I'm sitting here at the back of this smallish 3 court facility in Matamoros, watching Cristina Amaya (age 24) play this muscled up, athletic looking local dude in the finals of the Pro Drop-down draw. She didn't play the main draw, but filled in on the chart. Before they're match, they had to wait a bit... until the semi-finals where completed and fun little pro-am with a couple of Mexico's best players. She just took the the first game 15-13, in a surprisingly good game to watch. Locals are crammed in towards the back here... I feel a bit crowded, but it's easy, with an air of fun.
This is definitely a grass roots, learn as you just do it endeavor. A pure start-up. Technically, there may be tons of glitches but it seems to be creating a huge learning curve. Again, I have to keep reminding myself why I'm here. Otherwise, it starts to almost feel like I'm an intern.
That's sort of what these young players on the bus are engaged in. Like an internship. A get out there and mix it up type of thing. They're left to develop on their own as players. No coaching whatsoever, just support for necessities. You can see them processing moment by moment and just doing it.
Bobby Horn (24), from the 209, is now playing with Gearbox and opening up. I get the sense that this might have been just the alternative route he needed, to separate a bit from that clan developmentally. He doesn't have anyone really guiding him during match play. No coach Ellis. No team members in that sense. I watched his quarterfinal and semifinal matches and couldn't help but notice he is thinking through what he can do. He can be wildly creative on the court and looks as if he's reigned that in with control during his matches... especially against Polo Gutierrez. Polo definitely didn't think he would run into something like he did in Bobby. Polo was playing good. Really good. Bobby just outplayed him. He was aggressive and assertive towards the end of long rallies. Solid. And finished plays. It's fun to watch...and I have to admit, I feel an affinity for him. He's a good kid.
This situation seems to be creating positive experiences for the players in varied ways. Anthony Herrera (27), is pretty experienced playing IRT draws, and just as in that tour, hasn't really broken out. Yet, for him, it's an interesting situation. I've often said that I look for racquetball content... that's an interest for me. He's been very busy just creating it, riding on the bus as he has for so long. In the last few months it's been something he has been very deliberate about. (They have a ton of it...and are still trying to figure out how to use all of it.) That, along with helping out with all the major details of running the bus and set-ups, keeps his mind off of playing... which seems to be helping him on the court. Sort of a type of "freeing"...like Bobby.
It was said to me during a conversation late last night, that people may comment, if say, Bobby Horn wins a stop, "How tough can that tour be if he won it?" But, I think, that seems to be exactly what they want people to be saying, because he just beat two very tough and seasoned players. Mexico's best. Who weren't ready for this Bobby. Players who give the IRT rankings some fits at big events. So, in the next event... people will notice.
There's a lot of laughing and noise in this small spot right now. And music. Cristina is 9-9 in the tie-break. I'm gonna finish up and pay attention to her.