02 May 2011

Up close and personal with the ATP and WTA

Sharapova vs Arn
I had the opportunity to volunteer at the ASB Classic and Heineken Open tennis tournaments earlier this year in Auckland. Being a complete tennis nut, I don't know why I haven't made a career out of volunteering or working at tournaments around the world. What a way to spend a week! Free entrance to the tournament, food allowance and free parking. And oh so much tennis. Ideal.

During the ASB Classic, I was mere inches away from players like Sharapova, Wickmayer, Goerges and Peng Shaui. I didn't know if I should say anything to the players but I had a sudden encounter with Masha when I nearly knocked her down the stairs (and she lost soon after our near collision). Maria didn't get peeved at me though and just smiled as she continued up the stairs to the player lounge. Oops!

Sabine Lisicki playing Wickmayer
I got the chance to stand next to Julia Goerges while she waited to take the court for her semifinal against Greta Arn (still can't believe she lost that match). I got a girl crush as I stood by Julia - she has the most beautiful skin tone and is just gorgeous with a great smile.

I walked by Wickmayer so many times as she prepped for her matches - she looked so intense all the time that I didn't feel comfortable saying good luck or anything to her but we did lock eyes quite a few times. I actually met Yanina last year when she won in Auckland and she was pretty friendly but that was coming off her win and it was at the player's party so she would have had her guard down a bit more.

During the Heineken Open, I started to get more comfortable seeing the players and the head volunteer took a liking to me so she started giving me really good posts. I ended up working by the player lounge entrance right by the stairs the players use to go off and on the court. By this stage I'd felt a lot more daring to go up to the players so I became autograph collector:

Nalby on his way to the locker room pre Isner
The nicest player was John Isner and the least friendly was - SURPRISE - Nicolas Almagro. John was very sweet and asked me how I was doing and I told him I'd be going to Melbourne too and would be cheering for him. What a sweet man but goodness were my hands shaking after I got his autograph!

David Nalbandian was also super sweet - he walked by me and said hi, and I hit him up after he won his semifinal for an autograph. He was really patient as I tried to find my pen - he was chomping on a muesli bar as I dug into my purse and then got his autograph. Such a lovely guy.

Ferrer warming up for the final
I was on a roll so other players I approached were Thomaz Bellucci (those eyes!), Arnaud Clement, Tommy Robredo and Nicolas Almagro. Nico looked a bit put out by my request but signed my shirt anyway. I said thanks and good luck and got a bit of a gangster nod and that was that. I also fangirled a bit over Larri Passos (I was a massive Guga fan) and so wanted to go up to Mariana Alves and ask her about Hawkeye but thought better of that....

The player I never had the balls to approach was David Ferrer - not that he looked unapproachable but you had to be so quick and I wasn't about to chase the players to get an autograph.Well, I would have chased Pico around the grounds but unfortunately he lost too early so I didn't get a chance. I also wimped out with hot Fognini and super cute Marc Lopez - again the small windows of opportunity meant I had to act fast and sometimes I hated to pounce on them.

If you ever have the opportunity to work as a volunteer at any level of ATP/WTA tournament I urge you to go for it!

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