It is that time of year again for the start of the “best tennis week of the year!” The travel to Camp this year was NOT on the private “AirBerry” NetJet (John Berry could not go to camp this year); so I picked up Willy Hoffmann at 5 a.m. (!) and we were forced to fly with “The Commoners” on a commercial airline from Ft. Myers to Houston to San Antonio.
As usual, Steve Contardi, his family, and all the Newcombe ranch staff running the show couldn’t be any nicer. There was a ‘gift bag’ of stuff waiting for each camper: three Legend tee shirts, Legend DriFit tennis shirt, and a long sleeve DriFit shirt. With the economy taking its toll on attendance again, we had 60 “campers,” with 13 of them being rookies.
Willy and I arrived early enough to have lunch at the camp and then go on the courts and play an hour and half of good doubles – trying to get used to the speed of playing on the fast hard courts (most difficult, of course, is returning faster serves).
Then at 4 p.m., they had the opening afternoon of the pro introductions. The Legends and their team assignments were:
• John Newcombe and American doubles specialist Rick Leach/ The Mongrel Kangaroos (who haven’t won in 20 years)
• Roy Emerson and Marty Reissen/ The Wankers (my team since I have been coming)
• Owen Davidson and Ross Case/ The Musclemen (named after slight Ken Rosewall)
• Mark Woodforde and Dick Stockton/ The Dunnies (defending champs from last year)
• Charlie Pasarell and Fred Stolle could not make it this year
While they held the ‘rookie tryouts’ for the four teams we would all be assigned to on the lower, HarTru courts, the rest of us played doubles — and we all reminded ourselves to “pace yourself” for the long week of tennis.
I then grabbed a beer from the cooler and went to my room (same as last year, two-room condo, with a balcony over looking the hard courts). After another beer at the official “Happy Hour,” we had what Willy describes as our “opening night shock and awe dinner” of surf and turf (beef tenderloin and lobster tails!).
After dinner, there was a series of opening ‘remarks.’
Steve Contardi greeted everyone and then passed the microphone to Ned Dorman who was “filling the very small shoes of Marc Segan” for the “welcome to the rookies.”
Then the High Commissioner of the Annual Boat Race, Dr. Al Eden announced the rules for the always-controversial drinking contest to be held later in the week.
Finally, the team assignments came. There had been some rumor that they were going to change tradition to break up all the teams and start from scratch; but this group of Legends do not accept change easily; so the teams stayed mostly the same, with some movement of players and the assignment of the Rookies.
After dinner, I avoided the bar and went to bed “early” (11 p.m. ET) to get ready for our team practice, singles rankings, and doubles pairings on Monday. While we seem to have left a week of rain scheduled for Naples, the forecast here in Texas is perfect: hot on Monday; but cooling down into the 70’s for the team matches Tuesday-Thursday.