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!
Hello everyone from Asia.
So, I had much better luck sleeping last night as I was able to sleep in until 6:00 am today. I felt much more rested this morning and I started my day with another serving of pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast in my room. It was just as good as yesterday.
After breakfast I headed down to the arena with Andre at 9:30 am for about a 45 minute hit. He absolutely crushes the ball from the baseline still but we got a good groove and I got to spend some time talking with him after the practice. He shared a lot about his fitness routine when he was playing and what seemed to work best for him. It was really cool of him to spend some time with me and answer some of my questions.
Ben and I had a little time to kill after my practice so we walked around the Venetian resort for a bit. We peaked in on the casino which was pretty busy even at 11:00 am and then went up stairs to the shopping area. It was absolutely massive and a complete maze. It was really cool though because they pretty much built the city of Venice with the Italian architecture, canals and gondolas. We didn't really feel like shopping much but we stopped by the Nike store and then ran across my picture on a big poster. Still strange to see your own face and name plastered on a wall.
We then headed to St. Mark's Square to meet up with Yuki and his mom for lunch at another Italian restaurant called Vergano, which was another stellar meal. I had some shrimp pasta and we shared a small pizza among us all. The setting was really cool since we were able to sit outside in the Square.
After the lunch, Ben and I headed up to one of the event staff member's rooms where I sat and signed programs, tennis balls, posters and Babolat tennis racquets for about 20 minutes. It was a well-oiled assembly line and the staff made it as quick and easy as possible since there was a lot of things to autograph. From there I quickly went to my room before Yuki and I headed down to our locker room at the Arena and wait for our big match to start. We had about 30 minutes in there to relax, eat a snack, stencil racquets, get settled and get ready for the event which started right at 2:30 pm.
I was the first one to make my entrance onto the court and it was amazing! They turned off all of the lights and there was just a spotlight on me as I came out of the tunnel in a cloud of smoke. I made my way to my chair as they announced my name and played the song I picked for entrance, which was âStrongerâ by Kanye West. It was pretty cool. Yuki came onto the court after me to the theme song from the movie Slum Dog Millionaire and then we each hit three autographed tennis balls into the crowd. After the coin toss and a quick photo at the net we began our 45 minute match before Pete and Andre took the court.
Our match was pretty back and forth and we were both having trouble holding serve. I was up 5-4 serving for the match with about four minutes left on the clock but I wasn't able to close it out. At 5-5 Yuki was given one service point to decide the match and he came up with a big out wide serve I wasn't able to get back. I didn't want to lose but it was a good match with some solid points. I think the highlight for me was hitting a between the legs shot to win a point in the third or fourth game. I have never played in front of a crowd like that and heard them erupt with so much excitement. It was really cool and I hope to play in many more stadiums like this in the future.
After Andre and Pete played their singles, which Pete won in a deciding 10-point tie-breaker, we all took the court for our doubles match following an on-court performance by the entire cast of Zaia, the Cirque du Soleil show that is held here at the Venetian. Yuki and I snuck out on the court to see the performance and these people were so talented. They were doing all kinds of flips and jumps on trampolines and from bands hanging from the ceiling. Some of the acts looked really dangerous but they all got through it in one piece. We actually got our photo with the entire cast before the start of our doubles.
In the doubles match, we were all wearing small microphones so the crowd could hear what we were saying. Pete and Andre were really funny and imitating each other while Yuki and I just tried to stay composed and keep the ball going. It isn't easy playing with and against two of your childhood idols but Andre and Pete both made it a good, fun match even though we lost 7-5 in the end.
The tennis went a bit longer than anticipated so they rushed us through the on-court trophy presentations and photos as well as post-match press conference. Pete and Andre both had to catch flights tonight while Ben, Yuki, Yuki's mother and me had to catch the ferry back to Hong Kong where we are staying tonight. I was exhausted after another full day of activities and slept through the entire ferry ride. Apparently some people even came up and asked for autographs but I slept right through it all. We just got to our hotel by the airport and we will stay here tonight before flying back to Tampa tomorrow morning.
Overall it was a long journey for two days in Macao but it was so worth it. I got to play with two of the best tennis players in the history of our sport and pick their brains some as well. They were both class acts and very friendly even to two young players like Yuki and me. It was awesome and I hope to be back again.
So good bye from Hong Kong and check out my photos from today.