Master'U Blog: The Coaches Blog from France

December 18, 2011 01:38 PM
Six of the top American college players are currently in Rouen, France, to represent the United States in the sixth annual Master’U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate team competition held Dec. 8-11. The event features eight teams composed of college and university players from around the world.

The U.S., which defeated France to win the 2009 title and then lost to France in the 2010 final, will be competing for the fourth consecutive year against a talented field that includes teams from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Spain. The teams will compete in a best-of-seven format consisting of two men’s and two women’s singles matches, one men’s and one women’s doubles match, and one mixed doubles match.

For the third consecutive year, the team is being coached by Greg Patton, the head coach of the Boise State University men’s tennis team, and Mark Guilbeau, the head women’s tennis coach at the University of Virginia, who is coaching for the second straight year. Check back daily for blogs from Coach Patton, Coach Guilbeau and members of the U.S. team.
Coach Patton - Saturday, Dec. 17
Forgive me for not getting back right away after our amazing and miraculous comeback victory over the French national team in the final of the Master’U BNP Paribas (Collegiate World Championships). It seemed that since the moment we were dancing on the court after our final victory, that my life has been a film being shown at a fast-forward hyper speed. After rushing back to Paris to fly to the ITA Coaches Convention in Florida, I have finally grabbed a few seconds to catch my breath here in Idaho to sing the praises of our young American collegiate tennis stars. Needless to say, there is nothing sweeter than winning a world team championship for the USA.

In a nutshell and to keep it short and sweet, I will recap what seems like a dream from heaven.

Our championship match with the French was a 10-hour battle that saw us on the verge of the abyss of a loss. The French took a 2-0 lead by sweeping our women (Beatrice Capra from Duke and Lauren Embree  from Florida). Lauren’s match was a three-hour, knock-down, toe-to-toe battle of perseverance and heart. Lauren was down 0-3 and then 3-5 in the deciding third set before she brought the match to 5-5. Each game of this match would last over 10 minutes, as Lauren and the French girl were determined to outlast each other. Finally the French put together a series of courageous shots to win the match, 7-5, in the third set.

The first male player (Wil Spencer from the University of Georgia) must have been influenced by Lauren, for he also had a marathon match that had momentum swings like an out of control see saw. By the time the third set came around, I had lost most of my hair, and what was left of my hairline had turned white. Wil was down 1-4, with the French player serving. Wil’s body language and energy after 2 ½ hours was one of boundless positivism. Like a prize fighter who was bloodied but still standing, Wil overcame a shoulder injury and fought back to win a third-set tiebreaker.

Next on for our American team was our "power bar," Jarmere Jenkins (from UVA). As long as Lauren’s and Wil’s matches were, Jarmere’s was the exact opposite. It seemed it was like a flash of a second before he was knocked off the court against his wily French clay-court specialist.

Although he was going down like a blazing meteorite, Jarmere inspired his teammates with his positive determination to fight for each and every ball. His exuberation when he won a point and fought off match points at 0-5 in the second to get it to 1-5 inspired all of us on the bench. He was playing as though the score was 6-all, and in reality he had to climb Mt. Everest.

He fought off several match points before he succumbed, 6-0, 6-1. On the sidelines, we likened him to the Spartan warrior who was at the lead of his 300 men against the onslaught of thousands of Persians in the movie "300."

Although we were now down 1-3 in the team score, he hustled over to his teammates to encourage us to dig down into our hearts to pull out all of the three upcoming doubles matches. Our mantra was, "Passion trumps logic." The mountain and task ahead of us was daunting but, we all knew, not insurmountable. Two years earlier, our American squad had accomplished the same goal by sweeping the three doubles matches to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and we were resolved to do it again.

Our women of Beatrice Capra and Lauren Embree started us off on the right foot with a straight-sets doubles victory, and there was no looking back. We had our mojo, and there was no way we were going to let the partisan French crowd and their veteran team stop our sprint to the finish line. First of all, all our players have been well coached in doubles from the fact that American collegiate doubles is such an important aspect of the collegiate game. They had all spent considerable time practicing and working on their doubles games at their respective campuses. We were confident in our doubles, and in each other.

We were now down 2-3 in the team match but possessed the look and swagger that we were in the lead. Our men of Jarmere Jenkins (University of Virginia) and Daniel Nguyen (USC) grabbed the baton from the gals and ran away with their doubles match, with a 6-4, 6-3 win. Now the team match was at 3-all and down to the mixed doubles. The French team had a top WTA woman player and their best doubles player, who also was very accomplished on the pro circuit, but they couldn’t handle the magic of our team of Jacqueline Cako (Arizona State) and the MVP of the day, Daniel Nguyen from USC (whom I think we all would want to play for our life.)

They were absolutely dazzling and sent us into a frenzy of awe, for they dominated the match from the first ball with courageous and exuberant play. Their flawless play had us humming "God Bless America" and crushed any hope that the French had that their team would repeat as world champions. We danced on the court after Jacqueline and Daniel’s 6-4, 6-1 victory, with the world championship in our hands after 10 hours of exhilarating and exhausting competition.

The greatest victory for our team, though, was the priceless friendships that we developed over the course of the week, with the players and coaches from the seven other countries, as well as the tournament officials and volunteers. As we played our match against the French in the championships, it was a beautiful and powerful site to see the teams from Germany and Belgium, whom we had defeated, on the sidelines cheering for the USA. At the tournament banquet following our victory, all the teams embraced each other in a dance of fellowship and celebration.  It was so evident to everyone that we were all champions and partners in such a great international event.

I can’t thank enough the incredible coaching and leadership of UVA Women’s Coach Mark Guilbeau, who was instrumental in our victory.

A telling aspect of our victory on and off the court is that at the start of each match, one of our players would yell out the name of one of their teammate's university. After each player had cheered for their teammates respective collegiate team, the entire team in unison would then chant, "USA, USA USA."

The entire team is so grateful for the vision, support and assistance of the USTA (especially Erica Perkins-Jasper) and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for providing this opportunity to experience "a state of Heightened Living" to represent the USA and their fellow American collegiate tennis players.

There is no doubt to all of us that the opportunity to represent the USA in team competition is a golden pathway to greater success. The proof is in the pudding, with the example of NCAA singles champions Steve Johnson (USC) and Irina Falconi (Georgia Tech), who took the experience of winning the Master’U two years ago in another come-from-behind victory to parlay it to success in collegiate tennis and the professional circuit.

As a matter of fact, the friendship that was initiated at the Master’U two years ago between Stevie and Irina was instrumental in their teaming at this year's US Open, where they reached the quarterfinals.

We can’t wait to try to repeat next year in Marsielles, France!


Coach Patton - Sunday, Dec. 11
The six young American collegiate stars used heart, will and resolve to win the Master'U Championships 4-3. At one point, the chances looked dreary for the American team. Wil Spencer (Georgia) was down 4-1 in the third set, which would have given the French a 3-0 lead. He battled back to win a third set tiebreaker. We lost the other men's singles, which had us trailing 1-3 going into the three doubles events. We knew we had to win all three against a great French team. Six hours later after being down 1-3 the positive enthusiasm and the determination to play for each other, spurred the three American doubles teams to all straight set victories to win the International Championships for the second time in three years. 
The first doubles win was by our women's tandum of Beatrice Capra and Lauren Embree. They were followed by the men's team of Jarmere Jenkins and Daniel Nguyen, and the clincing match was the mixed doubles team of Daniel Nguyen and Jacqueline Cako. 
There is a lot of joy with our team right now here in France!
Beatrice Capra - Saturday, Dec. 10
Bonjour everyone!
This is Beatrice Capra here in Rouen, France for the Master U championships. It’s been an unbelievable experience so far. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been so nice to get away from finals week and come to France to play tennis. Seriously what could be better than this?
I was not really familiar with both of the coaches that are here with me now, but they've come to be two of my favorite people. Mark is so positive on the court and he's able to keep me calm under pressure, which if you've ever known me on the court, that’s definitely hard to do. And Greg is one of the most inspirational, passionate people I have ever met, there’s never a dull moment around him and he always get you going. It’s amazing how much people can have an effect on you in such little time.
If we didn't have this team here it would definitely not be the same. The only person I knew coming into this event was Lauren Embree, we were so close in juniors and I'm so happy were able to see each other again. Then we got Jacqueline (sweet cakes) Cako, who the trip would definitely not be as entertaining without her. I've never seen a girl who is capable of eating as much as she does. Not only does she eat everything in sight, but she’ll take pictures of her food before she eats it. But I guess you got to feed the beast, right? Before this trip I had always heard of Jarmere and seen him around at some tournaments, but never officially met him. It’s hard not to notice someone who's possibly 1% body fat and maybe one of the most athletic looking people I’ve ever seen.
Next on the guys team you got Daniel Nyguen and Wil Spencer. I saw both of them play at the Indoor National Championships in New York but didn't realize I would be going to France with them. They’re both the chillest people I’ve ever met. Daniel’s music has been keeping us entertained for most of the trip, literally has every song ever made (I'm actually stealing his music as I'm writing this blog). Will has been keeping everybody sane, I don't know how he can stay so calm through all these long days.
We start the day at 7am and head to the practice courts with our usual warm up of "rolly polly" and Wii tennis that gets us going every morning. The matches go all day long and we don't get back to the hotel until 8:30 pm. The team and the coaches are what definitely makes the trip. That’s the one thing I love about college tennis is having a team. A lot of us have all grown up playing the junior tour and it gets really lonely to travel by yourself. When you play for a college team and have the support of other people it makes you feel invincible. There is no greater feeling than winning for your team. Although we all have come from different schools we are now a part of the USA team and it’s amazing the support we are receiving from one another. It's been such an honor to be around such great people and to represent my country.
Today we had a big win against Belgium. Lauren and Jacqueline started off the day by both bread sticking their opponents. I honestly feel bad for whoever has to play Lauren Embree on clay. I've experienced it several times and it’s a slow painful death. The ball always comes back. Jacqueline pretty much just dominated like her normal self. Wil continued the winning streak by coming back from a set and 5-4 down and winning 6-3 in the third. I really want Wil's forehand not gonna lie. Jarmere clinched the win for us by easily winning his match 6-2, 6-0. It's so much fun watching him play, he makes it look so effortless.
Lauren Embree and I won our doubles match 8-1. It’s so much fun to play with her again. We played a lot throughout the juniors and I forgot how easy doubles was with her. You literally have a human ball machine as your partner. Both Wil and Dan won the doubles and Jacqueline and Dan won mix dubs to finish up the day.
After downing 4 pizzas after dinner, we finally made it back to the hotel and are just chilling before our big finals against France tomorrow!! Were all so excited and so pumped! This has been an amazing event so far and hopefully we can bring home the title!!!
Coach Patton - Saturday, Dec. 10
The fragrance of playing in the finals of the Master’U Team Championships only grows sweeter. Our USA National Collegiate Team will once again face a great French team in the Finals for the third straight year. We are committed to regaining the title after winning the title in 2009 (4-3) and then losing last year (2-4).
Our day (as always) was an incredibly long tennis fest (like going to a Grateful Dead Concert in the 70s in which one song could last over 1 ½ hours.) It is tennis from sunrise to sunset. We started play at 10am and finished at 6:15pm. In addition to the string of matches being scheduled over the course of the entire day is the fact that it is very cold in the Indoor Clay Court facility here in Rouen, France. If you check out any of the photos of the tournament you will see the spectators bundled up in clothing to ward off the chills.
Our women (Jacqueline Cako at #1 and Lauren Embree at #2) heated up the facility in a hurry though, for they both smoked their Belgium opponents. Jacqueline won 6-1, 6-1 and Lauren defeated her Belgium opponent 6-1, 6-0. What can you say other than the fact that our women are absolutely dominant in this International competition. Both opponents had extensive experience on the WTA circuit, but it didn’t help out today.
The true excitement was Wil Spencer’s 3-set come from behind victory. Wil was down 4-6, 0-3 to the crafty Belgium singles player. One of the great things about Wil is that no matter what the score is, he always carries himself with a strong, positive presence that makes everyone believe he is winning. Just when it seemed that Wil was on the verge of defeat, he turned on his "brights" and there was no looking back as he won 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.
Wil’s victory gave Team USA a 3-0 lead that took off the pressure of the four remaining matches. They were free to play flawless tennis and the team skated to fun filled victories.
Jarmere Jenkins (Virginia) won at #1 singles 6-2, 6-0
Beatrice Capra (Duke) and Lauren Embree (Florida) won 8-1 in Women’s Doubles.
Wil Spencer (Georgia) and Daniel Nguyen (USC) won 8-2 in Men’s Doubles.
Daniel Nguyen (USC) and Jacqueline Cako (ASU) won 8-1 in Mixed Doubles.
The best way to sum up the day, was to call it a day of "Awe and Wonder." The positive joy of play was apparent in our players as they let their talent flourish. We had several "shots of the day" from Wil breaking serve by dashing to the net to reach a soft drop shot and then winning the point with a miraculous angle that left the crowd speechless. To Daniel Nguyen in men’s doubles hitting a low shot around the net posts and crashing into the player’s bench, to Jarmere Jenkins hitting a "tweener" on the run between his legs over his shocked opponent.
Our mantra for tomorrow is to "Win the Day," by not only going after every game, nor every point, but to "go after every single ball."
We are so thrilled about tomorrow’s match, for we will be playing in front of a big partisan French crowd in a Davis Cup atmosphere against almost the very same players and team from last year. We know that they are great (the French defeated Spain and Ireland both by 7-0 scores). In the final analysis, we are very confident, for our players know that the greatest "service" is to play for each other. When they look around, all they see are several of the very best American tennis players in college tennis.
One of the rewards of this trip is not only the privilege to compete against the top players from around the world, but also the greater opportunity of making so many new friends from the other teams. We are having a blast making so many new friends.
Well, we have an early morning tomorrow (7am wake up call in order to get to the courts by 8:30 for our practice courts to prepare for another 8-9 hours of tennis for the International Team Collegiate Title) so it’s off to bed.
Here is the link to the tournament:
Coach Patton

Coach Patton - Friday, Dec. 9
Nothing beats the excitement of playing International Team Competition. We started our first round match at the Master’U International Championships here in Rouen, France and received a scare from an always tough German team. This is the nation that we faced last year in the semifinals, and once again these red clay experts started out launching missiles at us before we regained our composure to secure a 6-1 victory and a trip to the semifinals against Belgium.
The endurance of our team is remarkable. This was one marathon day. We began playing matches at 10am and continued on until about 7pm when all the matches were completed. For us tennis fanatics, it is like watching a film festival of tennis movies one right after another. As one of our team members plays a match, the rest of the team crowds around the court to supply the emotional and spiritual support to their teammate who is playing it physically. It does help.
In a nutshell, our women singles players - #1 Beatrice Capra (Duke) and #2 Jacqueline Cako (ASU) - found themselves trailing in their first sets before getting their bearings to overcome the explosive German women.
Beatrice won 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Jacqueline was down a break in both sets before recovering in both sets to win 6-3, 7-5. Both our American women demonstrated great patience and resolve to withstand the hurricane blasts from their opponents.
The 2-0 lead they gained was a dazzling gift to our men who went onto the courts with breathing room to ease the nerves of International team competition. #1 Daniel Nguyen (USC) won 6-3, 6-2 and #2 Wil Spencer (Georgia) eased through a 6-2, 6-1 victory. Their victories in Men’s Singles clinched our team win and assured us of playing in the semifinals tomorrow.
Our women’s doubles team of Capra and Lauren Embree (Florida) were like the Dancing with the Stars Champions, with their phenomenal teamwork to win 6-1, 6-3. We hit a little bump in the road when the men’s doubles team of Jarmere Jenkins (Virginia) and Daniel Nguyen (USC) got knocked off by a 8-3 score.
Jarmere redeemed himself by fighting back in the mixed doubles with Jacqueline Cako to take their match 9-7 after being down a break and with the Germans serving for the match at 7-6.
Every day we are getting more accustomed to the slow, damp red clay of the French indoor courts. The fitness of our players was very evident during the match play. The work that each player has put in at each of their respective schools paid off dividends today. Also, the enthusiasm they possessed for team play carried our National Team.
Tomorrow the semifinals will be:
#2 USA vs. Belgium (who upset #3 Great Britain)
#1 France vs. Ireland (who upset #4 China)
Coach Guilbeau - Thursday, Dec. 8
Another solid day in Rouen. Our third day here and it appears that everyone is more than adjusted to both the time zone and the red clay. The energy and attention to detail from Daniel, Jacqueline, Jarmere, Lauren, Trice and Wil is not only very apparent, it is extremely impressive. This group is showing that it is ready for a great three days ahead!
The team had a very productive late morning practice, mostly a focus on singles points and a bit of doubles serve-volley, low returns and a great finish to the point by the server at the net.
It was a quick lunch provided at the club, followed by a return to the hotel for a brief rest. Some had more rest than others! A few exams were completed and a period of studying for future exams took place as well. Quite the ambitious and focused group! Their professors should be very proud!!! Then a couple of players returned to the courts for a second short hit late in the afternoon.
The day moved quickly and before you knew it we were at the 6pm draw ceremony held in the City Hall building. Quite the formal affair! It was fun to be a part of this process, which was a review of the history of the Master’U tournament followed by the determination of the draw.
Here is how it turned out (in direct order on draw from top to bottom):
France vs. Spain
China vs. Ireland
Belgium vs. Great Britain
Germany vs. United States
Seeds are as follows: #1 France; #2 USA; #3 Great Britain; #4 China.
We are fired up! We will get a rematch of last year’s semifinal win over Germany, this time in the first round! The team knows it needs to be ready. The commitment and confidence is very strong. It will be a great start tomorrow at 10am. The order of play will be two women’s singles matches, two men’s singles, one women’s doubles, one men’s doubles; and mixed doubles. Each day is full and long and lots of fun. It is great to feel how ready each player is, individually and for the team. Team USA will not lack in spirit and competitive desire or level!!! They are looking great out there!
The night concluded with a delicious dinner at La Pasta (yes, we definitely revisited the ridiculous chocolate mousse from last year that was served for dessert). There were a few pictures and back to the hotel for a brief team meeting.
All is in order and the team is ready to dream about some high level tennis in store for tomorrow!
Do trust that some levels of delirium are present from time to time! Despite the good focus, there are of course a few goofball moments throughout the day. Past experience shows that this will only increase as the days proceed. I will leave it to Coach Patton in tomorrow’s blog – along with a few lines from a player or two – to capture some of these moments. For now we are locked in and excited to get started tomorrow morning.
Thanks for all of the support back home! Hope you can follow us throughout the day and weekend. Here again is the link for the tournament website, along with a great tournament facebook page.
See you tomorrow!
Laissez le bon temps rouleau!
Allez USA!!! 
Coach Patton - Wednesday, Dec. 7
This is the life! To be coaching and competing with talented, hungry and wonderful young American collegiate players in France against the best university players from around the world is living the dream. The greatest aspect is that our talented collegiate players are representing the USA as a team and are vibrantly creating a bright future for their tennis.

This international team competition is bigger than humongous for each and every one of our players, for they realize that it is one of the golden pathways in their development, and it makes the goal of realizing their dreams to reach the promised land of the professional circuit reality.
The U.S. team consists of three men -- Jarmere Jenkins (University of Virginia), Daniel Nguyen (USC) and Wil Spencer (University of Georgia) -- and three women of Jacqueline Cako (ASU), Beatrice Capra (Duke) and Lauren Embree (University of Florida).
Coaching along with me is the fantastic Mark Guilbeau from the Unversity of Virginia. 
Our main objectives as we arrived in Rouen was to get the cobwebs out of our system from the travel and drastic change of time zones. In addition, our quick jump onto the courts of the tournament was to help the process of handling the pressure (not the tennis pressure, but the pressure of final exams, which are hitting our team as soon as they return from France on Dec. 12).
A good sign was that when we met in the terminal in Philadelphia, all the players had their heads buried in books or on their laptops studying for their upcoming exams.

Coach Patton - Tuesday, Dec. 6

Ahhh, nothing beats a good night's sleep (even if we are 5 to 8 time zones from home). Our main priority today is for team bonding and building a "team family."

We spent two hours this morning having our "retreat," which entails talking about what we know about each other, as well as talking about the people and the events in our lives, which have had the most impact on ourselves. Nothing can cement the closeness for a team than learning about each other.

Our main goals are to make this the most positive tennis event in which the players can improve from the competition, have the time of their lives, learn about France and the players from Europe and China and, most importantly, reclaim the world team championship. It was easy to see from the American players who have had the privilege of playing on collegiate teams that they recognize that one of the greatest "feelings in tennis" is the chance to play for others. There is no greater opportunity to play for others than in an international team event like the Master'U.

Also, we have emphasized that we not only want to become closer as a team but also to take advantage of this time to make friends from all over the world. Great teams are not made by great players but by great people. In this regard, from our meeting and two practices, it is apparent that we definitely have some of the greatest student-athletes that the USA has to offer.
After a lunch with the Spanish team, we took off to see the beautiful city of Rouen and majestic and historic buildings of this captivating French city in Normandy.

After some sightseeing, we even went ice skating in a small ice rink adjacent to the art museum and the Cathedral of Rouen. We may have world-class tennis players, but the small kids of Rouen skated circles around our team, as we clutched at each other in their attempt to skate across the rink. We did achieve our goal of making new friends, for we started an ice skating line in which we got the French kids to join us in clutching each other in a skate around the rink. We felt pretty proud of our attempt since we didn't experience any falls (thank goodness), and Georgian Wil Spencer even was able make some "almost" artistic spins.
Off to the courts tonight for our second practice, and hitting more balls, playing points and some games of dingles and triples left us exhilarated.

Our goals in the practices (and the upcoming matches) was to be "fully present, have mental toughness, play with enthusiasm, and to finish strong by leaving every ounce of sweat on the court." Champions become champions by "sacrificing their bodies to sanctify their souls." After the intense workout today, with our men and women slinging bullets at each other, there is no doubt that their resolve in practice "glorified" their souls.
Tomorrow (Thursday) we have one more day of practice before the competition begins on Friday. The draw will be made tomorrow night at the opening ceremony at the city hall, with all the national teams attending. We are pretty confident that we will be seeded No. 2 in the draw. Returning champion France should be the top seed in this eight-team tournament. There is no doubt that each and every one of us are very, very excited and curious about what the draw has in store for us in our quest to bring the world championship back to U.S. soil.
I feel honored to be able to lead the teams with my soul brother in coaching (Mark Guilbeau) and will be posting daily blogs with Mark and the players during our tournament.

Coach Patton- Monday, Dec. 5

After a red-eye flight to Paris and a three-hour drive to Rouen, we took a much too quick nap and then hit the clay courts of the Petitie Bouverie Club. It is at a beautiful site, but the clay-court facility is chilly enough to make you shiver if you are not creating body heat. There is definitely a positive aspect to cold, indoor clay courts, for it motivates the players to keep their feet moving to stay warm. (If you're not moving, you're not grooving).

Although everyone was tired, they shed the tiredness the second we hit the red dirt. Nothing like a hit to inspire the heart, soul and body. After splitting up on two courts for a 45-minute hit, we brought all six players onto one court to play some games with all six players competing at once. (Nothing like group games to get the heart beating and the smiles beaming). Ahhhh, after the hit, laughter resonated in the van back on the rainy, cold night back to the hotel. The day was especially special for Coach Guilbeau and myself, for we got the chance to see all our friends whom we met at last year's event.
Especially gratifying was seeing our driver and guide from last year, Benjamin, who once again is our right-hand man here in Rouen.