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Barcelona Or Bust For Jordan Kerr

Barcelona, Spain

Jordan Kerr© Getty ImagesJordan Kerr finally catches his breath in Barcelona after a hectic journey to the ATP World Tour 500 tournament.

Amid the travel chaos in Europe, Australian Jordan Kerr embarked on a ridiculously expensive, highly risky, thoroughly uncomfortable but ultimately successful road trip to Barcelona.

It could have been a discarded scene from the classic Steve Martin and John Candy movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles. But Jordan Kerr’s journey from London to Barcelona this week at the peak of the travel chaos in Europe caused by Icelandic volcanic ash was just one of many adventures undertaken by ATP World Tour players en route to the Barcelona Open BancSabadell this week.

Kerr’s countryman, Australian Peter Luczak, drove 22 hours from Sweden to play in the ATP World Tour 500 tournament. After winning the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title on Sunday, top-seeded doubles team Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic drove through the night to arrive in Barcelona at 3 a.m. after being turned away at Nice airport. But Kerr has bragging rights for the most adventurous route to the Olympic city.

The 30-year-old doubles specialist began his trip to Barcelona from his London base on Sunday. He caught a Eurostar train from London to Paris, from where he took a 20-minute subway ride to Austerlitz train station. With a confirmed ticket in hand, Kerr expected to take an overnight train to Barcelona, but that’s where things started to go horribly wrong.

After waiting about an hour, Kerr arrived at the front of the line only to be told that his reservation had been canceled because the trains were already overcrowded. And, for good measure, the next available seat was the following Wednesday.

Standing with his luggage in the chaotic main hall of the Austerlitz station, the Australian weighed his options: Rent a car and risk getting lost at night? Catch a taxi to Charles De Gaulle airport and hope that flights resume? Just leave the bags and walk off into retirement? “I’d just come off a terrible five weeks where I hadn’t won a match. I remember thinking it could be time to call it a day,” Kerr said. “I was standing there honestly not knowing what to do. This was Monday night. The tournament had already started.”

Then Kerr spotted a Moroccan man in a suit and tie holding a sign with the word ‘Barcelona’ written in pencil. Two people were already standing alongside him. “I’m going to Barcelona and it’s 400 Euros per person,” the man told Kerr.

“400 Euros is very expensive, but I was desperate and said ‘sold’,” Kerr said.  “Aside from the cost I was pretty nervous. You wouldn’t normally jump in a car with a guy who is holding up a sign with Barcelona written in pencil. I felt very uneasy about the situation, and I’m sure the couple of Americans in the van did as well.

“We left at 8 at night, and in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when we were all kind of asleep, we suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere. We woke to find ourselves on an exit to a freeway... and the driver starts reversing for about 50 meters! I honestly thought that this might be a set-up; I was so tight. As it turned out, he had just taken the wrong turn.”

Facing one another and sitting knee-to-knee during the 12 hour journey – which included short stops every three hours – Kerr got well acquainted with his traveling companions. The seven passengers included a US navy commander, a US Federal Government official, and a Chinese escalator and elevator specialist, who revealed that he had put in his first escalator in Kerr’s hometown of Adelaide. “We were facing each other the whole time so we had nothing to do but talk, so we found out a lot about each others’ lives.”

During one of the stops Kerr withdrew from an ATM €300 – the maximum cash withdrawal allowed per day on his card. Then, soon after crossing the France-Spain border, with Barcelona almost in sight, the driver demanded payment in full. Kerr tried to withdraw more cash to pay the driver… only to have a different ATM eat his card.

“On top of that the driver couldn’t find my hotel so I said to take me to the airport, which is where everyone else was going. There I was able to exchange some US dollars to pay the driver and the tournament sent a courtesy car to take me to the hotel.”

Kerr arrived at the hotel around 10 a.m. and, without any sleep, was practising with Swedish partner Robert Lindstedt at noon. The pair played a first-round match Wednesday against Igor Andreev and Jeremy Chardy and, much to Kerr’s surprise, pulled out a 7-6(4), 6-1 win.
“I went into the match with no expectations to get a win and that sort of relaxed me,” Kerr said. “The night before I’d had no sleep during that uncomfortable drive and my knees and back were hurting. But I was so happy to have made it and to get a win is amazing.”

And proving that there is justice in the world, Kerr earned €2,975 for Wednesday’s victory – a handy return on his €400 investment – and €175 more than the driver who collected a total of €2,800 from his seven passengers.

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