Thursday/ a shirt as a stamp 🚴🏻

Here’s the cool envelope that my vendor from Antwerp, Belgium, put the stamps in that I had bought.

The stamp was issued in 2021, and it depicts a cycling jersey.
The 2021 UCI Road World Championships was between 19 and 26 September 2021 in the Flanders region of Belgium.


Friday/ pitching in 🌧🎾

The Indian Wells Open (BNP Paribas Open) tennis tournament is underway in California.

Friendly fans pitched in to help dry the court tonight, after a burst of rain early in the evening. I like those spongy squeegees— they will come in handy for drying up the tennis courts here in Seattle.

It’s a team effort in Stadium 4 to get the courts dry. An official coaches some fans using the squeegee rollers.  The rain interrupted the match between Denis Shapovalov (age 24, Canada) and Ugo Humbert (23, France). In the end Shapovalov prevailed 7-5 6-4.
[Still from a video clip posted by Bailey Arredondo @BaileyKESQ on Twitter]

Saturday/ he’s back 👏

Carlos Alcaraz is back on the tennis court after a hiatus of three months (partly due to injuries). His No 1 ranking slipped to No 2 after he had to withdraw from the Australian Open in January.
He will take on Cameron Norrie (Great Britain) in the final of the Argentinian Open tomorrow.

Alcaraz doing the fist pump on at this week’s Argentinian Open.
With six ATP titles (which includes last year’s US Open) to his name now, he is still only 19 years old.
I’m pretty sure that pink t-shirt from his clothing sponsor Nike is hand-tailored for him. They’re not going to just yank a Medium or Large shirt off their shelves and hope it fits him, right?
[Source: ATP Tour en Español @ATPTour_ES on Twitter]
The venue for the Argentinian Open is the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club, a private tennis club located in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. There are no lawns to tennis play on —only red clay! Alcaraz is about to close out his match today against fellow Spaniard Bernabé Zapata Miralles (26).

Wednesday/ a little pickle 🥒 ball

It was warm enough (48 °F / 9 °C) for the amigos to play a little pickleball this afternoon.

The evergreen trees are too tall for much of the low winter sun’s light to make it onto the courts at Mount Baker Park, but that’s OK. There was plenty of blue sky overhead.

Sunday/ sunny and cold 🌬

The high today was all of 38 °F (3 °C), but no matter— the pickleballers were out in full force at the Miller Park courts on 19th Avenue.

In fact, I notice now that one of the sixteen intrepid competitors was in shorts and a t-shirt 🥶.

Sunday/ the third time, a charm 🏅

Argentina has won the World Cup for a third time (also in 1978 and 1986). Congratulations to Argentina and to Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi (35) during the World Cup Final today in Lusail Stadium, Qatar. Messi scored a penalty kick (23′), a goal (108′) and another penalty kick in the post-game shoot-out.
Eight years ago in the 2014 WC Final against Germany, Messi had struggled to make an impact large enough to secure victory for his team.
[Picture by Adrian Dennis/​AFP/​Getty Images]

Wednesday/ the World Cup Final is set 🏆

So on Sunday it will be Argentina 🇦🇷 vs. France 🇫🇷 for the World Cup Final— a clash of two titans in the world of soccer.
It’s a welcome distraction for Argentinians, living in a country where the rate of inflation now stands at an incredible 100%.  (Inflation in the US for November was 7.1%).

Les Bleus (‘The Blues’— France) beat Morocco 2-0 today. Morocco made history by being the first African and first Arab team to reach the semifinal. They played in Al Bayt (‘The House’) Stadium. Its construction had reportedly costed US$847 million.
[Still image from FS1 TV channel broadcast]
La albiceleste (‘The White and Sky Blue’— Argentina) overcame Croatia by 3-0 on Tuesday. The picture depicts the roof of Lusail Stadium, built at a reported cost of US $767 million.
P.S. A 2021 investigation by The Guardian newspaper revealed that over 6,500 migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka died between 2010 and 2020 during in Qatar— a high percentage of that probably during the construction of World Cup venues in Qatar.
[Still image from FS1 TV channel broadcast]

Friday/ the agony and the ecstasy 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

‘This is one nutty World Cup, people’
– Commentator Alexi Lalas

I watched most of the two World Cup matches today. Both ended in penalty shoot-outs, so thrilling finishes to both. It must be painful to lose with penalty kicks, though (as Brazil and The Netherlands did).

So Tuesday it’s Argentina 🇦🇷 vs. Croatia 🇭🇷 for the first semi-final.
On Wednesday it will be
( France 🇫🇷 or England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 ) vs. ( Portugal 🇵🇹 or Morocco  🇲🇦 ) for the second semi-final.

The France-England and Portugal-Morocco quarterfinal matches are played tomorrow.

Sad news is that sportswriter Grant Wahl (48, USA) died today in Doha, while covering the Argentina-Netherlands World Cup quarterfinal. He was reportedly working very hard and not sleeping well, and fell ill with a respiratory illness (not Covid).  

England flags everywhere, here at the Kirby Estate in London. ‘We know there are more than 400 flags up’, says one resident. Hmm .. I do spy a flag for Spain and one for Brazil there on the right, and that’s OK. And if I may say so, I love France, but I hope England will come out on top 🙂
[Still from a video clip posted by Reuters @Reuters on Twitter]

Monday/ go big, or go home ⚽️

U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner catches the ball during a match against England. It was a draw, 1-1. 
[Picture by Odd Andersen /Agence France-Presse/Getty Images]

DOHA, Qatar—Before Matt Turner became a star for the U.S. men’s national team, he was famous for the one and only thing that a goalkeeper never wants to become associated with: an all-time howler. 

The goal Turner gave up in 2013 was so astonishing that a Fairfield University soccer clip went viral. Videos of the play—which began with a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar, popped into the air and then rolled off Turner when he tried to collect it, into his own net—rapidly spread across social media and the nightly news. Turner rode the bench for the rest of the season while seemingly everyone watched his mistake over and over. 

What has unfolded in the years since is somehow even more remarkable. Turner went from fighting for a job at a small Jesuit college, through the hinterlands of low level soccer, all the way to the English Premier League. And now he’s America’s best shot at reaching the knockout stage of the World Cup. 

-Reported by Andrew Beaton in the Wall Street Journal

Brazil, Portugal and France are through to the knockout stage.

It’s go big (win) or go home, for the United States, in their Group B match against Iran tomorrow (Tuesday).
The young and talented US team has the youngest captain in the World Cup: Tyler Adams (23)— and the man nicknamed Captain America, Christian Pulisic (24).

Pulisic was featured in 60 Minutes in 2017, in a segment called ‘Can Christian Pulisic become the first U.S. soccer superstar?’ I believe the answer is ‘Yes’.

Wednesday/ a Wale of a time 🐳

‘With football, I know it’s perhaps bad to say it, but you’ve got to have a drink, and you’ve got to have a good time as well’ said Tyrone Fowler, 28, a food delivery driver from Newport, South Wales, who was headed to Tenerife this week. ‘It’s about building the atmosphere.’
– Jack Williams reporting for the NYT

Wales has only ever qualified for two World Cups: in 1958 and this year, 2022. The trip to Qatar and the related expenses were too just much for many fans, so a large contingent has decamped to sunny Tenerife* at around a quarter of the cost, reports the New York Times.

*Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa.

Wales fans in Tenerife, decked out in the country’s red jerseys and bucket hats and draped in dragon-crested flags, all of it underscoring the supporters’ nickname: The Red Wall. The national anthem is ‘Yma o Hyd’, a folk song released by the nationalist singer Dafydd Iwan in the 1980s that translates to ‘Still Here’.
Wales tied 1-1 with the USA on Monday.
[Photograph by Laura León for the NYT]

Sunday/ so here’s the 2022 World Cup ⚽️

Ecuador’s Enner Valencia heads the ball to score his team’s second goal during the World Cup group A soccer match between Qatar and Ecuador, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Nov. 20, 2022.
[Picture by Associated Press]
I don’t have access to the 2022 World Cup coverage (not yet; maybe I will still sign up), so I did not see the opening ceremony. As someone said: you’ve probably seen it all before.

Here’s ex-BBC reporter Matt Slater’s (somewhat irreverant) summary of the opening match. He writes for The Athletic.
Ecuador were all over Qatar, who have spent the past six months in camp together, training like a club side. A League Two club side by the looks of it.
Valencia would get his goal after 16 minutes when he went around Al Sheeb, only to be felled by a textbook tap tackle. There was to be no reVARsal of this decision and the 33-year-old, now with Fenerbahce in Turkey, picked himself up and tucked his penalty away. The watching Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have enjoyed that.
Ecuador’s night got better on 31 minutes, when Qatar’s stage-frightened defenders fluffed another clearance — right-back Angelo Preciado put the ball in the mixer and Valencia’s forehead did the rest.
That, in terms of the football, was pretty much that. Ecuador 2, Qatar 0.

My footnotes:
League Two is the third and lowest division of the English Football League (EFL), below League One, which is below Championshop League.
Valencia is Ecuadorian professional footballer Enner Valencia (33).
Al Sheeb is Saad Abdullah al-Sheeb (32), the Qatari goalkeeper.
Tap tackle is to dive at the other player’s feet and, with an outstretched arm, deliver a tap or hook to the player’s foot (or feet) causing the player to stumble.
VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, a match official who reviews decisions made by the referee on video.
Fenerbache is Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü, a Turkish professional football club based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Mixer a way of describing the penalty area, the box, especially when it is crowded with players.


We are leaving Brisbane at the crack of dawn Monday morning, to fly up to Cairns in tropical Far North Queensland.
I took the No 100 bus to the city one last time, and on the way back I stepped off at Woolloongabba station to look around for a last little bit.

Here’s The Gabba, the cricket grounds and stadium that is officially called The Brisbane Cricket Ground. The 2022 International Cricket Men’s T20 World Cup is underway, and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh squared off right here this afternoon. (Bangladesh won by 3 runs).
The bus from the city has taken me past the old Moreton Rubber Works Building (constructed 1890) by The Gabba several times, and I finally got to take a decent picture of it today.
Finally, a stop at the Coles grocery store. DC Coffee is a Melbourne-based specialty coffee roaster. (I haven’t tried the coffee, but I like the packaging).

Wednesday/ tennis in Astana 🎾

This week’s ATP 500 tennis tournament is hosted by the city called Astana. And where in the world is Astana, would you say? It’s in Kazakhstan 🇰🇿, and called ‘the world’s weirdest capital city’ by CNN in a 2012 story.

Tennis only became a significant sport in Kazakhstan due to the crusade and a labor of love by billionaire Bulat Utemuratov, in a campaign that had started 15 years ago in 2007.

Matthew Futterman writes in the New York Times:
Using almost entirely Utemuratov’s money, the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation went on a building spree, investing roughly $200 million — nearly a tenth of his estimated fortune — to construct 38 tennis centers in all 17 regions of the country. It trained hundreds of coaches and instructors and imported some from Europe. It subsidized lessons for young children and adolescents who can train six days a week for $40-$120 per month. The best juniors receive as much as $50,000 to pay for training and travel.

Inside the Beeline Arena, the home of Kazakhstan National Tennis Center in the heart of the capital Astana. The lime green part of the court is a little unusual —maybe by design? Here is David Goffin (Belgium, 31) serving against the newly minted World No 1, Carlos Alcaraz (Spain, 19) in a first round-match yesterday. Alcaraz lost 3-6, 5-7 — a disappointment for me, and certainly for the tournament organizers. Ticket sales have reportedly been brisk, though.
[Still from Tennis TV streaming service]
A bird’s eye-view of Astana. CNN says ‘little surrounds the city for 1,200 kilometers, save a handful of provincial towns dotted across the world’s largest steppe, a flat, empty expanse of grassland. Shooting up from this void is a mass of strangely futuristic structures’.
[Picture: Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press]
The Presidential Palace in the foreground was designed to resemble the White House in Washington D.C. (I’d say it’s a passing resemblance, at best). The translucent tent-like structure in the distance is the US$ 400 million Norman Foster-designed Khan Shatyra shopping mall, and said to be the world’s largest tent (but it is really a tent?).
[Picture Credit: AFP/ Getty Images]

Friday/ Roger Federer retires

I watched all of the Laver Cup* doubles match today, Roger Federer’s last official match on the ATP tour.
Age catches up with all of us, and Federer turned 41 in August.
He will still be around to play in exhibition matches and to be an ambassador for the sport that he had graced for so long.

*Somewhat similar to golf’s Ryder Cup: Team Europe plays against Team World (which includes the USA). This is the 5th Laver Cup. Team Europe has won all four of the previous ties.

A tearful Federer waves at the crowd inside London’s O2 arena. He and Rafael Nadel had just lost their match against Americans Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock— but in the end that was not what mattered today.
[Photo: James Hill for The New York Times]

Tuesday/ doing ‘social doubles’ duty

I was on duty again tonight as coordinator for the Seattle Tennis Alliance’s Tuesday night social doubles.
I had to put some skilled players with some very green ones on the same court tonight (a combination I try to avoid), but everyone seemed to be fine with it.

The view from my perch on the wooden benches at the Lower Woodland Park tennis courts. It’s approaching 9 pm, and in just a few minutes I am going to take down the Seattle Tennis Alliance banners from the fences, and put my tennis racquet & kit bag in my car, along with the case of Penn tennis balls.

Sunday/ ¡Bravo Carlitos!

Carlos is the winner, and became the youngest No 1 in the 50 years that the ranking system of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) had been in place.

Yes, he is supremely talented and had worked tirelessly in his young career for this achievement, but as Christopher Clarey explains in the NYT, there was timing and extraordinary circumstances that also came into play:

At 19, Alcaraz is the youngest No. 1 since the ATP rankings were created in 1973. That is quite a feat in a sport that has had plenty of prodigies: from Bjorn Borg to Mats Wilander, Boris Becker to Pete Sampras, to Alcaraz’s Spanish compatriot Rafael Nadal, who also won his first major at age 19 (at the 2005 French Open).

But Alcaraz’s meteoric rise to the top has not been due simply to his genius — though the word, which should be used very sparingly in tennis or anything else, does seem to apply in his acrobatic case.

His coronation is also due to timing:

To Novak Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated for Covid-19, which kept him out of this year’s Australian Open and U.S. Open and four Masters 1000 events in North America.

To Nadal’s limited schedule because of a series of injuries.

To the extraordinary situation at Wimbledon, which Djokovic won again in July but which earned him no ranking points; the tournament had been stripped of points by the men’s and women’s tours because of Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players over the war in Ukraine.

Carlos Alcaraz, of Spain, holds up the championship trophy after defeating Casper Ruud, of Norway, in the men’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in New York. The score was three sets to one: 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3.
[Photo by Matt Rourke/AP]

Saturday/ the winner takes it all 🥇

Carlos Alcaraz (19, Spain) has played three phenomenal five-set matches this week to reach the US Open Men’s Final.
He beat Marin Čilić (33, Croatia), the 2014 U.S. Open champion, at 2:23 a.m. on Tuesday;
he beat Jannik Sinner (21, Italy) at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday after surviving a matchpoint, and
he beat Frances Tiafoe (23, USA) shortly before midnight on Friday. (There was American royalty in the stands, watching this match: Michele Obama).

(Yes, New York City never sleeps⁠— but what a ridiculous state of affairs, with the evening matches obviously starting wa-a-ay too late).

Alcaraz is playing against Casper Ruud (23, Norway).  For the first time ever since the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranking list was established in 1973, will the outcome of a major final will also determine who of the two players will become world No 1.

Reporting from the New York Times. It’s winner takes all: the winner will lift up his maiden Grand Slam trophy and become the new World No. 1 men’s tennis player.

Wednesday/ pickleball before beers 🍻

It was a beautiful and mild blue-sky day (73 °F/ 23 °C) here in the city.
The amigos played a little pickleball before going for a beer and a bite.

The amigos in action at the Mt. Baker Park Pickleball and Tennis Courts today.
The pine needles and grit had been swept or blown from the courts, which was great. We also had standard pickleball nets with sturdy frames provided by the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association.

Friday/ the end of a storied career

Serena Williams (40) bowed out of the US Open tonight, losing in the third round against Ajla Tomljanovic (29) of Australia. She had indicated before the start of the tournament that this would be her last.

It was at the 1999 US Open where Serena won the first of her 23 Grand Slam titles*— at only 17 years old. She defeated in succession Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martínez, Monica Seles, and defending champion Lindsay Davenport, to reach the 1999 US Open final. In the final, she then defeated world No. 1, Martina Hingis, to become the second African-American woman, after Althea Gibson in 1958, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament.

*The most by any player in the Open Era, and the second-most of all time (behind Margaret Court’s 24).

Williams was a power player: an aggressive baseliner, whose game was centered around her powerful serve and forceful groundstrokes.

Serena Williams, of the United States, motions a heart to fans after losing to Ajla Tomljanovic, of Austrailia, during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, in New York.
[AP Photo/Frank Franklin II]