Sunday, July 10, 2011

tennis


What to say other than it was a weekend of tennis ... and concerts and parties and sailing and bike riding and beaching and kite flying and glorious weather and totally non-stop fun.

I found time for only about half those activities, of course, but town was hopping with folks engaged in more stuff than I could keep track of (or keep up with). Blink and you'll miss something. Everything. That's how it feels in Newport about now, in the whirlwind of July.

The big name in town was Andre Agassi; he became a Hall of Famer. But the other players — vying for the Van Alen Cup in the only professional tournament on grass in the U.S. at the International Tennis Hall of Fame — were noteworthy, too. I happened to see Yani beat Kudla Friday afternoon. I also happened to see Isner, standing tall (at 6'9") and the ultimate winner, walking with racquet-laden backpack down that shady stretch of Memorial Boulevard toward the finals Sunday morning.

Saturday's induction ceremony was a parade of speakers and colorful dignitaries. At the last minute, Mr. Betty & I were handed a couple of tickets for a couple of hot (hot!) seats in the South Stands where we watched Steffi Graf & the kids in turn watching Daddy receive his honor and give a sweet speech.

"Thank you, tennis, for my life; thank you, tennis, for my wife" has a nifty ring to it (don't you think?).

And the bit about "the language of tennis is the language of life" really got me: "service, advantage, break, fault, love."

It was sweet, too, that Agassi shared the spotlight with a couple of kids from Agassi Prep, the charter school he founded in Las Vegas. One gave the intro; another sang the national anthem. Fans in all manner of hats could be seen crying, clapping, flapping — like I said, it was hot. Agassi couldn't get out of his formal attire fast enough. No sooner was it over than he was in a t-shirt walking away with that familiar Agassi gait over grass courts that have been stood/trod/played upon by so many tennis greats over the years.

Oh, and the presentation by women's great Peachy Kellmeyer, 2011's other new Hall of Famer, was sweet (peachy?), too.

My favorite moment of the whole weekend was an unexpected one, though — isn't that always the way? It was Friday afternoon, and I was headed home from the grocery store. I had a full-to-the-point-of-overstuffed bag in one hand and a gallon of OJ in the other and had stopped to chat for a sec with a friend and her daughter and the owner of The Linen Shop just outside the Casino entrance on Bellevue. Suddenly the crowd started buzzing and pointing and digging out cameras and jockeying for position and there was Agassi, working his way toward a waiting SUV. Poor guy could hardly get there with everyone trying to talk to him, get close to him, grab a photo, maybe even an autograph ... including The Linen Shop owner, who ran inside to get a pillow (a pillow!) for Andre to sign.

It's now in her display window for all to see, enjoy, remember ...




























video

In order of appearance: unidentified onlooker in Hall of Fame hat; first-time semi-finalist Yani; just-missed semi-finalist Kudla; finalist Rochas with interviewer; 2011 Van Alen Cup winner Isner (the tall one); Mr. Betty; Steffi Graf & the fam; Andre with Bud Collins (orange pants and red shoes), Pam Shriver, Rosie Casals and others looking on; Agassi Prep student/speaker Simone Ruffin; Steffi again; Bud Collins again; Peachy Kellmeyer; signature hat; Andre fan (fanning); Andre's fist pump; Andre's gait; historic lights & hovering helicopter; signature pillow; official ATP balls on grass; another unidentified onlooker; Agassi Prep student/anthemist A.J. Greene.