Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Packing...and unpacking for the Family Circle Cup

I bought a new piece of luggage yesterday. It was my day off from the Crossfit training regimen which demands a commitment of 3-days-on and 1-day-off. I really earned my day off this week – this cycle has been challenging. I have never done so many pull-ups in my life.

So I decided to spend my free day stimulating the economy. I wish I had more disposable stimulants to work with but hey, some money was better than none. And besides, I have a tennis tournament to pack for. I am going to the Family Circle Cup.

I’ve never been to the Family Circle Cup. Indeed, I used to think that I’ve even been to South Carolina until my daughter reminded me of a long weekend we once spent at Myrtle Beach soaking up sand and surf. It‘s funny how you can visit a place but not quite register where the place is. So it is more accurate to say that I am going back to South Carolina, but this time my focus is only on tennis.

Indeed, I started trying to buy my tickets and hotel package back in December. In hindsight I realize that the woman taking my numerous calls had no idea what to make of my insistence that I had to get tickets early because I wanted to make sure I would see Serena defending her title. After my umpteenth call, she finally left me a message saying that folks generally don’t start buying tickets until February or March. I was honestly stunned. I’ve always assumed that most tennis fans are as intense as I am.

One of the advantages of having moved back to the East coast, is the number of decent medium-sized and more affordable tennis tournaments now available to me. And of course the Grande Dame of them all remains the US Open which I will again attend later this year. Maybe I’ll even get around to downloading the pictures so you will see proof that I actually went and that I’m not one of these internet freaks pretending at things and twitting as if my life depended on it.

Back when I first started making plans to attend the Family Cup event, Serena Williams’ face was plastered all over their website. Of course, this was well before the commitment list had been finalized. Her face is no longer there. She is not coming. She withdrew due to injury. Bummer. I read that she plans to be in Charleston anyway supporting the tournament. And this helps me how? I have no interest in Serena outside of watching her play tennis. Who gives a crap if she is hanging around signing souvenirs? I bought these tickets to see her play. My disappointment is real.

And I have as a result become a bit confused about how to pack. My Serena mask will have to stay behind. There’s no point to taking my Serena towel or my Serena blanket. Should I even bother to wear my Serena hat, tote my Serena fan, or pack my Serena umbrella?

Of course I am kidding -- I own none of these things. I’m just trying to make the point that I made the commitment to support the Family Circle Cup under the assumption that Serena would be in a position to make a commitment to playing. I didn’t count on her thigh injury. Or on the spicy Victoria Azarenka. What a beating in Key Biscayne. Of course it’s hard to tell what might have happened if Serena was healthy. But before she succumbed to the heat of Australia, Azarenka showed us that she is damn serious about coming out on top. Unfortunately for me, she is also not going to be in Charleston. Apparently she injured her shoulder, probably because of the herculean effort needed to beat Serena.

Is anybody worth watching even coming? Well Venus is still in the draw but that does nothing for me. I love me some Marion Bartoli (photo left) so hopefully she will still be alive by the time I get there. And yes, it would be nice to see how Vera has improved. But the rest of the draw consists of a bunch of unknowns whose names I dare not try to pronounce. And to my shock and surprise, I noticed the name Alexandra Stevenson lying at the bottom of the heap. Where the heck did she come from? I guess it’s time I wrote that other article I keep meaning to write on promise mismanaged.

Let's face it, the Family Circle Cup tourney has been reduced, marked down like the cheap suitcase I eventually found at T J Maxx. The prize monies and points have been modified (a nice way of saying marked down like a cheap whore in these tightened economic times). Some of the prestige has been lost. I'm not sure that it even has the same administrative staff. Most of the players who entered Family Circle last year have elected to go to Spain this year -- there's more money and more points in that trip.

Which all brings me to the fourth change I would like to see in tennis. It’s a tough one and I’m not sure how it would work or even if it could work. Here’s my thought: It would be nice if there was some kind of collaboration between tournaments, such that if I buy tickets for one on the assumption that the defending champ will show up and she doesn’t, I would be able to use my tickets instead for one where she does. You know, open tickets that can be traded in for any tournament depending on seat availability. That way if I miss Serena in Charleston, I could say fly to France to see her at the Gaz instead. Heck I’d even be willing to volunteer on a committee to try to find a way to make this work. Now back to reality -- I have a suitcase to pack.

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