It is that time: the start of the “best week of my tennis year!” The travel to my tenth year at the Fantasy Tennis Camp was NOT in the luxury of “AirBerry” (Pelican Bay friend John Berry had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t attend this year); so I picked up Willy Hoffmann at 6:30 a.m. and we flew with the Commoners to San Antonio.
Willy and I hooked up with five other campers at the airport and one of Newk’s vans took us out to his tennis ranch in New Braunfels. And the verbal sparring started immediately (with my funny, Five Finger shoes being the first subject of ridicule). Fellow Naples resident Rich Tarantino flew in on Friday night – and was already showing signs of too many late nights.
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: threee Legend tee shirts, two Legend DriFit tennis shirts, and a long sleeve warm-up shirt. Attendance this year was naturally down from the 25th anniversary: we have 76 “campers,” with 16 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, and American doubles specialist Rick Leach leading The Mongrel Kangaroos (who won in 2011 and 2012)
• Roy Emerson, Marty Reissen, coaching The Wankers (my team since I have been coming)
• Owen Davidson, Ross Case, and “Returning Rookie Legend” Murphy Jensen driving The Musclemen (named after slight Ken Rosewall)
• Fred Stolle, Dick Stockton and Brian Gottfried (Mark Woodforde had a pro coaching conflict) coordinating The Dunnies
While the 16 newbies had ‘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 an hour and a half with and against Willy with some of the top players … and, as usual, had a real tough time adjusting to their pace and the speed of the hard courts.
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 followed with one really good joke (and two that garnered significant booing from the tough audience; and then discussed the rules for the always-controversial drinking contest to be held later in the week.
Finally, the team assignments came. The teams somewhat the same, with some movement of players and the assignment of the Rookies. Willy, Rich, and I are all on different teams; but I have the honor of being on the 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.