Monday in Monterrey

Jan 23, 2012

It’s Monday in Monterrey and I’m relaxing after a long day of training.  I’ve been here since Thursday and once again I’ve started settling in to a routine, although not quite as comfortably as I was able in Tallahassee.

View out our hotel window. Bit of a glare but you can still see the mountains are beautiful.

It’s fairly hot here but thankfully not the sweltering, brain-frying kind of heat that I remember from my last trip to Mexico in September.  Monterrey is actually a really nice and fairly built up city.  It isn’t close to any beach or anything, but its hemmed in by huge mountains that remind me a little of Palm Springs.  It definitely has an arid desert feel that I’ve seen in many parts of Mexico.  But the grandeur of having the mountains in the distance certainly makes for a picturesque view from the window of our hotel room.

Sadly, although Monterrey is a beautiful place and has historically been known as one of Mexico’s proudest and most affluent cities, in the last few years it has deteriorated due to the activities of the drug cartels and has come to be known rather as a hotbed for the drug war we are always hearing about.  Regrettably, it is most famous recently, or infamous I should say, for having had a casino burned to the grown by one of the cartels with fifty people inside, showing that it probably deserves its reputation as a particularly dangerous and violent city.  I haven’t seen anything like that though and most all of the people I’ve dealt with have been very friendly.

Federal Police vans parked right outside the hotel Imagine how many men could fit in each one. Now Imagine them all walking around the lobby of the hotel ready for battle while I'm eating breakfast getting ready to go play a tennis match. Makes you think doesn't it?

I guess it probably helps that the tournament hotel happens to be the one in which an entire garrison of Mexican Federal Police are stationed and living.  Apparently, after the casino incident the Mexican government decided to deploy its national guard to the area to supplement the local police, which are extremely corrupt and ineffective.  And it just so happens that they are being housed during their deployment in the very hotel in which I am staying.  The hotel is called the Novotel, and it is a nice place besides the fact that it is literally crawling with Mexican Marines.

I guess I should be glad that they are around to look out for me, but I can’t really decide whether I feel safer for being under their protection or more like a target, knowing that if there was one place the cartels would want to take down it would be my current home.  For the most part the Marines seem pretty relaxed and normal going about their business.  It’s just hard to get used to seeing them all stomping around with M16s, shotguns, and in full body armor, clearly ready for anything at a moments notice.

My two new friends. They make me look tall but I wouldn't want to mess with them.

The funniest moments are in the elevators, where inevitably I end up sandwiched with my racquet bag in the middle of five fully decked out dudes.  I’m on the thirteenth floor and lets just say thirteen stories is a long time to stare a masked, helmeted, and heavily armed crew in the face.  Or rather stare at myself in their sunglasses.   Besides the fact that for the most part they are pretty short—I tower over many of them—I would not want to mess with any of these tough looking little guys.  Like I said before though, mostly my buddies and I have felt pretty safe walking around and going to dinner at night and whatnot.  Hopefully things will stay that way.

In tennis-news, I lost in the second round of qualifying on Saturday to a really solid American player.  It was my second match of the day after beating a young Mexican pretty easily earlier in the day.  The kid I lost to is twenty years old and turned pro after winning the division one NCAA tournament in 2009 as a freshman.  His name is Devin Britton and he’s currently ranked #714 in the world.  He’s a big guy and hits a hard, heavy ball, which is even more effective playing at a higher elevation like we are where the air is thinner and the ball moves through the court fast.  Although I felt pretty overmatched I played him tough, losing 6-4 7-5.  My goal was just to keep playing hard and stick around long enough to get an opportunity, which I did late in the second set, with two break points at 5-all.  Unfortunately he has a big serve and managed to hold me off and take the set in the end.  I was happy with how I played though and felt like I competed well in spite of being a bit outgunned.  Overall, I lost early but am not disappointed.  Now I have a week to train and get ready for the next tournament, which is in Mexico City.  I’ll probably stick around Monterrey until Wednesday or Thursday, hitting with a couple different guys a day in order to see as many different looks as I can to prepare for next weekend.  I apologize to the non-tennis players reading this if the tennis talk is annoying or hard to understand.  Ill try to keep it to a minimum if I can but sometimes you’ll have to make do.

Baby tiger at the mall pet store

Oh and randomly we stumbled upon a baby tiger in the mall while we were getting lunch.  for 60,000 pesos–about $5,000–I could have bought him and taken him home then and there but instead I paid 50 pesos to play with him a little. He was pretty adorable, although he did try to bite me once.  Whatever though if I were him I’d for sure try to bite people.  He escaped from the room he was kept in right after this picture was taken and for a few minutes there was literally a tiger loose in the mall.  Just another day in Mexico I guess!

My buddy and me playing with the tiger. He totally reminded me of graham, my cat from college and beguira from the Jungle Book.

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