The official start of the 2002 Super National Hard Court Championships began this morning with first-round action for the 18s division. All of the seeded players and a handful of others received first-round byes, but that didn't lighten the load on the daily evaluation. Eighteen matches were on my schedule for the day at both Stowe Stadium and nearby Western Michigan University, a secondary site with 20 courts. I arrived at Stowe at around 7:15 to check out the scene following a solid night of rest at the home of Bruce and Cheryl Briney (aunt and uncle of Lars Nelson, former #1 player). The 700+ volunteers had reported for duty and were scurrying around the tournament site in preparation for their debut. In addition to the workers and arriving players at Stowe, there was also a variety of other things on hand, including a pair of Sony Play Stations set up for player entertainment, a collection of trade show tents featuring the latest in tennis rackets, shoes and clothes, a massive barbecue that would grill hundreds of burgers, brats and chicken during the week, nutritionists and physical trainers displaying their latest energy drink and vitamins, and finally, the most popular area, the 15' high player draws that would tell the story of the 2002 Zoo.
Goals for today included covering all the matches set up on my daily schedule, as well as broadening my relationships with the other college coaches. Recruiting plays an important role during the tournament, however, talking to coaches about scheduling is right up there too. In order to support Santa Clara's continued rise in the national rankings, a lot depends on strengthening our schedule so our team has the opportunity to compete against the top programs in the country.
Following my review of the Stowe scene, I headed over to Western Michigan University for a half dozen matches beginning at 8 a.m. Seven players from my recruiting list were battling it out (two against each other) with determination to move onto the next round. Many parents and private coaches were very focused on the matches, some cool and calm, while others paced back and forth, wincing or fist pumping with every point. I found some good spots to watch the action as some of my matches were close to each other. The challenge occurred when I had to watch a player on Court #19, located on the lower section of the Western campus, while another prospect was grinding on Court #1 (located on the upper half). No worries though as I just picked my spots and darted from court to court.
The second wave of action continued at 10 a.m. as another six matches from my list were on court. roblem now was that half of them were at Western and the other half at Stowe. This scenario would require more than the Pythagorean theorem to solve, however, a functioning watch, quick rental car and a little parking luck would do the trick. A few additional matches filled up the rest of the morning and by 1 p.m. the singles portion of the day was over. Eighteen matches up and eighteen down. Lunch anyone?
I took a quick visit to Subway for a sandwich on Oregano-Parmesan bread (a lunch-time favorite of my co-worker and friend, Lindsay Amstutz) and washed it down with ice-cold lemonade. Two rounds of doubles were scheduled to start in an hour, so I had to make sure there was enough fuel in the tank to get through the rest of the day. The afternoon pretty much went the same way as the morning run: Western upper courts, Western lower courts, Stowe Stadium and back to Western. A short break in the action due to lightning delayed things a bit. The matches, however, got rolling in no time it seemed as the sounds of balls popping off tennis rackets weathered the storm.
As the clock struck 6 p.m., it was time to think about dinner. Action from thirty-plus matches was seen today, with a solid amount of players from that group would make great Broncos. Day One of 2002 Nats at the Zoo was nearing an end and a comfy bed was sounding real good. Best thing was that I had seven more days to go.
In the next edition: Sixteens On The Scene