For the rest of the summer, three of my teammates and I will be traveling around France competing in tennis tournaments. This is a great opportunity to embrace a new culture while getting match play for the upcoming year. We will be traveling/living in a campervan, so it will be quite the experience.
I arrived in Paris on July 12th, and took a train down to Bordeaux. There, I met up with the rest of my teammates, and we started our journey. We are here with one of our coaches’s friends from Australia, Will. He coaches a top Australian junior, Bella, who is also competing in tournaments here. From Bordeaux, we drove to Barsac where some of my teammates were playing a tournament. After spending a couple of days there, I headed to Créon to play in my first tournament. While I had been training in Florida, I was a little anxious before my match because I hadn’t played in an official match since the NCAA team tournament in May. Luckily, I was able to dust the rust off pretty quick and take the tournament title. After competing in Créon, we headed to Biarritz, and Ciboure to play on the red clay. In the US, we play, primarily, on hard courts, so playing on the red clay was a new experience. While, I wasn’t a big fan of the surface, it was nice to try something new, and I really started to enjoy playing on the red clay towards the end of the tournaments.
One of the reasons, it is advantageous to play tournaments in France, is that the French Tennis Tournament System is more efficient than the US tennis system. In the USA tournament system, the tournaments are age-based. This means that the entries of a tournament will be based off a player’s age(14 and under, 16 and under, 18 and under, Open level, etc.). This means that a beginning level player who was 17 years old could be entered at the same tournament as a top ranked junior who is also 17 years old. In contrast, the French Tennis System is purely level-based. Players of varying age will be entered in the same tournament, but players with a higher categorized rating will be fed into the later rounds of the tournament. The main ranking categorizations in France are: +15, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -2, -4, -15, -30. This way the tournament will hold many players, but you will be matched with players who are at a similar level and give you a competitive match. Both systems have their advantages, and I have enjoyed playing in the French System.
There have been many difference competing here, than in the US, but the utmost difference is the level of hospitality each tennis club offers. Each tennis club seems to be integrated within the community, and there are many locals who love watching tennis. Each club has a feast at the end of the tournament involving the players and the spectators throughout the event. This event is great as it gives you the opportunity to see other players off the court, and talk to the club members, who are keen on teaching us some French. The tournament directors really want to make sure we have a good experience and have let us sleep in the clubhouses and use the kitchen and cooking utensils.
After Ciboure, we headed to Soustons, and have a couple of days off before our next tournament. By now, we have gotten into a routine and have spent some quality time with each other. Playing the tournaments have been a great experience, but most of the stories we will remember will take place off the court. From roaming through the morning markets on the street, to playing beach volleyball under a perfect sunset, and getting lost in the middle of nowhere for hours, the real experiences are far greater than a win or a loss. The living conditions have been far from ideal, but it has really given us a chance to bond, and embrace a new lifestyle.