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Men's Tennis Blog: Tournaments Aplenty for Harvard Foursome

Blog Entry #1: 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 second blog entry from the trip below, and stay tuned for more from this Crimson foursome:

After playing two clay tournaments in Biarritz and Ciboure, our next pit stop was Soustons. We packed up the campervan and headed to our new destination. 

The road system here is pretty different, and these differences have led us to some interesting experiences. Unlike the US, there are hardly any stop lights, but every intersection has a roundabout, which is used for changing directions. In addition to this, every car is operated through stick-shift (rather than automatic system). A more notable driving experience happened when were heading down a hill on our way to Soustons. We noticed that two cars with extra compartments hitched to their backs, were stopped halfway up the hill. They had been trying to go up the hill in the opposite direction, but simply did not have enough power to get up the hill. We parked the campervan to the side of the road, and quickly sprung into action. Our coach quickly calmed down the drivers, while all four of us got behind the cars and pushed the first car up the hill. After reaching the top of the hill, we repeated to the process for the second car. It was a huge success and made us appreciate all those workouts in the Palmer Dixon!

In Soustons, we had another great experience as the club was very gracious and loved having U.S. players in their tournament. They had traditional U.S. hard courts which were a nice welcome after competing on the French "clay" and "quick" tennis courts. After our matches we conducted interviews, in English, but vowed to do them in French if we ever returned. At the end of the tournament, the club directors hosted a buffet dinner, and we were invited to join. After having our first home-cooked meal in weeks, we left Soustons in high spirits.

After the tournament, we had a couple of days before our next matches.  Alex and Nicky were set to play a clay court tournament in Dax, while Conor and Shaun were going to play a hard court tournament in Urt. Luckily the two towns are pretty close, so we were able to commute back and forth. We drove to Dax and parked the campervan near the tournament site. There were plenty of restaurants in the area, and we had some time to explore the town. We stumbled across a bowling alley and decided to give it a try. We bowled several games and the internal competitiveness kicked in as we were all striving for the win. Conor and Alex bowled personal bests breaking the 150-plateau. We all had a great time, and it was nice change of pace from all the tournaments/matches we had been playing.  

We have touched on the French hospitality earlier, but there is one French custom we wish we had in the US. After a match, here, it is expected for the winner to buy his opponent a drink. The players can share a nice chat, and have the chance to get to know each other better. If there are any disputes in the match this gives you the opportunity to work out any issues and move on. While we do have certain customs of our own, (for example, in Hawaii, it is customary for tennis players to give their opponents a box of macadamia chocolates after the match), we don't have anything like this. Traditions like this help us get away from the cold, impersonal part of the game and helps you realize the friendships forged through these experiences is a far greater determinant of a victory.

We just finished our tournaments in Dax and will now head to Sarlac. It is surprising to see how fast time has passed on this trip as our journey is really winding down. Conor, Nicky, and Alex will be leaving within the week, while Shaun will be leaving soon after. It has been a great experience so far, and we will be leaving France with many good memories. Stay tuned for the final reflections!