Time is flying (seems like we got here a month ago, and in the same sense, it seems like it was only seconds ago) that our USA Collegiate team landed in Marseille, France for the 7th Annual Master’s U BNP Paribas Championships.
The name of this tournament is sneaky, for it is hard to figure out, but basically it is the World Team Intercollegiate Championships for the World. Over the past seven years, many counties have participated with talent loaded teams. We bring some of our best and most promising American collegiate players (three men and three women) to represent the Red, White, and Blue.
At first I was going to write about the greatest aspect of this tournament , and then I realized that there are so many “greatest aspects” of this tournament. Let me list the glorious advantages of playing here:
Our American players are exposed to great players and teams from around the world (France, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, China, and Russia). Not only do we compete against them, but we establish life long friendships with our competitors and thus this trip truly becomes a great learning experience . The tournament is a wonderful cultural experience and is run like a professional event. (In fact the tournament Referee is the world famous Pascual Maria who chairs the finals of Wimbledon, French, US Open, and Australian as well as the Davis Cup ties.)
We have the ability to bring our great young collegiate stars together in a team aspect and it is truly glorious to see them raise each other as players and people, and in affect be lifted to greater heights. Even the car rides to the tennis facility and site seeing are wonderful events of singing, dancing and laughter . Texting and phones are not allowed at meal time, so they are laughter filled sharing with team members who swap tales of football dominance at their respective schools (among many topics).
After flights all day Monday and Monday night the team arrived into Marseille on Tuesday morning. We checked in, and went to the courts (at the beautiful Ligue Country Club in Aix De Provence (on the French Riviera). Our team consists of three women--- Lauren Embree (Un of Florida), Jacqui Cako (Arizona State), Zoe Scandalis (USC). The men are Jarmere Jenkins (Unversity of Virginia), Evan King (Michigan), and Ray Sarmiento (USC). What a gift of Christmas to have such great collegiate players representing our country during the Holidays. The practices have been intense, focused, and fun. We have drilled, played various group games (dingles) as well as played singles and doubles games for the past three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, Thursday). We are extremely blessed to have Amanda Augustus, the women’s tennis coach at Cal-Berkeley helping run the ship with me. Her expertise as a renowned collegiate coach and talented player in her own right uplifts the team. The practices are intense, focused, and especially exhilarating. No wonder that these are some of our best and brightest.
We still take time out to walk the streets of Marseille on a beautifully sunny, yet chilly day along the coast line of Southern France. We are together as a “Tennis Family” with the common purpose to propel us to defend our titles as World Champions from 2009 and 2011. With three veterans In Jamere Jenkins, Lauren Embree, and Jacqui Cako we are ready to repeat as Champions. Our team is together every waking minute. If we are not training , hitting and stretching on the court we are together eating, sight seeing, meeting and even studying together. The main goal is to become more than a team but a family preparing to play for each other.
Tonight was especially sweet for the tournament conducted a “Parade” through the beautiful streets of Aix en Provence. We followed an exquisite French Brass Band under the colorful lights of the tight streets of this sparkling French town with the seven other countries. After marching over a mile to the City Hall, we had the draw ceremony in which our USA team was named the #1 seed (due to winning the 2011 Master’s U tournament last year). We play our quarterfinals match tomorrow against a tough Belgium team (whom we defeated last year in the semifinals). We are in the same half with #3 seed Russia and an always dangerous Great Britain team. The format of the tournament is 2 women’s singles, 2 men’s singles, followed by a women’s doubles match, a men’s doubles match and finally the mixed doubles match (which has clinched the world title in both 2009 and 2011 as the deciding match in the finals against France). Time to say goodnight for our match with Belgium begins tomorrow morning with a 7 am wake up call.
Coach Patton and Coach Augustus