Tennis fans around the world are eagerly awaiting the weekend, when the championship matches at Wimbledon will be contested.
Bruce Man-Son-Hing, who is among the eager, does not know what it’s like to volley with Boris Becker or Ivan Lendl. But he is familiar with the grass courts at the All England Tennis Club.
Man-Son-Hing, who lives in Glendale, spent the last three years traversing the globe to play in professional tennis tournaments, including all four Grand Slam events.
Speaking from experience, then, Man-Son-Hing predicts a Becker-Lendl final on Sunday.
“I think Becker will win,” Man-Son-Hing says. “But I’d like to see Lendl do it.” Man-Son-Hing, 26, saw the world--and a lot of the anonymous side of tennis--during his three years as a pro.
Professional tennis is contested at three levels--the small qualifying circuits, the more advanced challenger division and, finally, the Grand Prix circuit that features Wimbledon and the French, U.S. and Australian opens.
And while Becker, Lendl and the other top men and women bask in the glamour that comes with millions of dollars in prize money and endorsements, the vast majority of professional tennis players scrape by week to week.
Man-Son-Hing, who grew weary of the vagabond existence, said he won $25,000 last year.
“It gets tiring after awhile, living out of a suitcase on the road for eight or nine months a year,” he said.
“It’s especially tough if you’re not playing well. You’re far away from home, in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language.
“It can get real stale if you lose in the first round, then have to wait another week until the next tournament. If you lose in the first round again, you’ve played two matches in two weeks. It can get rough.”
Man-Son-Hing prepared for his stab at professional tennis by climbing consistently through the junior ranks.
Born on the island of Grenada, Man-Son-Hing moved with his family to the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles when he was 9.
He began playing tennis seriously when the family moved again, to Glendale, a year later.
Man-Son-Hing was ranked as high as No. 6 in Southern California in the 12-year-old division and went on to play No. 1 singles at Glendale High for three years. When he was 18, he was ranked among the top 10 in the nation in his age group.
Man-Son-Hing attended UC Irvine, where he played No. 2 singles his first two years and No. 1 his final two. He also earned a degree in social science and then set out to try his luck on the pro tour.
But he enjoyed his greatest successes last year playing doubles with John Letts. The pair had competed against each other in tournaments while they were growing up but decided to become partners after practicing together when Letts, who played at Stanford, moved from the South Bay to Pasadena.
In their third tournament as a team, Man-Son-Hing and Letts won a $50,000 challenger event at Brest, France.
The pair won another $50,000 challenger event at Nagoya, Japan, and made it to the finals in Grand Prix events at Auckland, New Zealand and Seoul.
Man-Son-Hing has clear memories of his appearances in the Grand Slam events.
Of the French Open, where he lost in the first round of qualifying, he says: “I remember watching Michael Chang and Lendl play when Chang upset him in the final. I saw the first set, which Lendl won, and I left. Then I heard later that Chang had won.”
Of Wimbledon, where he made it to the second round: “You go there and you’re kind of in awe. The grass courts and all the history are very impressive.”
Of the U.S. Open, where he lost in the first round: “It’s noisy and the conditions are tough because the facilities are pretty bad.”
Of the Australian Open, where he advanced to the second round: “It was very hot there but we played well.”
Man-Son-Hing said he is happy to again have a home base and is enjoying teaching tennis to would-be pros of the future.
“It (tennis) is a lot more enjoyable now that I’m not playing on the tour,” he said.
“There was a lot of pressure even when you played in local tournaments. You’re playing on the tour so everybody thinks you should be winning the local tournaments.”
And now that Man-Son-Hing is no longer a pro, he is winning the local tournaments. Three weeks ago, he won the Los Angeles County Public Parks championship.
“Everything about my experiences in tennis has been fun,” Man-Son-Hing said. “I’ve seen a lot of different places and met lots of nice people.
“It’s been great.”