Many Happy Returns

Sunday, October 21. Five forty-five in the morning, and I’m on the way to Newark Airport, one of more than 90 Tennis Fantasy Week attendees making their ways to what will be, starting later this afternoon, the 25th anniversary of John Newcombe’s Legends camp at his tennis ranch in New Braunfels, Texas. By 4 pm, we’ll all be on the courts, rallying, playing a few games, while the Legends—Aussies Newk, Roy Emerson, Owen Davidson, Ross Case and Mark Woodforde, Americans Dick Stockton, Marty Riessen and Rick Leach—watch and evaluate us, in anticipation of the player draft a couple of hours later that would determine who landed on which of the four teams that would compete over the following four days.

Steve Contardi at Newk's 2012 Legends Camp

Steve Contardi, greeting arrivals on Sunday, trailed by what may become an ever-present camera person

A year ago, those Legends oversaw 62 of us, but the historic weight of the 2012 week has added 30 campers, and new and returning Legends as well. Fred Stolle, one of the original band from 1988, had missed 2011, but would be back to lead his Dunnies (Aussie slang for toilets) squad. Rumor had it that Charlie Pasarell and Brian Gottfried would also return after a hiatus. And some fresh faces were expected—possibly American doubles specialist Murphy Jensen, perhaps Australian Mal Anderson. Whoever made it would have their hands full managing our crowd.

At least that was Dick Stockton’s sense of what lay ahead for the week. With 28 courts scattered across the sprawling complex, the afternoon doubles matches could all begin at the same time, but the singles likely would have to go on a staggered schedule.  And if rain fell …”It will be a nightmare,” Dick told me, after we’d played a couple of weeks ago at the courts he oversees at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. “But we were fortunate last year, no rain at all.” Good fortune seems to be smiling this year, too. Weather.com suggests we may not see a drop of rain all week, with temperatures in the mid-eighties, and relatively light winds. For East Texas, that is.

Landing at noon in San Antonio, a handful of campers, myself, and, yes, Murphy Jensen are met by a ranch van, and 40 minutes later pull up to the ranch lodge, where we’re met by a film crew. The 25th anniversary week, we learn as we’re handed release forms, will be the subject of a feature-length documentary. Whether this will affect behaviors remains to be seen. A flurry of emails a week earlier had, among other topics, touched on the possibility of filming. Would this exposure, one writer wondered, reduce the expletive-filled trash-talking of past camps? His comment was met by an avalanche of F-bombs, suggesting perhaps not. (To be fair, I had seen very little gratuitous swearing or, as also had been suggested, drinking last year; the week had been described as a “testosterone zoo” in its early years, but we seemed—as a generation—to have mellowed.)

In the van, Jensen was asked if he knew yet which team he’d be coaching. “Whichever the one is that wins the week,” he’d said with great confidence. “Did you know I have the second-best professional sports coaching record in history? The (Washington) Kastles won 32 matches in a row!” I had to wonder if anyone had told him he’d be an assistant.

And now it’s about 2:30 in the afternoon. By 3 our rooms should be ready, and then we’re out on the courts for the evaluation. After that, it’ll be happy hour, the team draft and dinner, and team meetings from 9 to 11. I don’t remember any team meetings a year ago, but given that they follow two-and-a-half hours of drinking, maybe the imbibing wasn’t quite as modest as my recollection.

Rick Flisher and Jimmy Miller at Tennis Fantasies Camp

Rich Flisher and Jimmy Miller, psyched for their Legends Week

But I wouldn’t forget a letter sent to me after the 2011 week. The writer, a camper named Jimmy Miller, one of the best players at the Fantasy Week and a tennis shop employee from Mountain View, California, had sent me a Tennis Week article about the camp’s first season, written by Dr. Al Eden. In his note, Miller said, “Something about these weeks in October and the Legends who played, and still play, for the love of the game, touches me like nothing else can. I hope the week will continue to find a special place in your heart as well … Just to get the chance to play for the Legends inspires me, and it’s then that I realize again what it’s like to play for the love of the game.”

I’m looking forward to seeing Jimmy again. And Dr. Al Eden. He’s come back every year. And the Legends … the ones I’ve met, and the ones still to meet.

Let the games, the trash-talking, the beer-swilling, the whatever, begin.

The Player Draft >>

5 thoughts on “Many Happy Returns

  1. Anton

    Steve, I had the pleasure to atnted the Tennis Week with the Legends when Tony Roche, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, Ken Rosewall, Owen Davidson, Mel Anderson, John Newcombe, Charlie Passarel and other Legends were there. I was amazed and blessed to share the room with these great guys for 11 years. From this year’s blog on George Wachtel’s site, I could relive every day the past three years. Steve Contardi and his family always make this event very special for everyone. Most of the campers in those early days returned every year and especially I do miss my good friend Dr. Mike Lahan, who had passed away a few years back very unexpectactly. Without the great MIKE the event was not the same, when I returned after his unfortunate departure from this world. Dr. Al Eden is still a great inspiration for anybody who had the pleasure meeting him!Rolf Jaeger

    Reply
  2. Jefferson

    Jimmy as you were one of the great players at Fantasy Week, I only wish we’d coentcend earlier in the week. But you played at number one, and me not so much. Congrats again on your fine play, and I’m looking forward to next year and learning more about how you became the player you are.

    Reply
  3. Blanca

    I have had the pleasure of attdneing all but one of the 23 Tennis Fantasy with the Legends camps since its inception in 1988. Scotty was one of the pros who was a part of the camp a number of years and was an outstanding coach and person. It is great to see him back at Newks as the Director of Tennis/Club Manager! Congratulations and good luck on your new position. I know you will do an outstanding job.Larry Starr, ATC, LAT, CSCSCertified Athletic Trainer

    Reply
  4. Amit

    Terry, It was a real pleasure menetig you at Tennis Fantasies Week. You’ve done a beautiful job capturing the spirit of The Legends Week in your blog, and have managed to relay the warmth and passion of the Legends and campers who combine to make the week in October an unforgettable tennis experience. It truly is a unique week of tennis and camaraderie , and I’m already looking forward to seeing you, the Legends, and all of my mates again next year for the 25th Tennis Fantasies Week! Best Wishes, Jimmy Miller

    Reply
  5. Ozan

    Very cool, Terry. Sounds like you belong. Does this mean a reurtn to the tournament world again? Can we expect to see 20th in the 60 s? For a 65, that would be quite a feat, if tennis players’ abilities erode as fast as they do in other sports. Maybe I should try a fantasy camp to increase my tetosterone levels Since I was never any good at any sport, picking one could be challenging. Hmmm. Throw out basu baru (about the only Japanese word I know). If someone threw a hanging 40mph curve high and in I’d be out. Football? Sure. In the afterlife. Last time I played touch I partially separated a shoulder. Hockey? Well, at least I played hockey untill about a decade ago. I’ve only been to the ER a few times since while skating with my six-year-old granddaughter. They’d take it easy on me, right?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *