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The top-flight tennis life, not as fine as you'd think

Especially when it comes to fine wine and good food

Results are in from Uniprix Stadium where it was "The Swiss Miss" Martina Hingis against Ana Ivanovic (six-foot and Serbian) in the 2006 Roger's Cup championship final, which didn't get decided until Monday because of weekend rain. I enjoyed waiting to see the Serb pounce on a few too many puffballs served up by her opponent. Ivanovic cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory in under an hour. It made Jennifer Capriati's wins over Hingis seem overly complicated and drawn out.

ana ivanovic practice tennis canadaHaving spent six consecutive 12-hour days on the tournament site at Jarry Park and then returning a final time to see the trophy match, I got a real good first-hand look at what it's like to eat on the road, away from home. Though tennis might be considered a game of privilege the food and beverage services surrounding this stop of WTA Tour was certainly no splendid repast (maybe that's what five-star hotels are good for). I, like some of the smarter travelling athletes, found that it was best to plan ahead and customize meals to some degree. It sure beat having to run to the snack bar. The threat of fast food was always there but you mustn't be fooled! That $12.75 hot dog with chips ain't gourmet -- only its price is.

EGOS AND ALLERGIES

Montreal's eventual champ Ana had an allergic reaction to something she ate on the first day she entered the grounds to practice. As I snapped photos of her technique, she stopped hitting to talk to her coach. "I have bumps on my lips" she said as she sat down. Her trainer looked at her swollen mouth. "Looks like an allergy," he replied, not too panicked to withdraw (wise idea since she would be the eventual winner of the tourney where umpteen others had already scratched out). "Or like a pimple?" Ana uptalked, half bemused, half disgusted.

I'd be disgusted if I had eat on location every day during the tournament. I've seen what some of the food is like, and even in the luxury boxes strewn around the courts and in the player's salon, I knew I could do better. And I did. I expect to share a few posts on how I ate and drank over the course of the tournament last week. Hopefully, some people will find it useful and I'll make up for my blogging absence at the same time.

HOW TO SPECTATE IN STYLE

Before I post the full details on my vacation surrounded by asphalt, here are some general key pointers for roving wining & dining, especially in stadium situations:

  • Choose plastic, not glass
Wolf Blass is a real leader in bringing wine to sporting events. I've written about its keen sense of sponsorship in the past. Now, with its sporty new plastic bottle developed to store wine, they're bringing wine to sporting events in a whole other way. Smuggled in, through the turnstiles. That's because the security team that searches your bag is really looking to prevent glass items from entering the sports arena. So find a Blass non-glass bottle, preferably a half-size one so as to remain inconspicuous, and fill it with your favourite grape juice
  • Get thermal
Thermal sleeves really work well to keep drinks cool on hot days. Charge it and the bottle you are taking in the freezer for a few minutes and then it's important to keep it in the shade over the course of the day. You won't be disappointed. Or forego the sleeve and plastic bottle and just use a thermos. But be careful, some guards won't let in with a cooler and some consider a big hulking thermos to be equally as offending. Find out what exactly what you can bring in before you depart for the site.
  • Pre-slice your food
You don't want to get caught entering with a big sharp steak knife so no matter what type of food you are bringing to the game, cut it up into bite-size pieces before you wrap it up and take it with you. The best thing about bite-size lunches is that you shovel away at it while you stay focused on the action going on the playing surface. And who wants sandwiches all week long anyway?

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