Master’U BNP Paribas coaches' blog: Entry No. 3

December 8, 2010 08:24 PM
Six of the top American collegians have been selected to represent the United States in the fifth annual Master’U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate competition held Dec. 9-12 in Rouen, France. 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, will be competing for the third consecutive year against a talented field that includes teams from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Switzerland.
The 2010 U.S. team is being coached by Greg Patton, head coach of the Boise State University men’s tennis team, who helped lead the U.S. to the 2009 title, and Mark Guilbeau, head women’s tennis coach at the University of Virginia. Coach Patton and Coach Guilbeau are co-writing a blog for during the team's stay in France.
There are times that I think that the USTA reminds me of the Rolex Watch Company, for their timing is exceptional and precise. The foresight of their scheduling has really been incredible.

We arrived just before Jack Frost hit France with the worst snowstorm in ages. We arrived yesterday, but one of our star women's players (Maria Sanchez from USC) landed in one of the last flights allowed into Paris before they shut down the airport. Just by the nick of your teeth our team is complete. We are ecstatic that Maria got in and that we have a few days to prepare for the battles that lay before us on Friday.

Every day is a gift in getting us adjusted to the new time zone of France. It is amazing what a good night of sleep will do for an elite collegiate tennis player, considering that 10 a.m. in Rouen, France, is basically 1 a.m. for Maria, 2 a.m. for Coach Patton (and I need all the sleep I can get), 3 a.m. for Austin Krajicek from Tex A&M, and 4 a.m. for Reid Carleton (Duke), Kristy Frilling (Notre Dame), Coach Guilbeau (Virginia)  and our Florida Gators (Sekou Bangoura and Allie Will). Can you imagine getting a college kid to hit tennis balls in the wee early-morning hours, when their body clock is demanding them to stay up late and sleep in?

Our players did everything that it takes to have a rip-roaring practice in a facility that resembled a freezer for frozen salmon. We had the gloves, the wool hat, the extra t-shirts, thick jackets and, most importantly, blistering groundstrokes to heat things up for our practice. In this workout, which was conducted in South Pole conditions, we emphatically emphasized the height of our players' shots and the depth on their ball, for the moisture, heavy red clay and frigid air made the balls fuzz up to Rocky Mountain Boulders that were falling short like 40-pound medicine balls. After an hour of drilling and a lot of moving and grooving to keep from ice forming on their bodies, we had the players play practice sets. Can’t beat competition to keep them accountable for their play.

We rewarded our team with a scrumptious lunch with some French chocolate mousse for surviving our Arctic Tennis Training Camp, and then our French student driver (Benjamin) took us to the mountain top to view the scenic beauty of Rouen and the Seine River, which winds through town.

We took the team back to the hotel to study and take online final exams (way to go Allie and Sekou) and rushed back to the tennis facility to greet Maria Sanchez, who arrived just in the nick of time from her ordeal of delayed travel and beating the winter European storms. For a gal who left the relative warmth of Southern California 20 hours earlier, she was a warrior queen to bounce out of the van after hours of slushing through snow drifts from Paris to get an hour and a half of rejuvenating tennis with Austin and Reid. 
We have just returned from a great meal with the Chinese and Belgian teams. In the sake of international brotherhood, we split up the teams so that they would eat, share bread, tennis stories and cultural differences with each other. Tennis is the great unifier, for even if the players couldn’t speak the same language, the looks, laughter and sign language sure relayed the thoughts. I had a hilarious time having dinner with the Chinese tennis players and the  head of the Chinese delegation. They wanted to know how American collegiate tennis worked, the difference between Australian shepherds and German shepherd dogs (I faked that I knew about this), and how the French cooking was delicious and which I compared to the Chinese cooking in San Francisco, which I assumed they had heard about. (In an effort to make them feel good.) I made great friends with a member of the Chinese Tennis Federation, who had visited UC-Santa Barbara, and asked her if she had heard of me there since I was a Gaucho graduate in 1976. No such luck.

Well, I digress. We are off to bed, ready for one more great day of practice before the matches start on Friday. We are relieved to learn that the French, Swiss and the German teams have settled into our hotel. We are a little worried that the British and the Irish teams still haven’t arrived, for we hope that the weather doesn’t rain on their parade to participate, and, more importantly, we would love to have our English-speaking competitors here to make it easier for our team to show off our English language skills.

Last but not least, our team has been newly baptized with team nicknames:

Austin Krajicek - AK Gun
Reid Carleton - Skywalker
Sekou Bangoura - Bangagong
Kristy Frilling - Frill
Allie Will - Alliegator
Coach Mark Guilbeau - MG (like the sportscar that went out of style 20 years ago)

We still haven’t had time to christen Maria with a name.

We are going to add Allie’s blog with this one for your enlightenment.

Allez USA!

Coach Patton
Florida sophomore Allie Will blogs from Rouen:

Hello from Rouen, France. As the coaches so eloquently conveyed in their last blog, it is freezing cold!! The snow followed us from the airport in wonderful Paris all the way to Rouen. It has been several years since I have seen snow, and it was beautiful and painted a gorgeous landscape along the three-hour drive.

Our driver of the day, Benjamin, took us on a wonderful journey, and we stood along the River Seine. It was very beautiful, but the frigid temperatures definitely shortened our sightseeing. There were some scenic Kodak moments to memorialize our feeble attempt at tourism. Benjamin was not only our driver; he also entertained us with his ability in the art of French rap!! Laughs were had by all, and he received a major thumbs up for his performance.
The hotel is very comfortable, and I am extremely happy to report that the heating system works well. Other than one little circuit-breaker issue that shut down the lights for a stretch (I wonder what caused that?), all is fabulous. If carbs are your game, then you will be very happy here in France. There is bread available at any time in the lobby of the hotel, and dessert was served without having to place an order. The perks are endless here in Rouen, and we all feel very fortunate to be here representing the USA!!
Practice so far has been a blast. Coach Guilbeau and Coach Patton are full of enthusiasm and energy, so any jetlag we may be feeling hasn’t been a problem. The temps are not a lot warmer inside, so we have been working hard to warm up the hands and feet. It feels great to be on the red clay; however, my pristine white shoes are no longer glowing. We have all been blessed with nicknames, which officially makes us a team. Maria arrived  today from the sunshine of California, so now we are all here.
Well, that is all for now!! We are having a blast in France and are ready to get out there and fight for the USA!!
Allie Will, aka Alliegator
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