Back To Reality

A year ago, I’d had some of the most relaxed hitting all week on Friday morning, when all the Legends combined to run a series of drills highlighting the strokes—the volley, the serve, the return of service—and the court positioning that they’d emphasized over the preceding days. Emmo had overseen the serving court, Davo and Newk the volleying, Stockton and Case the return, and on this Friday they were at it again, with roughly 50 of the campers still going strong.

It was by far the toughest morning to play—the temperature had dropped 30 degrees by dawn, to the mid-Fifties—and anyone still in a t-shirt was feeling pretty foolish.  I was feeling a bit foolish, too, having booked a noon flight out of San Antonio, which meant I’d be climbing into a ranch van at 9:30, missing what had been a highlight in 2011.

John Newcombe at Tennis Fantasies 2012 in Texas

Newk’s mental toughness message–taken from his new book–came a little late for blogger Kahn

I didn’t love Newk’s timing on the morning’s opening presentation, which I listened to in my jeans and sweatshirt. It was, in effect, how to win tiebreakers. Really? At the end of the week, this comes up? “You’ve got to fight off your subconscious,” the Father of the Legends was saying. The mentally-tough player keeps his doubts, his negative thoughts “from going from the head to below the neck,” and impacting your footwork, your timing, your ability to react. Great stuff, but give it to us at the week’s start, if you want my opinion.

A few other parting thoughts, collected during the first rain of the week, a thunder-and-lightning monsoon that shut down the San Antonio Airport for a couple of hours, and made me thankful I had a non-stop flight, and wasn’t making a tight connection to Madrid, as my sweating seatmate reminded the flight attendant. And reminded her again. And again. Ah, the joys of the United-Continental merger. The thoughts:

  • A home run for both planning and execution of the 25th anniversary: new and not-recently seen Legends, a homecoming for many campers, terrific food and post-dinner presentations, an enhanced goodie bag, great airport transfers.
  • A high level of media attention, which could provide significant
    British attorney Howard Rogg

    British attorney Howard Rogg, explaining to camerawoman Sonja Stark why this is perhaps the best week of the year

    momentum for the near-future. The trailer for the Tennis Fantasies movie looks to be amusing and very professional. At least two other bloggers—Senior Tennis and Fitness website founder George Wachtel and videographer Sonja Stark—covered the week with several dispatches. A local San Antonio network affiliate had a crew on site for a morning. And author Joel Drucker was on assignment for Tennis magazine. Everywhere you turned, a camera was rolling, a note was being taken, a keyboard being tapped. WTA events have had less coverage.

  • The competition itself was remarkably well-balanced, except perhaps at the top. Forty-nine year-old Tobias Svantesson, a former Swedish touring pro who’d been as high as 98th in the world, anchored the Kangaroos. He was no Mongrel. The rest of us, however, pretty much held our own in every match-up. Lots of tiebreakers, very close final team scores. It’s a tribute to the thoughtfulness of the Legends in their drafting, and their placement of players in both the doubles and singles. Watching, say, Marty Riessen and Roy Emerson spend an hour each morning slotting the their into position, discussing strengths and weaknesses … well, it’s inspiring.
  • The camaraderie, at the end of the day, remains the essence. For a rookie (see, for example, Joe Lipsick’s commentary to the last blog entry), there can be more than a little anxiety that one is stepping into a closed shop, that there are “in crowds” and outsiders. But, by Friday, that melts away.
  • A final shout-out to the great guys I played with this week: Rocket Scientist Greg Arend, MVP Rory Springfield, MVP Steve Franklin, Howard Rogg, Jim Bumgartner (sorry, I mis-spelled your name a couple of days ago), his partner Bill, Peter Godby (sorry I kept calling you Paul), Len Saltzman (hope to see you in Lake Forest), Ed Tunick (hope the knee gets better), practice partners Josh (Rookie of the Year) Hamermesh, Paul Koontz, Jeff (Patriarch of the Canadians) Slater, 2011 partner Rich Flisher, Rob Delman, Brian Gottfried, and Murphy Jensen … You know, in your heart, that was an ace, Murph.

So it’s on to next year. As I write this last paragraph, it’s already Saturday. I’d hoped to connect with Steve Contardi as he drove today from Texas, but no luck. I’ll  reach out to him later on, and interview him on this year, and what lies ahead. For now, I’ll savor the memories.

Sign at exit from John Newcombe Tennis Ranch

A prescient statement. We do.

 Interview with Steve Contardi on the future of Tennis Fantasies >>

About 

E.J. Kahn III—known to most as Terry—is an author, journalist, and, most recently, communications consultant. He has written Net Results with psychologist Jim Loehr, a book focused on junior tennis parenting and coaching, and co-authored the award-winning autobiography of New York police officer Steven MacDonald. As a consultant, he has worked in Washington and New York with—among others—the Postal Service, Colgate-Palmolive, the State Department, and the City of New York. He lives with his wife Lesley in Manhattan, and plays most of his tennis at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, where he sits on the Board of Governors. A former college lacrosse player, he first competed in USTA tournaments in 2009, when he was ranked 10th in the East and 67th nationally in the Men's 60s.

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7 thoughts on “Back To Reality

  1. Kaori

    I can think of many superlatives to describe the Fantasy week experience. My 2 hopes are that I will have a chance to improve 1 or 2 parts of my game and that I can have a few memories being around the Legends. Everything else that happened was simply icing on the cake. I am still a bit in awe with the Stars who were there, not only because they are so legendary but also because they are so approachable. As my memory may wax and wane over the coming years, I will always feel assured that I can return to your blogs at any time to relive the whole experience, since your descriptions are so vivid, accurate, and indelible.

    Reply
  2. Ed Tunick

    Great writing about a great week! After attending 20 Fantasy Weeks, it’s still exciting. Now, on to our match. Len and I should have won ( maybe if Greg retired), but the better team prevailed. As far as my knee, it’s no worse for the wear; I’m back to playing singles twice a week and doubles twice weekly. For anyone with an arthritic knee, before anything else, ask your doctor about Synvis(?) injections,; temporary fix, but it got me to Texas and more.

    Reply
  3. Sal Barbaro

    Terry,
    Even though I wasnt there, because of your blog, it sure felt like it. I just moved to Florida a few months ago and while I have many memories of Newks over 10+ years of being there, the Legends Weeks are some of my fondest. I have failed a numerous amount of times trying describe this week to people but you have done such a great job in doing so. It saddens me not to be there, especially for the 25th anniversary. Between reading your blogs, seeing Facebook posts from several of the campers, and talking to my “mates” you could only imagine the torture I was going through for that week. The trailer looks great and hopefully it sparks new interest in this wonderful event. Glad to hear you, the Kangaroos, Musclemen, Wankers, and Dunnies had such a great time. It was a pleasure being a part of “Tennis Fantasies” for so many many years and I sure missed everyone there. Thanks again!

    Reply
  4. Geoff Renk

    Nice blog, Terry! Captures the week nicely – pleasure meeting you and watching you try and slow down the pace against Rory – but he stayed tough. Lots of fun to watch! I will be taking the lessons learned onto the court back at home – now the preparation for next year begins!

    Reply
    1. Frist

      G’day Terry,Great job .You have really catruped the spirit of the week and done yourself and the legend week proud. For your info, I used to run 50,000 sheep, but the last 5 years it’s 6,500 cattle. My wife Donna and I run it by ourselves, and she by herself while I’m over there, thus the lack of time to practice. It wasn’t bullshit!!!!Cheers Angus.

      Reply
  5. Greg Arend

    Well said Terry. I enjoyed reading it almost as much as being your doubles partner, although you gave me too much credit. Thanks so much for documenting the memories! Greg

    Reply
  6. Rory Springfield

    Great job Terry! It was a pleasure meeting you and enjoyed our two matches together as you’re quite the competitor and look to play with the type of consistency that you posses, best wishes in life and on the court…Rory

    Reply

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