As much fun as I had while in Estado de Mexico and particularly the tournament at Club de Sayavedra, I was excited to finish up my laundry, find a trustworthy sherpa and descend down from the 8200 foot base camp that had been home for the previous 6 days.
I was set to leave Estado de Mexico on Wednesday morning and fortunately my mid-week departure allotted me a couple of days to practice with an old college teammate, Miguel Reyes Varela in his hometown of Queretaro. Mexico is divided into 31 states and I was headed to the state capital of Queretaro, officially called Santiago de Queretaro, about 200 km northeast of D.F.
My morning began uneventfully with a pleasant cab ride from La Privada de Loma Escondido (housing in Estado de Mexico) to the bus station at Topetzatlan. Mexico has a very extensive bus system and I was excited for the day’s journey. Anytime I’m traveling solo I feel a need to ‘be on alert’ but today’s journey could not have been any easier. As is customary in Mexico, I prearranged the fare with my taxi driver for the 30 minute commute to the bus station (200 pesos ~ $15), but as we arrived on the outskirts of Topetzatlan he very smoothly (definitely not his first rodeo with a gringo) asked for a higher wage. My spanish is by no means great, but it has improved to the point of being able to politely stick to the 200 pesos. I hauled my gear across the service road and into the bus terminal and immediately met a consortium of different ticketing stands. I walked up to the ETN (TuriStar) clerk and purchased my ticket for the Queretaro “de lujo” bus… yep the luxury liner. I threw my spendthrift tendencies to the wind and splurged! Oh what a valuable 50 peso (<$4) upgrade it was. Not only was the bus now a direct 2 hr transit, but I also had full access to the VIP lounge and its adjoining bathrooms, so I could avoid the pay-to-pee extortion tactic
that was in play at the station (right). We boarded the bus and were treated to a snack pack of juice, yogurt, and of course galletas (I’ve learned that no journey is worth taking in Mexico unless you are armed with galletas, Cajeta, or preferably both).
The bus set off promptly at 10:15, and I was already thrilled with my very spacious seat when I realized that it could fold out into a quasi-bed.. who needs Business Class when you can almost kinda-sorta stretch out on the <de lujo> bus!
Being surrounded by Mexican families and tennis players has only helped my Spanish, but on the bus I happened upon a great, and entertaining way to continue to improve my language skills. The bus was showing the (MIT students go to Vegas and count cards) blackjack movie, 21, a movie that I watched, in English, when it first premiered. I can’t believe I didn’t think of trying this before, but all of a sudden I understood conversational phrases that have forever been ‘over my head’ simply because I now understood the general plot of the movie.
The journey seemed to pass in a flash as I was stunned by the scenic Mexican countryside (almost as pretty as springtime in West Texas!) I’ll see if I can dig up some photos to show y’all! The rolling hills and impressive pastures made me miss good ol’ West Texas Hwy 90!
The bus arrived in Queretaro and I was greeted by Mickey (warning I may switch between Mickey, Miguel, Dundee and any number of nicknames Miguel has from UT) in his dad’s tennis academy van, it certainly wasn’t hard to miss the large MexiTenis scrawled along the side. After a brief driving tour of the city center we made our way north to his father’s tennis academy courts. The courts are inside of a gated subdivision called Juriquilla. Gated neighborhoods in Mexico are more common than in the U.S. and known as ‘privadas’, ‘colonias’, and ‘fracionamientos’ respectively, as they grow in relative size. Juriquilla is on the larger end as developments go and is some 20km outside of the Queretaro city-center. After a good practice (never quite appreciated how normal 6000ft can feel) we headed back towards Queretaro-proper and his house in Jurica. Mickey and his family welcomed me into a beautiful white-walled home where lunch was waiting for us. Have I mentioned that I’ve been eating like a king here in Mexico? Apologies for the poor lighting quality in this first picture, but generally I’m too excited to slow down and take a quick snap once food is served… but I’ve done my best to include a few pictures below. The three salsas you see at the bottom of the post is a staple at the Mexican table, akin to our salt and pepper. Although I must say that I absolutely prefer the choice of Habenero salsa (light red), salsa roja (deep red), and verde salsa (primarily avacado & lime) to our standard S&P. The fruit is incredibly fresh as you can see and the included egg-dish was this morning’s victory breakfast (claras de huevos mexicanos/ egg whites with tomato, onion, and jalapeno).
All this talk of food is making me a bit hungry so let me get to the meat and potatoes of this post so I can get to the table as I’m late for our family lunch.
After several good practice days with Miguel in Queretaro I was ready for the beginning of qualifying today at the Celaya $10,000 Futures Tournament. Fortunately, Celaya is only a 40 minute commute from Miguel’s front door so it works perfectly that his family has welcomed me to stay for the week (Many Thanks!).
As luck would have it, I drew an American from NYC first round. I broke early and had many chances in the first set to secure a second break but didn’t convert and as if to remind me how important that insurance break can sometimes be, I lost my serve to even the set at 4-all. But I recovered nicely by breaking and holding to take the first set 6-4. I kept the pressure on in the second and broke twice to take a 4-0 lead. We both held twice to close out the match as I won it 6-2. It was nice to see someone across the net equally as concerned about a sun-burn as I was and equally as unsure of this pressure-less ball tennis. While my shot-making skills are improving, I am even more excited to see how I’ve matured as a match player. Because at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how many tools you have in the bag if you don’t know how best to maximize the shots on that given day.
Good start to the tournament and tomorrow I’m back to squaring off against Mexicans as I line up against #11 seed Rosas-Zarur (1934 ATP).
Saludos! (& please enjoy the pictures below).