April 27-28, 2002 – Fed Cup: USA vs Austria – 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 at least 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, alcoholic beverages, food, drinks, glass containers, backpacks, duffle bags, knives or weapons of any type or parcels, packages, or items, the contents of which are not displayed are prohibited within this facility. Any prohibited items should be returned to your vehicle or disposed of properly.
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 ridiculous 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 didn’t 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 tentatively 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 autographed; 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 every time 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, glared 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, “Don’t 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 disappointed, with everything. It felt like ever since we arrived at the complex, it had been one disappointment 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 disappointed 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.