Originally Posted by tangerine_dream
Unfortunately you need to be a member to read it.
not if you're sneaky
Originally Posted by tangerine_dream
I'll bet his stalker's name is binkygirl.
Brian Vahaly: On being stalked and the grind of the Challengers
On being a famous bachelor: 'You get a lot of odd and sometimes scary
scenarios that come from it'
By Matthew Cronin, TennisReporters.net
Atlanta's Brian Vahaly is one of only two singles players in the Top-200 who graduated from college. A bright counter puncher with good foot speed and a fine backhand, Vahaly reached a career high No. 64 in 2003 after he reached the semis of Memphis and the quarters of Indian Wells.
The 26-year-old hasn't been able to maintain that level during the past two years. But, two weeks ago, he won Calabasas Challenger and pushed his ranking up to No. 147. Even though he's only pocketed $572,025 in his career, he funded the Brian Vahaly Brighter Future Foundation, which offers after school academic and tennis programs to inner city youth.
Vahaly, Jan-Michael Gambill, Robby Ginepri, Scoville Jenkins and Ashley Harkleroad will all take part in an exhibition and fundraiser for the foundation, Nov. 18-19 at the James Creek Tennis Center in Atlanta. TennisReporters.net spoke to Vahaly about life on the Challenger circuit, his brief fling with fame and his future aspirations.
TennisReporters.net: Why does a finance and marketing graduate of the prestigious University of Virginia keep playing Challengers when you can't earn a lot of money there?
Brian Vahaly: I've loved playing tennis since the age of two and I can use the rest of my life for education to create another career for myself. I got a little taste of it when my ranking shot up to No. 64 and I would like to see if I can get back there. It does get difficult at times. The travel is very tough, but until I feel that until I stop improving, I'll keep going.
TR.net: How long will you keep playing Challengers until you feel you've had enough?
BV: A couple of years. I'm very patient and as long as I feel like I'm improving and I'm enjoying it, I'll keep at it as long as my body holds up. I have the routine down pretty well. It's hard not to enjoy the lifestyle. If you can get sponsors, it's a great way to live.
TR.net: It's got to brutal making up to No. 64, being a big story at Indian Wells when you beat Juan Carlos Ferrero and getting into the main ATP draws regularly and then two years later finding yourself playing the Tulsa Challenger.
BV: It's hard, but at the same time I've been to a lot of these cities before so you try to trick yourself into thinking it's all about the matches and winning. You have to compete the best way you can. The reality of the small American towns versus the big cities with big tournaments is very different, but it's kind of nice. You get spoiled on the tour. You get back to the roots more and it's humbling.
TR.net: You're pretty much punching the clock.
BV: It's a job like anything else. From a outside perspective, it seems more glamorous than it is. We travel 39 weeks a year; we're mostly staying in hotel rooms and, for the most part, we are isolated from friends and family. We usually just go from the courts to the hotel room. It's a difficult life in terms of relationships.
TR.net: Are still finding enough motivation to go out week after week? Are getting down on yourself and or do you still believe you can make it back on the regular tour?
BV: That's not much of a difference between the ATP and Challenger players. Almost all the guys playing Challengers have wins over guys in the Top 50 in the world. It's a matter of establishing consistency. I enjoy the challenge. I never thought I'd be able to get up to the ATP level and I did and now this is another challenge to get back up again. If I don't accomplish it, life goes on and I'll move it into another career.
TR.net: Are the American guys who are out on the Challenger circuit pretty close?
BV: It's more a closed-knit environment than the ATP, where there's more business to be done, more press. The Americans have become close over the past four to fiveyears. With the exception of Roddick, we all came up through the Challengers. We go out to dinner together and hang out a lot. It's more of team atmosphere, but we are still fighting it out on court.
TR.net: When you go out, are you guys talking tennis?
BV: My friends and I don't. I don't like to. I have other interests. I like to read books about other things and want to talk about things outside the game. It's like going to work and then coming home and talking about your job at dinner. I don't like it, but there are tons of guys on tour who are like that, who want to watch matches on TV, watch tape, talk about other players. For guys who never gone to college and have had no life outside of tennis, I can understand and respect that.
TR.net: You have to be seeing that a lot because there are hardly any singles players on tour now who have gone to college more than a year or two.
BV: It's only myself and Paul Goldstein amongst the Top 200 who gradated college. It's a dying breed, but you still have guys like Bobby Reynolds, Amir Delic, and Rajeev Ram who are on the Challenger circuit who did go to college for a couple of years. As of late, there has been a tendency for players to think that college is waste of time if they are going to play the pros and I think that's an unfortunate conclusion. It's very rare now for players to go four years and then make it, but Paul and I want to show that it can be done. You don't have to sacrifice an education to play tennis. For the guys who don't make it and never took a scholarship, they have to start back over. I feel lucky not to be in that situation.
TR.net: You must interact with fans a lot more on the Challenger level given that it's closer confines and smaller locales.
BV: I speak to people after my matches and they have a real appreciation for meeting players before they get big. It's hard for fans to get access to the players on the ATP level. I thoroughly enjoy taking to them. It's fun to play in the big stadiums, but you don't establish relationships with the fans. In the smaller,
TR.net: What are the negatives about playing Challengers?
BV: Smaller cities. Everyone enjoys playing in front of a big crowd. You are playing for less money, the pressure is less, you play the same guys week in and week out. On the ATP Tour, you get more variety, you are visiting nicer cities, staying in nicer hotels, playing on nicer courts. They take care of the players better.
TR.net: When you were named one of the country's most eligible bachelors by People magazine, were you flooded with phone calls?
BV: Yeah. I got calls from everybody. It caught me off guard because I'm someone who likes to be in the background and maintain his privacy and not someone who gets into the spotlight. I didn't realize the magnitude of it and it changed a lot of things.
TR.net: So, your actress girlfriend (Christine Lakin) dumped you because she thought there were too many other women chasing after you?
BV: The girlfriend let me go before that actually came out. There were a lot a strange situations that can from that which exposed me to things that I've never dealt with before. I'm a relatively conservative church-going Southerner that loves to play tennis and all of sudden I'm thrown in the national spotlight. I didn't know what to do with that.
TR.net: You don't seem like the Playboy type who would take advantage of the nomination.
BV: No, and it wasn't always great situations coming from it. You get a lot of odd and sometimes scary scenarios that come from it.
TR.net: So you got into a "Play Misty For Me" situation where you were stalked?
BV: I had similar situation that did get serious. It was scary. I don't mind the publicity, but it's weird being on national scale. Now, I'm better prepared to deal with it, but at the time I was a little more naïve and trusting of people and you don't think twice. I don't shy away from the publicity now. I just have a better understanding of people.
TR.net: What's the chatter in the locker room about the doubles changes.
BV: The doubles guys are very friendly and everyone enjoys having them around. The thought of taking away their careers is unfortunate. They do add value to the game. I'm really interested if these changes actually will result in more top singles players playing doubles. You wonder what the quality will be like. There has to be a better way to market the doubles so more people come and watch it. But, I can understand the tournament directors point of view where doubles isn't selling tickets and it's become a financial burden.
TR.net: Do you think doubles could be marketed better?
BV: I think tennis could be marketed better; it's not just doubles. The average Joe in the US can only name Agassi and Roddick and only now, after he won his sixth Grand Slam, Federer is getting his due.
TR.net: But isn't that the constant challenge of a marketing international sport in the US?
BV: There are other international sports where fans can list 15-20 guys, like golf. In tennis, even with all the great promotions that go along with the US Open Series, we still seem to see the same guys on TV.
TR.net: But the networks are in a Catch 22 because they feel like if they don't put the stars on that fans won't tune in at all and their ratings will plunge. It's a risk to put on lesser-known players if fans don't immediately identify with them.
BV: All the players understand how important ratings are, but there are way for TV to go over to some other matches and give exposure to some other players, so when Andre or Andy lose in the first round,, the tournament isn't a complete bust. The closer Agassi gets to retirement, the more this is becoming a risk. That's why it was great to see James Blake and Robby [Ginepri] do well at the Open so that some other American players got some exposure.
TR.net: You've known Ginepri for a long time. Were you surprised that he shot up early last year, went way down and then this summer, went on a great run?
BV: He's very talented and tennis came very easily to him. When it comes easily at a young age you just start to enjoy it. He stopped working as hard; he was living the life; he had bought this great home in Atlanta and figured he could coast. Then people started to figure out his game; he got frustrated. But, once he dropped out of the Top 100, it was wake-up call that he had to fight and push himself to whole new level. He's playing at a whole new level now.
TR.net: What about Gambill, who has gone way down from being a real US hopeful and Wimbledon quarterfinalist?
BV: All the players are aware of what a strong player he is and that he is capable of great tennis. He's struggling and his confidence is sown but if he can get it back up again, he can compete with the better players. He's a nice guy and incredible talent.
TR.net: If you don't achieve the goals you set for yourself in tennis, will you be disappointed, or will you be able to walk into another life content?
BV: My whole life I've had people who doubted me. Even when I was the top-ranked junior, one of the high-level coaches told me that I'd never be a good pro. For me it culminated in at Indian Wells 2003 when I beat Ferrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Robredo. I proved to myself and to everyone else I could do it. For me to walk away with regrets isn't an option. A lot of it now for me is gravy.