Monday, October 10, 2011

Cadillac Tennis Taste Drive with Mary Joe Fernandez - Ultimate Tennis Atlanta

Friday at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center here in Atlanta, I was privileged to attend this event: a tennis clinic cosponsored by Wilson and featuring Chef Desmond Fannin and Tennis Pro Mary Joe Fernandez.

It was similar in nature to my Meeting Tracy Austin experience several years ago and, though it would be impossible to top that event, it was a lot of fun. I learned about the event through the Ultimate Tennis website; I’d played in this Atlanta flexible tennis league again for the first time in years this summer, because they’ve added doubles. That morning, when signing in, I received a “live strong” type white wristband which identified me as part of a particular rotation group. I also signed a waiver that would enable me to test drive an automobile later that day. Cadillac would make a contribution to the tennis center for anyone that test drove one of their automobiles. There was food – breakfast items, Gatorade and water – that morning.

After a brief introduction by a Cadillac representative, who detailed the agenda for the morning, we were released to our first rotations. The first was primarily a groundstroke clinic, during which we were given the opportunity to demo a Wilson racquet (or use our own). Since I’d just gone through an extensive demo period on my own, and couldn’t find a Wilson BLX Pro Tour (my second choice), I used my Babolat. The instructor – a local pro out of Blackburn, I believe – had us hit forehands from one line and backhands from another, down-the-line and then crosscourt. Each drill session was conducted on 3-4 clay courts – new for me – and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. The groundstroke session culminated in a game of “king of the court”, where a person from each line – ad and deuce court – try to win 3 points in a row from the current “king & queen”, from the side where the pro is feeding the balls.

The next rotation focused on volleys and, to a smaller extent, overheads. We were ‘taught’ the proper “V angle” – formed with one’s arm and the racquet – for hitting volleys from either side. During the drill we were fed balls to hit down the line, then crosscourt, an overhead, then close to put it away, and were given a chance to volley forehands (from the deuce court) and backhands (from the ad court). During this drill, I recognized a woman on the same court as me but wasn’t sure from where. We discovered that we both played out of Fair Oaks, but on different teams, and knew a lot of the same tennis players including one that was also there at the event but in a different grouping.

The next rotation was with Mary Joe who, after we had our group picture taken with her, stood to the side of one of the courts and commented on the play while we played “king of the court”. Of course I was thrilled (slight sarcasm) to hear her say “you ran right through that volley” when I erred. My new friend and I paired up, but were never able to win three points in a row together, oh well. Half way through this rotation, we changed to another court where an instructor fed us a short ball that we were to hit as an approach then hit a low volley followed by a put-away volley that we should try to aim at prizes placed on the court. If we hit it, we got to keep it. One woman in our group hit two, the first to do so according to the pro. I came close, but missed in part because the prize had been knocked down – making it harder to hit – already.

My final rotation was the test drive and I drove a Cadillac CTS 4-door sedan. Unfortunately it was only for a brief distance around a neighboring street in Collier Hills, which was pretty torn up and bumpy (to say the least).

After all the rotations were completed, we were rounded up for a demonstration by Chef Fannin, who made a shrimp dish and a Q&A with Ms. Fernandez, who revealed that she just turned 40 and was unable to play some points (as Ms. Austin had done) due to a plethora of injuries. We were given a Cadillac logoed gift bag on the way out which contained a brochure, the shrimp sauce recipe and a Wilson visor.

All in all it was a fun event, but it was not quite to the same level – instruction, quality or quantity of food – as the Outback Steakhouse ALTA sponsored event that I attended several years ago.

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