By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Gabrielle Dick had fun during the three weeks she toured England and Scotland with the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch traveling team.
But the Enid High School junior came back from her overseas trip with a little more appreciation of home.
“I missed my mom’s home-cooked meals,’’ she said with a smile. “I missed the food here. I really didn’t like the food there ... there’s a lot of fish and chips, but I really didn’t eat it.’’
The tennis, though, was a good experience.
She and her teammates got to experience playing on both grass and clay courts at such stops as Liverpool, Oban, Sterling and London.
“It was a challenge because I’ve never played on it before,’’ Dick said. “It was really hard getting used to.’’
The clay wasn’t as difficult as the grass. She said it was similar to playing hard courts, just a little slower.
However, the grass was a different story.
“It looks like it’s coming at you slow, then it bounces back fast,’’ Dick said. “The Europeans were used to it. They could slide on it. I fell a few times. I just didn’t run as much. I didn’t want to get hurt or anything.
“It was a really good experience to get to play on it. It was a lot of fun. It was kind of difficult to come back to hard courts (she’s played in two tournaments since her return), but I’ll get used to it.’’
The team primarily played dual-type matches with English academies.
Dick and partner Lexi Lucas of Tulsa won the Girls 18-Under division at the lone true tournament they played at in Oban. Dick was second in singles.
Dick and Lucas beat some players from Sterling University during the trip.
“There was no pressure,’’ Dick said, “we were there just for fun. It was pretty cool that we beat some college players. They were really good. It was good to play players like that. It was fun meeting a lot of different people.’’
The European players weren’t that much different from her and her teammates.
Some of the opponents had a different demeanor, she said, but most were enjoyable to play with.
“It was just a great experience,’’ Dick said.
Dick got to see tennis’ best close up at Wimbledon, watching Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic. She witnessed Sharapova’s shocking 6-3, 6-4 second-round loss to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal.
“That was pretty exciting,’’ Dick said. “Most everyone was cheering for her (Larcher de Brito) because she was the underdog and everything. I was happy for her, but I like Maria a lot.’’
Seeing Williams live was a new experience — “She’s huge,’’ Dick said.
“It was a lot different in person than watching it on TV,’’ Dick said. “I can’t explain it ... it’s just real loud. Let’s say it’s a lot different from the state (high school) tournament.’’
She didn’t think the English fans were as stuffy as some have said.
“It was just a lot of people cheering,’’ Dick said.
As tourists, the group got to see Big Ben, some palaces and Buckingham Palace from a distance.
“It (palaces) was a lot different than I expected,’’ Dick said. “I really don’t know how to explain it. They weren’t real spacious. They were more condensed.’’
Besides the tennis, the highlight of the trip for her was a ferry ride the group took on its way to one of the palaces.
“That was really cool,’’ Dick said.
She found Oklahoma isn’t the only place the weather can change in 15 minutes.
“It (weather) changed a lot there,’’ Dick said. “Some days it would be cold and rainy, and other days it would be hot and sunny. We’re used to that, but there was a lot of rain, that was different.’’
The eight-girl and eight-boy group included two players from Oklahoma, two from New Mexico, one from Missouri, one from Mexico and 10 from Texas.
“Before we left, we didn’t know each other that well,’’ Dick said. “But after being together all day for a month (group spent a week before at Newk’s Tennis Ranch in Texas), we grew pretty close. It was hard to say good-bye.’’
Dick said she would like to make the trip again “if I have a chance.’’
It didn’t necessarily, though, inspire her to dream of playing at Wimbledon.
“I don’t know,’’ she said. “I’m going to college.’’
She will spend the rest of the summer on the Missouri Valley Tennis Circuit trying to improve her ranking in Girls 16s. She was the state runner-up in No. 2 singles at the Class 6A state tournament last spring.
“It’s good to be home,’’ Dick said. “I really missed the hard courts and America. It made me appreciate what I have here. But it was a great experience.’’