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A Day In The Life Of Bob Kramer

US Open 2007

Bob KramerCynthia LumBob Kramer in one of the few quiet moments for a tournament director while the event takes place.

Bob Kramer’s stomach has been rumbling for the past hour, but lunch has long become a secondary thought. Tournament honoree Stan Smith has just called to say he is stranded in Atlanta and won’t be arriving until the following morning; ESPN is currently setting up their GameDay desk for the next day’s live broadcast, prompting him to powwow with ticketing folks to find a quick and effective solution to fill the seats by 11:30am; and birthday boy Vince Spadea has put forth a last-ditch effort at Straus Stadium, which means he may have to present the cake on court after all.

Such is the life of a Tournament Director.

But Bob Kramer is one of the circuit’s seasoned veterans, and there is little that can faze him after decades of successfully overseeing the Los Angeles tournament. The son of tennis hall of famer Jack Kramer, he has pretty much seen and done it all: ball boy, bottle washer, ball boy supervisor, scoreboard supervisor, operations manager, transportation coordinator, tournament manager, assistant tournament director and, since 1985, tournament director.

He shares an exclusive walkthrough of a day in his shoes at the 2007 Countrywide Classic with DEUCE Magazine.

After another late night on site, roll out of bed – a more comfortable alternative than the sofa that provided the catnap in the Tournament Office the previous evening. “There’s a lot of adrenaline going on.”

Wife has taken the cat to an early grooming appointment, so bake some cookies for son, young Jack, and have breakfast before taking off from home. Head over to Sunset Hills Country Club to drop off some tickets won in the charity event. It’s about five miles the wrong way, but this means no shipping and no loss of handling.

Make the commute from the country club to UCLA. It’s 38.2 miles from door to door, but factor in the famous Los Angeles traffic, and it comes out to an hour and ten minutes in the car. It’s a good time to place all those business calls to the East Coast, using an old-school Nokia mobile which shows the wear of numerous tournaments.

After dropping by the Tournament Office, take a quick tour around the UCLA Tennis Center, spotless before the spectators arrive. Visit volunteer and credential offices, main gate and ticket office, operations.

First Republic Bank Kids’ Day is hopping with action. Stop by the Drake Track and Field Stadium to greet the hundreds of eager children trying out their tennis skills in a clinic hosted by past and present doubles stars Luke & Murphy Jensen and Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan.

Take a turn in the umpire’s chair for the Bryan Brothers Countrywide Classic Doubles Challenge, which features twins Bob and Mike playing alongside club-ranked players who won a few weeks ago at a tournament on campus. 

Head off site to go get prize money advances from the bank, ensuring there is a stash of hard cash on hand when players come around and ask for spending money. Also swing by the Paris Bakery to pick up the Chocolate Decadence Cake for Vince Spadea’s 30th birthday. “It’s nice to get away, make phone calls, whatever it is.”

12:00 noon
An All-American match at Straus Stadium kicks off the action on Day 4 at the Countrywide Classic, featuring two California natives: Robert Kendrick and Zach Fleishman.

Return to site, and drop off the cake with the ATP’s Pete Holtermann in the media trailer. Place a call to Mike of Operations to get some yellow and black tape caution tape for the handrail on the steps – many people have been running into it.

Pick up trash on the ground. Move trash can from in between the ball boys’ picnic area to a more discreet location by the Tournament Office trailer, and rearrange the chairs. “I used to work for Disney… The core values were safety, cleanliness, courtesy, capacity, show. You don’t get credit for it because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Spot Murphy Jensen signing autographs for two young fans outside the Tournament Office. “Nice job with the clinic.”
Back inside the office, shed jacket and put together the legends intro. Head over to the Straus Stadium to give the printed script to stadium announcer Doug Adler.

Pause momentarily from a phone call to say “nice wild card” to local Zach Fleishman, who is walking off court after defeating Robert Kendrick to reach the quarterfinals “Sometimes people ask me what can I do to help them, and I say ‘Win matches.’”

Grab a Diet Coke out of the fridge in the Players Lounge, and take a swig before reading the first scheduling request received from the Bryans’ camp via text message, asking if Bob and Mike can be first on during the Friday night session.

Scheduling meeting begins in ATP Supervisor Tom Barnes’ office. Consultant Paul Settles and Tom Schrader of Player Relations are also on hand. “Let’s play Fleishman at night for the 7:30 slot on The Tennis Channel. Sidebar: local guy, second chance at life.”

After placing phone calls to broadcasters and thinking through various match scenarios, the schedule is finally approved and printed. “We schedule till it hurts.”

Head up the steps and peer through the gates to watch Legends match currently on Grandstand.

Slip into the media trailer to check in with Toby, who is working with IT to get the Internet back up and running, and then step into the ‘photo cave’ to greet the photographers and check out the types of food available for media: Papa Johns cheese and mushroom pizzas, veggie trays.

Check in with staff in the Tournament Office. Go over Kids’ Day and the booth situation with assistant tournament director Khim (“She runs the tournament.”) and review the previous night’s events with John of the USTA, who has been the stadium producer for the US Open for 19 years. “We’re trying to make it a better fan experience.”

Stan Smith’s name appears on the mobile. “He must be coming in.” Rather, Stan is calling to say that there’s a weather delay in Savannah so he will be staying overnight in Atlanta and then will fly to California in the morning. Relay the information to hotel services, since Stan won’t be needing a room for the night.

Dmitry Tursunov is closing in on the victory, but then birthday boy Spadea breaks to put lunch plans temporarily on hold because of the cake celebration.

Recount a comeback story from the ’76 tournament when Roscoe Tanner led 6-1, 5-0. John Lloyd won 13 straight games in a row to take the match two hours later.

Ticketing meeting with David and Evan to figure out how to get people in the seats for ESPN’s live Friday broadcast at a tough start time of 11:30am. “Even if they have tickets, they won’t be on time.” Toy with the option of offering tickets to cheerleading, soccer, softball camps on the UCLA campus for the weekend.

Deliver another script to Doug, then head up the stands to sit by Tom Barnes for the remainder of the Spadea-Tursunov match. A spectator complains that they have to turn their head more than 45 degrees to see the video board. “If that’s the biggest complaint, we’re doing okay.”

Spadea has pulled off the win! Go on court with the cake, and try and get Spadea to rap before asking the crowd, “Does anyone know any birthday songs?” Spadea takes a bite out of the cake before it is dropped off in the Players’ Lounge.

Step through interview room and greet the staff in the USTA Southern California (SCTA) offices before meeting with Doug and Ed, Vietnam War and 20-year flying cohorts, and Ed’s wife Helena. It’s finally some time for the long-awaited lunch: a Diet Coke and two tacos from Rubio’s (one chicken and one carne asada) with hot salsa. As James Blake hits on the nearby practice courts, relive military stories. “If you can sit and enjoy lunch, it’s a good sign that everything is going well.”

Pick up discarded napkins and other trash while doing the favorite tour of the site, going counter-clockwise around the stadium with a casual gait. Read a text from Evan, saying the e-mail blast is good to go, and then climb up steep ladder to the HawkEye perch for the first time this week.

Sit in the empty Straus Stadium in between sessions to admire what’s been done and think of what can be done better, and then take in the view over the bustling Marketplace: “We don’t clear out the venue between sessions because people should stay and eat, buy more tickets for the next day.”

See Andy from title sponsor Countrywide Classic walking by, and go over the draw and schedule (thumbs up on Bryans playing first Friday night) and some of the criticism. “You can’t make everyone happy, but you can try.”

Step into the Clubhouse, where night announcer Ted Sobel of KFWB waves hi and James Blake is having his pre-match meal. On the way out, meet ’66 titlist, Allen Fox – “a good guy” – and his wife.

With fellow Thousand Oaks resident Sam Querrey signing autographs nearby following his practice session, place a call to J. Wayne Richmond of USTA to go over video boards.

Fire alarm is going off in Straus Stadium. “Here come the fire trucks. It’s one of the things where you don’t want to over-react.” Hurry through the Stadium to investigate the situation, ignoring warnings to stay outside, and pick up trash on the way: Ketchup packet, Pringles lid, Coke bottle, ice cream wrapper, plastic wrap…

Get on phone with Mike of Operations, at which time the fire alarm stops. Looks like the alarm had been triggered from smoke in the Clubhouse kitchen. “That’ll be a change in the menu.”

Pick up copies of James Blake’s “Breaking Back” from the Tournament Office to be personalized and autographed for sponsors. Blake is hiding in the Grandstand – “We won’t bother him by bringing the books to him.” Deliver books to Paul Settles to get them signed.

Head outside the UCLA Tennis Center to check out the hospitality area by Pauley Pavilion, tonight hosting Intercontinental Hotel, where Sam Querrey is visiting sponsors.

Ball kids are having their evening meeting outside the Tournament Office. “I started off as a ball boy. All great players were ball kids. The greatest compliment: you walk away from a match, and you don’t remember there were ball kids.”

Resume seat in front of computer to write text for mass e-mail blast while keeping an eye on the Blake-Goldstein match. 6-0, first set Blake. 6-1, second set Goldstein.

At 2-2, go sit with Tom Barnes in the stands. At 4-5, Blake is down a match point but he goes for it. He manages to hold serve, breaks Goldstein in the next game and then rifles three aces to close out the 6-0, 1-6, 7-5 victory.

“Nervousness probably ended about 10 years ago… All the favorite players you want to see and be happy about, and want to see come back with smiles on their faces, they’re not always going to win. On the bright side, you’re hopefully creating some new stories.”

Head back to the office to work on schedule of play for next day, now that the Blake match is confirmed as first-up. “Once the draw’s made, it’s 31 singles matches, 15 doubles matches. If you end up with absolutely nothing in terms of marquee value, then that would be one thing, but I think something always good happens.”

Squeeze in some family time with daughter Amber and her fiancé, who are visiting from Texas, and son Scott, who works at the tournament, and his fiancée.

With the last doubles match now finished, check in with Pete in the media center and give the day’s attendance figures to Toby.

Stop by the Players’ Lounge to pick up autographed Blake books, and to see off Tom Schrader, who is leaving that night for the next stop of the US Open Series.

Back in the office, finish the preparation for Friday’s Fashion Day.

Walk the site one final time before heading home, making sure all gates are secure and security folks are where they need to be. Transportation, first in and last to leave, turns in keys for the cars before heading home for the night. “It’s always nice to stop by and say hi and show genuine interest and concern because a lot of people are working late hours. The only way that any of our events have been considered successful is due to the ultimate efforts of our volunteers and dedicated staff members who do it all.”

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