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The Week at Wilson with Blair Rickers: August 16th

Hello All,

A quick re-cap of the past week…

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU

A huge shout out to all the teaching pros and VIP’s who worked at our Rogers Cup booth last week.  Everyone did an amazing job.  More details are below.  Our Social Media Manager from Chicago, Tracey Singian, was in the booth on Thursday and Friday and commented, “who are all these people and why are they so happy to be here?”.

THE ROGERS WEEK IN REVIEW

Since I was there for approximately 130 hours of the tournament (the Merchant of Tennis crew must have been close to 150) I know you would all be fascinated with my tournament incites.  Here we go, day by day:

Sat. Aug 6th and Sun. Aug. 7th. – Qualifying

The physical stress of the set-up is over.  It’s now time to get into the tourney.  As I’m doing last second pricing in the booth the tournament director, Karl Hale, stops by to say hello.  Obviously Karl is working with a new personal stylist.  Gone are the designer jeans, blue blazer and Adidas’ Superstars from past years.  He is now sporting Converse Chuck Taylor’s, ocean blue slacks and a white collared shirt.  The guy’s clothes don’t have a single wrinkle.  He looks as crisp as Sean Connery’s James Bond as he’s about to board the yacht in Thunderball.  The clothes are only half the story, Karl’s body has also gone through a radical transformation.  Gone is the old “bulky” Karl, replaced by a new ripped and chiseled version.  Apparently he has achieved this dramatic weight loss by doing tri-athalons.  I personally find it difficult to believe that he exposes his perfect coif to lake water.  After the swim, while other tri-athaletes are changing into bike shoes and spreading Vaseline over their bodies, Karl probably applies conditioner and gel to ensure the lid is looking good for the bike and run.

I love the qualifying because you get to see players who are so hungry and desperate to get into the main draw.  Some may have weaknesses in their game, but you can sense their desire.  Saturday was a great day with solid crowds.  Poor weather on Sunday leads to a disappointing spectator turnout.

Great effort by our staff on the opening weekend.  Gary “Mr. Granite Club” Caron, Kent Yee, Kevin Inouye, Dylan Shan and Michael Liu (two young OTA players), Rasim Sehovic and Chris Townley all do a great job.

Monday, Aug 8th

Poor weather again, Canada’s Marino goes down along with several seeds.  The OTA has a skybox for key partners.  Apparently my invitation was lost in the mail.  On the down side I miss out on some food and drink.  On a positive note, I no longer feel compelled to respond to Jim Boyce’s e-mails.  Derek Poon from UCC is a huge help in the booth.

Tuesday, Aug 9th

More rain, lots more, actually.   The far end of the boutique section is nearly washed away.  Fortunately our booth is on high ground so we are able to stay dry.  Very slow due to the weather.  A few minutes of relaxation are found at “Club Caulfield” behind the Babolat booth.  Brian picked an excellent day to bring a cooler.  We were hoping to expand on the clubs offerings as the week went on (several caterers were contacted) but due to zoning conflicts we lost our liquor license.

The night session staff was awesome with Darrell Northcott, Darren Lalonde, Miran “Hey Now” Cehajic, Renzo Bianchin and Suzie “It’s not Suz, It’s Suzie” Italiano.

Wednesday, August 10th

The seeds continue to drop.  One could certainly question the desire of a few top players.  Today is the 15th wedding anniversary for me and Cheryl.  As usual, the big day occurs during the tournament.  I’m able to getaway a couple of hours early so Cher and I can enjoy a late, late dinner at Shoeless Joe’s.  I’m blessed to have such a wonderful and understanding wife.

Shane Hickson was a big help in the booth along with Conor “UWO” Strohm.

Thursday, August 11th

Serena shows some emotion in coming back from a set down to win.  Andrea Petkovic (another Wilson player) reaches the WTA top ten by advancing.tothe quarters.  The booth workers include Sean Johnny.  Yes, that’s right, the Master of Meadowvale makes an appearance.  Sean is not only still teaching tennis but also having great success in real estate.  He can fix your backhand and sell you a 1800 sq ft bungalow in a single one hour session.  The always upbeat Timm Fisher was amazing along with Ali “Chaka” Khan from the Cricket.  You have to be careful when you match up the private club pros.  They can be very competitive.

Friday, August 12th

Despite suffering a tough loss, Andrea Petkovic still drops by the Wilson booth for an autograph session late in the afternoon.  At the conclusion of the signing we do the obligatory official retailer with star player photo.  As always, I’m happy to stand-in as the Wilson rep for the shot.  Pam and her daughter, Samantha, stand to the right of Andrea and I’m to the left.  Totally awkward moment as I try to decide what to do with my hands.  Do I put my hand on Andrea’s shoulder?  On her back?  Waist?  I’m totally flustered as I try to determine what is most appropriate.  As I hear Caulfield whisper, “grab her butt” I place my hands behind my back and smile.

Another highlight of the day is the delicious pastries that Maroun Achkar’s mother prepared for us.  If you are in need of a terrific sales person, awesome food, or a defibulator, Maroun is your man.  Kathy “Racquetlon Champ” Carter and Michal Jensen also provide fantastic support in the booth during the day session.

In the evening we had another stellar staff with Ody Gabriel, Andre “da Milton” Szczurowski, Geoff Bower, Tom and Gill Kern.  Gill was a star all night in the shoe section.  Tom controlled the racquet wall and Geoff entertained everyone.

Saturday, August 13th.

Absolutely beautiful day.  The end is near, I can feel it.  Renzo and Andrew dominate the booth scene, though Renzo seems equally happy hanging out in Coronaville.

Sunday, August 14th

Thankfully the Doplar 2000 is wrong about the rain, at least in the morning.  Legends get rolling at 11:00, Serena and Stosur take the court at 1:00.  Jen from Tennis Canada comes around to inform us that the doubles has been cancelled due to Azarenko’s injury.  I give my best forlorn face as I comment, “ah, that’s too bad.”  As soon as Jen leaves I cartwheel down the aisle knowing that Azarenko has likely enabled me to get home before 9:00 pm.  Serena wins.  Spectators come to the booth and stay for close to two hours to stay out of the rain.   The Veneto Dream Team of Mary, Tina and Jay do a splendid job of selling all day and assisting with take down.  Andrew Hent and Gary Ingram help box everything up and I’m leaving the grounds just past 7:00 pm.  THANKS to all those who assisted.

BLAIR’S BOOK CLUB

While up in Tobermory for the August long weekend I went old school and read “Bang the Drum Slowly” by Mark Harris.  Published in the early 70’s, “Drum” chronicles the life of a star pitcher in the major leagues and his relationship with a dying teammate.  I’m not a baseball fan, but this book made me want to go out and shag some fly balls.  Great short read.

I tend to like my books short and sweet.  Love Ayn Rand, but could never make it through Atlas Shrugged.  After a good couple of months I also gave up trying to make it through “The Reagan Diaries” edited by Douglas Brinkley.  Reagan was an interesting man, but not 700 pages interesting.  I still keep the book by my bedside.  It’s great to have in case of insomnia (read three pages and it’s light out) and it also serves as an excellent paperweight.

Have a great week.

A New Reality By Nicolas Pereira

This past week in the World Team Tennis ‘Bubble” I have seen the efforts to keep everyone safe while carrying on a team competition with around 60/70 players and coaches onsite. Counting organizers, officials, media, and support personnel are around 150 people trying hard to make this happen. I am very impressed by how the strict protocol has been handled and how everyone is invested in making this event a success, but The Open is a completely different scale of details.

ONcourt Interviews NGTL Co-Founder Yves Boulais

It does not matter that you get your rating playing locally or that you had spent an insidious amount of money playing the ITF junior tour tournaments. Your rating is your level of play (you get no bonus for playing more or playing far away). This allows us to break free of the ITF competitive structure potentially saving us time, money, and headache. We see this as a great opportunity to improve the logistic of our sport.

Brandon Burke (son of ACE President Doug Burke) Elected to WTA Board

As revealed in a recent news release issued by the WTA Tour – Brandon Burke has been elected to the WTA Board of Directors (to start officially in September). Oncourt got together with Brandon to delve a bit more into his background and to gain some insight into this wonderful appointment he has attained at such a young age.