NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS – Camaraderie and competition were the watchwords for the 25th rendition of tennis’ longest-running and most successful fantasy camp, “Tennis Fantasies with John Newcombe and the Legends.”
This year’s camp was held October 21 – 26 at its longstanding location, the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas (30 miles from San Antonio). As befits a silver anniversary, the event was rapidly sold out, with 100 campers in attendance – including 79 alumni.
“Tennis Fantasies embodies the spirit we Aussies created during the years we were circling the globe,” said Newcombe. “We looked out for each other and made new friends wherever we went. By day, we practiced and pounded each other’s brains in. By night, we enjoyed our mates.”
For this year’s silver anniversary, founder and director Steve Contardi gathered the biggest cast in the event’s history. Thirteen legends were in attendance — all of whom have won Grand Slam titles or represented their nation in Davis Cup play (often both). Legend captains were Hall of Famers Newcombe, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, Owen Davidson, Mal Anderson and Mark Woodforde, as well as such notables as Rick Leach, Brian Gottfried, Marty Riessen, Charlie Pasarell, Ross Case, Dick Stockton and rookie legend Murphy Jensen.
Said Jensen, “It’s amazing to be around people who I grew up watching as a kid – players who built the game. To be with them here, coaching and playing, has made for a wonderful experience.”
COMPETITION REVEALS CHARACTER
What makes “Tennis Fantasies” so distinct is its emphasis on competition. Certainly there is plenty of time for campers to hit, drill and learn from the legends in numerous clinics, fantasy matches and practice sessions. But the spine of the week is its three days of competition. Attendees are drafted on to one of four teams and play two matches each day – singles and doubles or, if desired, strictly doubles.
Familiar as veterans are with the format, it remains nerve-wracking to play a match with a Grand Slam champion coaching the opponent. Rookies also savor the chance to prove themselves – and become veterans within minutes of competing.
“I’ve done thousands of clinics and pro-ams but it’s a whole different way to get to know someone when you watch them compete,” said Davidson. “There’s something very powerful about seeing how people deal with pressure – not if they win or lose, but how they handle each moment.”
According to Emerson, “This week is all about effort. From Davis Cup to someone playing for my team, to me it’s all the same – competition, people putting themselves into the thick of battle and showing all the sportsmanship and fighting spirit that this game is all about.”
“It’s quite nerve-wracking and compelling,” said Stolle. “I think I’ve lost five years off my life watching these campers compete.”
“It’s very simple,” said Contardi. “Each day, half the people there win, half the people lose – and then they all have every meal together. The next day they go out and do it again.”
A COMMUNITY LIKE NONE IN TENNIS
But the spirit of Tennis Fantasies goes far beyond the lines, towards the affinity built by campers and legends as teammates, rivals and friends – often sharing in many of life’s passages, from love and marriage to birth and death. “We’ve come to care about each other, to know each other in a very close, special way,” said Newcombe. “Tennis is what we all love, but we all know it’s just a game – and what matters most is the way we relate to one another, not just as competitors but as people.”
So it is that at the close of each year’s camp, all of the Australian legends commence a sing-a-long with the campers of that exemplary Aussie song, “Waltzing Matilda.”
2013 EVENT TAKES PLACES OCTOBER 20-25
The 2013 rendition of Tennis Fantasies takes place October 20 – 25, 2013. Newcombe, Emerson, Davidson and Ross Case are also the headliners for a mixed doubles Tennis Fantasies event that will take place March 7 – 10, 2013. For more information, contact Steve Contardi at 1-800-874-7788 or 513-489-9700 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tennisfantasies.net