This edition of Long Island Tennis Magazine takes you inside the trip and journey of Hauppauge, N.Y. high school student Jenny Kellner and her recent trip to Tucson, Ariz. for the 2009 Copper Bowl Tennis Tournament. Jennifer is a full-time student at Hauppauge High School. She is enrolled in a number of advanced placement courses and maintains her position on the high honor roll. She has been ranked as high as number one in the Eastern Section and number four nationally in the Girls 16 & Under. Currently, Jennifer is ranked 60th nationally in the 18 & Under age division and continues to advance in the standings. Jennifer hopes to find a college that is challenging both athletically and academically, and is looking forward to studying medicine. At this time, she works ardently to improve and reach her utmost tennis capabilities.
New Years Eve: The logistics of travel …
As with many tournaments, Winter Nationals started out with the promise of victory and ended up with the disappointment of loss. While I won four matches, including a victory over two seeds I eventually lost to, Courtney Dolehide (the 5th seed), 6-4 in the third. As I watched her progress through the tournament, I felt the universal losing tennis player conundrum. On the one hand, I was hoping she would win to justify my loss, but then again, I cannot help rooting against anyone that beats me.
My friend Bryan Roberts and I were off to meet my coach Steve Kaplan and Girls 16s player Hannah Camhi for the Copper Bowl. My uncle Jimmy helped us pack our luggage into his pickup truck to meet Steve halfway between Scottsdale, Ariz. and Tucson, Ariz. We then had to unpacked the truck, repack it into Steve’s car, and were on our way to the airport to change cars which required us to unpack again only to repack before unpacking at the Golf Villas! In between luggage transfers, we managed to hit for 90-min. or so. New Year’s Eve dinner was celebrated at one of the best traveling player restaurants, Macaroni Grill. We later went supermarket shopping for the two tournament essentials, PowerAde and Lucky Charms. Bryan hijacked a handicapped cart and drove it into a display. As he drove down the aisle pulling numerous cases of Diet Pepsi in an attempt to pry them loose, he kept on insisting that, “It doesn’t feel like New Year’s Eve.”
New Years Day …
The Copper Bowl starts tomorrow, so today was sign-in day. I picked up the wrong sized t-shirt before searching www.tennisrecruting.net
to see how many stars my opponent has earned. She’s a three star … hmmm. Since the Copper Bowl is perhaps the biggest junior tournament in the world with eight filled draws of 128 players, practice courts the day before can be a challenge to find. We first went to the University of Arizona to meet Bryan’s doubles partner, only to find the gates were locked.
Next, it was off to La Cholla High School where we considered climbing the fence before deciding that we wanted to find a court rather than end up in court for trespassing. So on a day in New York when it was 22 degrees out, we found a court at Pima Community College and complained that the Arizona sun was annoyingly hot for tennis. At least it’s a dry heat.
We hiked in Gates Pass later, breathing hard as we climbed. An 80-year-old woman and two small children said, “Hi,” as they passed us on the way up. My first match was at 8:00 a.m. at Randolph Park.
January 2, 2009: The tournament begins …
I woke up this morning more tired and irritable than usual. Morning matches are generally not my favorite. We got off to a slightly late start, as Bryan was running behind like usual. With great time urgency, I got through my warm up, which consisted of what felt like only 10 shots before rushing to my site at Randolph Park, which was a lengthy 45-min. away. After about an hour, I won my match and faced a 6.5 hour time lapse between matches. This time seemed to pass painlessly; however, as I caught up with friends I only get to see at tennis tournaments. Three thirty seemed to roll around quickly and I got off to a poor start, 1-0, but won the next 12 thankfully. Hannah and Bryan also both won two matches, so everyone was happy at Grimaldi’s Pizza, our dinner stop. As we finished, Bryan was slightly less pleased when he placed his hood over his head and realized that eight pieces of uneaten authentic brick oven crust had been clandestinely placed there by all of us. My two friends, Sonia and Carolina, both in the Girls 18s as well, joined us for dinner, so the car ride home was pretty tight. With Hannah, Carolina, Sonia and me in the back seat, you can imagine how Hannah’s inopportune nosebleed wasn’t the prettiest of sights. While Hannah almost bled to death, we all enjoyed a laugh. Hannah apologized as blood bubbled out of her nose, which of course, caused us to laugh even harder. Exhausted, we got back to the hotel and called it an early night.
January 3, 2009: The longest day …
Today felt like it would be one of the longer ones for sure. Between my time-consuming match of 7-6, 6-2 and the countless “That’s what she said” jokes, I could have called it a night at 4:30 p.m. In my match, I got off to a poor start, down 5-2 on one of the only courts that didn't have doubles alleys. Fortunately, I was able to come back and win 7-6, although I felt I was striking the ball terribly.
After winning the second set 6-2, I was glad to be finished for the day, until I realized I still had a doubles match to play. I signed up without a partner, and wasn't really looking forward to playing with someone I had not met before. I was chatting with my friend Carolina when the tournament director called and informed me that the girl they paired me with hadn't shown up for any of her matches for the entire tournament. However, they said they were trying to pair me up with a girl whose partner had defaulted due to injury. After trying to get in touch with the girl for nearly an hour, she answered her phone and declined the offer to play doubles with me. I found it rather bizarre, but apparently the girl and her parents preferred to “take a tour of Tucson” rather than show for her doubles match with me.
Though I was tired, I admit I was slightly disappointed I wouldn't be playing doubles. Later on, however, I received a call again from the director saying he found someone for me to play with. I showed up that afternoon and played with the girl, whose name I don’t quite recall, but I don't even think we exchanged names. The match was equally forgettable, as we ended up losing 9-7 in a pro set despite having match point. Nevertheless, Steve remarked that he’d never seen me so jubilant after losing a match. I don't think there was much more I could've done anyway, and with all the rain delays, it turned out to be just as well that had we lost.
We went right to dinner after picking up Bryan and got sushi which we'd been looking forward to the whole week. They put us in a private room, and while it was fun, the sushi was fishy. Steve entertained us with his analysis of Bryan's dreams. Steve claims that all dreams are symbolic of greater things, but I disagree and believe that all of Bryan's thoughts and dreams represent lesser things. After returning to the hotel, we stretched and went to bed to prepare for yet another early match. Before retiring for the night, Bryan explained that he was still finding pizza crumbs on him, but would not complain because he was slightly hungry after our bad meal.
January 4, 2009: Rain day …
The morning was gray and the weather outlook was gloomy. Wait, I thought this was the desert? My match was delayed several hours. Rain delays make it difficult to time out eating, stretching and homework avoidance. My book, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, would now be awoken from its deep slumber in my racket bag buried underneath a half-eaten banana.
The match started well for me, I won the first 11 games. I got distracted as I imagined my opponent telling everyone, “It was 0 & 0, but it was closer than the score.” After losing a game, I pulled it together. Remembering that I had won 0 & 0 the last time we played, I now realized no one beats Della Taylor 24 games in a row.
Dinner was at El Charro, a popular Tucson restaurant. I had an enchilada or a burrito or maybe a burro. I don't think it was a chimichanga, but I’m not sure. It was hot, cheesy and delicious.
January 5, 2009: Groundhog day …
I awoke this morning to the annoying sounds of Hannah’s phone vibrating, again. I looked out the window to find puddles, and yet again, a dark and cloudy sky. After eating breakfast, we found out no matches would start before noon which wasn’t too far off from my scheduled time of 11:30 a.m. Since there was pretty much no way of warming up or even knowing what time we’d play, Steve found it a good idea for all of us to go to the gym and stretch. After a good warm up in the gym, we looked outside only to again find puddles and rain falling from the desert sky.
Still having to get to the site by noon, we started driving when Hannah’s parents called her telling her the Copper Bowl Web site said she’d been withdrawn due to illness. Frantic, Hannah began calling what seemed to be every number combination that is possible using seven digits to tell the tournament that in her words that “She had all intentions of playing.” Apparently unsure of precisely what to say, she seemed to struggle and blurted out whatever came to her mind and then repeated her self several times which was pretty funny to us, but probably confusing to the tournament desk who was not fluent in “Hannah talk.”
After what felt like eternity, we arrived at the Tucson Racket Club and figured out that Hannah's opponent was the one who actually defaulted. We got to warm up briefly, since there were more than 30 wet courts available, with just five dry. I ended up getting on court at about 2:00 p.m. and finished in a little over two hours, winning 6-2, 3-6, and 6-1.
Before each match, I hope to play well and not get too frustrated. I especially hoped to avoid embarrassment today, since Steve's cycling friend Dave came to watch and he is a tennis civilian. Unfortunately, frustration was inevitable today and it was a relief to me for the match to have been over.
Steve, Bryan, Hannah, Sonia and I were off to the El Conquistador to drop Hannah off for her match which didn’t end up starting until about 8:30 p.m. Luckily, Sonia Bryan and I were able to have down time back at the hotel where we went in the pool and ordered in pizza. Steve, not quite as lucky, had to go back and watch Hannah's match in the 25 degree nighttime Arizona weather. At last, they arrived back and we all packed in anticipation of our next early and potentially chaotic day.
January 6, 2009: The last day …
My flight home out of Tucson International Airport was scheduled for 1:00 p.m. My match against the first seed, Brett Ellen Keller is at 9:30 a.m. If I win, then the finals would be at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow. Since the latest flight to Long Island on Southwest is at 1:00 p.m., then if I win, I won’t be home until Thursday. If I lose, then I want to go home with the rest of the group today. While I know that I need to play a quick match, I am faced with a real dilemma. The scouting report on Brett Ellen Keller is that, despite her three names, she is not married and not a presidential assassin, she is steady and I am a pusher.”
It was nearly 11:00 a.m. and the score was 4-4 in the first set. I decide to go for it. It’s now 11:20 a.m. and I just go. I gather my rackets and wait to shake hands as I race out the fence gate. “Take your time Brett, take your time.” We rushed to the airport and raced to the gate to discover that our flight has been delayed. The highlight of the day so far is that my streak of forgetting to take all of the water bottles out of my bag while going through airport security remains intact at 27 and counting. I put this extra time to good use and caught up on my belated Christmas shopping at the newsstand shop. It's difficult to decide which he will like more, The “Property of University of Arizona Athletic Department” t-shirt or the Prickly Pear Jelly?
We finally boarded the plane, and I spotted a seat open next to Steve and Bryan. Hannah is behind me and there is a seat open next to a baby. Since Hannah is younger, she and the baby should have more to talk about, so I let her have that seat. The best part of the entire trip was our stop at Potbelly sandwich shop in Midway Chicago airport … I can’t wait to go back!