All this week I will be blogging live from the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. Check back daily and feel free to ask questions. I love comments!
They say that “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.” In DC you go to parties with people you usually see on CNN, whereas in Hollywood you go to parties with people that you usually see on the E! network. Today felt a little more like Hollywood, and fortunately, with tennis stars to gawk at instead of Lou Dobbs wagging neck, life was good. But then again, I’m a tennis fan. So let me tell you all about the great party I went to today.
I brought along my camera and took a bunch of snaps, except near the end of the day when my battery ran out of juice (grrrr). You can check out my slideshow here. I’ll be adding more throughout the week, so be sure to check back often.
Let me first clear up a little something about DC weather: Yes, it’s hot. Today’s high was 95, but the humidity has actually been pretty low. Bear in mind that our brilliant forefathers decided to build the capital of America on a mosquito-infested swamp, so when it’s humid, it’s humid. It’s like you got hit in the face with a wet mitten humid. Today was not like that at all. It was just hot. So you drink water and wear sunscreen. No biggie.
While I was walking around the Farmers Market this morning I was thinking that the poor players see probably exactly sum-sumthin’ zero of the District while they’re here, which really sucks. They get put up in the crappiest Marriot in the tri-county area, whose only bonus is that it’s like 2 miles from Georgetown (it’s probably about 10 miles from the Stadium, so I guess they get to see the Park too. Horray.). Whether they actually make it across the bridge to soak up the local is doubtful. Last year after the final Andy Roddick and James Blake actually did go into G’town and got ripped, meaning that a club was probably the most they saw of DC all week. So sad. Washington is an amazingly beautiful city with lots to do and see. Word to all players: If you get knocked out in an early round, the cocktails are on me. I’ll show you my city and give you the serious hook-up. That goes double triple for Feliciano Lopez or Marat Safin (insert snarky comment here).
When I got to the event site today, Kevin Kim and Bjorn Phau, two great young players, were getting warmed up on the first court. About an hour later I stopped by a clinic they were doing with Wayne Bryan and about 25 young Thai Tennis kids, which was alot of fun. The players had a good hit with the kids, and Wayne entertained the crowd. It was part of the activities for the Columbia Island Marina Family Picnic Day, so the whole place was packed today. More packed than I’ve ever seen it, in fact.
After I watched Kim and Phau hit a little, I wandered back to check out Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman playing a nice pick-up game. Paul Annacone and Roger Rasheed hung around and picked up balls for the guys and chatted as they slapped balls back and forth. I think this was the first time I heard someone say, “This was nine dollars well-spent!”, meaning the cost of the ticket to the qualifiers. I must have heard that line like 15 times today, and it was absotootenly true. Hewitt was in good form, and Henman punched some amazing volleys off of him.
After that was the big show of the day. I rolled up to see a major crowd of people surrounding what’s known as court 6 to me, I think it’s now Match Court 3 for the tourney. The first thing I saw was Brad Gilbert‘s head over the crowd since he’s so tall, and I thought, “Oh, it must be noon, Andy Murray‘s out.” Then I heard the buzz go through the crowd: “Agassi.” “Agassi?” “Andre Agassi!” Yes, the old man was in da house. He was playing a little tennis with the student of his old coach. It was weird. It was cool. It felt like some bizarre family reunion. Oh, and the people. They were 8 thick to the fence, and we were all loving it.
I turned my head and saw someone leave their spot on the first row of the bleacher, so I jumped up immediately and had a birds-eye view of their hit. Agassi looked great, and was playing shirtless. I should confess that he was actually my second topless sighting of the day. I cruised by Janko Tipsarevic warming up on my way to see Hewitt-Henman and gawked at him for a brief moment. Anyway, a few years ago during the Sunday qualies, I had the fortune to see Agassi and Brian Vahaly playing some shirtless, down and dirty, schoolyard tennis in the Stadium at like 5pm. There were probably only ten of us there besides the players. Agassi wasn’t close enough for me to really get that good of a look at him, but I did today, and he is outrageously ripped. (I also met him a few years ago, but he had a suit on, so that doesn’t really count.) I’m really starting to think that guy works out or something.
Then I turned around and looked at the court behind me and noticed a bunch of people standing over there. I craned my neck and could see that it was James Blake, so I gave up my spot on the squeaky creaky bleacher and headed out through the fray. James was hitting with Vince Spadea, which has got to be a contradiction of terms. James was clad neatly in a white hat and tennis shirt, looking very classical and refined; while Spadea was outfitted in a red trucker hat with his low-rent calligraphy ‘S’ on it, and what looked to be some gym clothes he totally could have bought at Target. Maybe I’m tough on old Vindawg, but I really think that dude is like the Brittany Spears of the tennis world.
Mardy Fish was just starting to warm up on the court next to James and Vince, so he’s in the background of some of my James photos. I had to run over to meet a friend of mine, and when I came back, James was hitting with Mardy. The Fish drew the 16th seed to the tourney, which is kind of, well, surprising. But given all the pulls and the fact that for the first time in a long time this event is pretty South American player-free, it makes sense. Incidentally, that’s the weirdest thing this year: No Chela, no Gonzalez, no Massu, not even a Lappenti in sight. Did Hewitt scare them all off? Who knows?
The rest of the day was spent going in and out of Jan-Michael Gambill‘s match, who lost 7-5, 7-5, and meandering out by the practice courts to see who was hitting. I should preface my comments about Jan-Michael: He beat himself out there today. He should have won that match. His first set was solid. He was up in the tiebreak, and then gave it away. According to his friend Fiona, “[T]hat’s the first time he’s played 3 matches in a row since last October. 3 weeks ago we didn’t even know if he’d be able to play one full match much less 3, so this was a good weekend in some ways, despite the end result.” (Hi Fee!) He saved three match points in the second, but also played some risky net approaches. In the end he double faulted on match point and the whole Stadium collectively groaned. Poor guy. Congrats to Andrea Stoppini, who Stoppini’ed Jan-Mike today. He’ll play Paul Goldstein in tomorrow’s late night match.
What else? Bobby Reynolds was signing autographs in a little midway tent. They couldn’t get people to stop. “Bobby who? Are you a tennis player?” Justin Gimelstob and Sebastian Grosjean were hitting on the same court that Agassi and Murray were on hours earlier, with a slightly thinner crowd and more questions about who they were. Sam Querrey was hitting with no one watching him. I stopped, of course, hoping that the crowd mentality would pick up. No luck.
Paradorn Srichapan was out again, of course without a shirt! Why would you think otherwise? He was hitting with Danai Udomchoke, a younger Thai guy he’s going to play doubles with. Walt Landers is working with him and after their hit, Srichapan and Landers did some amazingly crazy volley drills where Landers fed him balls while squatting close to the net. I’ve seen Srichapan do his whole work out thing a few times, and it’s no wonder he’s one of the fittest guys on the Tour. Why he’s working with Landers is beyond me. Does he really need it? Anyway, Landers himself got to sign a couple autographs when he walked off the court, which he thought was pretty ridiculous, but obliged. After one of them he waved at the kid like an old grandma and said, “Do you even know who I am kid? Feh!” Two middle-aged suburban dads started asking him what they were doing, and Walt said, “You know, foot drills, hitting drills. That’s what you do in tennis, you know?” Then he mentioned working with Agassi, Sampras and Safin and the two guys looked totally confused. One of them said, “Where are you from?” Landers said, “I’m Polish.” and walked away. They both looked at me, so I said, “Do you have any idea who that was?” And they were coming up blank, and one of them goes, “Was he for real?” I decided to make them suffer for their indignity to him and said, “That guy’s a legend,” and walked away too.
So then we left the event. But that’s not where our tales of Legg Mason end. I went home and took a shower and then jumped in the car to go grab some food. I was with a friend on Rock Creek Parkway and saw a silver Mercedes Benz SUV with the “Official Car” decal weaving around in front of us. A silver Jeep Cherokee who was behind the Benz rolled up next to it and the driver of the Mercedes was talking to the guy in the Jeep for a second, and then the Jeep sped off. The guy in the Official Car continued to drive like an idjit, so we pulled up next to it to see what the hell was going on (yea, we’re nuts…). The windows are frosted, so I went to see who was in the backseat through the open driver’s side window. Then I noticed that the driver was Brad Gilbert. Andy Murray was in the backseat. I couldn’t see who was in the passenger seat, but I can only assume it was the tournament volunteer who was supposed to be driving the car. My only real comment is that that dude should not be allowed to drive. I actually wonder whether or not Gilbert even has a license. From the looks of it, the answer’s probably a big ‘no’ on that one.
As predicted, Safin will play the big night match tomorrow. You can check out the order of play here.
And, hey… Marat, don’t forget my offer: If you get knocked out, post-match cocktails are on me!
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