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 second blog entry:
After playing two clay tournaments in Biarritz and Ciboure, the rest of the team and I packed up the campervan and headed to our new destination, Soustons.
We had another great experience as the club was very gracious and loved having US players in their tournament. They had traditional U.S hardcourts which was a nice welcome after competing on the French “clay” and “quick” tennis courts. After the matches they conducted interviews, in English, but I vowed to do them in French if I ever returned. At the end of the tournament, the club directors hosted a buffet dinner, and the whole team was invited to join. After having our first home-cooked meal in weeks, we left Soustons in high spirits.
After the tournament, we had a couple of days before our next matches. Alex and Nicky were set to play a clay court tournament in Dax, while Conor and I were going to play a hard court tournament in Urt. Luckily the two towns are pretty close, so we were able to commute back and forth. We drove to Dax and parked to campervan near the tournament site. There were plenty of restaurants in the area, and we had some time to explore the town. We stumbled across a bowling alley and decided to give it a try. We bowled several games and the internal competitiveness kicked in as we were all striving for the win. Conor and Alex bowled personal bests breaking the 150-plateau. We all had a great time, and it was nice change of pace from all the tournaments matches we had been playing.
While we were in Dax, a kind French family offered to take us on a trip to the nearby lake and use their boat. Conor and I didn’t have matches for a couple of days so decided to take them up on the offer. The boat took about two-three person to sail it, and with the combination of our poor French speaking and their lack of English understanding, there were many interesting moments on the water. It was my first time sailing, and I really enjoyed the feeling of being on the water and using the natural elements(wind) to help guide the boat. After being on the road for weeks, it was a great chance of scenery.
I have touched on the French hospitality earlier, but there is one French custom that I wish we had in the US. After a match, here, it is expected for the winner to buy his opponent a drink. The players can share a nice chat, and have the chance to get to know each other better. If there are any disputes in the match this gives you the opportunity to work out any issues and move on. While we do have certain customs of our own, (for example, in Hawaii, it is customary for tennis players to give their opponents a box of macadamia chocolates after the match), we don’t have anything like this. Traditions like this help us get away from the cold, impersonal part of the game and helps you realize the friendships forged through these experiences is a far greater determinant of a victory.
We just finished our tournaments in Dax and Urt and will now head to Sarlat. It is surprising to see how fast time has passed on this trip as our journey is really winding down. All my teammates will leave within the week, while I will be leaving soon after. It has been a great experience so far, and we will be leaving France with many good memories. Stay tuned!