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Doubles Vision - Which Way To Berlin Airport?

Bucharest, Romania

James Cerretani and Lucas Arnold Ker© ATPJames Cerretani and Lucas Arnold Ker

Hello everyone and welcome to Doubles Vision, the ATP's new and candid behind-the-scenes coverage of life on tour from the perspective of Doubles Players!  My name is James Cerretani (aka "JC"), and I’m excited to be authoring this introductory blog live from Bucharest, Romania, site of this week's  BCR Open ATP Event. 

This is my 2nd year playing in Bucharest, and already I have seen some major improvements in this year's event. Notably, the player hotel has been upgraded to a 5 Star Hotel, player transport has been smooth and timely, and the player lounges are drastically cleaner, more comfortable and spacious than last year.  Clearly, the tournament has made an effort to provide a 1st class experience for the ATP players and staff.  Big shout out to the organisers for that!!

In my 1st blog, I am going to share with you a story from my traveling experience to Bucharest this week, hoping to shed light on the rigors that accompany being an ATP Touring Pro.  Traveling is a catch 22 of sorts for players on the ATP World Tour. It is surely one of the perks of the job, as we get to see lots of exotic places and experiences, various cultures, cuisines and ideologies.  Conversely however, the traveling itself can be an unexpected nightmare.  And this is exactly the situation I found myself in during last Friday's trip from Szczecin, Poland to Bucharest, Romania. It was an adventure, time was of the essence and our fate was left in the hands of our unassuming taxi driver... here's a quick breakdown on how one of the Worst Taxi Drivers in the World almost caused us to miss our flight to Bucharest.

Friday, September 18, 2009. SZCZECIN, POLAND

5:00am:    Wake-up call alarms, startles me out of my sleep... I’m exhausted and want to sleep more. But I get up anyway, do a little last minute packing, go downstairs and check out. 

5:25am:     Jean-Julien Rojer (Aka "Juls"), is in the lobby, and is already chatting with friends on-line back home. Soon, Lucas Arnold Ker (Aka "Arni") sleepwalks out of the elevator as well.  The three of us are exhausted, and can’t wait to relax in the taxi during the 2 hour ride to Berlin airport (Szczecin has only a small regional airport, so we took a flight from Berlin, Germany instead).

5:30am:     We are awake too early to enjoy the hotel breakfast (Polish food is some of my personal favourite in the world, so that was disappointing).  So we eat a few breakfast pastries in the lobby before we leave. They were epic.

5:45am: Taxi arrives. We all jump in, and set off for Berlin. Our flight departs @ 9:25am, giving us ample time to arrive, check in and relax before our flight. Soon enough, we are en route...

For the next 2 hours or so....
Lucas is riding "shotgun", going in and out of naps, while Juls and I are chilling out in the back seat (it was a "Soccer Mom Van" style taxi). Juls and I haven’t seen each other lately, so we are chatting it up the whole time. We talked about any recent drama with girlfriends, the challenges of playing with a new doubles partner, the value of having a partner that you have experience with, and how much we enjoy our limited off-time in Miami.

Everything is going smoothly, according to plan it seemed.  Then...
7:40am:   Juls and I notice that Lucas is wide awake now, and alertly staring at our Taxi Driver, clearly disturbed by something.  Lucas starts complaining in Spanish to Juls (I don’t speak Spanish), that our driver has been going 80 km/h on the highway (speed limit is 100 km/h), cars are whizzing by us, and he has only been in 3rd gear the entire time!!  Juls and I start laughing hysterically in the back seat @ Lucas, who still looks disgusted at our taxi driver's performance. His facial expression was priceless.

7:43am:   I look up @ the clock, it reads 7:43am, so I think to myself, "Great, we must be close to the airport, it's been about 2 hours."  At this point, we are off the highway, and venturing down urban city streets, so my instinct tells me that surely Berlin's Tegel Int Airport is just around the corner...

7:44am:   I noticed a Burger King, and ask Juls if we have enough time for a nice American breakfast.  We decide against it, and wait until we get to the airport.

7:45am:   Suddenly, the driver gets on his mobile phone, speaks to someone in Polish, then stops and turns the car around!! Now we are all freaking out! The driver had been driving in the wrong direction for about 30 minutes... Now we turn around, re-trace our tracks thru side streets and rural farmland back towards the highway.

7:55am: The driver has remained calm, and is in no way trying to make amends for his mistake.  The guy was "putt-putting in the far right lane".  Juls, Lucas and I realise that at this rate, we may actually miss our flight.  For international flights, we must check-in 45 minutes before our scheduled departure time, so that gives us until 8:40am... we still have 45 mins, but really, we have no idea where we are, and we are all starting to feel like the driver is in "La-la land" and doesn't have the first clue either!

8:02am:  We finally see our  first highway sign, reading "Tegel" with the little airplane picture alongside. This relaxes us a bit, and gives us hope.

8:12am:  10 minutes go by, and although we have seen the "Tegel Airport" sign, we are still in the middle of nowhere, and haven't seen one plane flying overhead.  Worry sets in.

8:15am: The intensity inside the taxi mounts. Juls and I are now on the seat's edge, our heads hovering in the front seat along with Lucas, trying to get this driver fired up, and somehow get him into fifth gear!!  He doesn't speak a word of English or Spanish, so we use sign language, pointing to the clock and saying "Flight, Aeropuerto, Rapido Fast, 9 O'Clock", encouraging him to go faster, while pointing to the cars that are still cruising by us on both sides, hoping he might follow their lead!! At one point, I even suggested that I take over behind the wheel. I mean, this guy couldn't even Drive Miss Daisy!!

8:20am:  Lucas is hilarious, mumbling in Spanish about how bad the driver is... Juls is stressed, and yet still laughing his face off @ Lucas. I am literally patting the driver on the shoulder, coaching him on how to drive. For some reason, he only likes to speed up while we are going around sharp turns, almost putting the Soccer Mom van up on 2 wheels, so I try to tell him go fast ONLY when we are going straight.

8:32am:  We finally arrive to Tegel Airport.  We have 8 minutes to make check in. Never having flown from Tegel before, nobody knows which Terminal we are leaving from. Berlin's Tegel is a huge Airport, with 4 terminals: A, B, C and D.

8:33am: Driver, waiting for instruction from us, goes into the airport and ends up turning around and exiting the airport altogether by accident.

8:34am: Driver U-turns around, and drives hesitantly back into the airport, as we read the airport signs. I am on the phone, calling Blue Air Airways (A very good low-cost Romanian Airline), asking the agent which terminal they are in. I’m on hold of course, she is checking!!

8:35am:  With only 5 minutes left, we can't wait any longer, and we must guess, taking a 50/50 shot!! Still on hold, I hang up the phone. Left leads to Terminals B and D. Right leads to Terminals A and C.  We go Left!! 

8:36am:  Juls and Lucas run in to check if we make the right choice! They disappear into the airport. Moments later, Juls comes running out screaming, "It’s Here!! Go to Gate 4!!!" We are so lucky!  We give a quick, fake "Dzienkuje" (thank you in Polish) to the driver, and sprint for the gate.

8:36:30am:  I take all 3 boarding passes, and sprint full speed to the check-in counter, sweating and out of breath.  The flight agent is laughing @ me.  I smile and then relax, when she tells me that we made it just in time!

8:38am: Juls and Lucas come running, bags hanging off their shoulders and dragging behind them... sick team work!

8:40am:  After we all checked in, I notice a small breakfast kiosk, and decide to give it a shot, I’m starving.  To my surprise, they have the freshest German pretzel I've ever had, and we all grab breakfast there (nice reward after a stressful morning).  Looking back, it was a good idea that we passed on Burger King!!  We made our flight, we got a nice fresh breakfast, and not a second to waste. Just another wild adventure on the Tour!! Never a dull moment, even in the taxis!!

Ironically, after playing doubles together last week in Szczecin, Poland and enduring the adventurous travel experience together en route to Bucharest, Lucas and Jean-Julien will be facing each other in the 1st Round this week. Let's see who will be able to recover quicker from that crazy travel adventure!! It should be an interesting match-up!

I'd also like to make a quick shout out to my hometown Boston Sports Teams. Nice to see Tom Brady back in action for the Patriots, despite last week's disappointing loss to the lowly Jets.  I am confident Brady and The Pats will bounce back in the coming weeks.  And the Red Sox are looking strong down the stretch.  I hope they can save some magic for October!

Next week, I will be back @ you live from Asia... don't know what topic I will be covering just yet.  Let's just wait and see what happens between now and then! Until then, play hard, have fun and enjoy the adventure.  And make sure your taxi driver knows where he's taking you.  

Peace, JC

 

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