Red Clay And Jack Sock
Riding home with King The Todd, hearing of his philosophies on tennis and his thoughts on peace, I felt like the 2 day trip to attend the men's u.s. clay court championships in Houston was about a bit more than just tennis. Discussions with Keck and the King about zoning laws, European developments, Nugrape, class distinctions, dress codes, the tsunami, seating charts, USTA appreciation day, court conditions, 6 cylinders, the father of Texas, Arabian mansions, warm up routines, shades, house cab, ACC Women's soccer, westheimer street, cans of Mexican beer, bulldogs, wedding expenditures, burned outs, real eggs, weather forecasts, walk a bouts, clay court colors, player incomes, courtesy cars, parking schemes, modern fabrics, apps, serve speeds, rare infections, Adidas, Santa Fe, riff raff, airport proximity, financial advisers, Houston confusion, cantinas, garland, schlotzkys, motivations of religion, eternal life and ever expanding space.....
The dark red clay courts at the River Oaks Country Club were in good condition when we arrived. After initially finding ourselves at a poolside women's fashion show luncheon, we made our way over to the main court. It was early, and play had not started. The big draw board and a beer garden were under the huge live oaks outside the stadium. The Club has hosted the event since 1991. Past champions include American players Andre Agassi, Richey Reneberg, John Isner, and Andy Roddick. Former President George H.W. Bush attends the event every year. Right away it was evident the event was about much more than tennis for a large portion of the attendees. The class separation was intentional. I felt somehow elevated by the culture, like I belonged and was wanted. Treated like a member, the run of the place. Peaceful. The players were just walking by. Frenchman Jeremy Chardy was running laps prior to his epic 3 set match with South African Kevin Anderson and I was able to give applause and encouragement. As King The Todd was napping in the grass under a shade tree, Tsunami Gabashvilli was stretching outside the players area after his greatest ever doubles win preparing for a singles match with the 6'9" Isner the same evening when Keck approached him. "You go by the name Tsunami, right?", he asked as he congratulated him on the victory over the vaunted Bryan Brothers, six time winners of the event and bonafide legends.
"Not anymore", he said in low European tones, "But I could use some tsunami against Isner tonight." He would go on to win that match, wrapping up a lucrative day of professional tennis. In money and points. The defending champion Verdasco took him out in the singles Quarterfinals, but he would go on to win the doubles title with Ricardas Berankis.
Perhaps the most noteworthy singles match we watched was our first, Jack Sock vs the #2 seed, Juan Bautista-Agut. After warming up outside the stadium by tossing footballs around with his coach, Sock destroyed the vaunted clay court expert with massive serves and an incredible forehand. Agut never had a chance. Despite some sloppiness, it was clear Sock has the game for the top 10. Hearing of the adversity he and his family had overcome the previous year cemented our admiration as we continually seek the next great American player. Roddick was the last. A favored American tennis son, especially after his 2002 u.s.. Open win exactly a year after 9/11. Those bastards. Since then, only a string of unfulfilled American potential as Federer, Nadal, Novak, and Murray took over. Others, including Warwrinka, Berdych, Tsonga, and Ferrer were the persistent 2nd tier. The 4th tier was where an American could be found. James Blake, John Isner, Sam Querry, Steve Johnson, or Mardy Fish. Gamers at points in the careers, but never a break through. Only Isner's historic five set Wimbledon match against Mahut sticks out, and he lost in the next round. Exhausted, but a legend. Now, the emerging wave includes Nikoshori, Dimitrov, Raonic, a couple of Australians, Anderson, and maybe, just maybe, American Jack Sock. At last report he had reached the finals against Querry, which will be broadcast on the tennis channel this afternoon. Tough time slot, up against the final round of the Masters. It will be re run and I'll record it for sure.
All this really inspires KOtC5 preparations. Keck has already received inquiries, court logistics are coming together in partnership with Justin Quest, King The Todd's early summer schedule is known. July 11 seems the likely tentative date. My health is adequate. Foot feels really fine since customized insoles were utilized. Back cleared up too. Only a recent elbow injury has me concerned, the victim of a huge Joe Vita forehand in a recent 9-11 mahut loss. He hits a heavy shot. Adoption of a two handed backhand and ice treatment should help. It will not threaten my appearance in the tournament. Tempted to compromise my goals and maneuver for the Earl crown, I continue to shoot for the Duke. I see how Duke Keck is treated. I saw how Duke Vita was beloved. Leo, of course, held the Duke title at one point. It is a realistic goal, especially since Keck is having his best tennis year ever and has his eyes on the Prince. The Duke could be wide open this summer. The field is shaping up. Can former King James capture the crown and continue the pattern of trading the throne with King The Todd? Will Frank Friday show up? Billy Vita maybe? The regulars will be there. Sellers and his dog. Keck has scouted the downtown Plano Austrian eatery, Jorgs, for post tournament festivities. Rain is very unlikely. J.d. Miles should return, but the USTA players can be unreliable. They are buttered up with appreciation lunches and free bags. As we walked quickly to King The Todd's car after the Friday early session rainout, his lifetime USTA membership served him well. The folded bag kept him dry, while keck and I just absorbed the drops. As we wound our way through the mansions, the ones that kings, and queens, and presidents live in, we felt the connection. We knew we were supposed to see what we saw. We knew we were supposed to be disappointed with the uncontrollable rain out. We knew our patience would be tested in the crazy Houston traffic. It was good to leave, to return to the northern part of Texas. We will avoid sugar and further the peace movement. We will cheer for Jack Sock. Come on man, America needs you.