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Old 03-15-2004, 11:05 AM   #1
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Default Winners - TW/WTA behind the scenes Tour of Pacific Life Open

Visitors to the Tennis Warehouse tent got the chance to enter a drawing for a tour with the WTA at the Pacific Life Open.

The winner of the Tennis Warehouse behind the scenes tour with the WTA was Linda Widrig, who brought along her friends, Lori Langsweirdt and Kira Gerasimon. The three hail from the Lakewood Tennis Club in Seattle Washington and are die hard tennis fans.

While at the Pacific Life Open, they confessed that when they are not playing tennis they're talking tennis. These 3.5 NTRP level ladies like to hit the courts about as many times as there are days in the week.

For the start of the tour, the ladies stop off for a spot of lunch. However, this is not your average lunch date. For these three lucky ladies, lunch is in the player's dining room. While the ladies enjoy some tasty treats they are seated among champions. Gustavo Kuerten is enjoying his lunch to their right, while to their left the legendary Martina Navratilova talks with friends. While they all seem to agree Kuerten looks cute, they miss his floppy hair. And as for sitting so close to Martina? "Awe inspiring" is the unified response.

After lunch the ladies are escorted by WTA representative Sophie Goldschmidt for a behind the scenes tour. Leaving the player's dining area, the ladies head through the tournament check-in. The scene is not unlike check-in at a club NTRP tournament, just on a bigger scale. The main difference is that each way they look, another big name happens to be walking by.

There is a mix of languages being spoken in this part of the Indian Wells tournament site. A large tournament such as the Pacific Life Open attracts the best from around the world. Hang around the check-in area long enough and you'll see them all cruise by.

Directly in front of the desk, Lisa Raymond is stretching while she gets the final word on which practice court she'll be using. As we turn to head up to the player's lounge, Linda spots Raymond and stops to congratulate her on her run at the 2004 Australian Open.

Linda, Lori and Kira are all smiles as they weave their way through the maze of tennis talent that surrounds them.

After climbing a short flight of stairs the ladies head over to the player's lounge. The lounge is filled with couches for the players to, well, lounge around on. At the far end of the room the wall is filled with big screen TVs; many hooked up to video games. The room seems to be a popular place with the younger players on the tour. Many up and coming players hang in the lounge while they wait for their matches.

From the player's lounge, the ladies head through the halls to the WTA offices. The hallway walls are lined with photos of past champions and tennis greats. As they reach the WTA offices, Sophie explains some of the work and key operations in progress to keep the event running smoothly.

During the tour, Maria Sharapova closes out a tough three set match against Flavia Pennetta on the stadium court. By the time the Ladies have made their way through the pressroom Sharapova is in the interview room. The ladies file in and catch the Sharapova post match interview. Later, they catch up with Sharapova and collect an autograph. The ladies manage to also collect the autograph of Meghann Shaughnessy as she hangs outside the player locker room.

"Last year when I was here I collected 21 photos of pros at the tournament, but this is on another level. It has really made my trip," says Linda.

A big part of the Pacific Life Open so far for these three ladies is the access to some of the biggest names in tennis. It is not uncommon to see top ten ATP and WTA players walking the grounds and heading out to the practice courts. With the practice courts open to public viewing, fans can get up close to their favorite players and watch them fine tune their strokes for the matches ahead.

"This has been great for us. You couldn't find three more tennis minded enthusiasts," says Lori.

Kira, who Lori and Linda stole from a competing club back in Washington after seeing her competitive drive, spots another WTA star as we stand between the practice courts and the player's locker room.

"Kira was just too good," says Lori. "We said to her, hey, you look like a Lakewood player. Now she’s part of the team."

Today, the three are close friends. While Kira and Linda like to battle it out on the singles court, Lori prefers doubles.

As the tour comes to an end the three reflect on the experience. And the most memorable part of the WTA tour? Well, that had to be seeing Navratilova.
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