On tour day two. ITF Cardiff, Wales. Friday 10th September 2021
Today’s doubles match is scheduled for 5.10pm. No singles scheduled for today.
I’m awake before 8am with the momentary re-orientation required in the unfamiliar hotel room, even though I woke to listen to the second set of the Raducanu US Open semi final in the middle of the night. The day stretches uncertainly before me.
Breakfast is always a good place to start. Having brought cereal, bowl and spoon I am in need of milk. Google maps suggests that the nearest convenience store is only 11 minutes away, that will be a nice stroll, pick up milk, bananas and a newspaper, to get me set for the day.
Yesterday’s first round defeat 6-2, 2-6, 8-10 and the missed forehand at 8-8 is not far from the surface. Consolation singles is not yet scheduled. I will later learn that it is not scheduled for another two days. Unlikely that I will hang around and pay for a further two nights accommodation just for that. Maybe it will look different if we win our doubles match.
Standing outside the hotel trying to get my bearings, looking at the map on my phone, I realise that 11 minutes is by car and not on foot! I decide to drive to the convenience store and pick up aforementioned items.
Breakfast passes without incident. Bowl, spoon and cereal are joined by the incoming milk and very pleasant it is too. Radacanu is all over the breakfast TV news. Martina Navratilova reflects that Emma – well we all feel as if we know her now – was the complete player at 18, when it had taken her until about 26 to reach the same stage. At 61 I still have a way to go! And as Emma said – so coached in being media savvy as well – we are all on our own journey. Its not a unique quote but it serves as a reminder in so many walks of life.
There are a few work e-mails I want to attend to and a report I want to send. Frustratingly the work firewall resists the hotel wifi as not being secure. Fortunately its not urgent, just something to help me get ahead for next week. I send a holding reply saying to expect said report in inboxes first thing Monday. Then there are a few personal e-mails to take care of.
9.30am at best
There is still a lot of day ahead, and sat in my hotel room would be the least interesting way to spend my time.
I decide to go and replace the baseball cap I left on court at the last tournament, as I played yesterday in my gardening cap. Anything prefaced with the work ‘gardening’ as you have possibly guessed has served a prior purpose and is lets say, is more functional than stylish. Yes that’s probably a good way to look at it.
Turning on both my car and phone sat navs I am presented with two different routes to the retail park. I adopt a mix and match approach. Which ever way I turn I am presented with an alternative, there are no wrong turns en route as you would expect with this approach. “Please turn next left and you will arrive at your destination on your right” Success.
10.30 am approx
Shopping. There is no anticipation on entering the shop, gone are the days when there was a buzz to be had from entering a sports shop or most shops for that matter. (refer to Winsford sports blog here) I hope to find a baseball type cap to play tennis in. I could also do with another pair of shorts and one is always on the half lookout for another shirt. Maybe I have been into too many sports shops in my life. Nothing on offer tempts me, and the caps are too expensive and not quite what I had in mind. Why on earth would I want the manufacturer’s logo emblazoned across the front? However the prospect of another sports shop nearby entices me in.
Maybe I have been into too many sports shops in my life. Nothing on offer tempts me, and the caps are too expensive and not quite what I had in mind. Why on earth would I want the manufacturer’s logo emblazoned across the front? However the prospect of another sports shop nearby entices me in. No it doesn’t I’m lying as I have already been in that one.
Face coverings are becoming scarcer even though shops still request that face coverings are worn. It’s become second nature and its no hardship apart from after all this time I still manage to fog up my glasses when I first put the face covering on. Perhaps my attitude to shopping is best demonstrated by the fact that I am still wearing basic face coverings bought from the hardware store as a pack of 10. I really admire people who have gone out of their way to purchase face coverings that match their clothes, have fantastic designs or clever slogans. Maybe one day, but it’s a long way from being top of my to do list.
Think about coffee. Decide against. Return to car and set navigation for tennis club. Stop just before tennis club for coffee. Parking the car with ease along from a small row of shops. The coffee shop I was originally going to has a sign on the window saying ‘closed due to staff shortages’ I step across the road to the inviting looking bakery with chalk board outside advising me that they sell coffee. The staff in the bakery are welcoming and cheery. I know that the next time I want coffee I will head here, I also purchase two tempting looking fruit and nut flapjacks. The coffee shop across the road have done nothing wrong, but they just lost my custom. (do I go back there when open again to support them?) (For the record they remained closed on the following day also)
These timings aren’t quite right, but that is symptomatic of this kind of day, you’re never quite sure were the time goes. It’s a different kind of boredom, a not quite totally bored boredom, with the prospect of a tennis match later on, its more about filling time. There’s an anticipation, just ticking along in the background, that keeps total boredom at bay, just out of reach. Total boredom would have reached for a large pasty and a salted caramel chocolate cake. Fruit and nut flapjacks for after the match are totally acceptable.
Drive round corner to tennis club. Park car. Hmmm not quite lined up in the parking space. Manoeuvre back and forth a couple of times until lined up perfectly between the lines. There’s time today. Hold on, is the front of the car sticking out just a bit, would it be better if ……….no, its fine.
Watch a couple of matches in progress. Chat to a couple of players.
The casualness of the winners.
I ask ‘How did you get on?’
‘Oh yeah I won that one 1 and 2’ So matter of factly, never in doubt.
In fact everyone I chat to seems to have won in similar fashion, perhaps adding ‘good match though’ as an afterthought. We tennis players are such a considerate bunch.
What happens to the losers? Do they not hang around? I guess not. Trooping off to their cars or the changing rooms, crawled under a rock maybe? Thinking about what might have been. That was me yesterday, but today brings fresh optimism.
There may of course be a consolation event, though everything conspires against its success. The uncertainty of when it will be played and usually scheduled with a match less day in between. Its not surprising that only a few players decide to play. This would have been my scenario, except today I have doubles to help fill the gap. Think I might start a campaign calling for equal treatment for first round losers. Not today though.
Walk back to small parade of shops where I purchased coffee, a chance to show another player where to buy coffee and food. We chat tennis. It’s interesting to hear where others play their tennis.
Watch superb men’s singles on the artificial clay courts. I’m thinking that neither player shows any tension as they move into a match tie break. No sooner have I thought this thought when a tentative serve followed by another results in a double fault. Yes even for these very accomplished players there are nerves out there too.
Check phone. Decide against messaging anyone. Nothing interesting there just a few e-mails trying to sell me things. Not in the mood. Online shopping for the most part holds no more interest than real world shopping.
Make cup of tea. Eeeek out the last of the milk in the club fridge, pouring half of the meagre amount and leaving a similar meagre amount for the next person. If I emptied the carton I would feel obliged to walk to the shop and fetch more. Leaving a meagre amount feels justifiable, whereas leaving none would be a difficult conversation to have with myself.
Squeezing back past the referees table which restricts access to the clubhouse, the red dragon trophies are lined up on the table for the winners. I was so taken by these trophies last year, that I tried to buy my own and have it engraved to recognise winning the consolation event. I even placed an order only to discover that they were out of stock and other suppliers had the same story. The appeal has reduced a little, but I might still purchase one, or maybe not.
Sit on veranda with cup of tea to watch matches on court. Check phone. Hope I play well this afternoon, though right now I don’t feel very lively. A men’s doubles are warming up, all have a different service motion. One player in particular is swishing his racket overhead with such effortless movement, that the impression is that this man has wrists of steel. His practice serves, apparently with minimum effort stick in the fence at least three feet from the ground. Impressive. The other players have good serves also, but use noticeably more effort for lessor results.
Return to clubhouse kitchen to wash out cup.
Make way to car to collect tennis bag. Have to return to clubhouse to pick up changing room key. Make way to changing room to get changed. Check phone.
Return key to clubhouse.
Find way to adjacent school field to run through warm up routine. I am concerned that all this sitting around has left me feeling a little lethargic. Warm up routine helps greatly.
Return to club feeling ready to go physically and mentally. Run through with partner some basics of how we think we would like to play.
Visit to toilet. Check phone
Waiting now. Idly watching other matches on court, not really taking anything in.
5.06 pm maybe
Referee confirms the match will take place on artificial clay. Met with nods of approval.
We are on court exactly on time.
I have been waiting just over nine hours.
Striking the ball crisply in the warm up.
It feels good to get to this moment.
None of the waiting matters now I am on court.
Wish me luck!