Team USA moves on to the final for the second straight year
© Marion Cordonnier
The U.S. team huddles during their practice session
© Marion Cordonnier
Outside City Hall and the hotel, where the draw ceremony was held
© Mark Guilbeau
Six of the top American collegians have been selected to represent the United States in the fifth annual Master’U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate competition held Dec. 9-12 in Rouen, France. The event features eight teams composed of college and university players from around the world. The U.S., which defeated France to win the 2009 title, will be competing for the third consecutive year against a talented field that includes teams from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Switzerland.
The 2010 U.S. team is being coached by Greg Patton, head coach of the Boise State University men’s tennis team, who helped lead the U.S. to the 2009 title, and Mark Guilbeau, head women’s tennis coach at the University of Virginia. Coach Patton and Coach Guilbeau are co-writing a blog for USTA.com during the team's stay in France.
Wow! What a couple of days it has been.
This is such a strong group of very impressive players and teammates… and is only getting stronger as we spend more time together as a tennis family, on and off the courts.
After a solid four-mile morning run from AllieGator and Coach Guilbeau (impressive footwork and stamina from Allie, as the path along the Seine River was largely covered with patches of ice!), a quick team breakfast, a great, great practice and a healthy lunch at the competition site, Coach Patton led the charge through a passionate and spiritual team bonding session back at the hotel. It was a one-hour group discussion and left the "family" feeling extremely powerful, motivated, appreciative, together and excited, eager and confident to get out on the courts tomorrow for their first real competition together. Each team member shared some incredible thoughts and created an environment that very clearly shows the overall character of this team, as well as their willingness to work at and enjoy this great sport!
Practice was extremely active. Some good Coach Patton-taught "rolly-pollies" from the team to start… and a focused session of singles and doubles points to end. In between was some great drilling (making the "Full-Court Poach Drill" look like they have been doing it their entire lives!); some shedding of layers of clothing; a good period of serve and return; a small amount of attacking with forward movement for both singles and doubles; a few nasty and crafty drop shots; and, of course, some good discussion and strategy/skill-sharing thoughts throughout. It was clear that many of the competing teams were keeping a close eye on this group. Our players certainly did not disappoint!
It is now a few hours later (after taking a break from the above blogging)…
The team has just returned from the official draw ceremony and another great dinner at La Pasta. Your U.S. team received the No. 1 seed for this year’s event. France is the No. 2, followed by Germany and Great Britain. First-round match-ups in exact order of the draw follow:
United States vs. Ireland
Switzerland vs. Germany
Great Britain vs. China
Belgium vs. France
So, the event begins tomorrow at noon, and our team will be ready to battle Ireland through two women’s singles matches, followed by two men’s singles, women’s doubles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles! Best-of-seven match format and two-out-of-three sets for each. It will be a long, solid and spirited day! The team is very ready!!!
The nicknames continue to expand…
Sekou will now have "Chez" or Chef before his name, as far as I’m concerned. His racquet-handling skills at the net leave him poised to become a chef in his future life… extremely skilled in the art of sautéing and "feeling" the ball, much like a world-class chef! Add olive oil, and a career is born for sure!
Kristy has now added Ninja to her options of nicknames. The opposing teams are actually believing she is part Ninja Warrior… and are quite scared!
Still working on Maria, but Dominator is a good possibility. She has come out very strong very quickly after a day-late arrival! May also have some Princess Leia (again from the Star Wars classics) in her naming rights… an uncanny resemblance when we are all a bit delirious, and most definitely could pull off the Leia hairstyle with over-the-ear hair-muffs! Without question, the best tennis-playing Princess Leia in the history of the world!!!
Allie may, on occasion, be referred to as Dorothy (aka Dorothy Hamill) for her Olympic gold-medal-like grace and agility on the ice! Allie-Cat is also up for debate!?
Reid… continuing to build off of the Star Wars fame, has several additional options: Luke, the Force and, of course, his mainstay of Skywalker. It is often tempting to go with "Fed" as well, as we have yet to see Reid miss a one-hander off the backhand. Roger would be proud!
Maybe one additional nickname for AK: "T-Bone" (you will understand more below), and more importantly, it is certain that Texas A&M should be ready to add a new degree choice to their undergraduate program – Texas French! Austin Krajicek will certainly be a leading force in this field. He has impressed, amused and baffled the French folks here with his version of the language, and it is most impressive. His most favorite expression is "Tray Bone"… a fantastic Texas way of saying "very good" in French. Look for him on the official Master’U website offering up this and other tremendously entertaining French expressions. I do also believe "Doctor" could be a possible nickname, clearly out of respect for the precise and surgeon-like volley skills we have seen.
Coach Patton… one word and one word only: Passion! The man has passion coming out of every cell in his body… for tennis… for the players… for life, in general! It is uplifting and invigorating to be around.
Coach Guilbeau… is also gaining the pleasure of a Star Wars-themed nickname: Yoda! Gotta be honest… I watched the movie once about 25 years ago… what I do remember is Yoda is a very small little creature. I will do more research to see if there is any fame in this name for me! Pretty sure Yoda did not move too well and definitely sure he did not have much of a forehand J.
There is certainly more to write, but time demands that we send this out and get some much-needed rest. It has been a great trip so far. We are making many new friends from all around the world… and we are very grateful to the USTA for this opportunity. You can be certain the team and staff are doing all they can to represent the USA in a strong and positive manner!
See you tomorrow!
From Coach Greg Patton:
At practice today, the strangest thing happened, which is the weather warmed up, the snow on the tennis facility started to melt and the water seeped through the roof to basically rain on our team as we were practicing. It was eerie to say the least... like playing tennis in a big store house and it is a rain forest inside. Our players, Mark and I were dodging big droplets of water during practice. Like a dream in which you try to escape the snow blizzard, and when you find refuge inside, it is raining.
At the draw ceremony, which was set in the historic and beautiful City Hall of Rouen, we learned that we play Ireland tomorrow at 12 noon. We need to get any interested people the link to the web cast so that you can watch the matches on your computer.
Thoughts from Austin Krajicek:
We had another great day in Rouen today, even though it was a little bit tougher to sleep last night than the previous one. After breakfast, we headed to the club for our one hit of the day, which was a really good, high-energy practice that Coach Greg and Mark put together. Then grabbed a quick bite to eat at the club -- which wasn’t the best meal we have ever had but did the job -- and we headed back to the hotel for a nice nap and needed rest.
At 5:30, we headed to the draw ceremony, where we had a seat reserved for us at the front of the stage. After a lot of talk from the sponsors (all of which was translated), the draw was made and revealed that we play Ireland tomorrow. On the way out of the ceremony, we demolished the dessert bar they had laid out for us, which was a little different, as we had not had any dinner yet. After we finished all the French chocolate off, we went to the same restaurant we had been to the last couple days and had nothing else but, of course, pasta and more dessert. Then headed back to the hotel for some sleep and to get ready for the match tomorrow.
I’m busy working on my French language skills and preparing for some great tennis tomorrow with my teammates… therefore, a brief blog tonight with more great info to come your way after the tourney is underway.
Thanks for the USA support!