My name is Jay Berger and I am thrilled to be the assistant coach for the men’s Olympic team in Beijing. It has been a dream of mine to coach at the Olympics so this is truly a milestone in my career.
We have five players on the team – James Blake, Robby Ginepri, Sam Querry, and Mike and Bob Bryan. We have a great team and they are all players I have spent a lot of time with as assistant for our Davis Cup team.
Things began when we all arrived in San Jose, California for team processing. Getting the chance to hear and meet Olympic legend Bob Beamon, Olympic legend was a highlight of the program. I got to hear useful information about my Olympic experience as well as learn some new Chinese words – I have to say our team is not the greatest at speaking Chinese yet (I guess it takes more than a day), but it was great to learn a few useful terms to use while in China.
The best part of the processing was getting our Olympic gear from Nike and Polo. There’s a huge banquet hall you walk through and receive all the great team items for the Olympics – including the opening ceremony outfit. It was actually quite tiring to go through the process of trying on all the different clothes and getting the items tailored prior to leaving for Beijing. But the men’s and women’s team looked great!
We had a nice hit prior to leaving for the airport. The flight was great and we arrived at our hotel around 3 in the afternoon. We’re staying at a hotel outside but we are allowed to spend time in the village and we have an apartment in the village for athletes and coaches to stay if we wish to.
It’s important to practice even when you are excited when arriving after a long flight. We got in a good session and got some of the jet lag out of our system. By the time we got to the hotel we were exhausted. The players had room service and went to bed for a few hours – and I mean a few hours. As expected after a long trip, the entire team’s body clocks are way off and almost everybody was up at 3 in the morning.
The venue is tremendous and the players liked the courts after hitting on them the first day. It’s very humid and it’s a little hard to breathe. Conditioning is going to play a key role in our team’s success! It’s very hot, but things are going well.
The players wanted to stay in the village so part of my job was to take James, Sam, Bob, Mike, Lindsay Davenport and Leizel Huber over to the village and check them in. It was funny seeing how excited all these top athletes get about going to the village. We saw all kinds of athletes... It’s is inspiring to think of all the effort and sacrifice they’ve all made to reach the pinnacle of sport: the Olympics.
It was also funny seeing our tennis superstars carrying their own bags thousands of yards to get to the US section of the village. I did help Lindsay and Sam carry their bags! The players were shown to their quarters – a three-bedroom apartment. The apartments are very nice. I can only imagine the pranks the men players are going to play on Lindsey and Leizel – most of lunch was taken up by talk of how to get the girls with pranks...
It’s incredible to see athletes from all over the world, all different sizes and shapes –from the women’s gymnastics to the men’s basketball teams. The dining hall is amazing with what looks like 10 football fields of food! I was a little sad about leaving to go back to practice, but I can’t wait to hear about the players’ experience in the village.
The draw came out during our first practice and we have some tough match-ups, but that is the way it goes at such a tough event. James plays a 6’6” lefty serve-and-volleyer from Australia – Chris Guccione. It’s great we scheduled a practice with Rafa Nadal – obviously a great lefty player!
Sam has a tough match against Igor Andrev from Russia, Robby has a tough one against Djokovic and the Bryans play against Mark Knowles and his Olympics partner from the Bahamas. I knew the draws were going to be tough given the field and I like the way our guys are playing so far. I am still unable to sleep, partially because of jet lag and partially because of the excitement of being at the Olympics. We have a long day Friday with a press conference, practice, and opening ceremonies.
I can’t wait for the experience of walking into the Olympic stadium as a member of the US Olympic team... what an honor.