VCO players come 'home' to Daniel Island
Residents and visitors to Daniel Island refer to the community as “charming,” “peaceful,” and “beautiful,” among other positive qualifiers.
Over the next 10 days, as tennis professionals take center court in our island town during the Volvo Cup Open, Daniel Islanders will extend an exuberant hand of welcome to these talented visitors, and their support teams, from all over the world. It’s also a perfect time to tip our hats to the 23 Charleston families who go the extra mile, year after year, to offer free bed and board, a “home away from home,” to many of the players. While off the courts, players have a chance to recharge and regroup, sharing meals and good conversation...and even a few tennis tips with their “adopted” host families, with whom the players often form strong bonds.
Volvo Cup Open Tournament Manager Eleanor Adams observes, “Players who have taken advantage of that in the past never leave their host family situation. They keep going because they feel so comfortable and it’s familiar. And after all those weeks, usually it’s about six weeks on the road before they get to Charleston, being in a home just makes such a difference to them. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a qualies player or a main draw player. Someone like Sam Stosur has stayed with a host family (in Charleston) probably for 16 years!”
We recently talked with two Daniel Island families who welcome VCO tennis guests year after year. In this week’s issue you’ll meet the Ramey family, and next week we will feature Rosie and Don Compton of Daniel Island Park.
Dr. John Ramey and family
Daniel Island resident Dr. John Ramey of Smythe Park, his wife, Mikki, and children JT, (9th grade Oceanside Collegiate), Will (5th grade at DIS), Kaitlin, (3rd grade at DIS) and 3-year old Ali Anne are about to open their home for the fifth consecutive year to Volvo Car Open tournament players. The first year, they hosted Arantxa Rus of Holland, then Varvara Lepchenko of Uzbekistan. The past three years (including 2017), the Rameys have enjoyed sharing their home with Laura Siegemund of Germany. Laura is currently ranked 39 in the world and won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title last year. She also played on the German Olympic team. Dr. Ramey and son Will talked with The Daniel Island News about some of the perks - for guests and hosts - of sharing a Daniel Island house for a week.
What do you think your guest, Laura Siegemund, appreciates most about staying at your house during the tournament?
John Ramey (JR): The life of a professional tennis player can be difficult. They travel a lot, which is in itself challenging. It can get lonely sometimes because most players don’t travel with family or friends. Volvo is the last tournament on the U.S. tour; because players don’t know when they will finish a tournament, it can be hard to book a flight home in advance. I think a lot of players, like Laura, really appreciate staying in a home with a family and getting to know someone new. Staying in hotels can get expensive and also lonely if the player is traveling alone, not to mention all the other fees they must be responsible for. For players who aren’t as highly ranked yet, there’s a big financial investment to participate in these tournaments. Staying with a family for a week can save some of the hotel expenses.
Where do the guests stay? A room in your house or in your FROG?
JR: We open up the whole third floor of our house, with a private bedroom and bathroom, to our guests. We also have a separate room on another floor if a player brings their coaches along.
Do you find you need to adjust your daily routine in any way or make any kind of special accommodations?
JR: Sometimes Laura will come down to breakfast with us before the kids go to school. But more often, we just let her rest. She starts the day off early practicing tennis. She will then lift weights and work with a trainer. She often doesn’t get back home until 7 or 8 at night. These players train really hard all day and they are wiped out! They are more relaxed when the tournament ends. We can talk a little more then.
Any special dietary requests?
JR: The players tend to eat very healthy foods. Lots of yogurt, protein, and fruit.
But Laura does love my wife’s brownies!
What do you and your family enjoy most about having Laura - and other players - stay with you?
JR: We enjoy having guests and the opportunity to meet professional tennis players who ultimately become good friends. We make it a point to go to the Tennis Center and watch as many matches as we can. We love to cheer Laura on! Laura even invited us to come watch her at the US Open this year. It’s also been great to follow her career in the three years we’ve known her; she used to rank 180. Now she’s ranked 39!
What do you enjoy best about having Laura stay with you?
JR: The kids love having Laura around because it’s like having a big sister.
Will Ramey: She’s really nice. And fun. When she’s not too busy, we get to go out and hit balls with her on the courts behind the school.
Have you learned any special tennis tips from Laura?
Will Ramey: She teaches us about using the correct grip! That’s really important!