Report from the winner of the Sanex Heroes Context... in Antwerp
It was me! Yes, it was me who won the Sanex Heroes Competition during the Australian Open. I have been sending many reports for every competition and I have finished quite often in the last five but never got in the first position!!
What a surprise! What a good surprise!
Incredible surprise when I learnt what I did win: a credential as an Official Sanex Reporter at the Proximus Diamond Games.
I had to sit down for a moment when I realised what I had won and when I received the email confirming my prize I already wanted to be there.
The programme was terrific: back stage access, meeting the players, access to the Press Centre and exclusive participation to the Sanex Heroes Live Chat with Kim Clijsters!
I arrived in Antwerp in the afternoon on the second day of the competition. A member of the Sanex Heroes Team was there to welcome me. He will be my guide at one of the biggest women’s tournaments. Actually the first thing which struck me was the size of the arena. I went to the Open Gaz de France’s final the weekend before and if you compare the Stade Pierre de Coubertin in Paris and the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, well there is nearly 10,000 seats difference! 15,000 seats!!
I am now in the arena and the first thing we did was to take a picture of me in order to get my official credential: my first ever official women’s tennis tour credential!J
In two seconds, I henceforward had access to the stands, the Press Room, the possibility to walk freely backstage, access the organisation area and get into the players’ zone!!! Great!
With the “laissez passer” hanging from my neck, the visit could start. It felt a bit awkward to move along the WTA Tour and tournament‘s officials, the players and their “entourage” in those very restricted access areas. I have been going many times to Roland Garros and always wondered how it would feel to go behind the scene…
I discovered the players’ access to the Centre Court, Patty Schnyder stretching in front of the locker rooms just after winning her first match and entered in the WTA Tour office where I was introduced to Georgina Clark, tournament supervisor and also Vice President of the WTA Tour European Headquarters.
Direction: the players’ lounge! That’s the place where the players hang around before their match. Computers are at their disposal to check their emails or surf the Net with also comfortable chairs to relax, basket full of fruits, fridge full of energizing drinks, Arcade Games…
Now, it was time to go to the Press Centre. It’s over there that takes place the post match interviews and official Press Conferences. Then we ended up in the VIP village where the catering staffs were getting ready for the evening hospitality session.
The visit was over, it was time to go and watch some tennis. Outside the locker rooms, Nathalie Dechy was getting ready to get on court to play her first match. I will go and support her.
With my credential, I could go and seat in the stands wherever I wanted.
It was now 6 PM and the afternoon session was nearly over. I had just enough time to go to the Official Tournament Hotel and check-in before coming back for the evening session starting at 7.00.
We asked for an official car to drive me to the hotel and while waiting for the chauffeur, someone tried to pass behind me. I turned around and it was Kim who just arrived to get ready for her evening match. I let her pass and who was following her? Leyton Hewitt and Kim’s dog. I did not know the number one tennis player in the world was here to cheer for her fiancée!!! Well it felt weird to be there just in the middle of them!
This time, it was mine turn to go and going through the door, it was Jelena Dokic who nearly bumped into me. What a start!!!
Back in the Sportpaleis, I saw Kim cruising to the 3rd round, supported by the Belgium public completely dedicated to its number one player. I then attended her post match press conference but I did not get a word because it was all in Dutch! I took then many pictures …
It was very impressive to be amongst the journalists in front of the world number 3!
15 minutes interviews, Kim was off and I went back to the tribune to see the unexpected defeat of Jelena by the “marathon woman”: Ai Sugiyama.
It was 10.15; I went back to the hotel, sharing a car with Marta Marrero and her coach.
Stepping outside the car, it was on Elke Clisjters that my eyes stopped who just took Kim’s dog for a walk. We took the lift together.
I had a wonderful first day in Antwerp but the best had to come…
The second day was looking great: it was the day where Kim was supposed to have a chat and it started very very well!
Breakfast was scheduled for 9 o’clock. Arriving in the restaurant, Kim was there with Lleyton. On the other side of the room, Justine is also having breakfast with her husband, Pierre-Yves, and her coach, Carlos. I sat between the two Belgium players. I was surrounded by players. It felt a bit weird but it was very nice to be there. I could not stop looking around thinking how lucky I was. I never thought I could ever live this experience!
Direction the Sportpaleis. That day, it was Justine’s turn to make her entry in the tournament versus Zuzana Ondrazkova. It was not easy but she finally won her 1st match. I found her 30 min later in the Press Centre. That was great. She did it all in French!!! I learnt that she was a bit sick during the weekend and had to stay in bed thus her difficulty to get into the match.
I took plenty of photos and stayed to watch her interview with the Belgium television. I was with a member of the Sanex Heroes Team when surprise at the end of the interview he walked towards Justine and introduced me to her asking Justine to sign to my intention an Official T-shirt of the tournament. I was delighted. Justine is one of my favourite players. I took the opportunity to congratulate her for her victory. What a good memory.
It was then nearly 6 o’clock, time for Kim’s chat! It took place on the Sanex stand. Security was ready. It was very impressive to be there in front of the player when you realise that usually you are sitting in front of a computer screen during the Sanex Heroes chats. I was so close to Kim who seemed to enjoy chatting with her fans. After the chat, I had the chance to have my picture taken with Kim. It was great! Kim is gone. It was nearly 7.00, time for the evening session to start. Venus was making her entry. Easy victory for Venus, I joined her press conference. She was all smiling. A journalist asked her if she knew the value of the diamond racket the players can win if they succeed in winning this tournament 3 times in 5 years. She underestimated the value of this fantastic trophy worth 1 million US dollars!!! I took few pictures of Venus.
My second day in Antwerp was over. Tomorrow will be my last day. I hoped I would be able to photograph Daniela Hantuchova…. Unfortunately I learnt that she was scheduled to play not before 7 o’clock in the evening and I had to leave at 6.00! Would I be able to see her?
That was my objective for my 3rd day at the Proximus Diamond Games!
I took the lift to go and have breakfast and surprise, who are in the lift? Daniela and her coach, Nigel Sears on their way to the stadium. I stopped at the restaurant floor. Kim and Lleyton are there. Having a “tete a tete”! Justine is giving an interview seating on a sofa at the entrance of the restaurant.
Time to go to the stadium hoping that I will see Daniela practising. Few secondes after my arrival at the stadium, I crossed Venus’ path. I said “hi” and she responded to me!
Unfortunately, when I approached the centre court I found out that Daniela has just finished practising. I was a bit disappointed. I would have loved so much to take a picture of her. But I did not despair hoping she may practise again later in the afternoon.
I sat to watch Virginie Razanno practising then Nathalie Dechy.
I joined the Sanex Heroes team who was supposed to hand me the signed racket by Amelie Mauresmo I won as a best reporter of the Open Gaz de France. I was so pleased. Amelie is my favourite player (lien photo Stéphanie et Stephane raquette en main).
12.30. Virginie is facing Tina Pisnik who is defeating the French woman, diminished by an wrist tendonitis. I went to the court number 2 where no match was scheduled but who knows may be Daniela is practising there!? Justine’s husband is there then it was Patty Schnyder and her coach’s turn to hit the ball. Apparently Daniela is not planning to practise there. Shame!
Back on Centre Court where I saw Nathalie winning and then Ai Sugiyama. It was 5 p.m. and the afternoon session was ending. Two hours before the evening session to start but only one hour before my departure!
And then as to finish my fabulous experience in Antwerp by a nice surprise, Daniela stepped on the court t warm up before her match! The public who was attending the afternoon session was asked to leave the arena. Me? I can stay I have my credential! We were few people trying to take few pictures of the talented young slovak. She played half on hour and then Kim got on court to practise. She was scheduled to play a double match with Ai Sugiyama after Daniela’s match. Lleyton was there watching. Kim talked very often to him during the practise.
What a day! What a experience and this last hour as the icing on the cake!!
It’s 6 p.m. and time for me to leave. I had a wonderful stay in Antwerp and I don’t think I will ever be able to have such an experience again. I have very often dreamt about having access to the “behind the scene” of the Women’s Tennis Tour. My wish came true! I travelled back to Paris with souvenirs all over my head, great photos, a T-shirt and a racket signed by my favourite players…!!
I really want to thank the Sanex Heroes team for organising all this and making my dream come true as well as the WTA Tour and tournament staffs for their welcome. I will never forget my experience at the Proximus Diamond Games.
Stéphanie alias Steffy
Sweet as Belgian Chocolate, Bubbly as Champagne
"When you do your best, it's always good enough" - Kim Clijsters
"No matter what happens, you have to try to stay positive, bad things can happen, but if you try to stay positive, something positive will come out of it…I believe that everything happens for a reason" - Kim Clijsters
"Goed is de ergste vijand van zeer goed" - Pascal Smet
"Als je iemand idealiseert, verlies je het contact met de werkelijkheid"
"Ca s’apprend par la souffrance, ça s’apprend par les déceptions, ça s’apprend par la densité du mal que ça te fait, plus ça te fait mal et plus ça te fait grandir. Y a des moments où tu te dis je ne vais pas le supporter, ça, ça fait trop mal, et pourtant tu passes au travers."