Coach Guilbeau pumping up for the matches
© Greg Patton
Allie Will being interview after her Irish victory
© Greg Patton
Reid (Skywalker) Carleton after his singles win
© Greg Patton
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.
This is Coach Patton with our (promise to be brief) recap of our 7-0 quarterfinal victory over Ireland to advance to the semifinals against No. 3 seed Germany tomorrow.
This international team competition is like a combination of a Phish and Grateful Dead Concert, which means there is a lot of rhythm and beat going on but, most importantly, like the forementioned rock bands, the concert lasts for hours upon hours for an all-day effect.
We arrived early at 9:30 a.m. to the courts for the coaches' meeting, team warm up (and we do mean warm up in these chilly confines) and rocking with the matches. We start competing at 12 noon, and the seven matches that we need to play are played one at a time. It is one long, long day of tennis balls being struck. It is a marathon feast of tennis, with eight nations playing four team matches all day.
We have a wonderful wrap up of our match results from one of our star players (Maria Sanchez from USC), who gives the player’s insight into the match play today. Her observations will follow down below. Obviously, Coach Guilbeau and I were thrilled about how well our team played. Especially for the fact that it was the first international competition for four of our six players (Austin Krajicek and Kristy Frilling are weathered veterans of this tournament from last year). We passionately believe that the first match in a tournament (be it an individual or team match) sets the tone of the whole tournament. Our players were focused, enthusiastic and relaxed. It showed in their sterling play. They were like dancers making all the right moves on "Dancing with the Stars" for their first performance (by our victory—we weren’t voted off---Yaa).
One of the factors that has been a big plus to our team is our philosophy and mantra to make new friends during this special time overseas. There is absolutely no doubt that our special young people are wonderful ambassadors for American tennis. It is refreshing to watch all our players spending quality time sharing experiences with the players from other nations. Our team has not only been making friends with other teams but also with the fans and the volunteers at the tournament with great gusto. It is magical to see how many new fans our team has made with the community, ball boys, drivers, etc... It sure helps when you see the French spectators cheering for our American players.
In regards to our play today:
I was especially pleased by our youngster Sekou Bangoura, whose game was as smooth as a French chocolate mousse sliding down past the taste buds with a silky texture of bliss. Also, we feel our "go to" team point has to be our men’s doubles team of Austin Krajicek and Reid Carleton. They were a double-fisted punch of dynamite (they should make the next buddy movie about them).
Our matches began at 12 noon, and we were off the court at 8 p.m., just in time to watch our saintly Maria Sanchez play an exhibition doubles match with two of the top wheelchair tennis players in the world. (One of them was the No. 1 player in the world, and he hails from Paris). It was inspiring and breathtaking to watch these incredible athletes compete and especially to see our own American princess (I call Maria "Princess Leia") compete with them. Hopefully you will see the photos of Maria competing in the exhibition with this blog.
We have a humungous match with Germany tomorrow. Unlike Ireland, which was made up of younger (18 to 22 year olds, like our team), Germany’s players are in their mid-20s and veterans of the professional tour. They are very, very talented (but as we like to notice, they are older than us, which makes them too old). Coach Guilbeau and Coach Patton know something about aging warriors.
We know that we want to jump out to a commanding lead tomorrow in the singles matches (we start with No. 2 women’s singles, followed by our No. 1 women’s singles match and then the two men’s matches, which start one after the other.
The other semifinal has No. 2 seed France pitted against No. 4 Great Britain.
Also, although the facility is truly very, very cold, we have no complaints from the players. They are excited to be here, and their play has been heating up the place, anyway.
Coaches Patton and Guilbeau
From Maria Sanchez:
!Bonjour! This is Maria Sanchez, and I am here to talk about the USA sweep over Ireland today!
The girls started off strong today, giving the U.S. a 2-0 lead. Kristy Frilling (aka Ninja) gave us a good start to the day with a 6-3, 7-5 victory, followed by Allie Will’s 2 and 0 victory. Then Sekou Bangoura (aka So Fly) gave the men their first win of the day. Reid Carleton (aka Luke Skywalker) gave us another win. Allie and I won our doubles match, 6-1, 7-6, and then Austin Krajicek and Reid won their doubles match, as well. Kristy and Sekou also teamed up to win the mixed doubles point.
Overall, it was a very fun day! It was long and very cold, but I had a great time hanging out with Coach Patton and Mark and the rest of the "family." I feel very lucky to be here competing in France, representing the USA with all these other great people.
We are all fired up to play Germany tomorrow. As Coach Patton says, "If we have gratitude in our attitude, we will get altitude!"
Day 1 Results:
No. 2 women's singles
Kristy Frilling (USA) def. McCullough (Ireland) 6-3, 7-5
No. 1 women's singles
Allie Will (USA) def. Moriarty (Ireland) 6-2, 6-0
No. 2 men's singles
Sekou Bangoura (USA) defeated Wrafter (Ireland) 6-1, 6-3
No. 1 men's singles
Reid Carleton (USA) def. Grogan (Ireland) 6-1, 6-1
Sanchez/Will (USA) def. McCullough/Moriatry (Ireland) 6-1, 7-5
Carleton/Krajicek (USA) def. O'Connell-Wrafter (Ireland) 4-0,4-0
Frilling/Bangoura(USA) def. O'Neill/O'Connell (Ireland) 4-0, 4-2
*Once team match is decided, the doubles matches are shortened to abbreviated matches.