IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program student and up-and-coming American talent, Ryan Harrison, is blogging live from Macao while he participates in the Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown with fellow Bollettieri student Yuki Bhambri and tennis legends Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Here is his first entry!
Today was my first day in Macao for the Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown 2009. I am here doing an exhibition with Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and another 17-year-old player from the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program, Yuki Bhambri. Anyway, I thought I would share with everyone a little bit about what I am doing over here on the other side of the world. I hope you enjoy it and check out my photos as well.
I made the trip here with my agent, Ben Crandell and we arrived last night after a very long flight from Newark and about an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong to Macao. As soon as we arrived in Hong Kong we had someone escorting us all the way to our rooms. The amazing event staff picked us up at our gate in a golf cart at the Hong Kong airport, drove us to customs, put us in a sweet new Mercedes to take us to the ferry station, booked our first class tickets on the ferry, picked us up in Macao and then took us directly to our rooms. We didn't have to do anything and my room is amazing by the way. My bathroom alone is about as big as most bedrooms!
Anyway, after attempting to sleep a few hours I started my day way too early (around 5:00 am) and chowed down on pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast. It was just what I needed after the long trip and I was very full. After my food settled a bit, Ben and I went to the gym at 8:30am for a short work out to try to loosen the legs up after such a long trip. This hotel is so big and we got a little lost on the way back.
After that, Yuki and I headed to the court at 10:00 am for a short hit before Andre arrived to hit with Yuki at 11:00. The Cotai Arena, which holds around 12,000 people, is part of the Venetian Resort which includes our hotel and a casino. The court is a temporary court but it I liked how it played. It isn't too fast and the bounce is consistent. This is actually the same arena where Pete played Federer two years ago and Federer, Blake, McEnroe and Borg played last year.
I watched Andre and Yuki practice for about an hour, which was cool to see because Andre still hits the ball so well. He also took some time to chat with Yuki and I after their practice, which was really cool. As I waited for Pete to arrive to hit with me, I did a short camera interview with NOW Sports. It is kind of strange answering questions in English and then standing there on camera in complete silence as the reporter translates your answers to Mandarin. Something I will have to get used to I think.
Pete arrived at 12:45 and he and I hit for about 45 minutes. We went through a long warm up and then played out some points, which was all very surreal because I always looked up to him and grew up watching him play on TV. He was very cool and laid back and he hit the ball so cleanly. His volleys in particular were hit with so much ease and were so solid. Maybe he will share some insights.
After a quick shower and some lunch at an Italian place called Portofino, the four of us (Pete, Andre, Yuki and I) made the trip to the on-site golf course (which is on one of the roofs by the way!) where the event had set up a miniature tennis court. There waiting was a very large crowd of photographers to take our picture. It was a really cool set up but during the course of the shoot with the hotel in the background, I had one really embarrassing moment. They wanted us to twirl our racquets on our finger for one of the shots and I just couldn't do it. It was pretty comical because Pete and Andre were trying to teach me on the spot but it was very clear this is still one skill that I will need to practice a lot.
After that this slightly awkward moment, we all headed back indoors for an official press conference and a VIP Meet & Greet. The press conference was in a big room with a stage where we were seated in front of a big backdrop with our photos on it. They asked us each to speak a little bit about our expectations of being in Macao and then we took some questions from the journalists. I have to admit I was really nervous being up there with two of the best players in history but I think it went pretty smoothly. The press conference ended with the drawing of the doubles teams by Andre and Pete. They each drew a large tennis ball out of a gondola with mine or Yuki's name on them. Andre drew my name first so he and I will be taking on Pete and Yuki tomorrow afternoon. Should be a good match and I am really excited to be partnering up with Andre.
All four of us went through a quick Meet & Greet with autographs and photos in a separate room and then Yuki and I went back to the arena where we did an hour kids clinic and signed autographs for the local kids of Macao. Yuki and I had a good time with it and the kids were pretty cute and loved getting my autograph even though I don't think they knew who I was. Ha.
By this time it was 5:30 pm but it felt like midnight to me. I was exhausted after only sleeping a few hours last night so I headed back to my room to crash for three hours before dinner. As it turns out, I think I could have slept until tomorrow because it took three calls to my room from Ben to wake me up. I didn't even hear the phone ring the first two times! We finished the night with a delicious dinner with Nick Freyer from IMG Asia, his wife and Yuki's mother at Morton's Steakhouse. The ribeye steak was amazing and the perfect way to finish a long day. I am off to sleep now for hopefully longer than just a few hours like last night.
I will let you know how it goes tomorrow and to see photos click here!