Drehs: Killing time between matches is a challenge


WIMBLEDON, England – When his alarm goes off each and every Wimbledon morning, Sebastien Grosjean can't help but smile.

He knows what lies ahead.

A chocolate croissant. A warm cup of coffee. And a 30-minute dosage of MTV's "Pimp My Ride."

"I like that one. I like it a lot," Grosjean says in his endearing French accent of the rags-to-riches show for automobiles. "The job they do with the car is amazing. Outstanding."

So every morning, before he prepares for the Super Bowl of tennis tournaments, before he puts in his hour at the practice facility in hopes of reaching his first Wimbledon final, he spends some time on the couch hanging with Xzibit and the boys from West Coast Customs.

Nobody should question the results. Grosjean is the ninth-seeded player here this week, based in part because he has reached Wimbledon's semifinals each of the last two years. On Saturday, he is scheduled to face unseeded Novak Djokovic for a spot in Wimbledon's second week.

Watching fluff television each morning is his way of escaping, his way of putting the pressures of the world's grandest tennis tournament out of his mind. Not to mention it's a way to kill the time. For as long as a five-set match can drag, there's more downtime than action time at a tournament like this. Win a match Wednesday afternoon and you aren't needed on court again until Friday.

In between, there isn't really a whole lot to do. Practice days consist of an hour-long practice, lunch, an hour-long massage and maybe a half hour in the gym. The other 40 or so hours between matches are entirely up to you.

"Seb is real laid back," said Grosjean's coach, Brad Stine. "Just like me. We both just like to relax and unwind a little."

For American star Taylor Dent, it means kicking his feet up on the couch and opening a book. On this trip, he's rereading the fifth "Harry Potter."

"I wouldn't recommend it," he says. "It's pretty addicting."

In between chapters, he logs on to his computer and plays the Internet game "World of Warcraft."

"That's pretty addicting too," Dent says. "The idea is to relax, get off your feet a little bit and try to avoid the distractions."

It's easier said than done. On Friday, Grosjean was hammering away baseline forehands on the Aorangi practice courts when a fan sitting behind the baseline fence popped open a bottle of champagne. The cork rocketed out of the bottle, flew up over the fence and landed behind Grosjean.

The Frenchman walked over, tossed the cork back to the embarrassed fan and headed back to practice.

"Only at Wimbledon," an onlooker said.

With his one-hour practice session over, Grosjean signs a couple of autographs, poses for a couple of pictures and makes his way up to the Aorangi Pavilion, where most of the players hang out before and after practice sessions.

At one point, he poses for a picture with a fan before adjusting the shoulder strap on his equipment bag, so that it doesn't cover the Lacoste logo on his shirt.

"Gotta show the alligator," Stine says.

Grosjean's wife and two kids were here last week, between the tournaments at Queens and Wimbledon, but they're in Grosjean's hometown of Marseille, France, this week. While competing at Wimbledon, he and Stine stay in a non-airconditioned, two-bedroom tri-level townhouse in Wimbledon Village, a 10-minute walk from the All England Lawn and Tennis Club.

The village is sort of the hotbed of all things Wimbledon. When things are happening at the club, the village is dead. When the club empties, the village, with its shops, restaurants, pubs and stores, is the place to be.

"It's sort of like Clemson on a football Saturday," Stine said. "Only everything relates to tennis."

Grosjean and Stine often eat at a Lebanese restaurant in the village. Otherwise, dinner is at the Octagon House, a property rented out by the sports management company for all its clients.

"It's good there," Grosjean said. "So we go there quite a bit."

At home, it's time to call the kids, pop in a movie, read a book or sometimes, even at night, more "Pimp My Ride."

If only Grosjean could convince his coach of his favorite show's across-the-board entertainment abilities.

"I watch it," said Stine, who hails from California. "He tries. But sometimes I go a little deeper than that. I might actually read the paper."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Wayne.Drehs@espn3.com.