Sunday, August 18, 2013

Matt and Drew Pick Their Five Favorite Moments of the Trip

Our week at the Western and Southern Open has come to a close, but the memories remain. With that in mind, a quick rundown from the two "Outer Courts" bloggers on their favorite memories of the second (of hopefully many) tennis tournament coverages:


1.) XXXI

Nothing will ever top being on the court as the confetti fell following Kentucky's national championship, but sitting courtside for Federer and Nadal's 31st meeting is making a strong case for No. 2 on my list.

Sitting 30 feet from two of the greatest to ever do it in one of their final head-to-head matches was an experience I never, ever, ever, ever thought I'd be fortunate enough a part of. It helped Federer looked like the Federer of old, or close to it, after a disappointing summer, too.

It was an incredible match, to say the least, and I have an Instragram feed full of photos to remind me of it.

2.) The elevator.

Only Willy Wonka's flying elevator possesses the magic we found in the Lindner Family Tennis Center's elevator. As I mentioned multiple times on the blog throughout the week, there was something going on with our interactions in the capsule of destiny.

It all began when Sloane Stephens and I shared a lift prior to her match with Maria Sharapova. I guaranteed, twice, that she would get the upset that night, and she did. But it didn't stop there.

The next two players we rode with -- the only other two players we rode with -- were John Isner and Rafael Nadal. Coincidence they met in the finals? No way. It's the elevator, the magical elevator.

3.) Ian Eagle is the man.

I met Ian Eagle during the 2012 NCAA tournament in Atlanta and he couldn't have been nicer, or funnier. The guy could do standup comedy if his thousands of other jobs ever fall through. He has that quick wit, too. You can't teach that. But back to the point...

When Tennis Channel's production team called to tell us we would be shooting a television segment with Ian as our moderator, we knew it'd be a lot of fun. And it was.

With Ian as our Barbara Walters Mike Wallace, the "Hillbillies of Kentucky" put together what I believe was a good bit, aside from the shot of Matt's feet. It was a lot of fun cutting up with Ian and the crew about our time on the tennis beat -- most of the banter didn't even air -- and I can't wait to share the stage with Ian when we accept the Emmy for Best Two-Minute Television Segment About Two Guys From Kentucky Covering Tennis.

(That first paragraph was compensation for the Tennis Channel pin he gave me.)

4.) John Isner is my new favorite tennis player.

Being an American, I have always been a fan of John Isner, but it wasn't until this week that he became my favorite. Like most fans of the sport, I have always latched on to one of the top players when following the tour, but now I can say John Isner is my guy. If I were ten years younger, I'd consider hanging an Isner poster in my room -- that'd just be weird now, though.

The reasoning behind my newfound fandom comes from a variety of factors. For starters, he's a fellow Southeastern Conference alum. That means he knows how to enjoy a good football tailgate and we probably share an affinity for sorority girls in sundresses. He also carries the tennis torch for the United States, being the top ranked American on tour and the only player who can potentially win big matches, as we saw this week. Which brings me to my next point:

Isner had a hell of a week. The 28-year-old knocked off four top 11 players on the tour to reach the finals, where Rafael Nadal needed two tiebreakers to win. It was only his second career ATP Masters 1000 title match, the second being Indian Wells in 2012.

So, from now on, when people ask me about my favorite tennis player, I won't hesitate to tell them it is John Isner. And Ivo Karlovic, of course. Maybe it's a height thing, too.

5.) SnapChatting with Rafael Nadal.

Looking back, I probably could've handled our interaction with Rafael Nadal a little better than I did. But now I have a better story to tell.

For reasons I can't explain, I asked Nadal if he would lean in for a "selfie" picture with me to SnapChat (Google it) my friends. Not a regular picture. Not an autograph. I asked for a picture that disappears after 10 seconds. It wasn't one of my finer moments, but again, it's a better story to tell. And my friends enjoyed it, which is all that really matters.


1. Federer-Nadal

I have already waxed poetic about this match once on the site (scroll down) so I won't do it again. But suffice to say, sitting courtside to watch two of the greatest players ever play a high level of tennis was pretty amazing. It was likely the best level of tennis we have seen from Federer in over a year and was proof once again that Nadal right now is ruling the roost of the tennis landscape. Combine the actual on-court play with the atmosphere created by their presence and it goes down as one of my top sports moments of all time. I have always truly admired both players (although with that admiration comes a tremendous amount of jealousy as well...I wish I could just once wear an outfit as well as Federer or get shrieks of approval when I remove my shirt like Nadal) both on and off the court and it makes appreciating their on-court success that much better. But to do it while sitting close enough to feel the pace of their amazing ground game was one for the books.

2. Grigor Dimitrov's Magic

I think one of the biggest problems that tennis has right now is its inability to capture the average sports' fans attention with storylines that will move them. For a long time as an outsider, I assumed that was because tennis players were simply drones with no personalities that were as interesting to cover as most mid-level accountants. But having now been embedded with the tour for two major tournaments, I can see that is simply not the case. A person like Grigor Dimitrov should be known by the public as large. Here is a random Bulgarian player, 22 years old and non-descript in most every way. Yet somehow he has caused a major league cat fight between two of the best women's players in the modern era, all based on his love, affection and supposed "black heart." Why don't we know more about him? If Kris Humphries, who seems to be as terrible off the court as he is on, can have a reality show, how had I never heard of Grigor and his amorous ways?  These are the types of stories "The Outer Courts" will unveil in the years to come.

3. My Toenail in HD

Look, I am not a proud man. I don't mind to look silly or play along with just about anything for a laugh. But I never thought that my time here at the Two Directions Open would end with my toenail being shown on national television in HD. I grant to everyone that my feet are not the best part of my physical appearance, but now that virtually everyone I know has made a joke about the ragged toenail that adorns my right big toe, changes have to be made. We thank Tennis Channel for many things and I loved getting to do the segment on the air as part of Wednesday's Pregame Show. But for the future I now know that all parts of my body, even those normally not on camera, are fair game when on Tennis Channel. Justin Gimelstob better hope he doesn't have any back hair come the next major event.

4. Fun With Puns

Let's be honest...sometimes a tennis tournament can get a little slow in the middle of a long day. While this tournament produced some high quality matches (Federer-Nadal, Isner-Nadal, Serena-Azarenka, Isner-Del Potro), it also produced some stinkers. It was during one of those stinkers on Thursday that Drew and I (along with "The Outer Courts" Live Blog viewers) attempted to come up with tennis puns and pickup lines. The results were glorious and made me laugh as hard as I have in quite some time. I have an affinity for bad jokes (as readers of this blog can certainly see), but if these puns don't at least make you smile, then I don't know what to tell you:

"Li Na on Me...When You're Not Strong"
"Hey Raonic, its ok things happen..we play, You win, Milos."
"Isner anyone here who can give me a ride back to my hotel?"
"That Gimelstob is Justincredible."
"Is Wayne Brady gonna have to Djokovic?"
"I have to pull over and stop for some Gasquet?"

5. My Rivalry with Jack Sock Continues

I don't like Jack Sock.  I know that people think thats controversial as we all want there to be good young American tennis players. But I dont like the cut of his jib and I am sure he probably feels the same about me. Yes you may say, he doesn't know who I am. But my guess is that by the way he looks at me and the way he screams at matches at which I am in attendance, he senses the animosity. When I found out that he might be dating Sloane Stephens this weekend (the official adopted little sister of "The Outer Courts"), my skepticism only grew further. At Indian Wells and Cincinnati, Sock and I have had our moments of tension, even if he is not aware they occurred. But third time is a charm Sock...either I need to see better on-court behavior from you or you and your funny name and me and my farmer's tan are headed for impasse at some point. Make me like you...Agassi did did did Nadal, all after initial skepticism. You can too...I know it.

Thanks again to everyone for reading. We hope to see you again very soon at another tennis event around the way.