Neel Grover is captaining the USA Tony Trabert Cup team for men age 40+. He will be blogging this week from Club Ali Bey Manavgat in Turkey. His teammates are Carsten Hoffmann and Willie Quest from Southern California and Daniel Marting from Arizona. They will be competing agains teams from all over the globe in this senior equivalent of Davis Cup. The USA finished second in this competition in 2012 in San Diego.
Willie Quest won a long match against Romania to put the USA up 1/0. Reach about the rest of the match here: Day 5, USA beats Romania 2/1.
Day 4: Monday March 18th Happy (Day After) Saint Patrick’s Day!
Today the Red, White and Blue felt a little lucky in taking down the Green the morning after St.Patrick’s Day. The match formats are such that you play all three matches in succession on the same court. We were fortunate to have Center Court for our initiation into this year’s tournament. Willie started strong at #2 singles winning 6-3, 6-1 followed by Carsten’s win at #1 singles 6-2, 6-1 and Dan and I winning the doubles point 6-2, 6-4. All players came through a bit of adversity when needed and made for a good opening match. Tomorrow morning we play Romania who had a big upset win over Great Britain 2-1. We will need another strong showing to keep us on track to get out of our bracket into the semi-final.
Day 3 March Madness
We started the day bright and early with Team USA pictures. It was great to see we had 12 members from Southern California as part of the overall team from all of the divisions. Pictures below of the entire USA Team (Men and Women, Age Divisions 35-55) and of our Men’s 40 Team.
I attended the Captain’s meeting where the seeds were ultimately determined today. Even though all of the teams are all very good, the ramifications can be large if you get a subpar seeding as certain teams are definitely favored. Given the success of prior US Men’s 40 Teams in the past three years (finalists all three years) and the strength of this year’s team, we were able to garner the number 2 seed overall and a number 1 seed in our bracket. The other teams in our bracket are Great Britain, Romania and Ireland. A strong bracket–one that we will have to play our best to survive into the semi finals.
After the Captain’s Meeting we all attended the Opening Ceremonies. As I previously compared the facilities and resort to the Olympic Village, so too were the similarities of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies (albeit smaller in scale). it was pretty exciting to join as all of the players from the various countries paraded onto Center Court behind their respective Country’s flag. After the procession, they put on various Turkish dances to the excitement of the crowd.
The evening had the teams all eating together as is customary. A large group of US members ate together as we prepared for battle to begin early the next morning. It is St.Patrick’s Day but we got worried when we didn’t see the Ireland team that we are playing tomorrow drinking…
Day 1 The Journey Begins!
A quick introduction on me when I am not playing tennis: I have a wife and 22 month old son who I look forward to sharing these experiences with once he is a little older! I help a private equity group run companies they purchase and optimize their internet presence. For the prior 9 years I was the CEO and President of Buy.com, now called Rakuten.com Shopping. Previously I was a corporate securities lawyer.
I headed to LAX more than 24 hours ago…and have not yet arrived to the final destination. I have had to travel internationally a fair amount for work but this is definitely a different type of experience as the excitement of representing your country constantly pops in your mind.
It is not only a tremendous honor to have been chosen to be representing the US and the player Captain but it is even a little more special that Carsten Hoffman, one of my good friends and college teammates also made the team. We were reminiscing that the first time we met was when we played each other in a clay court tournament when I was 15 and now we will be competing together as teammates on the clay in Turkey 27 years later.
On the flight with me were two of my teammates, Carsten and Dan Marting, in addition to Jeff Tarango (M45) and a couple others I do not yet know. Carsten, Dan and I were immediately discussing strategy and sharing our excitement and anticipation. The 15 hour flight to Istanbul was thankfully uneventful. The plane had wifi which helped the time go by a little quicker. Once we arrived, received our Visas and went through Customs (surprisingly simple experience), we had a 3 hour layover until our 1 hour flight to Antalya. It was hard being in the Istanbul airport not going into town to experience the history and culture. But we are here for a different purpose. [Below is a picture flying over the Istanbul skyline and of Carsten, Jeff, Vesna McKenna (W40) and me at the Istanbul Airport.]
Once in Antalya we all had a bit of trepidation as we waited to see if our luggage would actually arrive as we had not much with us other than our racquets. Thankfully everything showed up for our team members and we are on our way on a one hour bus ride to our hotel, the location of the tournament.
I look forward to hopefully getting some rest and getting acclimated with the courts and surroundings tomorrow
Day 2 Getting Our Bearings
It was not the easiest or best night of sleep given the travel and the time difference but the adrenaline and excitement would get me through the day!
I left my room to get a look at the hotel and the courts. It is a little like what you would imagine a mini Olympic Village would look like…hundreds of tennis players from over 20 countries competing in various divisions. Most are wearing their team warm ups representing. Everyone is very cordial to each other showing the appropriate respect to the other competitors. It was pretty special to see the various teams from the US gravitate towards each other and almost instantly create friendships and supportive bonds. Being this is my first time experiencing this, I was especially thankful for the advice from the veterans!
Carsten, Willie Quest and I warmed up in the morning for a couple hours as Dan was still making his way from Antalya. The court we practiced on was literally the furthest of the 62 clay courts here (yep, I said 62) and no two bounces were the same. It felt more like a pitching mound after 8 innings without repair then a tennis court. Thankfully our afternoon practice with the whole team was on more traditional clay courts. Phew! As our afternoon practice was coming to an end, we heard a loud burst of thunder and within 3 minutes we were getting soaked with rain and hail (yep, I said hail)! [Below is a picture of the court starting to have the makings of an ice rink].
In the evening we had a dinner at the hotel for all the players and again the US teams of all ages sat together and shared stories. Tarango wins the award for most stories so far…
Tomorrow we find out what our draw looks like. And of course more practice!