Aug. 15, 2006
The Notre Dame men’s tennis team continued its three-country European tour by heading east on Saturday to reach the capital city of Austria – making it five cities in five days (South Bend on Tuesday, Dublin on Wednesday, Munich on Thursday, Salzburg on Friday, Vienna on Saturday) for the weary, but enthusiastic travelers. Senior Ryan Keckley uses his diary to describe the team’s first two days in Vienna, which included sightseeing and playing a match against some Austrian pros. Check back to und.com for a recap of the team’s third day in Vienna, penned by senior Barry King.
Men’s Tennis European Tour Diary #3 – August 12-13, Vienna, Austria; Ryan Keckley
As we awoke in Salzburg from our first night of real rest, we packed up our belongings and headed down for breakfast. With a nice meal in our stomachs, we hopped in some taxis. Fortunately for Brandon Pierpont’s sake, Barry King – who had slept 14 hours the night before – was on the ball and noticed that Brandon was not among the group. As a few waited behind for him, the rest of us took off for the train station. We boarded the train and found that most of our assigned seats on the train were already taken, so we had to kick several people out of our seats. Needless to say, the Austrians were not happy with us and did not give in easily. The train ride was uneventful, but short as the scenery was picturesque and beautiful. We were greeted in Vienna by Iri (senior Irackli Akhvlediani) and his family and were immediately shipped off to the Marriot Hotel, which was much different from our previous accommodations. It was wonderful seeing Iri, as the majority of players on the trip had not spoken to him for the entire summer.
We put our bags in our rooms and went to meet Iri and his brother David for lunch. The group was divided as to what type of food was desired, so we split up with one group going to T.G.I. Friday’s (where all the employees speak English!) and another going to a Chinese restaurant. I believe Barry King had the best time at lunch, and we can safely say it was not because of the food. We wasted no time after lunch as we headed toward the courts to get in our first official practice. The surface was most unusual and nothing like I had ever experienced before. Due to the drizzle, we practiced in an indoor facility that played like clay, but was much faster because of the rubber and fragments of sand scattered throughout the court. That kind of court does not best suit my game, so it is safe to say that I was awful!
Afterwards, we all showered and met Iri and his family for an authentic Georgian meal at a restaurant called Creperie (the Akhvledianis are original from the former Soviet republic of Georgia). It was exquisite! I had never tasted Georgian food before, and I – along with the rest of the group – was very impressed. It just seemed as if the food was endless and everyone left very satisfied. As Iri’s father was more than generous with our meal and taking care of us during our whole time here, Brandon Pierpont was also generous, as he gifted other players with Euros in exchange for a lesson of wisdom. Having a big match ahead of us with an Austrian team, we all hit the sack after dinner.
We awoke on Sunday to a wonderful breakfast at our hotel (covered by Coach at the cost of 24 Euros per person!). These were by far the nicest two meals we have received on the trip. We grabbed our equipment, boarded the van, and made our way to the clay-court facility. It was the first time in my life playing on red clay, which is a type of surface that is much slower than anything I have ever played on before. We warmed up and prepared for our match in typical dual-match fashion. Knowing that this was just a friendly match, everyone was pretty laid back, including Coach Bobby Bayliss. Unfortunately there was no scouting report, and I blame my loss entirely on Coach for lack of preparation.
Iri, Sheeva Parbhu, and I played first. I got off to a great start and was up 4-1 in the first set against my 16-year-old opponent. It did not take him long to figure out that I was not accustomed to playing on clay and because of my lack of fitness, I lost the next 11 straight games. Again, I was awful! I did not take it as a personal loss, but as an opportunity to play against a great player and team in a unique facility in Vienna, Austria. After the next three singles matches, doubles was played. Sheeva and I got the opportunity to make fools of ourselves, as we were toyed with on this foreign surface. Doubles is a different game on clay, I found, and we ended up losing in a match tiebreaker. For a more official review of the match, you can check out (sports information director) Bo Rottenborn’s article on und.com. It was a wonderful time, but immediately I found that I pulled just about every muscle in both of my legs, due to slipping and sliding on the clay all day long.
After the match, pasta was served to us at the club, and we all feasted. We were all pretty tired and famished, so the warm meal did us all justice. We headed back to the hotel to grab a quick nap before we made visiting Vienna’s amusement park. Unfortunately, a bug has been going around our team, and Iri was the first to come down with it, so we had to cancel the amusement park and were on our own for awhile. So Stephen Bass, Barry King, Sheeva Parbhu, Santiago Montoya, Brett Helgeson, and I went down to the city center in hopes of finding a pub. We walked for about an hour or so and ended up finding one about a block and a half away from our hotel! Go figure. It was a great day followed by a better night, and I am excited for the rest of the time we will be spending in Vienna, followed by a visit to Barry’s homeland, dear old Ireland.