This event is on its 5th year. (It's 10-15 minutes away from home as well. The tickets are cheap ranging from $5-$20.) I was able to see up-and-coming players, like 17-year-old Jack Draper and 18-year-old Brandon Nakashima, and struggling players, like Stevie Johnson, seeking points to move their ranking up.
A friend told me about the 2019 Fairfield Challenger. He told me the attendance has improved every year. I watched alone almost every day except day 1. I would run into meeting at least one person per day, such as a ballboy, a linesman, an old friend, or a stranger.
Day 2 of tournament:
I saw Stevie Johnson a few hours before his night match. He was watching a match behind the fence from a distance. He stood behind me and a few people. Everyone else turned their shoulders and glanced at him between points.
"Is this your first time to visit Fairfield?" I asked Johnson.
"Yes," he answered.
"How do you like Fairfield?"
During Johnson's night session match, I sat behind his coach. The two ballboys sat next to me halfway to the first set of the match. They are brothers as well.
They wanted to know why I'm watching. The two brothers thought I was a fan.
(We know our tennis etiquette. You have to be quiet during a point. You can't make any distraction or move around when a point is being played. You can only talk in a soft voice during in-between points.)
"I'm a spectator. I love the game. I'm a fan of the game. I like to observe and watch the player go through an up and down journey in his match," I told them. "I get to see the player processing at every in-between point. It's a mental game. He's alone on the court."
The two brothers asked me, "Why?"
(This reminded me of when my young students would always ask me many questions during my coaching days at Kim Grant Tennis Academy in 2017. Kids loved to ask me, "Why?" It's understanding. Because it's the art of curiosity. Children are the future. And they are willing to learn.)
"Because I get to witness the player up close. And it's not only the player," I told them. "I observe the coach giving sign languages to communicate, coach, and support his player. It's illegal to coach the player during a match. But the coach and player somehow find a way to make it happen."
One of the two brothers is 13 years old. And he's been playing tennis since he was 6. He's coached by his dad.
"Does your dad have any hand signals to you during your match?" I asked him.
"I tell him to shut up," he told me.
One of the ballboys liked Johnson's opponent. Because he seemed nice. And he hated it when Johnson slammed and broke his racquet at the beginning of the match.
"Anger took over his mind. He's human," I told him. "We have feelings too. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors seems perfect. But one day he'll make a mistake. He's human."
One of the kids isn't a Curry fan. He is a Sacramento Kings fan.
The two brothers like basketball too.
"When you hit the backboard by accident and make the basketball shot, you don't say sorry," I told them. "When you hit the tennis net by accident and win the point, you must say sorry. Different sports."
They were surprised.
One kid is a Federer fan, and the other one is a Djokovic fan.
After Johnson won his match, I congratulated his coach with a smile.
"Good job Coach," I told him.
"Thanks for staying," He told me.
I watched the night match between the Jacks: 17-year-old Draper vs Sock. Match was full house. Everyone wanted to see Sock play.
I found a court-side seat. An old, married couple sat near me. They were reserving seats. I could see they wanted me out of my seat so they can sit together. I insisted they can. Then I moved one seat down.
The husband sat to my left side (while his wife sat to his left). He is 68 years old. He celebrated his birthday to watch this match. He has played baseball most of his life. And he started playing tennis since 2014.
I watched the night match between Draper and Donald Young. I found the best seat in the house. It was a corner seat. Because I didn't need to turn my head side-to-side in following the tennis ball. And I sat near the linesman.
We were early. And I started to talk to him. He started working as a linesman since 2012. He found the job online when they were in need of lines people.
"Do players mostly complain about the line call when they are down during the match?" I asked the linesman.
"Yes," he answered.
"Who is the toughest player you have faced when you called it out?"
The night match was narrowing in. He wasn't able to talk to me once the match starts. Because he'll be evaluated and graded by the chair umpire.
I met an old man who sponsored and hosted a tennis pro Victor Estrella. He told me Estrella became the oldest first-time men's ATP champion at 34 years and six months.
I ran into my old tennis friend. He has grown. He remembered me. I talked to his dad.
I met a guy right next to my seat. He's lucky to hit and practice with a better tennis player through a friend.
"You're right," I told him. "If I try to hit with a better player, they would either charge or avoid me. It happens."
I met a 44-year-old man from Sacramento. He started playing tennis since 2014.
I ran into my old tennis friend. She's a beautiful lady now. We reconnected. It was the most we talked ever. Because we played tennis more than we talked.
I would like to get to know her more. I'm expressing my feelings. But it's up to her. I can't force her. Respect the lady.
Australian Chris O'Connell (not the actor Chris O'Donnell) beat the top seeded American Stevie Johnson in the finals. Johnson wasn't able to read his serve. It was similar to Jack Draper losing to O'Connell earlier in the tournament.
I forgot to ask for a picture with Johnson's coach. It changed everything when Johnson lost. I was looking forward to take a picture with Johnson and his coach. I wanted Johnson to win the championship match. But O'Connell was the better player. He earned and deserved it.
I still asked for a picture to Johnson. The picture shown below says it all.
The mens' doubles championship match was followed by the Johnson and O'Connell match.
Peter Polanksy and Darian King beat Sem Verbeek and Andre Goransson to win the doubles championship match.
I wasn't able to take a photo of both Polansky and King. Because King was busy signing autographs.
"You the real MVP," I told Polansky. "You hit 3 clutch points."
Picture shown below of me and Polansky.
I enjoyed watching the 2019 Fairfield Challenger. I'm looking forward to next year's event.