(l to r): Tennessee's Caitlin Whoriskey, Notre Dame's Kristy Frilling and Georgia Tech's Irina Falconi
© Irina Falconi
© Irina Falconi
Shopping in downtown Poitiers
© Irina Falconi
Master'U BNP Paribas Results
Georgia Tech sophomore Irina Falconi is one of six American college players representing the United States at the Master’U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate competition in Poitiers, France, that features eight teams of college and university players from around the world. The 19-year-old has had an outstanding career to date, earning 2009 All-American and All-ACC honors and recording one of the best rookie season's in Tech history with 30 singles wins. She also won the 2009 Riviera/ITA All-American Championships and captured USTA Pro Circuit titles at $10,000 events in Atlanta and St. Joseph, Mo. Falconi will be sharing her thoughts and experiences during the trip in a blog from France.
Sunday, Dec. 13., 2009
GO U-S-A! GO U-S-A! GO U-S-A!
This shall be a legendary blog. Hope you're ready.
Sunday. As Coach Bryan Shelton likes to say, "Sunday is the day champions are made."
We started our day super early because after our match we had to head to Paris quickly to see the Eiffel Tower. It would be a sin to be in France, Paris rather, and not see the masterpiece. I mean, let's be serious now. So we got to the courts at around 7:45 a.m. to do our routine warmup and to be on court playing at 8 a.m. After a delightful little hit, we were to sit around for a bit before the Final French Showdown would begin.
Of course, since we're in France and all, it was around 9:30 before Caitlin and I were on court playing --- yup, we had a 9 a.m. start.
I got off to a quick lead and was able to take the match 6-3, 6-2. Caitlin had a tough match, but no worries, the French girl got lucky. 1-1.
The boys were on next. Stevie J and Austin took the courts and battled. Both of them had super tight matches and had one too many calls that were French favored. Down 3-1.
The scenario was looking a little tight, but no one seemed to be worried.
After Austin and Steve-o got off court, Coach Patton got us together for a team huddle up:
"Alright guys, there's nothing that we need to hang our heads about. We all battled! They came out to play, and so did we. We are down 3-1, but you know what? We're going to win this. You know why great players play? They don't play to win --- they play for the feeling. We are out here sacrificing our bodies to glorify our souls. Remember that guys. Revel in the situation. Revel in the position that we're in it. Let us resonate with the feeling of loving to play. I hope you guys know this --- you all are special. There's no one that knows what you're feeling, other than the other players around you. You guys are special to be in this position. So let's get it done in doubles, alright!? I know we're better than them! They're not going to know what hit them. Let's ignite the flame!"
After a heck of a motivating speech, we all headed to get some lunch before we the doubles showdown would begin.
Caitlin and I were the first ones to take the courts against two Frenchies --- and we definitely took it to them. In about an hour and a half, after a few "tags" from the Warrior, we had lost a total of 5 games. Pretty solid. Alright, 3-2. The boys were up next.
So Austin and Stevie J headed on the court again to have a little rematch against the two Frenchmen. It was honestly, by far, the best doubles I've ever watched live. After an early break in the first set, we got the first set 6-4. In the second set, a little deja vu, and we had just tied with the French team for a final match showdown in the mixed. Quigs and KFrills were to get it done for the clinching point.
When the Americans got on court, you could tell that they were ready for some action. With a few breaks in the first, the set was ours. One set away from victory. At 5-2, KFrills hit a heck of a first serve on the second match point, to produce a return error. Game. Set. Match. Championship USA!!!
Aw man! It was unbelievable! Our team rushed the court and screamed like crazy!
*PS. The French decided to hang out "thunder sticks" to the crowd for cheering purposes. If you don't know what Thunder Sticks are, they're rather annoying suckers that are really obnoxiously loud. We used them to our advantage.
After a solid awards ceremony, we were to "scooby-doo" out of the site, and head to the Train Station, to catch our 8:49 train to Paris. Once we were about half way into the trip, we realized that we weren't on the right train, and were actually going to Paris-Montparnasse instead of the airport, which ended up being not the worst thing in the world because were ten minutes away from the Eiffel Tower. After some serious planning annd sacrifice making, we made our way to the Tower. Coach Michelle, being the awesome team player that she is, decided to be the one to stay with the bags in the train station while we went to the Eiffel Tower with Coach Patton. After a few hundred pictures, a dozen "Oooooohs" and "aaaaaah's" we headed back to the train station to get on a bus at midnight to the Holiday Inn near the hotel. Caitlin almost got left behind at the tower due to the fact that you can't fit four passengers in a five-passenger car. Gotta love Paris.
So once we got to the train station, we realized that the taxi had left us a few blocks from the main station --- we had five minutes left.
After about a 100-yard sprint, we got to the station with the rest of the crew and went on a scavenger hunt to find the bus to the airport. After 80 different directions, 90 unsuccessful finds, and 99495996 stairs, we finally decided to take a cab to the hotel. Got to the hotel safe and sound near the 2 a.m. mark, and went to bed for a few hours before heading to the airport at 7 am. Gotta love traveling.
So that shall be it for my blogging! I know, I know, very disappointing, but I'm sure I'll be playing a tournament sometime in the near future where you'll be able to hear about some more of my exciting and lucrative tennis experiences.
Thanks for reading and happy holidays to everyone!
And remember... GO USA!!!
Funny French Bits
So the Tournament Director talked to Michelle a few minutes after we were done with our warm up. After about a five minute talk, I curiously asked her what he had said.
Me: "Are they switching their lineup?"
Michelle: "Well, no. Apparently one of their Coaches retired yesterday and they want a new guy coming in."
Me: "Hmm, that's really weird and random. I wonder why he retired yesterday..."
Michelle: "I don't know, maybe he wanted to retire on a win because he knew they were going to get a beatdown today!"
During mine and Catilin's doubles match, one of the girls called for the trainer between the first and second set. As we are waiting for him to come, the tournament director comes and talks to us to tell us the situation.
TD: "Hi, yes, sorry. One girl called for the physio. He is coming though, he was having beer."
When Stevie J and Austin took the doubles court, they decided to match their attire.
Michelle: "Oh my gosh! A black shirt and blue shorts?! What a faux pas!"
Right before we went on the doubles court, we all agreed to get a few pegs here and there. In the middle of the match I decided to throw in a little cheer:
Me: "Here we go KFrills! Let's go Quigs! How about we play a little tag, eh?!?!"
The tournament committee decided to have ball kids for the finals. We counted how many of them got hit by serves --- we counted seven.
At around 2 a.m., we were all in the lobby waiting to get our keys to head to our rooms. We all got to talking about showering and Stevie J had a very good reason why we shouldn't shower:
Stevie: "Pfft, I'm not showering. I don't want to shower off the scent of victory!"
Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009
So if you haven't heard yet, USA is in the finals against France tomorrow at the BNP Master's U' Paribas tournament!
Today was just a fantastic day! Once again, we started our day early with some croissants and Nutella for breakfast. We headed to the courts with our fabulous driver, Emanuel, and we had courts from 8:30-9 before the dual would begin.
At 9 a.m., KFrills was the first to set the tone with some singles play. She dominated in two sets, 6-3, 6-4. Right after her match, I followed to play the other singles match, and just like Kristy, I kept it in two sets, 6-3, 6-3. So 2-0 USA.
The boys were on the stage next, with Eric taking on a Brit and handling him like a true American in two sets, 6-3, 6-3. One match left to clinch the win, and Stevie J took it to him. The Brit proved to be of good worth, for he took the American to a third set, where Steve hit an ace on match point to show the Brits how we do it in the U.S. 4-0 USA. Victory clinched. Spot in the finals, CHECK!
After some nice lunch, we stuck around to see Germany and France duke it out for a spot in the finals. Today was a rather long day, so we actually had dinner at the site before heading back to the hotel and a fun-filled night. Oh yes, the night was yet to be over.
Once we arrived to the hotel, we had exactly 10 minutes to grab a few extra layers to head over to Futureoscope - The Theme Park of the Future. It was awesome!
We started off the tour with a very "physical" snowmobile ride, where we might have fractured a few ribs and will probably be sore in our backs and abs (from laughing so hard.) After that ride, we made a quick stop at a small playground, where everyone on the team decided to go down this large and long slide. We're still kids, after all.
We then headed to the feature of the night --- a night show. Sure we couldn't understand anything of what was being said, but the lights, fireworks and music were just wonderful!
Tomorrow we shall play France. We better hear you cheer.
Funny French Bits:
The matches were supposed to start at 9, but no, not in France. At 9:10, Kristy is on the court ready to go, but no opponent.
Finally, after 100 phone calls to the airport in Paris, Coach Patton finally gets his luggage! Which meant that the boys got their uniforms, as well --- which meant they all matched.
One of the goals for this trip was to take a candid photo of the most attractive French man we met. We ended up taking a picture, but he knew the entire time that we were taking it.
In my match today, I decided to hit one too many drop shots to start off, which got me in a few tight situations, due to the fact that they weren't all that successful. After the match, Coach Patton and the team were eating lunch, and he decides to bring up my match:
Patton: "I don't think I've ever seen so many drop shots in my life! I mean, you were like a slippery midget that was dropping change everywhere."
Me: "Aw, Coach! Come on now! You missed the second set! I had like 5 successful ones!"
Patton, in disbelief: "You did?!?!?!?"
While watching Germany and France, Alex (our translator) told us that the press wanted an interview with a coach and a few of the players from the USA team. When they got back, we asked Coach Michelle Dasso how it went. This is what she responded:
The girls: "Soo, how was it?"
Michelle: "Oh, it was great! They asked a few questions and everything, but the funniest thing was the fact that they probably took longer in spelling our names than the actual interview."
The girls: "What do you mean?"
Michelle: "Well, we were spelling out our name to Alex, and then she had to translate it to them so they can write it down..."
The girls: "Um... why couldn't you just write your name down for them?"
Michelle: "I DON'T SPEAK FRENCH!"
Friday, Dec. 11, 2009
Switzerland today!!! So USA got their day started early!
Breakfast was to be at 7:00 with the crew downstairs before heading to the courts with our "Angel" driver at 7:30. We got to the courts and tried to warm up in the really cold indoor courts. The coolest thing about these indoor courts was probably the heaters that hung from the roof. Real high-tech stuff... right down my alley.
After a great workout with Stevie J, Caitlin and I got ready for some singles play. We got out there, and in about an hour and change, we had lost a total of one game in 4 sets. USA domination? I think yes.
Austin and Eric went on right after us and dominated back to back, as well. That meant, USA was up 4-0, which also meant that the USA team had just clinched the first match. GO USA!
All right, so after some nice "cold" lunch, we got back on the courts for some doubles action. Caitlin and KFrills got it "did" with a 2 and 1 victory, while Quigs and Stevie J got it done with a solid 4 and 4 shootout. 6-0 USA? Got one left--- mixed.
I had the pleasure of playing with Stevie J for our first mixed doubles match of the tournament! A couple of aces and drop shots later, we won 8-1. Undefeated for the day. Did not lose one set. I mean... can you say, GO US of A?! Yeah, there ya go.
At around 4 o clock, we headed back to the hotel to relax and freshen up before dinner at 6:30. When we got back to the site (the dinner was at the courts), we had the pleasure of having a wheelchair exhibition match before dinner time. It was amazing to see how happy everyone is, even being disabled from the waist down. It was a lot of fun to see with the crew.
After some really good traditional French cuisiner dinner, the General got all of us to put our thinking caps and really come out of our shells. We shared what we admired from each other, what we knew about each other, and who were the people in our lives that have influenced us the most. It was a wonderful exercise, and at the end of it all, we made sure to have a group hug, along with a really LOUD "U-S-A," as we huddle together and joined forces. Couldn't have been a better day!
Great Britain is next --- let's see what they bring to the table. Go USA!
Sorry no French bits today. Tomorrow we'll have some, I promise.
Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009
Good morning! Good afternoon! And good evening, everyone!! I say all three greetings because a six-hour time difference will do that.
All right, so this morning, we had a fairly early morning. We met up with the team at 9:15, and we got to finally meet our other coach, the Greg "General" Patton. After some breakfast filled with Nutella and croissants (SHOCKER, I KNOW), we headed to the courts to have our first team practice.
Once we arrived, the paparazzi approached us and took a few photographs of the USA Team. After about 2 hours of practice, along with some practice matches against the Great Britain team, we headed to the cafeteria at the university, where we got scolded for taking too many ketchup packets. Luckily, for us, there were french fries, which is the food that you just can't go wrong with.
After some interesting cordon bleu along with some sour yogurt, we headed to the heart of Poitiers, where we were able to exchange our money into Euros. Kristy and Steve had to go to the post office, where they tried to rip Kristy off of about 30 dollars. The French really love us, I promise.
After taking about 300 pictures of the coolest building we had seen so far on the trip and a few unsuccessful attempts of our driver (Angels, refused to take a picture with us), we drove to the hotel, where we relaxed for a little bit before going out to "shopping!"
Once again, we went to downtown Poitiers, where we split up and explored the French European stores. The funniest thing that we all noticed was the amount of stares that people gave us as we walked by with our "Team USA" jackets. At one point, two guys thought it would be funny to scoff really loud and say "Team USA" in a really obnoxious voice. Thanks, Frenchies. (I'm serious, the French love us.)
After two hours of shopping, we met up with Steve, Austin, Eric and the General in a pub with a few other teams, where we sat and socialized with the Great Britain team and then walked to a very nice building where the reception was taking place. After about an hour of introductions, a translator who sounded like he was just repeating everything that the French speaking men were saying, the draw was finally made.
We, the No. 1 seeds, were to play against the Swiss team. After that, we went outside, where a kind man took pictures of us--- with 8 different cameras. (Told you they loved us.)
So another thing that we all knew with coming here was the different eating habits that the French people have here. When we arrived to "dinner," we realized why everybody is so thin! What they consider dinner would be appetizers for us. Don't get me wrong, they had some legit stuff --- raw meat, salmon, cheese, bread (surprise, surprise) and of course, wine.
After destroying a few dessert plates, the team headed to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Mezzo Di Pasta. After getting an inspiring speech from Coach Patton while we waited for our food and eating, we headed back to the hotel. In the car, we girls had the pleasure of having Austin, Steve and Eric serenade us with their singing of Maroon Five's "She Will be Loved." That video will be posted on Youtube shortly.
So Switzerland tomorrow. Gotta show ‘em how we do it in the USA.
Funny French Bits:
I've never done this section before, but now that I'm on a team there are a lot of quotes that are said throughout the day by the crew that are definitely blog worthy:
At lunch, while talking about things we've noticed that are different in France:
Caitlin: "Have you guys noticed how the water level in the toilet is really low?"
At lunch again, we were all trying very different foods, and Kristy didn't really like her Cordon Bleu, so she decided to put it in one of her bread rolls. She also tried her bread with ketchup, carrots, oh, and yogurt.
*Quoting from Just Married.
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009
So I am currently sitting in my room at the Novotel Hotel in the beautiful city of Poitiers, France.
The last 48 hours of my life have been quite eventful.
It started yesterday morning, when I took my last final for the fall semester -- Finite Mathematics. After "squaring" out of there, I hit some tennis balls before heading out on the longest plane ride I've ever taken. Oh, that's right. I bet you won't believe this, but I have never traveled to Europe. You can only imagine how stoked I was/still am about this trip!
So after a solid hit, Coach Shelton was kind enough to take me to the airport, where I would first head to Newark to meet with Coach "General" Greg Patton. Unfortunately, weather didn't really want to cooperate with the USA College Team all that much. Everyone's flight was either delayed or canceled due to weather and/or "maintenance" problems. I luckily got to Newark without too much trouble and met up with our other coach, Michelle Dasso. Some dinner and a few dozen pictures later, we were on a non-stop flight to Paris. I was so excited, I actually took pictures of the gate that had the flight information. I'm a tourist, I know.
The flight to Paris was actually one of the best flights I've ever had. A little journal writing, a little Sudoku and some shut eye later, we were landing in the heart of France. Coach and I met up with the rest of the players on the team who had been already waiting for us for four hours. They looked like they were just ready to go. Kristy was out, but she had woken up at 4 a.m., so I guess she had a pretty good excuse.
With all our bags good to go, we headed on our scavenger hunt to find some grub. We ended up going to La Gran Comptoir, a very nice cafe at the terminal. After five ham sandwiches, a continental breakfast and a few awkward silences later, we headed to a pink waiting room, where we patiently "waited" (hence the name) for our train out to Poitiers. Unfortunately, the General didn't have the cards work for him today -- his flight was delayed; therefore, he missed the train to Poitiers AND he lost his luggage. He'll still have a smile on his face, though!
The train ride to Poitiers was a very pleasurable journey. Not only because I was able to catch some zzz's, but the view outside was just lovely. The amount of green pastures along with farmland was just extraordinary. I was able to take some videos and pictures of the journey, which is always going to be a great memory of my first day on European land.
Once we got to Poitiers, a very nice French gentlemen named Vincent drove us from the train station to our hotel. Kristy, Caitlyn and I used the two hours we had before dinner to make some unsuccessful wireless connection attempts. At 7 p.m. (1 p.m. ET), we headed to Coach Michelle's room to pick up our USA Team Gear. After some fabulous dinner at the University Restaurant, we were ready for bed! Till tomorrow!