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1999 duMaurier Locker Room Action
by Daisy Aye
For the second year in a row, I have been part of the locker room staff. What a wonderful experience again! It was a great tournament despite the last minute withdrawal of Guga Kuerten, the brazilian boy Montreal spectators grew so fond of two years ago. This year the one to watch was Pat Rafter, the two-time US Open champion. Let me describe my duMaurier week.

Day 1: Star struck!

As I was returning from checking practice courts, I entered the players lounge where Pat Rafter and his brother Peter had already arrived. They were standing there talking to people and I was unexpectedly star struck. It did not seem possible but Pat looked even better in person.
Later that day, I watched Rafter practice with Santoro, they were both cheerful and smiling on the court. The practice courts are great for spectators because you are very close to the players. Other practices going on at that time were Enqvist/Lareau and Courier/Kiefer.
Immediately afterwards Pat headed downtown for a press conference and an autograph signing. There he commented on being #1 where he said he was not sure how long it would last, maybe a week... (laughs) He also commented on his looks, he said that he wasn't that good looking... You suddenly become very good looking after winning the USOpen. (laughs)

Day 2: Exhibition Matches

Instead of only having qualification matches the first weekend, four exhibition matches were played Sunday afternoon.
Pat warmed-up with Max Mirnyi. He then played the first exhibition match against Todd Martin. They were very friendly, constantly talking with one another on the way to court central. The set they played was entertaining! For one point, Todd made Pat run all over the court. Pat was out of breath and leaning against the back of the court. He turns to the ball girl and gives her his racquet. They switch places. He throws her a ball and she exchanges a rally with Todd. She loses the point but Pat thanks her anyway by giving her two kisses on the cheek.
Another pleasant moment was when Martin hit two service return winners in a row impressing everyone to which Rafter replied with a beautiful ace. The atmosphere on court was very upbeat and relaxed. When Martin blasted a winner which Rafter tried reaching by throwing his racquet toward the ball, Martin calmly walked toward the umpire chair and demanded he give a warning. The umpire did not, so Martin reacted by throwing his racquet down to the ground. The entire crowd was laughing.
Rafter wins 6-3. The other three exhibition matches were LaRose/Stoltenberg, Krajicek/Novak and Kiefer/Niemeyer.

Day 3: Ceremony

Monday was another beautiful day. I watched Haas and Rafter then Henman and Martin practice. Later in the day, I spent a few moments watching the Ivanisevic/Gambill practice. This is the day Marcelo Rios officially withdrew from the tournament. He was a good sport to still attend the player ceremony that evening even though he was not going to play. It's become a tradition to have all the players parade on court central before Monday's first night match. In the players lounge, we had to get everyone ready for the ceremony. Every player must sign a tennis ball (labeled with their names) and keep it with them to shoot into the crowd. It was exciting to see all the players gathered together and dressed in a different attire. What a fun evening!

Day 4: Dope Test

This was the first year to conduct a doping test for the tournament in Montreal. Each player is tested following their match if they lose. Tim Henman had just lost a tuff match against Jim Courier that afternoon. He was headed into the clinic and came out many minutes later, he did not need to go to the bathroom... Brad Gilbert came up with a suggestion that drinking beer might help. So, Tim sat with his beer flipping through a magazine and they patiently waited for him.
I went to Rafter and Bjorkman's practice. They were warming up with the doubles lines to get ready for their match against Reneberg/Gimelstob. Fans showed up in great numbers for that lovely late afternoon match. The sunlight was golden and the atmosphere was delightful. Each time Rafter would serve, two guys would stand up and chant "Rafter!", clap-clap-clap, "Rafter!", clap-clap-clap, "Rafter!", clap-clap-clap.
An advantage to being in the players lounge is to see up-close the relatives and friends of players. I had the chance to see Lucie, Tim Henman's fiancee and Lara, Pat Rafter's girlfriend. My first impression of Lucie is that she's much better looking in person than she is on TV. As for Lara, there's no doubt that she's impeccable but what I remember most is just how wonderful she smelled.
After having seen the players for a couple of days now, I notice that Jan-Michael Gambill (along with his dad and friends) loves to drink Coke. Sebastien Grosjean likes the pure milk chocolate bars without nuts and raisins. Rios and Bjorkman are avid ping-pong players. Jonas tends to play until he sweats. As for Rios, well he yells when he plays, if that says anything.

Day 5: Rafter

Wednesday was my day off. I spent most of my day on practice courts. The first guys I saw were Chris Woodruff hitting with Bjorkman. They were playing a set until Pat arrived at 11:30am. Chris left to let Jonas warm up Pat for his 1:00pm match against Alex O'Brien. This was a very amusing practice. Someone in the stands held up a sign saying "Aussies are whiners!". Pat's brother Peter first saw it and smiled. Pat started to hit serves but he laughed and stopped to ask, "Where are you from mate?". The guy answers "Philadelphia". Pat shakes his head and says "Where's your Davis Cup team mate?... Davis Cup is what it's all about mate!" The entire crowd giggled, they loved seeing Pat smile.
Moments later, Enqvist and Larsson were jumping up and down outside the gate behind Rafter. As they were warming up, they yelled out something to Jonas. Pat was grinning and as he headed for a forehand shot, he hit the ball right at Thomas. But, that did not shoo them away. Thomas still had his face stuck on the fence as Magnus continued jumping up and down. A hilarious sight that I managed to capture with my camera.
At noon, I moved to the next court to watch Thomas and Magnus practice. I was fortunate to see Thomas still there despite his tuff loss against frenchman Arnaud Clement the day before. Then again, some players seem much more relaxed and cheerful after they've lost. I suppose the pressure is difficult to handle and once you don't have that you allow yourself to smile more.
I attended the Mirnyi/Johansson match. It was thrilling to see Max serve, he just might become a very dangerous player. Johansson was serving for the match at 7-5, 5-4 but Max hung in there and broke to even it at 5-all second set. Feeling the momentum change, I wanted to see a three-setter but unfortunately Thomas was too consistent for Max and he won the second set in a tie-breaker. I think people should watch out for Max because he could one day make it in the top 20.
I made a quick visit to the players lounge to see if anything was happening. There I saw Pat playing with a little blond baby boy. He was picking him up and swinging him in the air. He also sat him down and tried giving him tennis balls. I do not know who's baby it was but he was very adorable! It was easy to see that Pat loves kids. A memorable moment to witness.

Day 6: Hanging out

In the morning, I watched two matches that had been rained out the evening before. I saw the Damm/Mirnyi vs Krajicek/Siemerink match and wondered if Max would get better luck in doubles. Indeed Damm/Mirnyi won the match even if the crowd favourite was Krajicek. Following this match, I strolled on the upper deck of court central to watch the grueling Courier/Ferreira match. Spectators really got to see a gripping battle which Jim managed to win in the end. I went to see Haas and Ilie play each other on court 2. The match had already started. Tommy was in solid shape, Andrew seemed like he could never keep up. I sat in the second row and despite having the lead, I saw that Tommy would get very easily upset and swear. I never like that kind of behaviour.
I headed to the players lounge to start my shift so I followed the Rafter/Novak match inside. After Pat's match, he hung out in the lounge with Lara until his evening doubles match. They played pool, the putting challenge and they also used the computer. Jonas and Peter played baby foot soccer. Rios was playing ping-pong again. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. Jan-Michael and his friends really loved the Crispy Crunch chocolate bars, they kept asking us for more but we ran out of that particular kind. They were telling us about it not existing in the States, so the thought of sending a box to Cincinnati came up, but I don't know if they ended up doing that.

Day 7: Heart Wrenching

During Pat's practice with David Rikl, a girl somewhere in the crowd screeched in amazement! It was a bit scary to hear her but Pat did not even blink. There was an overwhelming number of girls that day. At one point, as Pat headed mid-court to pick up balls, someone in a sweet voice said "Do you need any one of us to run down balls for you?". Everyone laughed as he smiled.
Jonas and Jan-Michael were hitting on the next court and Jonas asked Pat about his leg. I assume he was referring to the hit he got from Lareau's serve the evening before when they played their doubles match. Pat looks at it and said there was a little bruise. He shook his leg and added: "Turning soft these old legs..." in his aussie accent.
Immediately after the practice, it started to drizzle. Then came the four hour rain delay. Nothing much happened. Most of the players no longer in the draw had already left and so did Lara. However, the evening session was packed with tennis action. Following Agassi's quick win over Santoro, my friends and I stood on the upper deck where we monitored three matches simultaneously. On court 1, we had Martin against Kafelnikov. On court central, we had Rafter commencing his match with Kiefer. On court 6, we had Koenig/Olhovsky playing Black/Ferreira. We had been in attendance for that match until we could no longer take the constant cheering of a braided blond lady (clearly Black/Ferreira's number one fan) seated in the middle of the front row.
I was somewhat disappointed that Koenig/Olhovsky lost in two close tie-breakers. Robbie Koenig was so kind and truly a great guy to talk to whenever he was at the counter because he always managed to make the staff laugh. That same night I remember having a slight heart attack watching Rafter lose to Kiefer. What a match! It was surely the best and most exciting match of the tournament. A very memorable night!

Day 8: Enjoyable Day

In the morning Kiefer was in very high spirits. He heard the GooGoo Dolls song on the radio and asked one of the staff what the name of that song was. He said he'd heard it several times throughout the week and he absolutely wanted to know the title of the song. So the entire staff started researching it. We made sure that the title was "Black Balloon", which it was. Someone had even called HMV, the music store! After Kiefer's loss to Johansson, he still seemed in a good mood. The staff got him the GooGoo Dolls CD as a surprise which he was very happy to get. He said that he could finally listen to some good music. Nicolas was very gracious upon leaving the city. He had a great tournament and he enjoyed himself the entire time.
Between Rafter/Bjorkman's victory over Adams/deJager and the evening match-up of Agassi and Kafelnikov, I had some spare time to play tennis on the indoor courts. Then, I watched Yevgeny easily beat Andre. Back again in the players lounge, I saw Yevgeny holding his baby girl. She was too cute and in his arms she looked so small.
The day ended with my trying out all the video games and playing ping-pong which we usually can't do in the presence of players. We had a great time race car driving and hanging out in the lounge.

Day 9: Last day

The last day commenced with a rain delay. Pat entered the lounge looking very relaxed wearing checkered burgundy pants. Pat played backgammon with Yevgeny. He also loves playing pool and golf. His brother Peter spent most of the time virtually fishing.
Players and staff were laid back that morning and afternoon. I watched the first final inside but I did go to court central to watch Pat and Jonas win. It wasn't too difficult to spot the crazed blond Black/Ferreira fan sitting directly behind the players in the third or fourth row. She was imagineably the most emotional person because you could actually tell the score of an entire game simply looking at her react.
Pat spent some time in the physio after the match. He had ice wrapped around his right shoulder. But, it didn't keep him away from signing a few dozen items like posters, balls, and magazines. He also accepted taking pictures with staff members moments before leaving. He definitely lives up to the reputation of being one of the nicest guys on tour.