tennis diary

Players Lounge Diary: A Look at the Intimate Side of the BNP Paribas Open

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

Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a professional tennis photographer covering the ATP and WTA tours, scrambling to capture the top players, racing back to edit and post your photos and catching the best angle on tennis? Our resident photographer Rick Gleijm has been in Paris all week covering the WTA Open GDF Suez tournament featuring players such as Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, and Na Li. This is his personal and candid feature “Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”

Check out all of Rick’s photo galleries from Paris this week! Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

***

Sunday, February 4, 2012

Yesterday really wasn’t my day. I woke up at 2 am to make my way to Paris on the icy roads, but it had already been a terrible winter’s day the day before. I arrived to the Stade de Coubertin in Paris just to find out the tournament wasn’t ready to receive press. Wrong accreditation, no press center, no internet connection and worst of all, no parking spot. Since I didn’t fancy to leave most of my belongings in my car in a very expensive, but public garage, and also didn’t like the prospect of lugging around 20 kilos of equipment (and $20,000 in value as well!) I decided to check into my hotel early and try it again in the morning. Some things are just unexpected bumps in the road!

Sunday February 5, 2012

6:30 am: Woke up this morning to a very white world! As if I didn’t have  enough problems getting to Paris yesterday, I have to drive a few kilometers to the tournament site from my hotel. Usually I am happy to stay a little further away from the site, in a quieter place, but now that means I have to travel over snowy roads. Roads? Well, there were some cars driving on a white plain, so I guess I must be on the road… Luckily the circumstances meant even the French will drive carefully.

9:45 am: Arrived at the venue without any more scratches or dents. I even found a safe and guarded parking spot right across from the entrance of the Stade de Coubertin. As I approached the accreditations desk, I noticed the staff was happily waving my prepared media card, the press center was open, the Wi-Fi was working —  the tournament could start for me now! First up is to take a few shots from the second-round qualification matches before I go to the draw ceremony at 11:oo am.

[singlepic id=3377 w=320 h=240 float=right]1:05 pm: Quickly went to see a couple of points of the first two qualifying matches of the day and tried to take a couple of shots on court, but discovered the lighting is horrendous. On center court, there is a strange yellow/red glow around everything, while on court one everything is green. I took some time to adjust my camera settings but totally forgot about the time and thus, the draw ceremony. I quickly made my way to the VIP-village for the draw ceremony, but got completely lost in the corridors of the Stade de Coubertin. Thanks to a very nice hostess, I managed to arrive in time, just to find out everything was delayed for 15 minutes. After the draw, it was back to court one for Lepchenko versus Domachowska. I still had trouble getting my camera settings right, so that means there will be a lot of post-processing on my part to adjust for the color shift. The next match I’ll shoot will be Mattek-Sands, so that leaves me with a bit of time to edit some work.

4:55 pm: Shot the last three matches. After a time, the ligh on Center Court becam very decent after all. I will be doing some post-processing for Tennis Grandstand first and  see if I can upload the pictures, before trying to slide back to the hotel where I can make a back-up of the portfolio. I do need to find some place to eat though — noticed there is a big M nearby so perhaps I’ll try that. I have survived a tournament or two just on junk food, so that’ll be no problem — although I may then easily star in the sequel to the movie “Supersize Me”. Starting tomorrow though, the tournament will offer full hospitality, so that’s one less worry.

Monday, February 6, 2012

[singlepic id=3407 w=251 h=188 float=left]9:30 am: Matches start at 12:00 pm today, so I was able to stay in bed a little longer, but that rarely happens at tournaments. Usually the qualification tournament finishes in the morning to make way for first-round matches in the afternoon. In Paris though, today will only feature the finals of the singles qualification tournament and one main draw doubles match with Lucie Safarova and Klara Zakopalova. Anyway, made myself a cup of coffee and went on my way to the site!

11:55 am: As luck would have it, I arrived at Stade de Coubertin together with Jelena Jankovic, but regrettably had my gear in my trunk so no candid photo opportunity with the Serbian. Some parking problems again, but I was saved by the lovely girls in the press center. Thank you ladies! Dumped my gear in the press center and went for my first match, Arn versus Muguruza Blanco. Hope I have plenty of time to catch before the end of the match between Brianti and Barrois.

[singlepic id=3380 w=215 h=161 float=right]1:05 pm: Checked the score on Center Court: Barrois is having Brianti for lunch! At the first possible change-over, I left Arn-Maguruza, just to witness the last couple of points by Barrois. Unable to get a decent shot of Brianti, I decided to wait it out on center court and stay for the start of Mattek-Sands versus Craybas.

2:15 pm: Went back to the press center to start editing the first three matches, but am keeping an eye out on the scores — don’t want to miss out on the last two matches. I’m hoping Craybas can make it a three-setter, and Barthel seems to have an easy start against Lepchenko.

3:05 pm: Time to get out of the press center and shoot the last two matches of the day. Everything turned out just fine: when Barthel was finished, I left for center court and the doubles teams were just being introduced.

5:05 pm: Back in the press center now to finish the pictures for Tennis Grandstand. Funny story:  as I was walking back to the press center, I went by the WTA players’ desk where I saw Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova explaining that they were really players and that they were on the entry list. “Look right here, that’s my name on the list, Julia.”…….. It was quite a site to witness.

7:00 pm: Finished for the day, time to go back to the hotel.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

10:55 am: Today is sure to be busier. I arrived at the tournament, set up my laptop, readied my photo gear, and went to see Cetkovska versus Brianti. When the second set of Zahlavova-Strycova versus Barthel began, I moved over to center court.

12:25 pm: Back at the press center. Started post-processing pictures of first two matches, and have some time as Pironkova versus Li is not to start before 1:00 pm.

1:15 pm: The Pironkova vs. Li match has begun, but I have decided to go for the second set after Jankovic’s scheduled press conference – which should start soon. While waiting, I’m continuing work on photos.

[singlepic id=3421 w=100 h=75 float=left]2:00 pm: Jelena Jankovic arrived for her press conference to announce she was withdrawing from the tournament due to a left thigh strain she sustained in Fed Cup last week. I decided to then make my way over to the Pironkova vs. Li match. [singlepic id=3432 w=150 h=112 float=right]But, as irony would have it, at the change-over when I could finally enter the court, Na Li needed a medical timeout on her back. I took a couple of shots of Pironkova as she waited and tried to stay warm, bundled up in towels. When Li returned, I decided to stay with the Bulgarian for the game and then switch to Li. At 40-0, Li decided she couldn’t continue and had to retire from her match. So, no pictures of Li in action.

5:05 pm: With all that has happened, I almost forgot to update this! Not much currently happening though, just processing my pictures, uploading them etc., taking a few new ones along the way. Just when I nearly finished my editing, I noticed that I have to hurry if I want to take some photos at Goerges’ match. That girl is in a hurry to win!

[singlepic id=3420 w=150 h=112 float=left]5:45 pm: Got my pics. Am trying to finish them and upload them. There’ll be a post match interview which I’ll try to be present for as well. When I’m done with those I’ll call it a day.