, I will be posting my final reflections from the summer. Stay tuned!