BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sights, sounds and oddities from a week at the Great American Insurance ATP Championship . . .
PLAYERS PLAY: Add it up: Matches take an hour or two, leaving players 22 hours or so of free time. What do they do all day?
Let's ask the Ellens.
Ellen Miller and Ellen Boling co-chair the Player Services Committee, in charge of setting up whatever the players request. Everything, Miller says, except candy on their pillows at night. They work out of the players' lounge, behind a long counter they stock with bowls of Starburst and Jolly Ranchers -- "they're really big here," Miller says.
"They do golf and movies," she says. "I think some play golf more than tennis. (Patrick) Rafter and (Magnus) Larsson especially." Just then, Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson 'fessed up: In six days, he did four rounds -- two at the Golf Center at Kings Island, one each at Camargo Country Club and Shaker Run -- all with scores in the 70s.
The Golf Center, next to the ATP complex, lets the players play for free. The Ellens reserve tee times, get carts and do what's needed to get them there on time.
"A lot of movies, too" Boling says. "Favorites are Something About Mary and Snake Eyes."
The ATP also has a free admission deal with the Beach and Paramount's Kings Island. Many players use these at least once.
"The Beach also stays open late one night so players get it all to themselves," Miller said.
And, Boling adds, if a major player asks, say Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras, they'll stay open late only for them."
Sampras skipped the Beach Wednesday night and took girlfriend Kimberly Williams to Riverbend for a night of Riverdance and, by all accounts, loved it.
Yeah, but what about requests for late-night carousing?
"Used to be," Miller says. "They always wanted to do Mount Adams; later it was Main Street. Now, there's so much money at stake (winner gets $361,000; total purse is $2.45 million) that they're much more focused."
EAT UP: One crowd that has to be even more whipped than the players is the crew from Hilvers Catering. They cook and serve all ATP party meals.
That means, says EJ Hilvers, who runs the food show with Pat Miller, feeding 17,000 people at 143 lunches and dinners with everything from cold cuts to prime rib to a mountain of iced shrimp.
No small job, that. It takes 30 caterers cooking daily in 12-hour shifts, plus 37 others, also in 12-hour shifts, working the tents. "I'm only doing 9-hour days," Hilvers says, "because I'm still tired from surgery this spring. But my Aunt Pat (Miller) is here 12 hours on easy days. More on some.
"It's getting bigger, too. Since 1995, the number of meals has jumped 18 percent every year."
Well-fed crowd, that.
ODDMENTS: Just a thing or two picked up on the grounds . . .
Best autographer: Michael Chang. "I've seen him stand for hours," says ATP photographer Tom Guenther. "He signs every one "Jesus Loves You.' "
Toughest: Pete Sampras. He works hard, he stays focused and he's usually rushed, stopping to sign only a few.
New heartthrob: Hands down, it's Patrick Rafter. "Ohmigod that's one I'd chase and tackle and drag home," said one admirer.
Most sought invitation: Carolyn Flory's (wife of tournament director Paul Flory) brunch today for 1,000. All the high rollers are there, all dressed to the teeth. Perfectly capped teeth, at that.
Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.