I wrote this post a couple weeks ago the day after attending the Bank of the West in Palo Alto. Please excuse its tardiness! -NM
Eight years ago I attended a professional sporting event for the very first time at the age of 16. It was the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, and my dad and I took in two night session matches on the stadium court(s). Back then, the tennis facility at Stanford kept its two-courts-in-one-stadium format for the tournament, allowing fans to watch two high-quality matches going on at once. While part of that set up was maddening, the other part was refreshing and invigorating: two tennis matches happening side by side and one crowd to enjoy them at once.
The night that we went was a crowd-pleasing one: Anna Smashnova versus Anna Kournikova on one court and Lindsay Davenport versus Anne Kremer on the other. The crowd was highly entertained by the presence of Kournikova, and everyone split their watching time between her match and the Davenport drubbing of former Stanford player Kremer, who got encouraging calls from the bleachers.
Today marked somewhat of a full circle for me as I arrived back in Palo Alto for the first time to attend this tournament again, this time as a member of the media. I feel semi-adult, wearing an “M” media badge and sitting in the press room typing away at important documents (read: “a puppet’s ode to lynn welch“). The thrill is still child-like for me, though. Going from the stadium to the practice courts, I’m not necessarily analyzing ground strokes and checking out who is practicing with whom, but rather just watching the tennis take place, taking in the action like a giddy teenager.
There was plenty to be giddy about on this day: the walk through California-big trees from parking to the tournament grounds; watching Melanie Oudin practice the day after another harrowing win; finally seeing Kimiko Date Krumm in person; judging Christina McHale for her Jersey-ness; wondering what happened to Dominika Cibulkova; Palo Alto-perfect weather; and meeting fellow bloggers along the way.
More than anything, this tournament reminds me of watching my childhood hero, Monica Seles, battle through a tough three-set encounter with Tamarine Tanasugarn from the second row. I could see the sweat beads dripping off Monica’s forehead as she battled that night, and was impressed by the will and determination of Tanasugarn. Much of that was brought back in the Date Krumm-Dementieva battle that occurred Wednesday night, three sets of I-won’t-give-this-up tennis in which KDK fought with all her might to get Elena off balance for the win.
Spending the day at Stanford was an absolute joy, something I don’t think all media folk can say for another weekday at a WTA event. For us tennis geeks, there’s nothing better than a small-time tournament with big-time names that make us feel like we’re running into Madonna on her way to pick up some groceries or her morning coffee. Not much drama, just some pretty good match tennis to take in, and some practice court fun to be had and some players to cross paths with in between. Maybe the WTA should go with that as their new marketing campaign?
(photo by amorimur via flickr)