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Doubles Vision - All In A Week's Work

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ashley Fisher, Stephen Huss© Getty ImagesAshley Fisher and Stephen Huss defeated the Bryan brothers to reach the Sony Ericsson Open final.

In his second Doubles Vision blog, Australian Stephen Huss reflects on a hectic 10 days of travelling and miss-identification, that saw him and Ashley Fisher go from a first-round loss at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Jersey to the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

Most people have heard the saying, ‘A week is a long time in sports’. Well this old cliché applies to tennis as well, as the following will illustrate. Ashley Fisher and I left a tournament in Sunrise, FL on Sunday evening and flew from Miami to play in a $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour tournament on the English Channel island of Jersey, as we did not think we had a chance to get into the big event going on in Miami.

We did not exactly live up to our No. 1 seeding in the tournament when we lost our first round match 7-5, 7-5. At dinner after our loss I decided to message my good friend Ross Hutchins to find out what was happening at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Miami. He told me that the doubles sign in was weaker than expected and that Ashley and I should sign in. We were under the impression that we would not be allowed to play, it’s usually one tournament per week and we had lost on Wednesday so it’s not like we could get another shot at it on Friday right? Wrong… Miami is a two-week event so we were allowed to play two events during that time.

We had a nervous wait until sign in closed and ended up being the last team into the event on ranking. So it was straight onto to buy a flight back to where we had come from three days earlier. The good news was that we had gone from a 50k event to a $4.5m event all because of a loss in the first round.

While making our arrangements for transport in Miami I was asked which hotel we were staying at; this had yet to be confirmed so the person asked me if they could contact my agent to which I replied, ‘I am my agent’. This was the first in a line of miscommunications between the tournament and us. Miami is used to having huge stars in their tournament that have their own entourage. Ashley and I, being the last team into the event, did not really fit this stereotype.

Our last-minute arrival meant that hotel rooms were scarce so we were forced to share a room with one of us sleeping on a fold-out couch, but we did not care, as we were so happy to be there. We arrived to the courts on lovely Key Biscayne on Friday morning and went promptly to pick up our accreditation. They took one look at us at the desk and we were told that they did not do ATP alumni accreditation there; I replied that we were players. The lady then told us emphatically that we misunderstood and that her desk was for the people actually playing in the tournament! It was understandable, as even Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray who had played in the previous week’s finals in Indian Wells had probably been the last ones to arrive there around Tuesday, three days earlier. We were also too late to be assigned a locker so I had to carry my bag everywhere I went onsite.

We played our first-round match on Sunday against Marat Safin and Paul-Henri Mathieu, winning handily 6-4, 6-2. Next up was Parrott-Polasek, a team that Ashley had actually been coaching earlier in the year as he was recovering from a knee surgery. We won a very close match 7-6, 7-6 and found ourselves in the quarter-finals.

That afternoon I engaged in a conversation with one of the friendly van drivers who transported me from the courts back to the hotel. We talked about Australia, different sports and life in general.  As we neared the hotel he innocently asked me, ‘So, whom do you represent?’ He thought I was an agent. Apparently Ashley and I were still not making a dent in our anonymity.

The next day I was talking in the locker room with Mike Bryan, who told me that he and his brother, Bob were staying in a huge suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. I told him Ashley and I were sharing a room and alternating nights sleeping on the fold-out couch. He had a chuckle but then said, ‘Hey whatever’s working right?’ I had to agree.

In the quarter-final we won a match tie-break against Cermak-Mertinak and moved on to face the Bryans in the semi finals. We were getting pumped for the match in the locker room, Fisher with his red bull and me with some visualisation when we were called for our match. As we exited the locker room in full match gear, racquets over our shoulders and trailing Bob and Mike by a few feet, I was abruptly stopped by a security guard and asked for my accreditation. The hits just kept on coming!

It’s always fun to play the Bryans, especially in the US, where the crowd really gets into it and the brothers energise the whole court with their intensity and play. Ashley showed his amazing talent and skills to play the best match I have ever seen him play and we beat the No. 1 team in the world 7-6, 6-4. 

By now I was feeling pretty good about myself so decided to ask about a courtesy car back to the hotel. I was told that the shuttle would be quicker! Another friendly shuttle driver and another conversation where I told him I was playing with Ashley Fisher and that we were having a good week and a fun time in Miami. His next question threw me a little when he asked, ‘Are you playing with HER at the French Open as well?’ I had to laugh as I knew Ashley was a common girls name in America, but did he really think I was playing mixed doubles in Miami? Furthermore his next comment to me was, ‘Hey did you hear the Bryan brothers lost today?’ I just sat there in stony silence.

The very good team of Mirnyi-Ram in the final ruined the complete fairytale but we gave them a good scare, going down 10-7 in the Match Tie-break. Ten days earlier we had left Sunrise, FL, 32 miles north of Miami and gone to Jersey, England to play in a 50k challenger and lost first round for zero ranking points and $180 before tax. Now as we shared a meal and some drinks at Novocento restaurant on Brickell, we had made the final of a 4.5 million dollar tournament and collected 600 ranking points and more money than the total purse of the Jersey challenger.

No matter what you do in life there may be great rewards just around the corner. An important trait that is applicable to everything and everyone to achieve success is called, PERSERVERANCE. Ashley and I know all about it. The only downer on the day was it was my turn to sleep on the couch…

Respect, Stephen Huss

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