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Montgomery Player Blogs During Her Trip To US Open's Opening Ceremonies

August 27, 2010 04:48 PM
Dori Samadzai-Bonner
Dori Samadzai-Bonner, a USTA League player from Montgomery, Ala., attended the Opening Night Ceremony for the 2010 US Open. She was selected based on her love of tennis even though she grew up in Afghanistan where girls were barred from taking part in sports of any kind.  The ceremony celebrated those who Dream, Succeed and Inspire.
 
Here's her blog exclusively for www.SouthernTennis.com from New York and back home in Montgomery:
 
Tuesday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m.
The day of the US Openwas simply incredible! 
 
After the driver picked me and my husband up from the hotel at 5 pm, I met with the hair and make up artist at 6 pm at Arthur Ash Stadium. It felt like the day I was getting married; I was shaking, happy, excited and completely nervous.
 
I was sitting at the makeup/hair room when Christiane Amanpour walked in and said "Hi Dori, I am Christiane"; at first I was completely speechless, but after I pulled myself together with a loud laugh which everyone outside probably heard, I responded with "I know!"
 
She sat next to me and went over my story and what she was going to read out there. I was hearing her, but everything is a blur. I could not pay attention, because all along I was thinking of my conversation with my parents about me going to the Open. I was telling them about the US Open and all that goes on, and it sounded completely foreign to them because they are both big time Laker and soccer fans. I was starting to give up on explaining about the US Open when I said, "Christiane Amanpour of ..." and my dad and mom both in sync with one another shouted "Amanpour? I know her..." I had forgotten that they both watch a lot of CNN and truly appreciate Amanpour's style as a journalist. They consider her extremely brave for covering stories in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. 
 
Christiane asked the makeup artist if she should change her lipstick color and put gloss on instead? In the meantime, someone from the US Open walked in and asked that I go with him so that we could go over the plans this way I know what to expect. With my hair half blow dried, half curled and half damp dry, we walked toward the stadium and stepped out. The seats had already been starting to fill up, but no one picked up on the fact that I was rehearsing in front of them. I had 15 minutes for my hair to finish and my makeup still had not been done. Panicking, we rushed back to the makeup/hair room and my hair was done in 10 minutes and I was left with just enough time to put on a loud lipstick so to give the appearance that I had put on a lot of effort. Luckily there is no closeup shot! Otherwise, you could see the lipstick is the only make up I have on.
 
I was the first person that Christiane spoke of: "As a young girl in Afghanistan, Dori ..." I heard what Christiane was saying and my heart started to beat so hard I could hear it over all the noise around me. 9, 8. 7, 6, 5, 4, and my heart was racing even faster, 3, 2, GO!!! Someone directed me and off I went! I wish I had a poster that said HELLO AMERICA, but I waved and hoped everyone felt my sincerity. This was a very emotional moment for me! Next to my citizenship, next to my wedding day, this was my next biggest day of my life! Part of me is sad that it is over, but somehow I want to say it is just starting!
 
How thankful I am to the US Open, and the USTA and everyone who helped support me. I could never truly convey, but if I could put it in a few words, I would say thank you all for giving wings for my dreams! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
 
Long live the American dream!!!!!
 
Monday, Aug. 30, 8:15 a.m.
It's 8:15 in NY City: the driver (Harry) just picked me up from the hotel, and we are on our way to meet with the rest of the honorees as we have been invited to ring the stock exchange opening bell. To be honest, at this point I'm beyond nervous.
 
The feelings I feel are a mixture of excitement, disbelief, and nervousness all at once. I had to do yoga this morning to calm myself down :) I miss all of my Alabamians and look forward to sharing more with everyone later on tonight after the Opening Night ceremonies.
 
Sunday, Aug. 29, 10 a.m.
My dearest USTA members ... Waking up in NY City takes me back to the first day I arrived in the States. Almost 19 years ago, as teenagers, my brother and I enetered J.F.K asking for asylum and a chance for a new life.
 
Being here after 19 years, as an American citizen feels so surreal. The hotel that the I am staying at is within five minutes from Central Park, Lincon Center, Museum of Natural History and a gigantic mall (which my husband would prefer I didn't see :). Plus a whole lot of city life, with Ground Zero at the end of Manhattan island.
 
Last night as I arrived in NY City, I didn't know what to do first. There is so much in this city: but in the end, I found myself sitting by the window in my room taking it all in, and realizing God is so wonderful to all of us, and has been to me all along, even when I didn't know it.
 
Saturday, Aug. 28, 2 p.m.
I am in the plane on my way to N.Y City. It's hard to believe any of this is happening to me, and I wish I could somehow share this indescribable feeling with my fellow USTA members.
 
My heart is filled with joy, happiness and an immense sense of hope and courage that was once completely foreign to me. I vividly remember the life I once had in Afghanistan: hopeless, helpless, and completely discouraged from seeing the future. This is why, when I finally made it to the U.S., I wanted to share my gratitude for this new found freedom with every American who was willing to listen. How lucky I am to not only get that opportunity, but to do it at the US Open!
 
This, my friend, is what the American dream is all about. God bless America, and those who were willing to share a little part of the American dream with me.
 
Dori Samadzai-Bonner's story
Dori Samadzai-Bonner will attend the Opening Night Ceremony for the 2010 US Open Monday based on her love of tennis even though she grew up in Afghanistan where girls were barred from taking parts in sports of any kind.  The ceremony will celebrate those who Dream, Succeed and Inspire.
 
She dreamed of coming to America, and succeeded after a lengthy trip that brought her here via stops in India and Thailand.
 
Samadzai-Bonner, a resident of Montgomery, Ala., and a USTA member, she discovered tennis as a senior in high school and has been playing ever since. "Tennis instantaneously became my escape from the years of misery I lived through simply because I was born a girl," she said.
 
"I play tennis as much as six times a week," she explained. She’s played in three different USTA League teams at the 3.0 level at four locations around Montgomery. One of her playing sites is Maxwell Air Force Base where her husband serves in the military.
 
She arrived in the United States on Christmas Eve 1991. "When I saw the American flag for the first time in this country, I knew it was going to be OK. It was very emotional." In Afghanistan she often saw the American flag burned.
 
This will be the first visit to New York and the US Open for Samadzai-Bonner. "I’m very excited. I really am looking forward to seeing the tennis," she revealed.
 

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