Lauren, sister of ATP pro tennis player Tim Smyczek, blogs from Indian Wells, CA as Tim competes at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open, and takes us through two typical days on Tour.
By Lauren Smyczek
Thurs, March 7th — 6:00 am Woke up this morning a bit later than usual during our stay here in Indian Wells. I think I’m drained from all the sun yesterday even though I downed 3.5 Nalgene canisters of water — the desert air just sucks it right out of you! Mom and I are here supporting Tim this week on the road, and we are all staying off-site at a house of one of Tim’s friends; it was so generous of her to offer her place! Before the rest of the group wakes up, mom and I tiptoe out of the house and go for a long walk in the neighborhood. It’s surprisingly chilly in the mornings, but really a must before sitting all afternoon at the tournament site. If I’m being good, I throw in some yoga poses to get the blood flowing.
7:00 During our walk, we head over to the local coffee shop. My whole family are coffee snobs. Our favorite is Milwaukee’s Alterra but today we have to settle for other beans since Alterra hasn’t come to California … yet. I text Tim to see if he’s awake and ready for coffee, and mom and I chat at the shop until he texts back. Even at the beginning of the day, there seems to be a lot of “waiting around” when it comes to tennis players, but you get used to the random nature of the scheduling pretty quickly.
7:30 We head back to the house and my mom makes breakfast for Tim and Billy Heiser, his coach. Today, it’s every tennis player’s dream breakfast of eggs and chicken followed by Greek yogurt with jelly and my mom’s famous home-made granola. It takes a lot of nutritious food and calories to keep your energy all day as a player, so a balanced breakfast is a must.
8:15 Thanks to our hosts, Tim and Billy don’t need to head on-site for morning drills just yet. The family’s backyard is equipped with a tennis court, so they are able to get started bright and early with little hassle.
10:00 After drills, we all tune into the TV and quickly settle on watching The Golf Channel. This makes Tim itch to get out on the greens. He lives on a course back in Tampa, FL so we joke that he goes into withdrawal on the road when he doesn’t have access to a golf course.
10:30 We finally head over to the site for their morning hit, and on the way there — as every good partnership can attest to — Tim and Billy bicker over predictions on the outcome of today’s matches.
11:00 Once at Indian Wells, Billy grabs a coke from the locker room for my mom, and as we’re leaving the players’ area, a sweaty Stan Wawrinka walks past (he’s one of my favorite players right now). Across from the entrance to the players’ area is a big field for warming up and working out, and a game of pickup soccer is taking place with several players participating in the fun.
Today it’s colder and more cloudy than usual, and while I optimistically wore shorts, I also brought jeans which I gladly switch into. I walk around the grounds to catch some match play as the first round started today. The first match I catch is on Court 7, Viktor Troicki vs David Goffin. Long rallies, fist pumps, and a huge break for Troicki to get him back on serve at 3-4.
It’s only Day One, but the crowd is excited and ready for some great tennis. The early days of big tournaments like Indian Wells are always a lot of fun as there are so many great matches on, and perhaps even some surprises. The momentum of this particular match though, is going back and forth — it’s just incredible to see from both Troicki and Goffin just how much focus this game takes. You let up for even a single point and you’re in trouble.
We then move to watch some of Bernard Tomic vs Thomaz Bellucci, but find ourselves heading back to Court 7 for an enticing third set. With all the excitement on the grounds, I accidentally missed Tim’s afternoon practice, so I just keep on watching the matches. Tim will text when he’s done with the trainer and his ice bath. Glad I don’t have to “enjoy” those frigid ice baths — will leave it for the players!
3:00 pm It’s now been a few hours, but still no word from Tim in the locker room. We don’t like to bother Tim and Billy so we just wait. Who’s complaining though when you’re at an awesome event surrounded by world-class tennis?! I’m guessing that back in the massage line or trainer room, Tim is reading — or maybe even more likely — scrolling through his Twitter feed.
4:30 We hit some nasty traffic on the way back to the house. Shopping plans for the day? Nixed. Uhh … more Golf Channel?
7:00 We have dinner with a group of Tim’s friends who are hosting a new Challenger starting off in Sacramento this Fall. It’s an exciting and riveting conversation, but my eyes are failing me and closing at the table. Tim, though, has extra helpings — have to stay fueled up!
10:30 Finally time for some shut-eye.
Friday, March 8th — 6:00 am No walk this morning as it’s surprisingly raining in the desert!
7:00 Off to get that coffee again to start the day right. Same routine as yesterday.
8:20 The rain was short-lived as the sun makes it’s appearance, even though the meteorologist called for more rain. Go figure!
9:15 My mom and I head out to do a little walking around and shopping now that it’s nice out. Tim is fifth up today for his match against Yen-Hsun Lu, so we won’t need to head to the site for a few hours.
1:30 pm Once we do arrive at the site, we catch some of the Jack Sock vs Ivo Karlovic match. What a tough loss for Jack after holding match points. Sometimes matches just don’t work out how we want them to.
3:00 We head over to watch some of Tim’s pre-match warmup, before seeing some of Jelena Jankovic vs Svetlana Kuznetzova. Once the sun starts to set though, mom and I realize that it would be better to spend a few hours inside so we’re not frozen popsicles by the time his match rolls around later in the evening.
4:45 Luckily, we were able to find in a nice corner of the players lounge where I can discretely do a little yoga — stiff from shivering all afternoon.
James Blake strides in smiling after his win over Robin Haase. Then from across the room, I see Haase discussing his loss with his coach and a cloudy look of disappointment on his face. With the constant flux of familiar tennis player faces walking in and out, it’s hard to not be distracted. But, of course, when you’re in the players lounge, you just play it cool — no staring, even if you are a little starstruck.
Stadium 3 is hosting a women’s match before Tim’s (Bartoli v Scheepers), so it feels like they’re trying to set a record for number of deuce games. Part of me — oh wait, all of me, is dreading going back out into the ever-extending frigid night.
6:00 We finally head out to Stadium 3 to shiver for a few more hours and watch Tim’s match against Lu. Tim came out of the gate strong, but Lu is known to be hot and cold. Sure enough, Lu got the break to start the second set, and then really started playing on all cylinders. Tim didn’t play poorly, but he can definitely play at a much higher level than this, and suffers a heart-breaking three-set loss, 6-2, 2-6, 2-6. Never easy to see a match slip through your hands after having had control.
9:00 After the cool down and some talk with his coach, it’s a quiet car ride back to the house as expected. I wish it could have gone better for Tim, but it was a heck of a time in Indian Wells and I’m incredibly grateful to have been along to support my brother! It’s the losses that show us our true strengths and I know Tim will bounce right back, looking for his next win.
As a bonus, Tim also shot his Tennis Channel “Bag Check” this week, so look for that in the weeks to come!
Until next time!
Lauren Smyczek is the newest contributor to Tennis Grandstand, and the younger sister of current ATP pro, Tim Smyczek who is playing at the Australian Open this week. You can follow her on Twitter @LaurenSmyczek where she talks tennis, fashion and life.
By Lauren Smyczek
For years, the Smyczek children, Alec, Tim and I, left the house at five in the morning for my older brothers’ tennis practice before school. I usually ate a donut on the couch while they hustled, but on a good day I would serve a bucket of balls or hit against the wall.
Growing up in Wisconsin, we didn’t take family vacations because most weekends were spent training or road-tripping to various USTA tournaments. Consequently, most of my earliest memories take place on or near a tennis court.
Tim, now 25 and three years my elder, excelled through the junior circuit and currently plays on the ATP Tour, reaching his career-high ranking of 125 just this week. He is in Melbourne for the Australian Open and just defeated Ivo Karlovic to reach the second round – a feat our entire family is very proud of.
So, what was it like growing up with a brother who would go on to play professional tennis on the ATP tour?
The training and travel were grueling, intense and challenging, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Jealousy never entered the picture in our family. If you knew Tim at all or had ever seen him pick up a racquet, you saw how much he loved tennis. Seeing how he literally never wanted to put his racquet down as a kid, you couldn’t help but want him to succeed.
I, however, had a very different experience with the sport from my brother. Early on, I just never felt the love and commitment Tim felt for tennis, so it began to be more of a burden than anything. It wasn’t until my college years that I realized just how much tennis meant to me.
By the time I was in middle school, Tim had already started traveling to tournaments and training with his coach almost every weekend. By that point, it was pretty clear to me that I couldn’t force the tennis thing anymore — my heart was elsewhere.
Around age 11 or 12, I realized that I enjoyed wearing the tennis skirts and cool shoes more than actually competing. Unlike Tim, I didn’t have that fight in me once I stepped on the court. He had won the state championship as a freshman and thus decided to begin playing tournaments rather than participating on the school team. As a result and due to my own work ethic, I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel as well, but this made tennis difficult for me to enjoy at times.
Then one day, I finally realized that I didn’t have to do absolutely everything that my older brothers did — so I ventured into doing theater to explore other activities. My tennis-driven family was not into theater much so their initial failure to understand why I would choose acting and singing over working harder at tennis for a shot at a college scholarship didn’t surprise me. However, being a close-knit family, they quickly supported my decision.
Rather than running away from a sport I had been surrounded with all my life, I decided to keep up with it in high school in order to be a better-rounded student. It may not have been my favorite high school experience but I believe I got through those years of playing and training thanks in part to my wonderful teammates, fantastic coaches, and other diversions in the form of multiple high school musical performances.
When I headed off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a transformation I wasn’t expecting occurred.
Once I left high school, a huge weight had been lifted in regards to tennis. The sport became something I now chose to pursue. Whether it was growing up in a tennis family, or playing alongside someone as successful as my brother, I was always my own worst enemy growing up when I didn’t perform how I wanted to on court. All of a sudden in college, my desire to play was rekindled when the pressures drifted away and I began enjoying it more than I ever anticipated.
I arranged hitting time with friends because I wanted to get better and to have fun with it. For me, finally being able to enjoy playing tennis was all about perspective. I got involved with the club tennis team at UW and loved it so much that I started running it my sophomore year. I had such a great experience my freshman year that I almost felt it a responsibility to give back and try to provide the same caliber of experience for the new players. I met so many wonderful people and have such fond memories from the club team.
Tennis now means more to me than my 12-year-old self could ever comprehend. And here’s the cliché, though very true: it is a healthy pastime I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
From all those years on court as a kid, to my involvement during my early adulthood, I can firmly say that playing tennis has helped form me into the person I am. And what’s more, the sport allows us to create an instant, universal bond with others.
And what can be more enjoyable than stepping on court with your family and friends for a fun hit? Nothing, I say.