Day 6: Winding Down, Heading Home

Angus Deane, Most Valuable Player

Angus Deane, Most Valuable Player

At 8 in the morning, under clear and cool skies with only the lightest of breezes—in other words, a perfect tennis day—the courts are, for the first time, empty. Perhaps a quarter of the campers, maybe more, flew out of either San Antonio or Austin last night or as the sun rose today, heading east, west, and various points in between. Newk’s best friend Angus Deane, who lives on a 120,000-acre sheep ranch in Queensland and had further to fly than anyone, was grinning from ear to ear at breakfast. Not only had he managed to discard the plastic buttocks he’d worn for the previous day—defiantly across his groin like some Outback version of a Scottish sporran—he’d been named Most Valuable Player the night before, hitting the winning forehand in the final match for the Kangaroos. A regular since the Fantasy Week’s birth, Angus now rarely if ever played tennis outside of Texas. This year, he hadn’t played at all for the previous 12 months. Or so he claimed.

Rick Leach with John Newcombe Tennis Ranch pros John and Bettine

Legend Rick Leach (right) with Ranch pros John and Bettine

With the competition over, this morning’s tennis was—in some ways—the most enjoyable of the week. No one was forcing anything; nothing was on the line; Davo or Newk or Emmo weren’t strategizing against me (or silently glaring, as my coach Dick Stockton was prone to); it was relaxed, great fun, and a chance to be on the court with every Legend for a series of eight different drills and mini-clinics.

Legend Marty Riessen with John Newcombe Tennis Ranch pro Sal

Legend Marty Riessen (right) with Ranch pro Sal

I was told that while the Friday clinic wasn’t new, the clinics late in the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were a recently introduced innovation decided on by Newk and Steve Contardi after some campers had asked for a better balance between competition and game improvement sessions. New or old, it was a brilliant way to close out the week. With the numbers down, we rotated from court to court in groups of four or five. Emmo ran a serving clinic. Marty Riessen and Mark Woodforde worked on our volleys. Rick Leach focused on volleys, too, but in the context of playing out points. Both Stockton and Ross Case had us refining our forehands and backhands, and Davo took on positioning on the court. Newk, the last court I moved to, had us both serving and returning serve.

Frankly, I was still on a high from winning both of yesterday’s matches. At the bar the night before, Case—who was Davo’s assistant coach—told me he’d been surprised by my game, and my opponent Pete had bought me a drink. Today, when I walked over to Davo’s court, he’d turned to me said, “You played well. Very well. Very well.” Two “very wells” from Davo is beyond fantasy, approaching surreal. Newk was also still on a high, laughing about Angus’ MVP, and the emotional remarks each had made about the other’s friendship and love, in front of all of us. Then he grabbed me by the shoulders, saying “Let’s get a picture of this.”

E.J. Kahn II with Legend John Newcombe during the Fantasy Tennis Camp

E.J.. Kahn III and Newk

And now it was time to leave. The six of us in the van reflected on the week, on next year’s 25th anniversary, on the near perfection of everything. Even the herd of deer that would appear on the grounds after dark. “When I first came here,” laughed Woodforde, “I didn’t see them. I jumped a foot the night when they leaped up and ran as I walked back to the room.”

“Yeah, well you know what they say about the deer,” cautioned Dave Kartzinel, himself heading to Las Vegas. “Where there are deer, the mountain lions can’t be far.”

And just when I’d figured there’d be nothing to worry about when I came back.

Another rookie mistake.

Epilogue >>

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.

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13 thoughts on “Day 6: Winding Down, Heading Home

  1. Sal Barbaro

    Terry, thanks so much for the terrific blog. The ranch has been my home for about 10 years and I have been attending camps long before as a junior as well. I always try to explain to people what a special place this is. I am glad you got to experience the terrific atmosphere that Legend’s Week brings. Your blog put a great visual in our minds and reminds us what a great game tennis is. Many thanks from all of us at Newk’s and we cant wait to see you next year!

    Sal Barbaro

    Reply
    1. E.J. Kahn III Post author

      Sal…You and the other Ranch pros add a lot to the experience — your games, your personalities, your good cheer. Look forward to hitting with you next year!

      Reply
  2. Mark Dang

    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
  3. Angus Deane

    G’day Terry,
    Great job….You have really captured 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
    1. E.J. Kahn III Post author

      Sheep, cows…we Yankees barely know the difference. But it’s a g’day indeed to get a good word from a Legend like Angus. Thanks much and see you in a year.

      Reply
  4. Chuck

    I enjoyed reading your diary. I’ve been wondering for a few years now what it’s like to attend the tennis Fantasy Camp. Sounds like a lot of fun. I would need to brush up on my match skills if I were to attend next year. I am a 4.5+ player, but I have not played points for several years now. Rather, I just rally from the baseline.

    Reply
    1. Larry Starr

      Terry,
      Finally had a chance to read the entire blog – great job. For the past 24 years I have trying to explain what makes Tennis Fantasies with the Legends so special. Well, you captured that “special” feeling. Although it is a working vacation for me, I would not miss it for the world. It has been a highlight of my life. Thanks for putting in writing.

      Reply
      1. Chuck

        Larry, I grew up in Cincinnati during the Big Red Machine era and am a huge Pete Rose fan, collector, and researcher. I was happy to learn that you are the trainer for the Legends camp. I would be interested to briefly converse with you outside this blog. My email address is tacprc at yahoo dot com. Thank you. Chuck Lumb

        Reply
    2. E.J. Kahn III Post author

      Chuck —
      You sound like you’d fit in well. The first day there, you’d be evaluated, and Newk and the Legends would make sure you’re never overmatched. Then you’d probably improve dramatically over the week, and be crushing your opponents in the latter matches.

      TK

      Reply

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