A look inside players' exclusive digs at the Australian
Posted: Wednesday January 18, 2006 11:30AM; Updated: Wednesday January 18, 2006 11:48AM
Sorry, gossip fans: This is about as juicy as it gets in the players' lounge at tournaments.
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MELBOURNE, Australia -- The first Grand Slam of 2006 is well underway and you would think the players' locker room and lounge would be abuzz with important tennis-related matters.
You'd be wrong.
Friends and tennis fans often ask me what goes on in those precious areas blocked off by fierce-looking security guards, where only the chosen few -- players, coaches, family and friends -- can roam freely. My answer is always the same: "Nothing special."
The inner sanctum of tennis looks something like this: The locker room starts off every morning so clean you could eat off the floors, thanks to the diligent efforts of the locker-room attendants. By the time the players have inhabited it for an hour, it has morphed into a complete and utter pigsty -- empty water bottles, energy-bar wrappers, discarded racket grips, dirty towels, you name it. Anything that belongs in a trash or laundry bin can be found on a professional tennis locker-room floor.
Generally players congregate by nationality in the locker rooms and lounges, with blocks of lockers coordinating with players' allegiances. For example, it's understood that the back row of lockers in Wimbledon locker room B is the South African Corner.
The most activity in the locker room takes place in the physiotherapist room, where trainers, doctors and massage therapists attempt to mend all of our aches and pains. Here in Australia, there are a bunch of TVs with the matches on in there, and most players mull around monitoring the updated scores, commenting on whatever proves newsworthy at the time. I would be remiss if I didn't mention a unique twist in this week's physio room though: an attractive female massage therapist! Can't say there are a lot of players complaining, but I would be surprised if she doesn't get a few after-work socializing offers during the fortnight.
Want some other exclusive dish from the locker room? Here are some other familiar scenes: players huddled up with their coaches, going over match strategy; coaches mixing up the players' electrolyte drinks; players zoning out on their iPods, getting focused and pumped up for their coming matches.
Most of the tournament lounges have a bunch of computers, where players can check e-mail and surf the Web. All tournaments have restaurants that have an assortment of pastas, sandwiches, meat, chicken, fish and anything else you could possibly want. The pampering has been upgraded in the past few years. The Grand Slams also offer full-service salons and child-care services.
Agents are also familiar sights in the lounges. They're usually scurrying around, acting busy. They'll often say they're trying to secure last-minute deals for their players who have matches on the big show courts. Oftentimes a company will be looking for quick advertising, and players will get paid to put corporate brands on their sleeves during matches. I was offered this type of deal when I played Lleyton Hewitt on Centre Court at Wimbledon last year, but since my clothing sponsor, Nike, doesn't allow "patch" deals, I turned it down.
The "player services" area at tournaments is another popular destination. This is basically a concierge service, where we go if we need tickets to our matches for our coaches, friends or family. The service also helps us secure dinner reservations, concert or movie tickets, or help us make or change travel arrangements. Two of the most important services that players are granted is chauffeured transportation and wash/fold laundry.
As you can see, a tennis player's life has a lot of perks, and tournaments are very considerate in making sure all of our needs are met so our sole focus can be getting that fuzzy little yellow ball over the net.
Big congratulations to Alex Bogomolov Jr. for his stirring five-set upset over No. 9 seed Fernando Gonzalez on Tuesday. Bogomolov served a minor drug suspension at the end of 2005 because he failed to report a valid prescription for an asthma medication that is on the banned list and for which he subsequently tested positive for. Bogomolov is a tough competitor. It was good to see that after some tough times, he enjoyed the best win of his career. ...
While I have no desire to compete with Oprah's Book Club, I want to quickly recommend the greatest sports book I have ever read. I just finished The Winner's Mind: A Competitor's Guide to Sports and Business Success by Allen Fox. Fox was a top world-class player, coach and businessman -- and more important, he's a great family man. This book speaks to the inner mind of anyone trying to figure out how to maximize their potential, on and off the court.