The time finally arrived for the start of the “best week of my tennis year!” The travel on this 25th anniversary year of the Fantasy Tennis Camp was again in style on “AirBerry” … thanks to Pelican Bay friend John Berry, who invited three of us from South Florida (Willy Hoffmann, Rich Tarantino, and me) to join him on a private NetJet flight direct from Naples into the New Braunfels airport!
We took off at 1 p.m. on the eight-passenger Citation jet, talked tennis and politics for 2.5 hours and landed just 15 minutes from Newk’s Ranch. This was a dramatic difference from my having to pick up Willy last year at 5 a.m. in the morning to make a commercial connection through Atlanta to get to camp.
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: two Legend tee shirts, three Legend DriFit tennis shirts, and a long sleeve warm-up shirt. With this being the 25th anniversary, we have a full house of 96 “campers,” with about 25% of them being rookies.
My accommodations are the same as the last few years: a full-sized condo unit overlooking court 4 (where Roy Emerson will give his afternoon clinics).
At 4 p.m., they had the opening afternoon of the pro introductions. The Legends and their team assignments were:
• John Newcombe, Charlie Pasarell, American doubles specialist Rick Leach, and Aussie Hall of Famer Mal Anderson/ The Mongrel Kangaroos (who won in 2011 for the first time in 19 years!)
• Roy Emerson, Marty Reissen, and Brian Gottfried/ The Wankers (my team since I have been coming)
• Owen Davidson, Ross Case, and “Rookie Legend” Murphy Jensen/ The Musclemen (named after slight Ken Rosewall)
• Fred Stolle, Mark Woodforde and Dick Stockton/ The Dunnies
While they held the ‘rookie tryouts’ for the four teams, the rest of us played doubles — and we all reminded ourselves to “pace yourself” for the long week of tennis. I ended up playing for two hours with some of the top players … and had a real tough time adjusting to their pace and the speed of the hard courts. I will need to take some extra practice time on Monday to work on getting my timing down on the return of serve especially.
After a 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!). Following that, Steve Contardi greeted everyone and then passed the microphone to Marc Segan for the “welcome to the rookies.”
The High Commissioner of the Annual Boat Race, Dr. Al Eden will be arriving on Monday; so The Assistant High Commissioner Larry Starr announced the rules for the always-controversial drinking contest to be held later in the week.
Finally, the team assignments came. The teams stayed mostly the same, with some movement of players and the assignment of the Rookies. John, Willy, Rich, and I are all on different teams; so one of us will be coming home A Winner on Friday – based on the strength of the other teams’ lineups, I do not think it will be my Emmo-led Wankers.
After dinner, I avoided the bar and went to bed “early” (11 p.m. ET) to get ready for a morning clinic, our team practice, singles rankings, and doubles pairings on Monday. More to come.