I’m going undercover this week at the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles! Yes, I’m joining the corps of hardy retirees and underemployed freelancers (I’d be the latter) who are willing to slave away in the hot sun for the chance to watch some free matches and rub shoulders with ATP players. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a week free to do something like this, and I’ll keep you all posted on the funny, crazy, weird, fun and amazing things that I’m bound to experience on a minute-by-minute basis (if I don’t pass out from standing for five hours straight in a 85 degree-plus stadium.)
Here are some tournament basics, so you know what the heck I’m blabbering on about:
The Countrywide Classic
Los Angeles Tennis Center on the UCLA campus
August 4 – 10, 2008
Singles Draw: 28
Prize Money: “over $1 million”
Last year’s singles finalists: Radek Stepanek defeated James Blake
Trivia: “In its 82nd year, the landmark Southern California ATP tournament is the longest running annual professional sporting event in Los Angeles.”
Cool: The Davis Cup will be visiting the tournament and on display for all to see!
Television: Coverage of the tournament starts on Friday, August 8 on both ESPN2 and Tennis Channel
Marquee Names: Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, Carlos Moya, Mardy Fish, Tommy Haas, Juan Martin del Potro, Feliciano Lopes, Fernando Verdasco, Sebastien Grosjean.
This is the best field in ages – I actually think that the Olympics has helped matters this year, with players who’ve been shut out of Beijing looking to grab some rankings points.
Notes from orientation:
1. My uniform includes Adidas tennis shoes (I needed new ones!), cap, t-shirt and warm up jacket. All great quality and FREE, although all the clothing is two sizes too big. I will provide the white pants or skirt to complete the ensemble.
2. Some tournament big wig addressed us and mentioned that we should be extra nice to any Countrywide employees that might attend, since they’ll likely “all be fired soon.” (Like many U.S. financial institutions that specialize in home loans, it’s been hit hard lately with recession and scandal.) He also asks us to let him know if we have any good leads on a new title sponsor for next year. “Leave no stone unturned” must be this guy’s motto.
3. While we were milling around, I spotted Marat Safin practicing, shirtless. When I pointed him out to another woman in the group, she said “Oh, sorry. I don’t know any of the players.” I felt sorry for her.
4. Tommy Haas (along with yoga-fresh girlfriend and entourage), Fernando Verdasco, and Sebastian Grosjean were all spotted on the practice courts, too.
5. Volunteer no-no’s include: stalking the players, taking your break in the VIP seats, wearing a tennis skirt as part of your uniform (if you’re a man), and sunbathing topless (if you are a woman.) Yes, all of these sins were mentioned, specifically, by tournament staff. Geeze, and I thought volunteering was supposed to be fun!
I’ll keep you updated as the week goes on. And let me know if you’ve ever volunteered or worked at a tennis tournament before. Any survival tips?