What an exciting and exhausting and exciting week it was for me. From getting my son into his PSO college classes, to being stage side for my favorite band of all-time, to sitting court side with my camera at the Western & Southern Open. I’m typing this column on Tuesday and I still haven’t totally recovered.
I figured being a part of the media should have some perks so with the help of a couple of e-mails to the correct person, a helpful young lady named Lanie, I ended up getting to “shoot” (that is photographer slang) a concert at Riverbend last week featuring REO Speedwagon and my heroes in the music world-Chicago. I heard my first Chicago song when I was 10 years old and have been hooked ever since and to be literally standing on the stage (in the “pit”) was an indescribable experience. “Hog heaven” is how my wife descibed it for me. She used that term for my time with Maria too, but I am ahead of myself.
Then it was back to the sports world on Friday as I spent the day roaming from court to court at the Western & Southern tennis tournament in Cincinnati. My daughter has been interning for the tourney since June and very early on she sent me the link for media credentials, which I filled out for the day of the quarterfinals and was accepted. Something new, something different.
The founder of this tournament was a man named Paul Flory who graduated from Higginsport High School in 1940 and was a friend of my mother’s side of the family as they also grew up in Hi-Port. Actually, Mr. Flory sent me to my first tennis match many years ago, graciously giving me his box seat tickets.
Anyway, I arrived on Friday and climbed a bunch of stairs (couldn’t find the elevator) and was given all my credentials for the day. After I asked what my boundaries were and where I was allowed to “shoot”, I was ready to go and on my way to center court for the morning matches, though it was the evening contest that I was really looking forward to. More on that later.
I found my way to the photo well and realized that I was basically sitting on the court. My first match was a men’s singles between a Russian and a Frenchman, neither of whose names you could likely pronounce but it was good practice. That match was over with time to spare before Serena Williams was to make her way to center court and I decided to just keep my spot in case there was a flood of photographers to see the world’s #1 female player.
There was no flood, so I had plenty of room to “shoot” the eventual tourney champ in action. Let me tell you, Serena is all business. She is the Dale Earnhardt of tennis, “The Intimidator.” No smiles, no laughs, just let me pound the ball at you for less than an hour and then go get my complimentary massage. I hung around after that match to see Caroline Wozniacki play, you know, the girl that Rory McIlroy dumped a few months ago. Rory, what were you thinking? Well, at least his golf game seems to have improved since then though his love life has had to take a major dive.
Then it was time to sample the large amount of local cuisine available while patiently waiting for the highlight of my day. After what seemed forever, 7 p.m. neared and it was time to make another choice. Maria Sharapova on the grandstand court or Roger Federer on center court. Take a guess? Yep, I was spending my evening with Maria and I was not disappointed. Sitting court side for Maria’s match was not quite stage side with Chicago, but it was pretty darn close.
I certainly didn’t pay much attention to her grunting, perhaps because I was so focused on…..my camera? Whatever it was, I got some of the best action shots I have ever taken as Maria won an exciting match against Simona Halep, who actually had the most crowd support. What were those people thinking? Did they not want Maria back the next day? People with tickets for Saturday certainly did I am betting. Though media protocol calls for neutrality, I must admit to partiality in that match, perhaps influenced by the fact that Maria’s bench was about two feet in front of me.
I didn’t totally desert Roger Federer. After watching Maria’s first set, I made my back to center court to watch Federer battle Andy Murray. I didn’t go court side for Roger, trying a different angle but it still worked out. Federer is an incredible player and a crowd favorite, and as you know the eventual tournament champion, the sixth time he has won in Cincinnati. I also found myself sitting next to the lady “shooting” for the Enquirer, with one of those monster lenses that is still far from my budget.
At that point my daughter was finally able to get away from the ticket office and we had dinner together and nearly alone as everyone was watching Maria and Roger. I was on the edge of exhaustion but decided to move over and check out the Bryan brothers playing doubles before finally finding my car and heading back down 71 South. Quite a memorable day if I say so myself.
Now it’s time to leave the big time behind and get back to normal. On my plate this week, high school soccer, high school volleyball, and high school football and then next week the local fall sports season hits full swing. I will see you all out there and if I do, please don’t be afraid to ask me about Maria. Or that band from the Windy City because in reality, does anybody really know what time it is?