Men's Tennis Blog: A Summer of Tournaments in France

Four members of the Harvard men’s tennis team, Shaun Chaudhuri, Conor Haughey, Nicky Hu and Alex Steinroeder, are spending the second half of their summers playing tournaments in France. The group has had fun getting used to the European red clay, meeting fellow players at various tournaments and keeping their games sharp for the 2013-14 season. Check out the group’s first blog entry from the trip below, and stay tuned for more from this Crimson foursome:

For the rest of the summer, three of my teammates and I will be traveling around France competing in tennis tournaments. This is a great opportunity to embrace a new culture while getting match play for the upcoming year.

One of the reasons it is advantageous to play tournaments in France is that the French tennis tournament system is more efficient. In the U.S. tournament system, the tournaments are age-based. This means that the entries of a tournament will be based off a player's age (14 and under, 16 and under, 18 and under, open level, etc.). This means that a beginning level player who was 17 years old could be entered at the same tournament as a top-ranked junior who is also 17 years old. In contrast, the French tennis system is purely level-based. Players of varying age will be entered in the same tournament, but players with a higher categorized rating will be fed into the later rounds of the tournament. The main ranking categorizations in France are: +15, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -2, -4,  -15, -30. This way the tournament will hold many players, but you will be matched with players who are at a similar level and give you a competitive match. Both systems have their advantages, and we have enjoyed playing in the French system.

Alex, Conor, and Nicky started their journey in the north of France at Evreux and Ezy on the red clay. Here we met our team leader, Will, who was in charge of planning the trip, and one of his pupil's Bella, who would be traveling with us and playing tournaments.  At Evreux and Ezy, we got the first taste of international competition. We had our first practice on the red clay, which is much different from normal hard courts in the US. Conor, Nicky and Alex all played better than expected after the jet lag and were able to take their first wins of the tournament. The club was very hospitable, as we were greeted with open arms, despite not being able to speak the language. It was nice for us to get our first wins of the trip, and gave us confidence moving forward.

We then headed south, as we drove to Barsac. Shaun joined us here, and the whole team was together for the first time. We had been traveling around in a campervan, and intended on parking the campervan at tournament sites. The campervan fits about 5-6 people, so a couple of us might sleep the clubhouse of the tournaments. Here, we were able to get used to the red clay and started to master the European clay court slide.   

There have been many differences competing here as opposed to the US, but the utmost difference is the level of hospitality each tennis club offers. Each tennis club seems to be integrated within the community and there are many locals who love watching tennis. Each club has a feast at the end of the tournament involving the players and the spectators throughout the event. This event is great as it gives you the opportunity to see other players off the court and talk to the club members, who are keen on teaching us some French.  The tournament directors really want to make sure we have a good experience and have let us sleep in the clubhouses and use the kitchen and cooking utensils.

From Barsac, we headed to Créon, Biarritz, and Ciboure. By this time, we have gotten into a routine and have spent some quality time with each other. Will, the team leader, brings a unique energy to the table, and has helped us look at our tennis games in a new light. Playing the tournaments has been a great experience, but most of the stories we will remember will be off the court. From roaming through the morning markets on the street, to playing beach volleyball under a perfect sunset, and getting lost in the middle of nowhere for hours, the real experiences are far greater than wins or a losses. The living conditions have been far from ideal, but it has really given us a chance to bond, and embrace a new lifestyle. That's it for this post, stay tuned!