Re: An insight into life on the challenger tour
Ross Hutchins Blogs from Ukraine - Part 1 "..a crazy last few days."
Hi Everyone, sorry Ive been away for a few days..its been a crazy last few days with so much going on. I am now writing to you from my penthouse room in a nice hotel in Ukraine. The tournament is the Dnepovetrosk $125,000+hospitality Challenger and is a very popular tournament as the top seeds in the singles draw will show. For most players this is their last tournament, an important week as for many players as it is a big challenger with a lot of ATP points to be gained from a good week. The top seeds in the singles draw are Canas, Santoro, Benny Becker and Tursnov. 3 out of the 4 players are Wild Card entrants into the draw, as if you are top 50 in the world singles, you can only play the tournament by getting a Wild Card. It is a very good tournament with a huge amount of publicity around Ukraine, with good crowds of supporters coming in to watch the early rounds of the tournament.
In my last blog I had just arrived in Paris to play a French league match. These matches have a great team environment and are played with an enormous amount of passion and pride. There is no team prizemoney for winning, just bragging rights around France. The players that have been nominated are some of the best in the world. Due to a couple of last minute injuries, Aucks and I were brought in to play singles for the 1st time competitively in 4 or 5 months which was going to be interesting! It was very enjoyable and I loved every second of it. I was up against a former world number 5, Jiri Novak and unfortunately he was too good on that day and beat me in 2 tight sets. He was very impressive and once you face him across the net, it is very easy to realise how he was top 10 in the world and was successful against the likes of the great Andre Agassi and co. Having completed this match and then playing a dead rubber doubles match, we had a long and difficult journey ahead of us..it was a mission to say the least!
We had booked a flight all along from Vienna to Dnepovetrosk on Sunday morning, so therefore we needed to be in Vienna at least an hour and a half before the departure time of our flight. This meant getting a flight from Paris to Vienna at 8am. We left our club match venue on Saturday night and had to take 3 train journeys to get to Charles de Gaulle airport hotel. We arrived at approximately midnight. This was our 4th different hotel in 4 nights. We felt like we were sightseeing around Europe except never stopping to see anything. We didn't mind as we knew it had to be done in order to get to the next tournament in time and this is the life of a professional sportsman. The alarm was set..5am. So having had 4 hours sleep, we had another long day of travelling ahead of us. I personally dont mind getting this little amount of sleep, as I find I never actually fall into a deep sleep, so I don't feel too bad in the morning. The problem is the fatigue hits me early afternoon, then I admit I'm a nightmare to be around.
Auck's and I are very close friends and I think this is very important when you are travelling together. We know when one of us is not in the mood to joke or mess around. We do also have a lot of fun and laughter in each ohers company. He is a very funny guy, constantly making me laugh and he has a great sense of humor. He works hard and is also very professional when it comes to hard work or time to knuckle down and prepare for matches. Unfortunately he has a couple of negatives..his dress sense is very questionable in my view and his hair,well, the less said the better. It is in the 'out of control' stage but he is convinced that if he can just tough out a couple of weeks like this, it will turn into a great look, I'm not convinced, but maybe he'll prove me wrong. All in all he is a great guy to have around.
We took the flight to vienna and made our check-in deadline with 2 minutes remaining for our flight to Ukraine. Needless to say, I was sweating huge amounts having sprinted there with all our bags as there is only 1 flight a day from Vienna to Dnepovetrosk, so it was vital we got on this one. By this time there was snow storms in Vienna and Ukraine, so our flight was delayed by a couple of hours. We hung around and in the end we left a couple of hours later. Having landed and now walking off the plane there were a couple of lovely cars at the bottom of the aeroplanes stairs, unfortunately this was only for seeded singles players,so we just had to walk by and meet the tournament representatives inside the airport.
Then the chaos began..It was a full flight, many many people all waiting for their bags to arrive on the baggage reclaim belt, but only 10-15 bags came out. one of them were mine and none belonged to Aucks either. This had never happened to me before, but there was nothing we could do. All of our clothes and rackets were stranded in Vienna and we possibly had to play a match the following day. We gave all our details to the austrian Airways desk and hoped that they were going to arrive the following day on the same flight. The tournamet were fantastic and since there were many players who were missing bags, they made a huge effort to track down all our bags and sure enough they came the next day. We were scheduled to play on Tuesday.
The court surface is very much slower this week than Bratislava and we had quite a tricky 1st round match, Bjorn Phau/Dennis Gremelmayer. Two former top 100 players who play well on slow courts. We prepared well, got a couple of good sessions in to get used to the court speed, lights, balls, air and the new surroundings. This may sound ridiculous but all these factors make a difference and it is crucial that one gets used to them before the tournament begins. We felt good leading up to the match. We started off ok, holding serve the whole set but not being able to break their serve and it ended up in a tie-break which we lost. We reacted well to going a set down, stayed positive and really played well the 2nd and 3rd set 10 point tie-break. We won pretty comfortably after the 1st set to end up with a 6-7 6-2 10-5 win. It felt good to get into the tournament and with a day off tommorrow to practice and prepare for thursdays 2nd round match, we feel great. We finished close to 10pm, a good stretch and shower and it was time to go for dinner. As you all probably know by now I love my sushi and with 'Nobu Restaurant' round the corner that was the only place I wanted to eat.
This leads me up to now, 2am and time to get some rest. We have practice scheduled for 2 pm tommorrow so I have a lie in tommorrow.
I hope you like todays blog..Good Night!