As Danielle Scott sat and recalled some of the more bizarre stops on her world tennis tour, you could almost hear the Grateful Dead's "Truckin' " playing in the background: Lately, it occurs to me what a long , strange trip it's been.
Scott's latest trip, to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was undoubtedly her strangest in two years on the women's satellite tour, the minor leagues of the main tour.
"We get sent to these God-awful little towns, where people are lying dead on the street," Scott said with almost an embarrassing chuckle. "It's near nowhere. It's in the middle of the desert. We have to take Aero Mar, this little eight-seater propeller plane to get there.
"The place is hickville, a total dump and it's in the altitude. We play with pressure-less tennis balls. It's windy and these pressure-less tennis balls just fly everywhere. You hit the ball and it hits the fence, and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, where's the beach?' "
Scott, who graduated from Corona del Mar High in 1988, said the air quality can make three-set matches seem like a death sentence.
"It's really bad," she said. "It's about 20 times worse than L.A. San Luis Potosi is surrounded by mountains, so it all just sticks in there."
But Scott didn't stick long. She lost in the first round at San Luis Potosi. The more she thought about how that sounded, the more embarrassed she became.
"Don't put that in there," she said, laughing. "I don't want everyone to know I lost in the first round."
Though the setting was plusher and the air a little cleaner, Scott's second-round loss at the posh Rancho San Clemente Tennis & Fitness Club wasn't any prettier than her San Luis Potosi defeat. A two-time All-American at Arizona, Scott's loss here came Friday in a pre-qualifying tournament of the Toshiba Tennis Classic in La Costa to Cecelia Ampuero of Newport Beach, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.
Scott, who was seeded fourth here, was hoping a victory in the Opportunity tournament would earn her a wild card into the main draw at La Costa, which will be Aug. 1-7. But a quarterfinal defeat to an unseeded player probably won't score many points with tournament director Jane Stratton.
Oh well, there's always Evansville, Ind., next week and Salsbury, Md. and Stratton Mountain, Vt., after that.
After two years on tour, all of Scott's stops add to . . . a big ranking of 300 on the WTA computer.
Is it really worth it?
"I love it," she said. "You just travel around with your friends. You get to experience traveling around the world, speaking different languages, and playing tennis, which is my favorite thing to do. It's competing, which I love to do, and you're earning a living.
"I love it. I really do. If I'm cooped up in an office all day, I'd go crazy. I mean I've traveled to nice places too."
Scott has been to Manhattan Beach, Quebec City, Hong Kong, Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, France, St. Simons Islands, Australia and New Zealand.
"I've been around," she said.
But if Scott doesn't start winning soon, she won't be around much longer. The gravy train--Scott's parents--could come to a grinding halt by September.
"Since my parents are sponsoring me, it's kind of rough on them," said Scott, who was The Times Orange County high school player of the year in 1988. "I told them if I don't start making money before the U.S. Open and getting my ranking up higher, then I have to go out and get a real job. Which I don't want to do, but . . . "
So even though the final stretch drive didn't get off to the greatest start in San Clemente, Scott is confident she will still be playing in the fall. She recently completed two weeks of intense training with her coach, Bob Robles, in Newport Beach.
"I've been working on my ground strokes and coming to the net," she said. "I think I've dramatically improved. I just have to go out and prove it now."