©Colette Lewis 2007--
It's a tradition on par with the famous Kalamazoo blueberries and cream--waiting for one of the professionals players to make his way to Kalamazoo for the exhibition that opens the tournament.
Friday night it was Jim Courier who was frantically racing along I-94 in a rental car when his flight from O'Hare was canceled. An hour late for the 7:30 show, Courier missed the tributes to retiring Tournament Referee David Markin and outgoing Tournament Director Timon Corwin and the tennis drills and impersonations of the Peter Burwash International tennis pros that entertained the crowd of over 2500 awaiting his arrival.
When he and Martin finally took the court for an eight game pro set against the No. 1 seeded 18s doubles team of Kellen Damico and Nate Schnugg, they raced ahead of the 2006 Wimbledon Junior doubles champions, taking 4-1 and 5-2 leads. But it was the younger legs that finished stronger with the two 18-year-olds fighting off a match point at 7-6 and taking the tiebreaker 8-7 (3).
"I sat down and Kellen said, 'Now we can start playing'", said Schnugg. "And I was like, yeah, we're only down 4-1, two breaks to Todd Martin and Jim Courier, don't worry about it," Schnugg said laughing, "we'll take this."
"And then they came over and said 'okay guys you can try now,'" said Damico. "And I said to Nate, see I told you."
"They had the match," said Schnugg. "They didn't care about winning. These guys were so much fun, it was easy to play our best."
One of the most memorable points saw Damico sprinting back and forth and literally on to court 2, sprawling after an improbable winner.
"I had an adrenaline thing," said Damico. "After I got lobbed I don't even know what happened...it was run, hit, run, hit. I wasn't playing very well and I knew I had to make a name for myself somewhere."
Courier did leave Kalamazoo with a victory however, as he defeated Todd Martin 8-4, overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the exhbition's second pro set of the evening.
"Actually the last few times we've played, he's won," Courier said of Martin, who plays on the Outback Champions tour that Courier owns. "There's no mercy on the tour owner, I just go to more sponsor meetings."
Friday, August 3, 2007