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Southern Starlet Travels To The Land Down Under

April 5, 2006 11:03 AM

Ariel Caldwell, 14, of Stone Mountain, Ga is a member of the winning Bonne Belle Cup team. She chronicles her experience as she travels to Australia to represent the United States in the premier tournament presented by the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation.

My Trip to Australia to Play the Maureen Connolly Brinker Cup
By Ariel Caldwell

ariel

When I first learned I was going to Australia I was so excited that I had been chosen to go, and couldn't wait to leave. To get to Australia I had to take two planes. One from Atlanta to L.A. and then one from L.A. to Australia.

When I got to the airport my mom and I met Erin Stephens (one of the girls going) and her mom. When the plane was finally ready for us to board, I said my goodbyes to my mom and set off on my journey.

I had bought a large berry smoothie for the plane ride. I put it between my legs and then bent down to put my bag away and poof the lid comes off and I get berry smoothie all over my pants. This was before the plane even took off. All I could think for the rest of the flight is that I'm going to go to Australia with my pants looking like I’m 3.

We landed and Erin and I were ready to begin the next leg of our journey. We had to check in again at the international terminal which was at the other end of the airport. We made it there in time to get some lunch and meet the rest of the team. The team consists of 6 girls aged 14 and under and one coach. We have me, Erin, Lauren Herring, Brooke Bolendar, Nicole Gibbs, Beatrice Capra and our coach Jean Desdunes.

We then boarded the plane for our fifteen hour flight. We landed, cleared customs, and were immediately copulated into Aussie life. We then saw Susie Strangward our "Mother hen" as she calls herself with a little ad of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Cup. She then showed us to our cars. As we stepped outside it was like stepping into a different world. All the vehicles were opposite. Opposite sides of the road and the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car.

We arrived at the tennis center and hit on the grass. It was so fast, we were lucky to get a 20 ball rally. We showered and were ready to meet our families. We each stayed in a different house. In my house there is Philippa 12, Kate 13, Alice 16 and Mom Jenny Warnock. The Dad was away for work. The first day Kate and I walked into the city to get some school paper and then took a tram back. Dinner was lamb, a now favorite of mine. I was so tired that I went to sleep super early at 7:15 and when the next day came, I woke up early and got ready. We had two more days of practice and then the competition started.

The next two days were a blur. With visits to the zoo and St. Kildas pier, we got to see some of Melbourne. The night before the competition started we had a dinner at the club where the draw was announced. During the next three days, each day we would play a singles and a doubles match. 1-3 would play 1-3 and 4-6 would play 4-6. The first day I played number one on center court for the first match of the day. After opening ceremonies it was time to play. As I was warming up and the ball kids were throwing me balls, I knew this was something that I loved and something that I could do for a living. The match started off great with me getting a 3-0 lead. Then after I slacked off and it become 3-2, John the coach came and spoke to me. I regained my composure and went on to lead the USA to their first victory. As the day progressed we went on to win the next four singles matches. Lauren was in the last singles match of the day. Four games into the first set she fell and was taken to the hospital. She had to default her doubles. We still lead at the end of the day 6-3.

The next day it rained on and off so when it stopped the grass courts were soaked and we had to play on a surface like red clay. The surface was actually crushed brick. That day we did not fair as well. The results of Lauren's x- ray were not good. The doctor would not let her play at all so we ended the day 5-4. This meant team USA would start the final day of competition with a 11-7 lead.

We were back on the grass the last day. The USA had only two wins in singles, a clean win from Brooke and a 3 set comeback from me. We went into doubles play with a score of 13-11. This meant it was still possible for the aussies to win. Their was some good news. Lauren was allowed to play doubles, and with two doubles wins we clinched the title for another year.

This trip to Australia was amazing with umpires, linesmen, and ball boys. The experience gave you the feeling of playing a pro tournament, and made me realize how much I want to do this for the rest of my life. Meeting Maureen Connolly Brinker’s daughter was just delightful. She is a wonderful person and her speech that she gave at the award ceremony was very moving.

The trophy is a bell and underneath is square base with little rectangles all around for each year won. The players get their name engraved on the trophy. Such greats as Jenifer Capriati and Tracy Austin had their names on this trophy and mine will be on there with them forever. This is something that I will remember for a lifetime.

This trip was wonderful and I would just like to thank my coach Ashley Hobson for helping me to become the player that I am, and the USTA for choosing me to go and play in this great cup. My physical conditioning coach for allowing me to be in peak physical shape. Also, Mrs. Brinker’s daughter and Mrs. Jeffet for continuing on Mrs. Brinker’s legacy. And last, but not least, my sponsor Babolat and Seth McKinley for supporting me all this time and staying with me throughout all my challenges. They are a great company who have supported me well. I am glad that I have them for a sponsor.


 

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