Nick's travels with Michael McClune
Nick's travels with Michael McClune
Arrived in Dubai!
It is 7:45am Dubai time Friday morning.
Yesterday was a tough day. My alarm was set for 3:45am, but my dog alerted me that it was time to get up at 3:30am. I left my house with my tennis bag, travel bag, and backpack, all stuffed to the brim, by 4:15am. I arrived at SCJ at 5:10am and was off to Houston at 6:15am with coffee and bagels in hand. You would expect it to be a tough check in when you’re traveling to the Middle-East, but going to the United Arab Emirates is quite easy. The only thing you need is a valid US Passport and you’re off. No Visa letter, no long lines, no hassles.
I found Michael at gate D5 at 12:45pm in Houston with his usual airport pose. Headphones on, chatting on AIM, and surfing the web. His first assignment of the trip to Dubai was to read the book “Zen in the Martial Arts”, by Joe Hyams. This book is a fantastic, short read and it directly relates to mental toughness. It is a fantastic book that I recommend to every one of our serious tournament players.
We had a 6 hr layover in Houston, and it gave me a chance to catch up on a few last minute phone calls and e-mails to various people. Also, I had a chance to eat at a sit down restaurant at the airport, which is a rare occurrence. Hydration is important during any flight, but especially with a 14 hour journey directly in front of you waiting to dehydrate every muscle in your body. Houston was hit hard with a thunderstorm, but luckily, we were leaving on time.
As we boarded Emirates flight 212, I was immediately impressed with this airline. We were on a Boeing 777, and walking through first class and business class en route to my economy seat was quite breathtaking yet depressing at the same time. Each seat had a sweet setup, whether you were in first class or economy. On demand TV, movies (over 200 movies for you to chose from), Music, Games, and pretty much everything you can think of. The seats reclined beautifully and there was quite a bit of leg room. I started the flight by watching Michael Clayton, a George Clooney flick and planned on watching Rush Hour 3, and many other classics. After the movie, a very impressive airline dinner was served. I was absolutely dying of exhaustion and I spent the next 8 hours in and out of sleep, and my plan of watching movies all flight long quickly fizzled. When I woke up 11 hrs into the flight, I noticed the fantastic view outside the aircraft. We were flying over Iran and there was a beautiful sight of snow covered mountains. I’m not talking your little hills in Cupertino and Los Gatos; I’m talking mountains. The plane was cruising at 39,000 feet, but it looked like we were barely at 15,000. As I got up to stretch my legs, I was hit with a pain in both knees and had a hard time walking. When I say I had a hard time walking, I mean that the actual technical move of walking didn’t seem natural to me. I was convinced that I would have to re-learn how to walk again, but luckily my athletic ability kicked in and I was walking normally within 5 minutes. In a long flight situation, it is important to walk around every few hours or so and get some exercise in. After 5 minutes of walking up and down the isle, I retreated to my seat and decided that I had to stay awake for the duration of the flight if I had any chance of adjusting to the time rather quickly once in Dubai.
After a solid 14 hr flight from Houston to Dubai, we finally settled into the hotel room. It’s going to be tough adjusting to the clock in Dubai (12 hrs ahead of California), but we’ll do our best. Upon arrival to the airport in Dubai, Michael and I cleared customs rather quickly, and we took a cab to the hotel. I did not see much outside since it was already dark, but was eagerly anticipating the 5 star hotel and resort, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, where we are staying. Here is the link to the hotel:
Obviously, it is a beautiful place and both Michael and I are excited to stay here. We did some “hotel room leg exercises” since the gym was closed here at the hotel when we arrived. We also stretched out and made sure to keep hydrating.
The phone rang in the hotel room at 9:20 pm. Michael answered and spoke briefly to the mystery person on the other line. It was Roger! He instructed us to be ready at the hotel tomorrow at 3:30 pm that he will be picking us up. I wonder what ride this guy will show up in to pick us up. With this news, I decided that Michael and I will be hitting at 11:00am at the hotel (hotel has 2 courts) for a few hours and do some fitness. Then we will battle to fight the urge to take a nap and eagerly await 3:30pm for the hit with Roger.
It is now 9:15 am and I’m off to the beach to relax and plan our week out further. Every night (morning back home), I will be posting our daily activities and obviously from now on it will be more tennis related. I look forward to your comments and questions and hope you enjoy my blog.
1st hit with Fed
My hit with Michael went really well in the morning. We worked on some backhands, volleys, and serves. We also did about 30 minutes of semi-hard fitness. It was a solid 2 plus hour workout. My goal this week is to really work hard physically. I want Michael to do a ton of footwork drills focusing on explosiveness, and footwork efficiency. But enough of that, lets move on to the fun stuff.
The answer to the trivia question in the previous post was that Roger pulled up with a Lexus SUV. Solid ride, which he won by winning the US Open. He casually drove us to another hotel for our hit and on the way there it was quite comfortable as small talk was exchanged pretty fluidly. He is a very easy going, easy to get along with guy.
The hit with Roger was fantastic. It was simple, yet effective. His trainer told me that the goal of the day was to simply get a good groove and rhythm. Here is the straightforward, boring overview of the practice.
The guys hit for about 20 minutes down the middle and then got into some lengthy cross courts. Following the cross courts, Roger came in and took volleys. He then had Michael in one corner while he continued to work on volleys. Needless to say, this guy has some serious zing on the ball when he’s up at the net. After that, he wanted some up and backs while at the net and I challenged Michael to a wager that he would not be able to hit a clean chip lob winner during this drill. Even though Roger is extremely good at getting back for overheads, sure enough, 3 lobs later, the ball went right over Rogers head. The ball clearly landed on the line (clean winner) and I asked Roger if the ball was in or out, obviously hoping for an out call. He said it was in and I was down a quick $10.
After the loss of money, Michael came into the net and warmed up his volleys. After that, both guys warmed up a few serves. Following the serves, we went into what Brian and I call a continuous point. The guys simply moved each other around, extending the point as long as they can within reason. Once the point got too long, either guy could finish it with a clean winner. We did two sets of continuous points, with each set lasting 5 minutes. After the continuous points, Roger took some additional serves, while Michael returned. Michael’s heart rate after the continuous points could have been over 170, while my best guess is that Roger’s heart rate never went above 99 the entire practice. Ok, maybe it did, but he bluffed well.
As I was watching the practice and telling Michael a few things that we discussed including focusing on lowering his heart rate, I couldn’t help but to be impressed with Roger. What impressed me the most from the world’s #1 ranked player is not any shot of his in particular, because they are all just plain sick (in a good way for some of our older readers . What impressed me the most is that he was having a blast practicing. He genuinely enjoyed every minute of practice. I was impressed at the amount of fun that this guy, who happens to have won 12 grand slams had during a two hour practice session. Think about that for a second. 12 slams…Enjoying practice with an 18 year old.
Plan for tomorrow is to hit with Roger for 1 hour only. After the hour we will continue hitting for an additional hour, working on a few things. In the afternoon, we will come out again and do about an hour of serve and returns and then we will hit the gym hard. During the next 6 days or so, we will be alternating footwork with gym on a daily basis, but tomorrow I might be able to sneak out a session of both with Michael. He seems to be holding up great phisically after day 1 and I think I will be able to push him pretty good. I feel like fitness is an area that so many of the top players in the world are phenomenal in. Just look at the top 10 players in the world. Who there is not a good mover? Federer? Nadal? Djokovic? Davidenko? Ferrer? Roddick? Gasquet? Youzhny? Blake? Murray? What about Nalbandian? Hewitt? Baghdatis? All have tremendous speed, great anticipation, and cat-like court coverage.
I’m off to bed hoping to get more than the 6.5 hrs I got last night. I’m so looking forward to some blacker than black Arabian coffee in the morning.
Who's going to win the SAP? My call is Roddick over Stepanek in the final.