|Beau in Baku|
I thought that if I enjoyed the traveling from tournament to tournament it meant I wasn’t focused on tennis. Most of the time when I tell someone I’m playing professional tennis and that in the last seven months I’ve been to eight different countries including South Africa, Azerbaijan and Tunisia, their first question is about the places I’ve been, not my tennis. I always took that as a slight insult. But now I think it’s just the more interesting topic for most people, and unless they’re tennis buffs, I agree. I usually spend three weeks in each country, because tournaments run in strings of three, so with some days off I can get a pretty good feel for the culture in that area. Hands down my favorite place to live and compete was Stellenbosch, South Africa; definitely go if you can.
I’m not a hippie, but my number one rule when traveling now is to pay attention to the vibe of the place I’m in. Before I started traveling I thought a tennis court was a tennis court and I would be able to just put my head down and compete anywhere I went for as long as I stayed there; I was wrong. Now I know that I play my best when I also have a life outside the courts. In Stellenbosch I was with great guys, and the town had a college in it, so it was like being in any college town in the States and playing tournaments. I was hitting twice a day, going to the gym, walking around the town getting to try the local food and drink; it was amazing. In South Africa they have what’s called a “Red Cappuccino”, which is actually a shot of Rooibos tea rather than the traditional double shot of coffee; after my first one it became my favorite drink while I was there. Even coffee purists would have to admit it’s pretty good. The people of Stellenbosch were friendly, not just polite, but actually warm and welcoming to us players who were constantly wandering the town aimlessly. I felt good in Stellenbosch and that helped me be focused on the court, and I really didn’t have a bad day for the three weeks I was there; the energy of the place was contagious and I’m sure I’ll be going back next November to play the same tournaments.
I spent nine weeks in Egypt, and because of the shape the country is in, leaving the resort wasn’t a particularly enticing option. These tournaments are held at all-inclusive resorts with decent courts, and an average gym, but right on the water with great beaches. Players go here because there are typically at least 6 weeks of tournaments in a row, which allows the players to get comfortable in the environment, save money by not traveling and get into a routine which can help us play well. The thing I disliked about Egypt though was that it felt fake. I was in the same hotel for nine weeks, surrounded by tennis players and old Ukranians and Russians trying to get some sun on vacation. I wasn’t at all able to get a feel for Egyptian culture; all I could see was my next opponent and old Ukrainian guys in speedos: imagine Larry the Cable Guy speaking Ukrainian.
|Beau and friends in Egypt|
On the tennis side of being in Egypt I will try to avoid going back there because the vibes of the tournament were so bad. Futures tournaments are big business for the hotels that host us, but the tournament directors set the price each night for the rate of the room, and they always over charge. In Egypt the rate for a single room was 90 euros per night, and a double and triple room were the same price at 60 euros per night; online we could have booked a double room for 27, a triple for 20 and a single for 60 euros. Talk about bad vibes; that makes all of us players instantly pissed off knowing that the tournament director is punking us on the prices. Some guys move to different hotels, but then they have to pay for practice courts, sometimes up to 30 euros per person per hour to split the court with four people; that’s ridiculous. On top of that you have to factor in that because you’ve moved out of the official hotel the tournament director will make your life as hard as possible, giving you dead practice balls, making you play first round main draw on Tuesday after playing qualifying matches Saturday, Sunday and Monday; our options are basically pay the extra money and stay in the tournament hotel to be able to be treated fairly, or stay somewhere else and take your chances. Needless to say, Egypt is not high on my list of places to go back to.
After Egypt, I spent two weeks in Heraklion, Greece, which is on the island of Crete, and it was fantastic. The tournament is hosted at an all-inclusive resort, but a bunch of players, including myself, were staying at a smaller bed and breakfast in town because it was much cheaper and had a homier feel than the hotel. After so many weeks at an all-inclusive resort they all blend together and you forget what country you’re in, so as
long as staying somewhere else is worth it, the change of scenery is welcomed by all of us. In Greece, the tournament directors didn’t give those of us who weren’t staying in the official hotel a hard time, which made me a lot more comfortable. What was cool about Heraklion is that it is absolutely a tourist town, and while I was there it wasn’t tourist season so everything was dead. There were three grocery stores, a few cafes, a bakery and a butcher shop; our bed and breakfast was the only hotel open besides the official hotel. The two guys I was rooming with, Robbie Mudge and Rob Galloway, both Americans and former college players at NC State and Wofford respectively spent a decent amount of time at this café up the street playing backgammon in our time off. Walking through the town we could count on seeing old men having an espresso and a cigarette or six, talking and playing backgammon every afternoon. We really got to see what life in this part of Heraklion was like for people as they waited for tourist season to come around. We all felt comfortable and played well there, and I know that was not a coincidence.
Without a doubt, traveling the world playing tennis is what I want to do for as long as I can. Getting to see the Pyramids of Giza was one of the coolest days of my life; standing there looking at the Pyramids and the Sphinx had me in awe. It may not instantly put my life in perspective for me, but it raises questions that I might never be forced to answer if I wasn’t traveling. Being submerged in someone else’s culture makes you think about the way you act and the way you think, and getting to take the good things you pick up from different places and work it into your own life is really interesting. Although I didn’t fall in love with every place I went like I did with Stellenbosch, I still learned something from every place I went and that’s the point of traveling and growing as a competitor and as a person.