Rakuten Japan Open
Doubles Vision - Everyone's A Star In Asia
by Stephen Huss|
Greetings from Asia, where tennis players are treated like royalty regardless of ranking. I’ll never forget the hospitality at the Masters Cup in Shanghai in 2005, when every player had their own dedicated driver (hello Shu-Ping!). So dedicated, in fact, that one driver stayed in the car all night waiting because a player had forgotten to tell him that he would not be going out again that night and that he could go home. Just part of the service that we receive here in Asia! Thumbs up to the ATP for bringing a 1000 event to China and making the season here a week longer.
At this stage I’m not sure whether I’ll make the cut for the inaugural Shanghai ATP Masters 1000 next week. My partner and I are one team outside the pre-entry cut, so I can either fly to Europe and play in a smaller Challenger or travel to Shanghai and hope to gain entry as one of the six on-site entries. In Europe I am guaranteed to play. When I consider Shanghai, I could be buying a new flight and travelling there for nothing if we don’t make the cut, but I still think it is worth it. I play this game to play in the big tournaments and to play against the best players, so Shanghai will be my destination.
The tour shifts to Asia this time of year and it is undoubtedly one of my favourite places to play. I have played tournaments in Beijing, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Tokyo over the years. I find the people very friendly with a peaceful demeanor. I love the local markets that sell just about anything one would want. My bartering skills are not what they should be but it still turns out to be cheap. I enjoy all the fresh juices they serve here; I will often have a Kiwi, Guava, and Watermelon juice with breakfast. Asian food is universally popular and it’s great to eat it on their home soil.
The Kuala Lumpur tournament last week is new to the tour but it was a great week and the organisers should be congratulated. Our hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, was located right in the centre of the city, almost directly under the 462m Petronas Towers that make KL’s skyline instantly recognisable. Next to the hotel was a very fashionable mall with all kinds of shopping and restaurants. A short taxi ride away or a long walk was the area of Bukhit Bintang, where I went several times to check out the markets and to buy some cheap DVDs. On one of the days about eight players raided one of the local places and got foot massages for an hour - a must do for any tourist in the region.
I am in Tokyo this week, one of my favorite tournaments of the year. People here see every player as a star, not just the top ones who are well marketed by the media. The doubles matches here fill the stands and then some, with people peering through and over fences to see a piece of the action. It makes it so much fun to play in front of enthusiastic crowds like the ones here in Japan. There are always photo requests, signatures and sometimes handshakes from the many fans.
Thanks for reading, and wish me luck this week!