Re: Life as a tennis pro - Amir Weintraub
Here is the second installment - "My first time". This is quite touching.
"I hope this column won't make me sound too excitable, but I allow myself to release my emotions a bit. At 24 years of age, a career stage when players had already won slams and are considered to be veterans on tour, I, Amir Weintroub, am in Melbourne for the very first Slam of my career.
For the very first time I am able to understand what fellow tennis players and friends are talking about when they tell me "Come on, Amir. You haven't seen a thing. The day you reach a Slam you'd understand". Understand why people won't give up their careers, why they are willing to hold on to this dream by their fingernails, why they won't retire even when they know it's over.
How does a first slam look up close? So, I am still two places away from entering qualifications, but players who are close to getting in, like I am, are able to be a part of the event.
I get a badge with the little embarrassing caption "Alternate", which allows me to enjoy almost all the facilities – but not everything.
For example, I get to use the private transportation services – I get a driver which takes me wherever I want to go, whenever I want to go. I am allowed to roam the hallways of Melbourne Park and nearly lose my way due to the size of the place. I get to enter the men's locker-room. What can you have in a locker room: Machine with dozens different kinds of free drinks, computers, towels, gym equipment if anyone needs it, huge storage facilities, shower stalls with a private Jacuzzi – this is all part of the facilities.
That badge I carry also separate me in many ways. Two players are standing between me and 3,000 dollars – what a player get just for playing the first round in qualifications. Two people are standing between me and the chance to earn 8 points just for the first qualification round – and I'm so used to win only 1,2,3 points for every match. Two people stand between me and the badge I longed for, the one that would say 'player' and not 'alternate', the one that would give me an allowance of 200 dollars per day, GYM entrance, stadium entrance, player party entrance.
Another novelty – I get 2 cans of new balls when I go to practice. When did it ever happen to me? Usually
I get three old balls. I get one hour practice, toward the end of the hour Mr. Fernando Verdasco shows up. Number 9 in the world who have made it to the semis 2 years ago. I know him from TV.
The differences between the classes are huge. For example, only the top 16 seeds (men and women) are allowed to practice in the three big show courts. For the first time I see how the players on the highest levels are a part of a huge team pushing them forwards.
I see in the player lounge some of the 'big names', they are all here with their coaches, family, friends, masseuses and even their stringers.
Me, like other players in my status, are a one man industry. No family, no coaches, no nothing. I don't want to make it sound like an excuse, but I have two many thoughts about things other than tennis, about the future and about procedures, like flights.
In general, flights and flights arrangements occupy around a third of the tennis player's time. Here's an example of a decision I have to make. I have a tournament this week in Eylat (Israel's southern holiday resort, O.L), I moved my flight from Melbourne to Saturday – that means I consider the possibility of not making it to qualifying, or lose sometime during qualifications. According to my calculations, my flight will land in Ben Gurion (Israel's national airport, O.L) on Sunday, 10 PM and the tournament in Eylat starts Monday 10 AM. To be on the safe side, I send an Email to the tournament director in Eylat to schedule me as late as possible.
January 11, 20111. A day before Qualification begins. I wake up at 8:00 and run to look at the lists. That's it, I'm in. The last player who made it. I run to get rid of my Alternate badge and get a locker in the locker-room. The locker next to mine says "Andy Roddick".
I go to the giant dining room. After a few moments I notice the noisy room with the 250 players in it goes totally silent and everyone looks toward the door. Rafa Nadal just walked in.
January 12, 2011. The dream boils down to one day. I am very very very nervous. I've never been in this situation and I have a hard time controlling my nerves. I get a sideline court, number 15. Third match on that court, which means I need to wait a while. I got an Ukranian opponent named Ivan Sergeyev , 200 in the world. Could have been worse. I don't really know how to release the pressure. I've showered three times before the match just to pass the time and wash off the sweat. That didn't help.
At the end it happens. They call me to court. I really do everything that I can, but after two hours and fifteen minutes the match is decided against me in straights. Looking back, I feel my inexperience in those situations cost me that match. I guess that's the experience thing everybody are talking about. Phones, SMSing, everyone comforts me. Come on, Let's go home.
Leaving Australia. Swearing I will do everything, but everything everything, to be back here sometime. This can't be my first and only time.
Tomorrow, first thing, I'm playing in Eylat. Top seed there. No difference, right?"
Last edited by Or Levy; 01-18-2011 at 10:57 PM.