It is that time: the start of “the best week of my tennis year!” The travel to my 14th year at the Fantasy Tennis Camp was once again in the luxury of “AirBerry” (Pelican Bay friend John Berry); so John, Willy Hoffmann, Rich Tarantino, Tom Mackessy (new addition) and I took off from Naples Airport at 1 p.m. for the 2.5 hour flight to a small airfield in New Braunfels, Texas.
NetJet had upgraded our host John to a 12-seater Challenger jet … so we even had our own delightful flight attendant taking care of “our every need.”
Welcome and Goody Bag
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 with several great shirts.
With this being the 30th anniversary of the camp, the attendance this year was sold out with 115 campers… with 2/3rds returning vets and 36 rookies; with an incredible EIGHT father-son pairings this year.
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 and connected to Willy Hoffmann’s).
The List of Legends
At At 4 p.m., they had the opening afternoon of the pro introductions. The Legends (with their 152+ Majors titles!!!!) and their team assignments were:
- John Newcombe, Charlie Pasarell, and American doubles specialist Rick Leach leading The Mongrel Kangaroos (who won last year)
- Coaching The Wankers (my team since I have been coming) is Roy Emerson, Marty Reissen, and “rookie” coaches: Danie Visser 56 year old South African, who won 3 Grand Slam men’s doubles titles (2 Australian Open and 1 US Open) and reached the World No. 1 doubles ranking in1990; and Australian doubles specialist Peter Tramacchi (Newk’s son in law)
- Owen Davidson, Ross Case, Rod Laver and Luke Jensen driving The Musclemen
- Fred Stolle, Mark Woodforde, Dick Stockton and Brian Gottfried coordinating The Dunnies
While the 36 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.
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 (lobster tails and beef tenderloin!). 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 (in his 30th consecutive camp at age 91!) discussed the rules for the always-controversial drinking contest to be held later in the week.
Finally, the team assignments came. For the 14th time, I am an Emerson Wanker; Willy on Newk’s again, along with Rich Tarantino (and his son Ken) and John Berry went to Fred Stolle’s Dunnies.
After dinner, I avoided the bar and the Dodgers playing the Cubbies; and went to my room to get ready for a morning clinic, our team practice, singles rankings, and doubles pairings on Monday morning.
In a move to hopefully again come home in one piece and uninjured, I told Roy Emerson that for the second time I would be a “doubles only” player and not play hardcourt singles (against much younger opponents).
More to come.
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