Fear the beard. Adil Shamasdin is a tenacious doubles player climbing the ranks of the ATP World Tour, he is also an extraordinarily nice and funny guy. What's funny to me is that everyone likens the life of a professional tennis player to the style of Roger Federer. Trust me, it's not private jets, sometimes it's Fiat's, sometimes less. Sit back, relax, and enjoy some great tips and some very unfortunate, yet funny stories from Adil's absolutely insane travel schedule. It's not all glamorous, in fact, most of it is not.
Many thanks to Richard Moss and Stephanie Myles for the photos...
MOST AWKWARD AIRPORT EXPERIENCE?
A few years ago I was traveling to a tournament in London and I had a stop over in Frankfurt from a longer journey. My electronics needed a recharge so I found an outlet close to a busy area. I sat on the floor beside my charging iPod while I did one of my favorite pastimes at the airport: people watching. I was enjoying my viewing until one older German lady approached me with her closed hand. She motioned to me to take what was in her hand. Confused, I looked at what was in her hand, to find coins. Did this lady really think I was a homeless man living in the airport? I shook my head with an embarrassed look, she still insisted I take the money. I explained to her that I didn't need her money (I actually could have used that money when I was short buying a snack before my flight). She nodded, proceeded to put the change back in her pocket and walked back to her group. I looked over to the group of people sitting next to me to find they were having a good laugh. Never wore that same outfit again.
This goes back a few years ago. I was on a long flight and there was a whole row open in coach so I was able to lay down and go to sleep. I woke up and took my seat belt off to get my iPad to play some games. Well...bad idea. The air got rough quickly and the pilot was just about to say something when I found myself thrown to the top of the plane and iPad launched three seats ahead. I was lucky enough to drop back down on my seat. Others weren't as lucky and people were screaming as they got tossed around. It felt long but happened very quickly. There were a few reported injuries including the crew getting hit by the meal/drink buggy. Ambulance came on board as soon as we landed. Always wear your seat belt.
what was your best flight?
I don't remember exactly where I was but I was in the states connecting at around 3 am or so. (Maybe Philly to Rhode Island in 2003 ish.) I was running late for my flight and when I arrived at the gate there was nobody there. Thinking I missed the flight, a lady told me to wait five minutes. Five minutes later I was greeted by the pilot and copilot informing me that I was the only passenger on the flight and they would escort me to the plane. They explained that usually, they would cancel the flight but they needed this aircraft and the pilots in the other city. It was a propeller plane with no bathrooms and maybe 15-20 seats. The pilots were pretty relaxed and they left the cockpit open as I sat in the front of the plane (not with them but to see the operations). While in flight they saw my headphones and asked if I wanted to connect the iPod to the plane. For the next 30 min we were jamming to the vibes of Bob Marley through the main speakers.
Any good celebrity sIGHTINGS?
I was at Cleveland airport after playing a tournament. I remember sitting and reading "Catch a Fire", a biography on Bob Marley before my flight. A big entourage of 10 people came through and sat at the gate close to me. I remember a large man with strong features in the center. It was Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I am a huge fan of the show so seeing him live was a bit surreal. I was pretending to read but observing what they were doing. I had to call my brother to ask him what his real name was, James Avery. We boarded the flight but were sitting nowhere close to one another. I was in the back and he and his crew were up in the front. I had a connecting flight when we landed and was pressed for time so I knew my chance of meeting James was gone. I proceeded to rush out of the plane and continue onto the next gate as quickly as possible. I turned the corner and James was coming from the other corner, we were walking side by side. I casually said "hey what's up James?" as if he had been my long time friend. To my surprise he replied, "hey, hows that book you are reading about Marley"? Surprised, I told him its a great read but couldn't chat longer as I was in a rush to the next flight. But before I left, I confessed my love for his role on the fresh prince, shook his bear like hand and ran to my next flight. RIP James Avery.
Any interesting customs experiences?
I always seem to get that "random security check".
Earlier this year I travelled from Marseille to Halifax via Amsterdam and Newark. I got searched three times. Twice the extra screening and one full bag search in Newark. You know...the one where they take you to the back and take every piece of your possessions out of the bags? Three out of four flights, pretty good score! I was actually kind of disappointed when I pressed the button while passing security through Halifax only to get the green go light... I was hoping 4 out of 4.
What are your favorite "Elite" perks when flying?
I would love to say seat upgrades but I have yet to get a free upgrade.
Lounge access is great especially during those long layovers.
Free bags are great as I travel for long periods. Bags and weight can accumulate over time with random things, they always seem heavier on the way back.
I really like the Australian open in terms of player services and fan appreciation. It presents a great atmosphere to play in. I would also have to say Wimbledon for its history and tradition.
Jet lag tips?
I think exercise helps my body a lot to adjusting, even if it's a light jog to get the blood flow going. Somebody told me about this theory of drinking only water and not eating a few hours before or during the flight, only consume food when you get to your final destinations scheduled eating time (breakfast, lunch or dinner). I have yet to test this theory.
Top 3 favorite cities and why?
Toronto, Canada - it's home.
Marrakech, Morocco - unexpectedly beautiful.
Tokyo, Japan - amazing culture and respectful people.
Money matters to everyone but it seriously matters when you fly almost every week. Any tips for finding the cheapest ticket?
To get the cheapest ticket you usually have to book in advance. Since tennis is based on performance we don't know how long we will be at a tournament. Change fees are getting higher and higher so I seem to do everything last minute. Occasionally, I will get that seat they are selling at a last price sale.
The first thing I search is Kayak and Hipmunk, they usually give me the best prices. Orbitz, Cheapoair and Cheapfare also can get some cheap results. The best thing for me is to check all search engines. Being flexible can help and sometimes buying a round trip can be cheaper than a one way.
What's your favorite airline or Alliance?
Star alliance because I think it has the most airlines. I also have status with them which helps.
Strangest flying experience?
A couple years ago I was traveling to Munich and we were on time, but due to bad weather the pilot informed us that we would be circling the airport and waiting for ground crews to make gate space. Well, while doing so I heard this big BANG and all electricity from the plane was gone. Felt like we were just gliding. Air conditioning went off and that annoying loud buzz was also gone. People were so in shock that nobody screamed or yelled. One guy just continued doing his thing walking and talking to another passenger. It actually made everybody calm. The buzz and lights jolted back on and the pilot joked about how he flew into the wrong cloud causing a direct lightning strike. Not sure if he was telling the truth but it was certainly a strange feeling.
What have you used your miles on?
I am really bad at using the miles. Though I always try and get miles on everything. Miles hoarder?
Talk about juxtaposed experiences. How many people can say they've flown with the cockpit open and also been searched as much as someone who flies regularly from Médellin to Miami? It's incredible to me that Adil hasn't been upgraded. I mean, I have a lower tier status than he does and I am regularly upgraded. Guess it's harder on international flights. Maybe some airline will listen and hook him up?! We wish Adil the best as he continues his climb.
Questions for Adil? Questions for us? As Always: firstname.lastname@example.org