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Constant travel a way of life for tennis players

Andy Murray wipes his eyes between points while

Andy Murray wipes his eyes between points while playing Jeremy Chardy during the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio. (Aug. 16, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

MASON, Ohio -- What is the sports version of a meteor shower -- the brief, radiant once-in-a-while spectacle of the Olympics -- really amounts to just another stop on the traveling circus and medicine show that is professional tennis.

A few hours of sleep, a day of public appearances, dinner with his support group, and gold medalist Andy Murray was on a flight from London to Toronto for his next match three days later -- after which he withdrew from the event to treat discomfort in his left knee. That was followed immediately by Murray's trip to this Cincinnati suburb, along with virtually every top player intent on adding some spit and polish to their games in a crucial tuneup for the U.S. Open.

Roger Federer, silver to Murray's gold in London, chose to skip Toronto and come straight here, "making sure I have enough rest, I play enough, I stay injury-free" for the year's last Grand Slam event. But both Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic, who played for Olympic bronze, stopped off in Canada (Djokovic won the Toronto title) on their way to continuing the long campaign in this battleground state.

"With tennis," Murray said, "you don't get that much time to enjoy wins because there's always a tournament the next week. It's something you get used to. You've just got to try and look forward."

The season runs from the first week of January through October, basically non-stop, a blur of whistle stops that even those able to stay sharp with lighter schedules (Serena Williams being the best example, with only 11 tournaments this year) can become confused about where they are and what they've done.

Williams, whose London victories in both singles and doubles (with sister Venus) gave her the so-called "career golden slams" of having won all four annual major events plus the Olympics, was discussing her far-reaching accomplishments when she reminded reporters early last week, "I've won this tournament, by the way. I have."

And then . . .

"I did win this tournament, didn't I? Maybe I didn't. I can't keep up. I don't think I did. OK. Oops."

Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champ who advanced to the Olympic quarterfinals, hustled off to Montreal and won last week's women's event there Sunday, arrived in Cincinnati at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and appeared at a news conference for her first-round match here -- a half-hour from the Queen City -- 12 hours later.

"It's our life," she said, "so we're used to every week at different places and different opponents. That's for us pretty normal. So I can't be thinking too much about it."

Although, Djokovic said: "It happens that you don't always keep track of time and places where you are. Sometimes you wake up and say, 'OK, which time zone am I in right now?' "

There are no home games in tennis. Maria Kirilenko, who teamed with Nadia Petrova to win the Olympic bronze medal for Russia in doubles, immediately flew home to Moscow to celebrate with friends -- "It was a lot of people trying on my medal," she said -- while Petrova jetted to Montreal.

Both then played here, and Kirilenko will take the opportunity for a final women's pre-Open tournament in New Haven this week. (While the men have a Winston-Salem event available to them.)

"We travel -- what? -- 10, 11 out of 12 months and play on different surfaces in different continents," Djokovic said. "So all these circumstances take an important role in your success in the way you handle them. There are so many things you have to take care about, starting from the physical, mental preparation, everything on the court. And then everything you do off the court."

He assured that he knew he was in Ohio. Even though he ended the English-language news conference with: "No Serbian questions?"

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