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Crazy Tennis Mum here!

Irina - Housing a Tennis Player...

Hello it's Crazy Tennis Mum here! Yes, I know you know me as Crazy Soccer Mum, but for two weeks a year we ditch the muddy soccer boots, in favour of our favourite ASICS tennis shoes, and I take up the role as 'chief cook and bottle washer'* when we host a professional Tennis Player. 

The crazy poodle - wanna play doubles with me?
For the past seven years we have been an Australian Open Host Family. Originally this was a scheme offered by Tennis Australia, offering overseas  players the opportunity to stay with Australian families. We were inspected, and before we knew it, we had two Eastern European players knocking at the front door. One competing in the qualifying tournament, the other a doubles player.

We had such an incredible summer of tennis. Not only watching them play but accompanying them behind the scenes as a player guest at Melbourne Park. We also gained an huge appreciation of their life on the road. We were impressed at how they seamlessly juggled their various roles. Travelling alone, without coaches, these players had so much to organise; scheduling cars to the Tennis Centre, booking onwards flights and hotels, sorting out visas, dealing with sponsors, and updating their social media profiles. All this before they even arrived on court to play a match.

Aussie Open official transport waiting in the street to pick up players
The following years the girls both returned and we have kept up the contact ever since. We love tracking their tennis fortunes around the world, even if our only contact at other times of the year, is usually a line to wish good luck before the other Grand Slams. 

Tennis Australia disbanded their Home Stay program a while ago, but we have remained a host family through word of mouth between the players. Usually when the cry goes up: 
'Can you help with housing for my friend, She's really nice!' 
If we can't help, we ask around to find a friend who can. Between us we also house coaches, boyfriends, fathers and fitness trainers... Some of these players have quite an entourage!! This year we seem to be totally supporting Team USA, but it varies from year to year.

Cheering on the US Players - Grace Min in action.
Four years ago Irina Falconi a young American player, newly turned professional came to stay with her coach. We have got to know her pretty well over the years and are thrilled to have been her Melbourne base ever since. We love being unofficially part of her Aussie Open team and cheering her on. 

It's hugs all round as Irina wins her first round match on Monday.
For a tennis player the choice whether to stay in housing (if offered by the tournament) is complex. Yes, they get free board and lodging but it comes at a price. This is, that out of politeness, if nothing else, they need to interact with the family. What if they don't connect? What if the food is terrible, or not what they want? What if they would actually much prefer to go back to a hotel room slam the door after loosing a match, turn the TV on and veg out?

On the other hand, what if they fly all the way to Australia, leaving their families just as the Christmas turkey is being carved, play and lose in a warm up tournament somewhere in Australia, or even Asia, before flying onto Melbourne. Here they are elated to be playing in the qualifying tournament, where they need to play and win three consecutive matches, and they lose first round. Yep, lose. All over Red Rover**...

I can now fully appreciate the following sayings. It truly is sometimes down to the:
'Luck of the draw' just ask our young Aussie players Barty and Tomic who both drew the Number One seeds this year...
Or 'It's a fine line between winning and losing...'

The player will have been away at least three weeks, if not more, and have earned barely enough money to cover their flight home. 

The Home Stay option may be the only sensible option to keep the Bank Manager happy. Irina writes about this in Straight Sets, the Tennis Blog of the New York Times, written when she competed at Wimbledon last year.

For those of us hosting, we love opening up our homes and sharing our lives with visiting players. We know the Players call the Aussie Open the Happy Slam and we can see why. Anything we can do to add to their good time, whether it's taking them out to see a bit of Australia on a rare afternoon off, organising a movie outing after a winning match, driving them to the local nail spa for a manicure, or calling Fed-Ex to ask them to return with the box of new tennis shoes they tried to deliver when everyone was out watching tennis, we will gladly do.

Yes of course, I try to ensure the house is tidy and ready, and that we have the fridge stocked with healthy food. We never really know when the Players will arrive as it depends on how they do in their lead-up tournaments. I got it wrong big time this year, my pride means we try to have everything sparkling - it's with us, or the Grand Hyatt you know!  

Windows and the dog washed for example, are all carefully booked months in advance but this year ended up being four days too late! Oh well, after four years we consider Irina part of the family, we haven't actually asked her to clean the windows but knowing her she wouldn't bat an eyelid! We love her for not noticing the grimy windows, or smelly dog!

Long gone are my initial fears such as what if I poison a Tennis Player before her big match? Or what if she's a right Princess? I stick to my Home Stay mantra that we are here to provide a normal Aussie family experience. We know that the majority of the life of a professional tennis player involves staying in hotels and apartments. They appreciate, and the players cope very well with the family banter, not to mention the various animals we have around the place. We have never put on any airs and graces.

We have watched Irina play four matches at this 2014 Australian Open. It has been  incredibly exciting, if a tad stressful at times - oh the butterflies! Good job I'm not a full-time Tennis Mum, I'm not a calm watcher of tennis! 

We will be back at the Court tomorrow cheering Irina on for Round Two. 
We wish her well!

PS I love reading all my comments and always take the time to reply.
For those of you who are not on Google +, the e-mail button on my blog sidebar reaches me with a private message should you wish to contact me.

Linking with the following - Thank you to all the hosts at Our World Tuesday

Lady Fi

Alphabe Thursday - I is for Irina.
Thank you to our host Jenny Matlock

chief cook and bottle washer
  1. (humorous, informal) Someone whose responsibilities include absolutely everything, from the highest level (chief cook) to the lowest (bottle washer)

** Australians have a saying: “it’s all over, red rover.” We use this saying when something is finished, gone, kaput, dead-as-a-door nail. The rhyme gives emphasis to the finality of the demise, although no one quite knows why the red dog gets a mention.


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