Oklahoma City, OklahomaFebruary 26-27, 2000[Photo Gallery]
Ronny mentioned he had just read an article saying that Anna Kournikova and Venus Williams were not going to play the IGA Oklahoma tournament and had pulled out...and that Monica had taken a wildcard into the tournament. Maybe we could still get tickets! We couldn't take the chance of waiting to see if she made it to the final or not and then find out the tickets were sold out, so we took a gamble and ordered tickets for the semifinal match. At that point, we were just hoping that she would make it to the semifinals. Because if she didn't, we would miss out on getting to see her.
Well Monica did it of course. After only losing 6 games in 2 matches after recieving a Bye in the 1st round, she easily made it to the semifinals to face Amanda Coetzer. We drove to Oklahoma City and found a place to stay, and then went out to get something to eat and to find the place where the tournament was to be held. We had just left the restaurant when Ronny said he just saw Amanda Coetzer drive by in a BMW!
The next day we arrived at the event early and were extremely excited! This was our first time to attend a pro tennis match, not to mention Monica was supposed to be here. When we finally got through the line and found our way in the auditorium.....there was Monica out on the court practicing! We just froze and watched as she hit some last balls and then she and her practice partner left together. We found our seat, got our camera ready and got ourselves situated. There were tons of people walking everywhere around the court, on the court, coming in to sit. We saw the guy Monica was hitting with come out and walk around. He then went up to the top of the arena to a special section above everyone else, where about 20 other were also sitting. After the tournament officials made tons of announcements and everyone was in, they announced Amanda Coetzer then Monica. We went nuts yelling and cheering for her (as I said, we were very excited)!
Monica won easily 6-1, 6-2. It was amazing how hard she really does hit, the ball was just flying off her raquet. Amanda was on the defense the whole 40 minutes it seemed (can't remember exact match length, but it was quick)! We ran down after the match to try to meet Monica and waited with a whole bunch of other people. We were thinking no way, by the time she gets this far down the line of people crowding the court, she will move to the other side. We were so nervous that we were gonna miss out just barely - and then here she came, then closer, then there she was!
" Ronny gave her a print out of the front page look of our site (what it looked like back then), and said "Monica this is a print out of our website we dedicated to you, we want you to have it" - And all I could muster up was, "Mmm..mm..mmooonnn..ica, can you please sign this for me?" I'm a dork! Ha-ha. She said "thank you" when Ronny gave it to her and signed her autographs for us on our ticket stubs (that's all we could think of because we hadn't brought any pictures), and then she walked to the other side and she did the same for all the fans over there. She actually stayed for a long time and signed for everybody. Then she was gone.
We immediately went to the ticket booth and bought two more tickets for tomorrow's final. Still buzzing with excitement, we went to our car only to discover that we had a flat tire! Thankfully, we had a spare! We then went back to the hotel and freaked out some more, and talked all night about our experience and wondered what video coverage we may have captured with our camcorder.
Next day: The Final - Monica Seles vs Nathalie Dechy (Live TV coverage)
We got there early again and got the same seats as yesterday's match because it was first come first serve! If you ever watch this match look behind the car that was on display next to the court. If you see two guys all the way to the end, one wearing a blue shirt and one wearing a black shirt, that's us!
Monica played fantastic tennis again and won the first set easily 6-1. Nathalie Dechy made a comeback in the second set and we cheered Monica on like crazy! Monica came roaring back to win it 7-6 (7-3 in tiebreak)! The final score was 6-1, 7-6! Monica just won her 45th title and we were there to see it live!
Everyone rushed down again as did we, and we got her autograph again! During the trophy ceremony, Monica mentioned that she loved it here and thanked the sponsors and everyone involved with the tournament, as well as the BMW rental to ride around town (so that was Amanda that Ronny saw)! She also said that she would be back and hopes to bring her mom with her next year. She also said she was off after this to catch a plane to Arizona, to play the State Farm Classic.
We stayed the whole time watching and absorbing the moment until she walked off court and was gone. This was the most awesome, fantastic, exciting thing we had ever done. We are still glowing, thinking about it.
Unfortunately we missed out on seeing her the next year in Oklahoma, and she won it again! We were very upset that we missed it; but it made us even more determined to see her again.
And we did in 2002.
Charlotte, North Carolina (Fed Cup: USA vs Austria)April 27-28, 2002[Photo Gallery]
I had been upset about not seeing Monica at the 2001 Oklahoma tournament, and was determined in 2002 to use my income tax refund check to give us the opportunity to see her play again. Once we found out that Monica was selected for the Fed Cup squad and it was to be played in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 27-28th vs Austria. We went to the website and looked up ticket prices. We made sure we could take our vacations at that time, and as soon as my income tax refund came in we ordered tickets. It took us two days and about 17 hours to get there by car! But for the opportunity to see Monica play again was well worth it. We stayed in Atlanta, Georgia on the way there and on the way back, but at different hotels.
When we finally arrived in Charlotte, we drove around until we finally found the site "Olde Providence Raquet Club". There were people already driving around like we were just to get a look at the tennis center and traffic was tight, but there were police officers turning people away at the entrance. We had arrived a day early by the way and felt more prepared (or atleast we thought we were). We had a digital camera, video camera, photos of Monica and a poster in hopes of getting autograph again! After we had found the location, we went and found a hotel room and got settled in. Then we went back out to pick up some fast food, and then came back to the hotel to eat and watch the local news for any news on the event.
We decided to go play some tennis before it got dark since we were so excited, because we had brought our tennis stuff (of course). We looked in the phone book for some tennis centers and saw some ads that said they had hardcourts and clay courts to play on (now we were really excited because we had never played on clay before)! We called one of the tennis centers but they said we had to be a member to play there. We explained we were from out of town and here for Fed Cup, and the lady reluctantly said sure, we could play for an hour for $20.
We got directions and were quickly on our way! We were so excited as I said, we had only played on hardcourts before and never on clay! But we got lost. After a delay we finally found it, but when we went inside the guy at the counter said we had to be a member. We told him that a lady told us 30 minutes ago or so on the phone that we could play for an hour for $20. He then said ok, we could take a court. We basically ran to the car (before someone changed their mind and said we couldn't play after all), and got our tennis stuff, video camera, and then picked a court and played on green clay! We actually played very well considering we had never played on the surface. After we played, we packed up and went back to the hotel with huge smiles on our faces! Playing on clay was so much fun, we loved the surface.
When we get back to the hotel we put on the news to see if they were showing anything now about Fed Cup. And then all of a sudden we hear, "We will be back with some bad news folks for the USA and Billie Jean King. One of America's top players will not be playing tomorrow when the USA goes up against Austria at the Olde Providence Raquet Club, be back with that."
We were in shock, and then started freaking out during the commercials. We were really scared Monica was the one who was not going to be playing for some reason. I knew that was what it was, I just knew it was going to be Monica and we just drove 2 days to be here to see her play. When they came back from commercials we found out Jennifer Capriati had been kicked off the team for violating Fed Cup rules! USA WAS DOWN 0-1 ALREADY starting in the morning! We were actually relieved though that Monica was still playing. But then a little upset about the pressure on Monica and the team being down 0-1 already, then a little nervous for her. We could barely go to sleep that night.
Ronny was the first to get up and shower. He ran down to the lobby and got us some breakfast while I showered. We got all our stuff ready, sun screen, picture and poster, digital camera, video camera and left for the event. It got very crowded once we got close to the entrance. They were stopping cars and giving them a card and collecting the parking fee. We get up there finally and they give us a card that says (as I look at it right now):
NO VIDEO CAMERAS?! - I really wanted to record it so we could watch it again when we got home, something to look back on. I even love to record our practices when Ronny & I play, and I record my matches in tournaments if we can. It really is cool to watch the play-back and re-live the moment again. I was upset. Ronny had to calm me down and remind me that at least we had the digital camera for still pictures.
We just went a head and went up to the entry line with the video camera bag. We didn't try and hide it and be dishonest, we just tried anyway. Well of course they wouldn't let us. Even if they checked your backpack and you didn't have a video camera or anything they considered a weapon...you still couldn't bring a bag in if you were a guy. Women with purses and oversize bags that looked like backpacks to us, were allowed though. We stood and watched as women with bags and purses, as well as some backpacks getting to go in. They explained to us that they were women who needed their purses. Luckily for the couples, their husbands were having their wife carry the sunscreen, camera, etc. (since their wives were allowed to have bags). But since we were just two guys and didn't have a woman escorting us, they wouldn't let one of us bring in a bag even if it was searched! It was quite ridicoulous if I may say so. We had the small poster roll, other pics, a pen, and sun screen, so having the backpack would have been very helpful. So back to the car we go! On the way back to the car we saw some people with posters that had the Fed Cup team on it with Monica included. So I asked a lady who had a whole handful if they were for sale, and she said no they were for the youth only. So we weren't allowed to have one or even buy one. We eventually got in to the complex and walked around and took pictures around the grounds.
We got to our seats really early, most people were out at the concession stands waiting in very long lines. About 45 minutes later as hoards of people were entering the stadium to find their seats, we spotted Mike Sell sitting in the stands on the side section by where the players were going to sit. The Austria team gets announced and enter, and then Billie Jean King gets called to come out before the U.S. players and there was some booing (Which Ronny & I thought was shocking because we felt Billie Jean King did the right thing by sticking to the rules, and we felt like Jennifer probably just didn't want to be with the team and practicing with them. Instead, choosing to be stand-offish. So instead of practicing with the team only as rules stated, she opted to practice with her own hitting partner the day before - which is why she was disqualified from the team). We see the USA squad waiting by the side of the court where the Austria team came out,....and there is Monica standing with her teammates!
They call their names one by one, and at the end of the team, the anchor and legend, Monica Seles! Crowd claps, but doesn't seem to go wild though as we expected. Now directly in front of us on the opposite side of the stadium were a section of people seated they now call "net heads", who dress up really wild and cheer on players at Davis Cup and Fed Cup matches. Some of them were here too. Once the 1st match got underway and as the match progressed, we ended up wishing we had been sitting with them. They hooted and hollered for Monica the whole match and the rest of the crowd was dismal. We had an American Flag and we raised it when Monica won a game or when we were excited, the people around us leered. It was like the people attending didnt want to be excited (and show it), except the "net heads" on the other side. It was awkward, but we tried to ignore them.
Monica and Barbara were set to play the first match. They came out and warmed up and before you know it, Monica was in a huge fight! Monica was playing very tentitively and surprisingly, Barbara Schwartz seemed to dictate the rallies. We kept hoping Monica would step it up and find away back in to the match, but she never did. After a close 1st set, Monica lost 7-6, 6-2. USA was down 0-2 now!
After the match we were just stunned. We went and got some food at the concession stands and had a little picnic on the grass within the complex. Next they put on a exhibition match in place of the Jennifer Capriati match. Lisa Raymond played but we decided to walk over to the other side closer to where the players were coming out to enter the stadium (In hopes of maybe getting an autograph and being close to Monica where we could take a good picture. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of people over there waiting to get autographs as well).
All of a sudden, Ronny & I look over and here comes Mike Sell! I immediately engaged him in conversation and asked if he is keeping Monica's spirits up? He smiled and stopped next to us and said, "I'm trying to". And then I said, "Well the big picture is the French Open". He agreed and said, "and tomorrow". Then we just stood there for a couple of minutes and Ronny took a quick picture while he was standing right by us. I was giving Ronny the OMG look and then he said, "nice talking to you", and then walked off.
Not too long after Mike left, Barbara Schwartz came out and she was all smiles (obviously happy with her win over Monica). She signed her name on our program but right over Monica's face! After the Lisa Raymond exhibition, Lisa and Billie Jean King came through and we were able to get her autograph and Ronny talked to BJK and he told her that we needed more tournaments in Texas. After they were gone, everyone started to file out and we went back to our hotel.
After her loss, Monica never came back out. So we were hoping for a better day tomorrow in her singles match vs Evelyn Fauth. But first off tomorrow, Meghann had to win her match vs Schwartz in the 1st match of the day. If she lost, USA would be defeated by Austria and the defending Fed Cup team would be out of the running for another title! More importantly to us, how was Monica feeling?! You know she felt like she let everyone down, we were sad and speechless. We felt Monica must have been feeling the pressure of being down 0-1 already and went into the match nervous, and Barbara was all over her and never gave up until she won. We hoped for a better day two.
Well we didn't bring the video camera, or the flag, or sunscreen, or anything this time! Well, I did clutch on to a picture that I wanted autograped; if we got the chance. We were determined to just sit, and clap, and try to blend in. Some nice ladies behind us said, "where's the flag?" and tried to make us feel a little better. They had sat behind us yesterday and witnessed the tension around the crowd and around us. A girl yesterday with her family were sitting two rows in front of us, and everytime we screamed, "COME ON MONICA!" She would turn around and give us the "what the hell are you doing....be quiet look." So Ronny finally after about the fifth time she did that, gleared right back at her and said, "is there something I can help you with?!" And later in the match vs Barbara when Monica was losing I said, "COME ON MONICA, GET IT DEEPER"! Some old rude lady three rows behind us said, "Dont you think she knows that already?!" So I turned around and looked behind me with disgust and amazement, and she said, "If SHE can't turn around and look, you can't either!" Not surprisingly I was shocked and dissapointed, with everything. It felt like ever since we arrived at the complex, it had been one dissapointment after another. I barely said another cheer after that and to top it off, Monica went on to lose. And all the while on the other side, the "net heads" were going crazy after Monica hit a winner, or won a point! I even said, "looks like we are on the wrong side", and the nice ladies behind us said, "us too". Needless to say, yesterday was not that great.
After we had sat down on the second morning and the nice ladies asked about the flag. We discussed how dissapointed we were that the crowd didn't want to cheer over here in the area we had to sit in. Just cheering "Come on Monica" was whispered about and frowned upon, and the situation with that girl and her family and that rude old lady behind us was surprising and just ridiculous! We said how we came from Texas and how long it took and how excited we were to be here. They gave us a pep talk and told us to just blow it off and gave us the morning news paper with the Front Page shock news of "Seles Loses!" The whole sports section for the Charlotte news paper was about Billie Jean and the booing; articles about Jennifer and her story, and on Monica's loss. So that was nice of them to give that to us, they made us feel better about it all with just their kindness. The girl and her family were not there for the second day THANK GOD!
Unfortunately, Meghann went down in a tough three set match and the USA lost! After Meghann lost the 2nd set, we went down to go to the concession stand and restrooms. Then we camped out like yesterday by the "walk in" entrance to the court and awaited the end result. We couldn't see the match from there, but we could hear. And that's when we heard the collective sighs of the crowd when Barbara came back and won 4-6,7-6,9-7. When the match was almost over we noticed Monica and someone else hitting with her, and Zina Garisson (the assistant to BJ King), out on the practice courts about 50 feet away. We could see her warming up and hitting with someone while the Meghann/Barbara match was still going on, we started getting excited again!
BJ King and Meghann pushed their way through after the loss, no stops. They were both very upset of course. A tad bit later Monica and Billie came through heading towards the stadium and said they would give autographs after the match. So we went back to our seats.
Monica was wearing the red & white outfit this time instead of the blue & white! Which usually means she plays good - she always played well when she wore the red and white outfit before, so we were hoping everything would go her way this time. Thankfully she did play much better and her ground strokes looked more confident. She won vs Evelyn Fauth 6-3, 6-3. This was just a "for show" match for the audience, so was the doubles to be played after that (Monica wasnt supposed to play that). So we planned on leaving to go straight back to Texas right after this match to get a jump start - we had so far to drive. Plus Monica wasn't supposed to play the doubles.
After she won, we ran to the other side as fast as we could! But Monica and Billie just went by everyone with no autographs, and as they walked by over the loud speakers we heard "We will be back in a bit with doubles, and there is a slight change in players. Substituting for Meghann Shaughnessy in doubles, will be Monica Seles!" We just froze in amazement - shocked - then we looked at our watch and looked at each other and said, "Let's stay"!
As Monica and the other players walked through the crowd to get in the stadium to play the doubles we realized that we weren't going to get an autograph, so we made our way to our seats and watched a great doubles match with Monica pairing up with Lisa Raymond. They won 6-1, 7-6!
After the match we ran back down to try to get an autograph, but as Monica, Lisa, and BJK walked through they didn't stop. Obviously it was upsetting to them all that USA had lost and so therefor were not giving out autographs this time around. We didn't get Monica's autograph but we did have a good time after all! Those last two matches were fantastic, and we felt much better. After Monica had completely dissapeared, we left and drove all the way to Atlanta, Georgia. We stayed the night and then the next morning we drove all the way back home with great memories. Oklahoma was more personal, but Fed Cup was a much BIGGER experience.
Richmond, Virginia ("Raise A Racquet" Silent Auction & Exhibition)March 21-22, 2004[Photo Gallery][Program]
After Ronny and I missed our second flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Newport News, Virginia, we were freaking out! Here's what happened - we had went to the restroom and got something quick to drink, and when we got back to the terminal about 25 minutes before the flight was supposed to take off, they had already boarded the plane! They had just shut the doors and they would not open them back up and let us board, even though it was still another 20 minutes or so before they took off! Obviously we were very upset because we thought we had just messed everything up, and we thought were going to miss the Silent Auction that evening! But the ticket agent said we could possibly catch another flight to Norfolk, Virgnia, and directed us to the Delta Airlines counter. We had to run to the Delta counter and pay the price difference. Once we had paid and had the tickets in hand and she informed us where to go, but said that they are boarding the flight now. Of course the gate we had to catch for our new flight was on the other side of the airport! So Ronny and I had to haul butt to the Terminal. We got there in time luckily...got to Norfolk...and once we had landed we contacted Jenz to let her know that we were at a different airport then expected. She picked us up at the Norfolk airport after talking to us on the phone and finding out what had happened (she had no idea in that hour flight difference before we called, what had happened and didnt know why we were not on the flight we had originally stated we would be). But we got a hold of each other and we finally did make it after all!
After settling in at Jenz's house, we all got dressed for the evening and went to the auction in Richmond, Virginia. When we arrived, there were already a lot of people down on the floor and people walking around. Just guessing, but I would say that there were about a hundred people at the Silent Auction.
We walked down the VCU stairs to the floor, where there were tables every where and food to eat, and a lot of items on a long table that were up for auction. Guests got to walk around and look at all the items and place a bid if interested in something. We noticed that the court wasn't the typical indoor blue carpet surface, it was more supreme hard so it looked like a hard court. It was a very pretty court! I wanted to jump out there and play some tennis! It was really nice.
Drinks and food were free. We picked a table real close to the court (because there were a few podiums right on the court and we thought Monica and Martina might be standing on them to auction stuff off). We were very excited. We walked around and looked at all the items. We saw Monica's racket that was being auctioned off and an oversized tennis ball with Monica's autograph. We were also looking around every where, wondering where Monica was or when would she come in? We all decided to take a quick restroom break before it started and when we returned - there she was!
As we were walking down the stairs to the floor, Monica, Martina, and Esther were standing right by the stairs at the bottom! People were already all around them talking to them. I was a little shocked that we missed her coming in and that there were already so many people around her trying to get her attention. It was a feeling of desperation that maybe we had missed a great opportunity to talk with her when she had come out (before everyone was all around her). Ronny and Jenz were the ones who weren't moving with me towards our table and I was saying "Lets give her a chance to talk with these people, and maybe after we will have a better chance to talk". But Ronny and Jenz weren't moving, so I stayed also. We slowly scooted through the crowd and a lady was taking way too much time grabbing others that she knew and having Monica meet them. Monica then looked up and reached her hand out to greet Ronny, and as he reached his hand out to shake her hand - that lady just totally barged in again to say a few more things to Monica! We all were a little taken back and so was Monica. Ronny and I exchanged a glance towards each other silently, acknowledging the bossy woman's rudeness.
After the woman was done, Ronny reached his hand out again and said "Hello Monica, my name is Ronny". They shook hands and talked a bit but then another lady came in and started talking to Monica. It surprised Monica because she and Ronny were still talking. Monica then put her hand up like saying "hang on - I am talking with these people". We chatted for a bit and I remember that when I got to talk to her, I said "Hi Monica" as I held out my hand and she shook my hand and said "Hello, how are you doing?" Then I just started telling her how she got me into tennis and that I discovered my love for the game because of her - How it has changed my life for a more positive direction and that I hope that I can play for the rest of my life, health willing. And then she said "Oh me too" and she motioned to her foot. I asked if it was ok now, and she said that it felt good. I told her we started watching her play at the 97 French Open, and then Ronny said "Well actually, we saw you at the 96 US Open final, and you were talking to your racket during a change over" and she said "Oh yes, that was a tough match". And then I said "Well we turned the channel during a commercial and forgot to go back to watch the match. But then we saw you again at the 97 French". And she said "What match was it?" And Ronny said "It was the match vs Pierce", she said "Oh yes, I remember that match". And then I said "We have been watching your matches ever since". And then she said to me "And then you started playing tennis"? And I said "yes, I joined the USTA and started playing tournaments". And she said "That is great, and you like to play"? and of course I said "Yes, I do. I love tennis".
Then Jenz and Monica started talking and I remember Jenz mentioned that we didn't bring our stuff to have Monica autograph, and Monica asked if we were all going to the Exhibition matches tomorrow. We said yes and she said "Well bring it and I will do it then". Then we asked if we could have our picture taken with her. We ended up taking acouple of photos and the media photographer at the event asked Monica if she wanted the picture he was to take of her, to be with us. And she "Yes"! So the media photographer took his picture of Monica with us! We got some great photos with Monica. Jenz got two photos with just Monica and her, and we got two photos of the three of us with Monica. Monica was not ready in one of the photos that was taken with Jenz, and she said she wanted to see that photo on the camera to see if it was bad! She decided to take another one since she wasn't ready and that's when Jenz got to have a second photo with Monica. Then Monica noticed Jenz's husband Charles after we took the pictures and Jenz introduced them, and as they shook hands Monica said "Oh wow! You are really tall"!
When we looked at the pictures that we all had taken later that night at Jenz's house (which was early early in the morning since we stayed up late talking about the evening, and looking at the photos we got with Monica), we noticed Charles in the back ground behind us in one of the pics. We then realized we didn't even include him in the photos! We felt bad, but then laughed a little over it! We were just so focused on getting to meet Monica and talk to her. We were caught up in our own little world. I think he stayed back in the background on purpose, to let us have our wonderful meeting. He was very nice, both of them are. They made us feel very welcome in their home and we both appreciate that immensely.
I then told Monica that we saw her play a couple of times; that we saw her first at the 2000 IGA tournament. We saw the semifinal vs Coetzer, and the final vs Dechy. And she said "I loved that tournament, but then they moved it". And then I said "We didn't get to go to the 2001 tournament and we were so upset that we didn't go". She then said "Oh yes, the final vs Jennifer". Some other people came in and started talking to Monica while she was standing with us (I didn't get to mention that we went to Fed Cup in 2002. But thats ok, because then I would have had to remind her about that tough time vs Austria), and she said to us "Well It was really nice meeting you all. Wave to me tomorrow so I can see where you all are sitting". We then moved out of the way so that she could talk with other people, and we could go look at some of the auction items.
No more than a few minutes later it seemed, Monica all of a sudden is standing right next to us again. Jenz told Monica that we had a website dedicated to her (that Ronny and I did, she was motioning to us). She was very interested and made a comment about us having a site on her and then Jenz said "We sent you some letters from all of the forum members", and Monica said for us to write down our site link and she would come and reply to us. Jenz said "No, you already did that. That your assistant sent us an email message saying you got them and we"....... and then Monica just throws her head back and laughs and says "That was you guys? Yes I got those, thank you so much"! And I said, "We all did it for you, we have a forum on our site with tons of members that are fans of yours and we post on our forum talking about you and your career. We just met her today (and then I motioned to Jenz), she is one of our members. She is letting us stay with her while we are here". Then Monica said "Well please give me the address and I will have to go check this out". We talked for a bit longer but more people were wanting to talk to Monica, and so we went back to our table to freak out over what had just happened!
About 15 or 20 minutes later, Jenz was getting Monica and Navratilova's autograph on her auction flag (that was all she had, because we left our Seles memorabilia at her house). Ronny saw that Jenz was over with Monica and Martina again, so he went over there to try and get a photo of Jenz talking with them. While Martina was talking with Jenz, Monica walked up to Ronny (and since I was just a few feet away watching, I walked over to them bursting with excitement inside that Monica was wanting to talk with us again).
MONICA ASKS US TO PLAY TENNIS WITH HER!
It had already been quite the experience having already spoken to Monica a few times during that night as it was, but when she walked up to me to talk some more my heart was racing with excitement.
Monica and Martina were standing across from one of the tables chatting with some other people. Monica was actually holding a plate and was eating some hours dourves. Jenz approached them and I followed behind, but didn't go up to them again. I just stood back about 30 feet and thought I would try to get a photo opportunity. James was standing a few feet away already nervous that we were pushing our luck and not wanting to seem too pushy (since we had so much time with Monica already).
I was watching Jenz talking to Martina when all of a sudden my eyes and Monica's eyes met. She put down her plate of hours dourves and started walking towards me.
She walked up to me and said "What are you doing tomorrow morning"? And before I even had a chance to answer she said, "If you guys want to come up here at 11:15am tomorrow morning, you can hit some balls with me".
I was in a total state of shock, but I immediately answered "OK, we would love to".
And then our conversation went like this:
Monica: "Ok, be sure to bring your racquets with you".
Ronny: "Monica we came from Texas and didn't bring our racquets".
Monica: "Do you think you can borrow one? Because I only brought two with me this time".
Then James said without hesitation: "We will go buy some racquets tomorrow morning".
Monica: "Oh, no. I don't want you to have to do that. Try to see if you can borrow one from some one. If not, maybe I could find a racquet for you to use".
James: "We will definitely get us a racquet".
Monica: "Ok, then I will see you tomorrow morning"?
Ronny: "At 11:30am"?
Monica: "No, at 11:15am".
Ronny: "Ok, we will be there".
Monica: "Then I will see you two tomorrow morning".
Ronny: "Thank you so much Monica! This means a lot"!
James: "Thank you Monica"!
Monica then said you're welcome and we parted ways. When we started walking back to our table we got to meet Esther Seles (Monica's mom); and that's when James got his picture taken with her.
It is so hard for me to even begin to say how I was feeling after this encounter! I was so happy, excited, nervous, anxious all wrapped up together. It was truly the most natural high I have ever been on. It was an absolutely euphoric experience!
We are both still in a state of disbelief that all of this actually happened to us. Of course, we had great expectations going into this trip. You always have dreams that you would love to meet Monica and have her invite you to go play tennis with her....but you never really think it could become reality. And that's exactly what happened on that magical night of the silent auction. It was a night full of enchanted moments and memories. It is definitely something that we will never, ever forget. It was really a dream come true!
Our Practice with Monica on Monday morning!
After the Silent Auction, we all went back to Jenz's house and stayed up way too late talking about everything that had happened at the Silent Auction. Ronny logged into the site using Jenz's computer and uploaded the photos from that night. We had a great time talking, laughing, and getting to know each other. After several hours we finally went to bed.
Jenz woke us up the next morning to start getting ready for our practice with Monica! We all got on to the forum before we left and saw the messages from the forum members. Everyone was already very excited. Jenz had a racquet for us to borrow and a pair of shorts for James. After breakfast we left for the arena.
When we arrived at the arena there were quite a bit of people there, more than we had expected. There were probably about 50 people there to watch Monica practice. As we started to walk down the stairs to the court a woman approached us and said, "Are you the guys from Texas"? and we said yes. She then said, "Ok, Monica is expecting you. I'll go see if she's ready". James went to the bathroom to go change into his shorts (I was already wearing mine, even though it was like 40F outside!). While James was in the bathroom changing, the same woman came back up to me and said that Monica was stretching and would be out in a few minutes. I started getting the camera ready to take some pictures. James came back and said he was very nervous. I told him that Monica would be out in just a minute.
We (Me, James, Jenz & Charles) were all sitting at courtside when Monica and Martina came in. A few minutes later Monica approached our table and said "Are you ready"? And James said that he was ready. Monica walked over to where Martina was sitting on the other side of the court and started talking to her. James walked over and met Martina. As Monica and James started walking back to the baselines, James said, "Oh let me warn you that I'm very nervous and this is not my racquet........ and I usually like to have grip tape." Then Monica said, "I know, I'm sorry." Monica grabbed a ball and smacked it to James and they started hitting. It was the kind of hitting around you do when you just get on the court and are trying to feel out your strokes for that day. James only made about 3 mistakes he thinks. He played really well and Monica even let him hit a few winners on her. LOL! Monica gave a good "Oh yeah"! on a couple of shots! I took some photos of him and Monica on the court.
After about 5 minutes of them hitting, another lady approached me and said to me "Are you ready"? and I said "Yes"! While I was walking onto the court I told the lady that I was very nervous but she said you will do fine. Then James turned around and gave me the racquet and I said to Monica to take it easy on me and she gave a little laugh.
I had never played with this racquet before and the first shot I hit went long but Monica was able to hit it back and we started trading ground strokes. She seemed to hit a lot to my back hand side (James also said he felt like Monica hit to his back hand the most). I too only made about 3 mistakes during our rallies. I remember hitting one backhand in the net and Monica said "I know it's hard not having your own racquet". We hit a few more rallies and I hit a forehand winner down the line. Shortly after, Monica started approaching the net and she let me hit a passing shot on her, LOL! I then ran up to the net and we shook hands and I said to her, "Thank you so much Monica. This means the world to me", and she replied "You're welcome".
I then turned around and was about to walk off the court when Monica said, "Oh, do you want to take some more pictures"? and I said "OK", but then she said, "Oh wait, let's do it afterwards". I then walked back over to where James, Jenz, and Charles were sitting.
After our hitting session, Monica and Martina then took the court and they hit with a few other people in a doubles warm up. Monica & Martina were on one side of the court, with Monica on the baseline and Martina closer to net. Martina was cracking up in that warm-up. She kept giving one of the players advice on how to hit better. We got to snap some pictures of them practicing. We noticed that Monica was warming up her one handed forehand and one handed backhand slice a lot. She was hitting some great shots too!
After they finished hitting, about 10 people walked onto the court to get their autographs. We decided to stay where we were and wait for them to finish.
After siging a few autographs, Monica put on her jacket and grabbed her stuff and was getting ready to leave when all of a sudden she noticed that we were still there. She walked over to us and said "Oh, do you have your stuff"? We then got out some photos and Jenz had her book to get signed. When Monica saw the photos that James and I had brought, she said, "Wow! Those are young photos". While signing the one I brought she asked how I spelled my name and while she was writing it she spelled it with an "E" at the end. I then said, it's with a "Y". She then said, "Oops, memories"! She was looking at the photo while signing it and made the mistake. Then I said, "Those are great memories though Monica", and she nodded her head and said "Yes".
Then Monica asked if we wanted to take some photos. We took two of Monica with me & James, and then another of Monica and Jenz. While Charles was getting our camera together, we were all standing arm in arm waiting to get our picture taken, James said to Monica, "Thank you so much for doing this for us" and then I said "Yes, this means alot to us". She said, "You're welcome".
James told her that our forum already had 20 comments from the photos we posted on our forum last night, and she said "Oh wow, there was already 20 this morning"? Then James told her that the photo that she wanted to look at through the camera that we had taken at the auction (the one that she wasn't quite ready for), was of her throwing her head back laughing, so that we didnt post that one. And she said "Oh no, don't post any bad photos"! After we had our photos taken, I gave her a card with our contact information on it and she said that she would check out the site. Jenz also asked her how her foot was doing and she said it felt great. She then said as we were getting ready to leave, to make sure to wave at her before the match so she could see where we were sitting.
We then got our stuff together, we headed back to Jenz and Charles' house to wait for the exhibition matches later that evening. This practice session and the silent auction were definitely the highlights of our trip! This has been the most exciting thing that James & I have ever done! I know I have already said this before, but we will never forget this experience...it was a fairytale come true and having Jenz there with us, made it all that more special.
The Doubles Exhibition - Seles/Clark vs. Navratilova/Steinour
When we first walked in, we bought some t-shirts with the event name with Monica and Martina's name on it. Then we walked to the railing to look at the court. When we saw that the players weren't out yet, we went and got some drinks and then found our seats. The first few rows of chairs had been removed for the VIP section tables, so our fourth row ended up being like the sixth row. But we still had great seats, it was on the side where the players would take their change overs. Slowly but surely the crowd filed in and they announced the other two men players, and then announced Martina Navratilova to a nice ovation. Then they announced Monica's name to an even bigger applause.
Monica and her partner were sitting on the side where we were sitting at, so that was even better! Monica definitely looked nervous to me. During the coin toss she was swinging her leg back and forth and looked anxious/nervous. I think because of this, we all silently opted not to try and get her attention to show her we were there, and where we were sitting.
They played very well together! Monica got aced on her first return though, but after that miss she started creaming her return! It had a new sharp angle that screamed towards the sideline. The other guy found himself trying to scrape up a shot at his feet! He couldn't get to the net fast enough to volley Monica's return very well. Monica seemed to have a blast during this match, and even during one of the points (after the point was really already over), one of the men players hit a high lob that almost hit the speakers at the top of the arena. But then Martina hit it back up almost hitting it again (with the crowd getting a laugh). Then right before the ball dies, Monica hits it again real high and the crowd started laughing and clapping. You could tell Monica was having so much fun. Jenz leaned over and said, "She's enjoying this".
They won!!! Seles/Clark def. Navratilova/Steinour 8-5
After they won and left the court we all took our bathroom breaks and got back to our seats, and before we knew it......they were back on the court!
The Singles Exhibition - Seles vs. Navratilova
Monica had changed outfits and looked ready to go! Unfortunately, Monica had a slow start. She went down 0-40 on her serve, but then came back to win the first game. At 2-2 in the first set, Martina strung a few games together to take a 5-3 lead. Monica was having some serve and overhead problems, and Martina was attacking her second serve really well and drop shotting Monica a lot. Monica pulled it to 4-5, but then Martina closed it out 6-4.
In the second set, both players were hitting some great shots! Monica hit some great winners, and Martina hit some great shots. Monica looked to get her game back together a little bit more and lead 5-4 in the 2nd set - but Martina put together a great service game and pulled it even at 5 all. When they got to the tie breaker, Martina put together some great shots and closed it out with an ace 6-4, 7-6.
I started feeling during the second set that Monica could have won that. But at 15 minutes until 9pm (when the event was to be over), Martina ran away with the tie breaker 7-3. I am just assuming of course, but I am sure both Martin and Monica knew at that point that if Monica had won the 2nd set, they would have to play a 3rd and the event would run way later than expected.
It was still a great 2 matches even though Monica lost the singles match. The two things I noticed that were off with her game was her first serve and her overhead. And you could tell that she wasn't going to run down a lot of balls. She was there to have fun, not to rush her comeback too fast. Even if that meant not running after balls that she could have gotten, if she didn't have to be worried about re-injuring the foot (so early in her return to tennis). If it was too good, then she just let it go which I think was smart of her. I dont want her to be scrambling around too much too early on that foot.
We were all thinking that it was over and that we didn't get to wave to her during the match to say, "Here we are!" But then as we were standing up waiting to scoot down the aisle to leave, James just blurted out, "WE LOVE YOU MONICA!" She looked up and saw us, then waved and said "Thank you all for coming"!
We slowly walked around the top of the arena to the front exit, just watching Monica get bombarded by people wanting her autograph. It was hard for us to leave. But we didn't want to try and ask her for more attention, it just didn't seem right since she had already spent so much time with us. We saw her take some pictures with the ball kids, and then we left.
We talked about it all the way back to Jenz's house. We dropped off Charles and then drove to Jenz's work to use her computers. When we got to her work, she brought up our forum on the first computer and OMG! There were a ton of people there! We were all freaking out and just so excited! Jenz ran around and got the computers going and then got Ronny all set up to start up-loading the pictures to the site! We had originally scheduled the chat session for 11pm eastern time, but we didn't get there until 40 minutes after, and there were 18 people still on the forum and in the chat room!
We had a wonderful time chatting with everyone! We ended up staying at her work until 3am! We finally got the pictures all posted and left for home. We talked for a bit when we got back to her house and then went to bed. Before we knew it, it was time for us to go to the airport in the morning.
We had a wonderful time in Virginia. It was a dream come true. Thanks again to everyone who participated in our experience and coming to the chat on Monday night. Thank you! And a special thank you to Jenz again, for her warmth and kindness to us. Having you there made it even better.
April 5, 2007[Photo Gallery]
With all the rain this past week in Texas we were lucky that it wasn't raining, and it was sunny in Houston. When we arrived Massu was playing Dorsch and we went and sat down in our seats to watch. They were playing really good, we stayed and watched a few games and then went to the concession stand. We decided to stay down on the grounds while the match was playing because there were a few pro players walking around. Plus Monaco and Vemic still needed to play after Massu's match so we had some time before needing to settle in for the exhibition match.
A lot of kids and teens were running around getting autographs. We saw Goldstein, M. Jensen, Ginepri, Delic, Tursunov, and Fred Stolle - no sign of Monica and Martina though until maybe an hour before the exhibition actually started. We were standing in the back kind of away from the crowd funneling through, and we see this guy holding a Yonex bag and walking behind us towards the golfing area - and then there's Monica walking up from behind us. He greats her and they start walking by and we said hello, and she looked over at us and then we started talking. She loved the doll we gave her, she remembered us, we took photos, we talked about certain things regarding our last meeting, and then said she would see us after the match and went into the players lounge.
She is such a nice person (it's hard to describe in words), she makes you feel like you are the only person in the world when she is talking with you - she gives you her full attention and seems genuinely interested and asks questions. A wonderful person to talk with. After that we felt like we could go settle in, so we went and watched the last part of the Monaco and Vemic match which was running later than expected.
Soon Monica and Martina were out on the court and we weren't sitting really close - and we don't have a good camera so we didn't get great photos, but we tried. Martina won the coin toss and elected to receive. Monica held serve and they went to 2 all eventually, but then Monica's serve seemed a tad off and Martina went ahead in the first set. Monica started cracking winners left and right and came back to win the first set in a tie-breaker 7-6 (1). Monica was striking the ball very well, although her first serve was a little off. The two handed ground strokes as usual, were right on. She was even hitting one handed forehand winners at times but mainly using her two handed forehand.
In the second set Martina started doing her thing and playing to the crowd - she even took a drink from a man's margarita during the second set after Monica won a game (haha)! Monica's first serve was still missing though and Martina was playing great after loosening up and playing to the crowd. Martina took a quick lead in the second set, but Monica was all smiles though, she got a kick out of it and thought it was funny as did the crowd. Monica got her first serve together at the end and hit a few aces but too late, and Martina won the second set 6-2. Once the third set 10 point tie-break started, Monica put on her game face again and ran away with the tie-breaker hitting winners all over the place and hitting a few more aces to close it out 10-1. Final score being 7-6 (1), 2-6, 10-1.
Fred Stolle asked Navratilova a few questions and she said it's hard coming out here and playing singles when the last time you played singles was when I played her (Monica), 2 years ago. Murphy Jensen asked Monica how she felt playing tonight and what she missed most about playing professionally. She said the nerves before playing still, but once you get out there you can shake off the nerves and play some good tennis. She said that she missed the excitement from playing great tennis with the thrill of the crowd cheering.
Once the crowd was thanked for coming and everyone was leaving the stadium, Monica was coming through and signing autographs for the fans. We got to talk with her again and we were so elated to see that she had attached the doll we gave her, to her Yonex bag! We mentioned it and she asked if we wanted another pic, so we did. We got hugs and kisses while she asked if we were staying the night in Houston or driving back home tomorrow. We said that we were going to drive back tonight and she wished us a safe drive home and thanked us again for coming and for the doll.
It was another magical experience for us and one that we will cherish for always!
New OrleansSeptember 14, 2007[Photo Gallery]
We are back from New Orleans, where we got to watch Seles and Navratilova battle it out at the New Orleans Arena. Before the exhibition began we got to meet junior player Michael from the Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Michael is the one who sent us a photo of him and Monica a few weeks ago. We talked for a bit and took some photos together (1) (2). It was a nice surprise to meet him, we were not expecting that! A few minutes later Monica and Martina came out to play and we saw Mike Sell sitting in the VIP section!
Singles: Getting right to the point, Monica had no problem dispensing Martina after winning the first set 6-4. In the beginning she was down 1-3, but then started finding her rhythm and started stringing points together. Once she won the first set, it was all over. If she continued to play this well, she was on track to win the second easily. With those amazing ground strokes, she quickly took the lead in the second set hitting powerful passing shots and serving up a few aces to win the match 6-4, 6-2. In the end, Martina was probably left wondering if Monica had forgotten that it was an exhibition.
After Monica won the singles match, we were able to get her attention by yelling out "We love you Monica!" She noticed us and motioned that we would talk after the doubles (That was a big relief for us, because we were already starting to think we might not be able to talk to her this time).
Doubles: They only played one set of doubles, first team to get four games won. The doubles was obviously just a filler (just for fun), since Navratilova/Jensen won even though the score was only 3-1. We are not even sure of the name of the person Monica was playing with. It was getting very late and Monica and Martina both had to catch an early morning flight to Romania - so the chair umpire suddenly said "next point wins", which Martina's team won.
After the doubles, Monica was signing autographs and Michael came over to us. We asked him to ask Monica if we can come over the railing to see her (we were getting paranoid that maybe we wouldn't get to talk to her since it was so late). When he finally got to talk with her after waiting his turn, they both looked over and she motioned for us to come over. So we got to talk and get pictures. We told her that Michael had sent us the photo of them two together and we had posted it on our site. Monica said she saw it! Michael must have shown her our site so that she could see the photo of them two together. We joked with her that we didn't see the doll we gave her on her Yonex bag anymore. She politely said that this was a new bag. We complimented her on her play that evening and how well she was striking the ball. She said that once she won the first set she got her rhythm going more. We talked a little longer, wished her a safe trip to Romania, and said our goodbyes. She spent a good amount of time talking with us and Michael - she seemed to enjoy the reunion. We did too!