Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Friday, April 10, 2009

Becoming a Famous Tennis Player

Ok, I'll admit...the title may be a smidgen misleading, but it'll all make sense once I explain.

You know the ol' saying - "It's not what you know, but who you know."

A few weeks ago this was certainly the case when I decided watch some live tennis at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells California. Basically this tournament is one notch down from the Grand Slams in terms of importance, but all of the top players show up which was especially true this year since I showed up ;)

I've mentioned before that I like finagling my way into VIP experiences but I never expected the good fortune that my friends would bestow upon me.

In college, I worked for a company called Tennis Warehouse which happens to be the largest distributor of Tennis Products (among other things) in the world. They also happen to be a huge fixture at this tennis tournament.

So when I decided I wanted to go, I put in a phone call to my old buddy and former roommate who happens to run the gigantic tennis warehouse area at the tournament, to see if I could get tickets (the event was already sold out for the days we were planning on going).

Not only did he come through with Tickets, but he came through with FREE tickets. Honestly, is there any better four letter word than "free?" Actually, I suppose I can think of starts with an 'A' and ends with an "R-U-N" ;) (You knew it was coming, don't act surprised ;).

The Freebees were just beginning though. When we arrived, we received a FREE parking pass (normally runs $10 per day) to park in the VIP parking lot. This lot is awesome because rather than twiddling your thumbs and singing along to "She-Bop" on the radio behind a mile of cars in the normal lots, you get to effortlessly shimmy on in, park on a spacious field, and a guy in a golf cart picks you up and drops you off right at the entrance.

At the entrance there was the "normal person" line and the VIP line. The normal line was of course MUCH busier, but since we (my buddy Nick and I) were wearing our "Tennis Warehouse" credentials, we got to stroll right in without waiting.

I don't even think security had to check my credentials because the goofy I'm-not-used-to-being-a-super-VIP-and-I-can't-get-rid-of-my-"Haha you have to wait in line"-grin I couldn't get rid of gave it away.

When I received the tics, I was ecstatic to find out that Tennis Warehouse had box-seats about 12 rows up from stadium court! So for most of the day, Nick and I walked around, watched tennis, and hung out in our awesome seats.

But things got better.

Tennis Warehouse also happens to run all public autograph signings at the tournament as well as conducts interviews with a number of players. (As an aside, the interviews and such only began a couple of years ago, and one of the things that burns me up is knowing that, had I stayed at TW, I would have been the guy doing a lot of these interviews!)

So that afternoon I got to hang out with Caroline Wozniaki (Number 9 female tennis player in the world, and certainly not hard on the eyes) and briefly met the Bryan Brothers (Number 1 doubles team in the world). But the icing on the cake was getting to be Ana Ivanovic's (Former number 1, Grand Slam winner, and HOT) personal security during her autograph signing. My job was to keep the autograph getters moving, make sure everything around her was generally ok, and to chat her up (ok, fine, the part wasn't required, but I wanted her to feel EXTRA comfortable :)

She was SUPER nice and we got on great. In fact, Don, the PR President of Tennis Warehouse commented to me afterwards, "Arun, I think she likes you!"

My YEAR was made! I've begun wedding planning.

I don't know if Ana has a blog, but if she does, I'm sure she's also written a post about how smitten she was with this charming (not to mention devilishly handsome) Arun guy she met at the tournament :)

That evening though, we didn't get to use the box seats. Why would we not use the box seats? Because Fila invited us up to their personal SUITE on Stadium Court.

So there we are, hanging out in the Fila Suite, eating free food and drinking free booze, mingling with people who generally don't have goofy grins when walking through VIP lines.

Day 2 was even better. Tennis Magazine gave us tickets to there suite for the entire day, so again we watched in the lap of luxury. I also met Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sorana Chirstea, and got to hang out with and do security for James Blake.

James was also real nice.

"Great story Arun, but why the heck did you title this 'Becoming a Famous Tennis Player!"

Well, later in the day, Nick and I spotted an empty practice court. Now usually these are reserved for all of the pro's to practice on their days off or in between matches and crowds come by to watch them practice up close. Nick and I happen to hit well enough where people wouldn't be able to tell right away that we're a tier or three down from the pros.

So we grabbed a couple of rackets and jumped on the court! Low and behold, after 10 minutes we had a small group of people watching us hit, including a mini-entourage of high school girls holding those jumbo tennis balls, waiting to get autographs.

As tempted as I was, I didn't want to be a TOTAL fraud (I can handle being a partial fraud), so I just told them I wasn't doing autographs that day.

Although I suppose I should have signed something for them. Afterall, I DO have a moderately popular blog and am the future Mr. Ana Ivanovic ;)

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