Bryon Black

The Journeyman: Back to Beijing!

Mark Keil, director/producer of the tennis documentary that depicts life on the tour in the late 90’s, tells us about the tour event that is being played out in Beijing, China. The stop this week takes us to the home of chicken chow mein, where the player’s travel back to the far east.

This spectacle is a great place in that the tourist attractions for the player’s are endless. In 1997, I teamed up with TJ Middleton of Dallas. It’s quite a way’s to go play an event, but the tour provides free hotel rooms for main draw player’s at each event. The only major expense is the airfare; the tournament usually has a gratis meal plan for at least two eats a day. The singles main draw competitors receive a room for the entire week. The doubles players each get their own accomodations up until the night they lose.  When that happens, the player’s usually then bunk up and share a room with another guy until they leave to go onto the next tourney. Even at the future and challenger level do the male’s receive a free hotel stay.

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The entry level tournaments to the tour are similar to the mini tours in golf, and the minor league baseball system in the states. This housing system help’s out immensely with the player’s being able to make a living. They then can pocket most of their prize money without having too many expenditures. I got a chance to visit the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. The huge mural of the late leader of China, Chairman Mao, is an awesome sight to see. The event is now played at the ‘08 Olympic tennis venue. First round, Middleton and I played Byron Black and Jonathan Stark. Bryon won the NCAA doubles championships with Eric Amend for the University of Southern California. He was a stalwart Davis Cup player for his native Zimbabwe for many years. His sister Cara Black, is currently the No. 1-ranked individual doubles player in the world, and shares that position with her partner Leizel Huber. Stark is from Medford, Oregon, and played at Stanford along with competing for his country in Davis Cup doubles. He now lives in Seattle. He actually was the most normal person that ever played tennis at Stanford. Most of the other Cardinal were very peculiar. In the second round, we beat the unusually superstitious Dane Kenneth Carlsen and America’s David Wheaton. David grew up in Minneapolis, was a Wimbledon singles semifinalist, and played for the US in our sport’s version of the Ryder Cup.  He was a good hockey player, and now has a radio show and wrote a book titled “The University of Destruction.”  It theorizes that US college’s are warping are youth’s mind’s. We played well and won 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.

In the semifinals, Middleton and I lost to India’s current Davis Cup partnership Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. Mahesh was an All American out of Ole Miss, and used the scholarship he received there to improve his game immensely.  He now also own’s a major production company in India and  manages athlete’s and personalities.  Paes is still one of the most successful doubles player’s on the tour, having just won the US Open mixed title and reaching the men’s doubles finals’ as well.  TJ and I had great time there, cruising around the city and having a few Tsing Tsau’s in the evening’s.  We practiced hard though, and made around $7,500 each that week.  The odyssey continue’s and until next week, check out all of the result’s in the small print at the back of your local sport’s page.