Monday/ the Bulldogs lost

The Gonzaga Bulldogs lost in their bid to win the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball title, 70-86. Congrats to the Baylor Bears.

I could not watch the end of the game and went for a quick walk. This is 8.00 pm on 15th Ave & Mercer St (sunset is now at 7.45 pm). The Canterbury Ale House sports bar on my right is still closed, which is surprising. (Bars can be open, with restrictions). The Olympia Pizza House with its outside seating (behind me, not shown in the picture), was noisy and had a good attendance.

Saturday/ March madness, in April

UCLA had come too far, defied too many odds in surviving March to reach April, to give in now, no matter the probabilities or the season-long perfection of its nemesis.
– Ben Bolch writing in the Los Angeles Times

Tonight, Gonzaga* played UCLA** in the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basket Ball tournament (known as ‘March Madness’).
Gonzaga had everything to lose, as it is aiming to become the first undefeated national champion in men’s basketball since Indiana in 1976.

UCLA went toe-to-toe with them, all through the game tonight, and was only a point behind at halftime, 44 to 45.
At the end of regular time, it was 81 to 81.

So now came overtime. As the clock wound down, the plays were down to the wire.
With less than a minute left, Andrew Nembhard scored a 3-pointer, putting Gonzaga up 90-85.
At 48 secs left, Jaime Jaquez Jr. knocked in a 3-pointer from the wing for UCLA. Gonzaga 90-88.
At 3.3 secs left, the Bruins (UCLA) had gotten the ball back, and Johnny Juzang followed his miss with a putback jumper. Tied 90-90.
At 0.8 secs left, Jalen Suggs stopped from 30-some feet away, took aim and shot at the hoop on the far side.
As the buzzer sounded, flashing **0:00**, the ball dropped through the net, for the win.

Gonzaga 93-90. Mayhem.
(Gonzaga to play Baylor for the NCAA title on Monday night).

At the buzzer. The ball hits the target, clears the hoop.

*The Gonzaga Bulldogs are an intercollegiate men’s basketball program representing Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA). The school competes in the West Coast Conference in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

**The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program represents the University of California, Los Angeles in the sport of men’s basketball as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. Established in 1919, the program has won a record 11 NCAA titles.

Monday/ Roger is ba-aack

There are three Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tournaments on the calendar this week: in Marseille, France, in Doha, Qatar and in Santiago, Chile.

Roger Federer, he of 20 Grand Slam titles fame, is making his long-awaited comeback in Doha, at the age of 39½. He last played on the tour 14 months ago (in the 2020 Australian Open), and had two knee operations after that. He said today that he is now free of pain and injury — and has no plans to retire (!).

Update Wed 3/11: Federer ousted Dan Evans (30, Great Britain) in his first match, but then stumbled and lost against Nikoloz Basilashvili (29, Georgia) in the quarter-final.

Here’s the scene in Marseille, France. Bouches-du-Rhône (lettering on the hard court’s surface) is a department (region) in Southern France named after the mouth of the river Rhône. Those are cardboard cut-outs as the ‘spectators’ – ugh. In this match, the Italian Jannik Sinner (19) overcame Frenchman Grégoire Barrère (27) by 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (5-7), 7-5.
Here’s the red clay of the Chile Open in Santiago. Nobody in the stands, just camera crew and coaches. This was another nail-biter. Frances Tiafoe (23, USA) beat Nicolás Jarry (25, Chile) by the narrowest of margins: 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (9-7).
Here’s Doha, Qatar. A few spectators here and there. (ExxonMobil is a sponsor – boo! BOO! for denying for DECADES that your oil products are destroying the planet, and for lying about climate change. Hey ATP, please find someone else). That is one of the tallest guys in the tour serving, Reilly Opelka (23, USA). He stands 6’11” in his socks. He lost this match in the end, though, against ‘veteran’ Roberto Bautista Agut (32, Spain) : 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.

Sunday/ another not-so-super Bowl

ok I’ll give, who is Tom Brady
– Igor Bobic @igorbobic on Twitter, politics reporter at HuffPost, pretending not to know.

Gazelle Bundesliga’s husband
– Casey S.@nobody_news on Twitter, mangling her name. It’s supermodel Gisele Bündchen.

It was Super Bowl Sunday.
Congrats to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their veteran, ex-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (43), with their 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. One does not have to be a football expert to know that this is not the score of an exciting match-up.

The Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes (25), played with an injured toe, and his team just never got their offensive game going.

Thirty year-old Canadian rapper The Weeknd (real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye; his parents are Ethiopian) performing during the halftime show. ‘Why are the dancers wearing underwear on their heads?’ wondered some Twitter wags. Hey: at least they are wearing masks, more than could be said of Tom Brady (as he arrived at the stadium and walked into the locker room), and of most of the revelers in Tampa Bay’s sports bars & streets on Saturday night. There were 25,000 people in the stands today (some 7,000 were vaccinated healthcare workers), the fewest ever at any Super Bowl.
[Picture from Reuters]

Friday/ more soft-soled shoes

I did not need new tennis shoes right now, but I bought two more pairs from my local tennis store, nonetheless (Avanti Sports on NE 45th St).

I really don’t want them to go bust, because they string my tennis racquets. Besides, these Adidas shoes are shockingly hard to find anywhere online. They are regularly sold out at the Adidas store itself, as well. 

Adidas Sole Court Boost, is the name of these tennis shoes (I paid $129 per pair). I like the herringbone pattern on the sole. The size 9s fit my feet perfectly. There is extra padding in the sole, and a little edge on the outside to provide support for side-to-side movement on the court. World No 3 Dominic Thiem likes to play with the white ones with the pink soles.

Tuesday/ update: tennis in a mask

I’m doing better, playing tennis with my mask on. I bring 4 or 5 masks — they get sweaty— and I have learned not to feel like suffocating if I start to take big breaths.

The four of us try to play three doubles sets, which is a challenge in the limited 75-minute time slot we have indoors. We usually end up playing almost non-stop: no side changes, with only one or two quick breaks to get a sip of water.

If four players play the three possible match-ups of doubles, there are only two general outcomes possible.
One of the 4 players won in all three match-ups.
He/ she has 3 wins, and everyone else only 1. He/ she is the champ.
Or ..
One of the 4 players lost in all three match-ups.
He/ she has 0 wins, and everyone else has 2 wins.
It’s social tennis; it’s just for fun, but even so: no one wants to be the evening’s loser.

The ‘Tennis Center’ opened in Seattle’s Mt Baker neighborhood opened in 1977. It was renamed Amy Yee Tennis Center in 2002. Amy Yee was a Seattle tennis star, a graceful and inspirational teacher who had for 50 years, brought the love of the sport to thousands of young people and adults in schools, parks, and private clubs.

Tuesday/ ‘two masks are the new masks’

Well, I played tennis last night with my mask on, as mandated by the Amy Yee Tennis Center. My mask had three layers of cotton fabric. It got a little ugly at times.

As you huff & puff after a long rally — through the mask — your panicked brain roars ‘MORE OX-Y-GEN ..NOW! MORE OX-Y-GEN ..NOW! .. and it makes you want to yank the suffocating $@#! thing right off your face.

So! I’m definitely going to have to try a few more different masks.

From the New York Times. I suppose this works if you are a body at rest (as they say in Physics), silently observing what’s going on. (One could just stay home, of course, and not attend these public events). Pete Buttigieg is President Biden’s Secretary of Transportation nominee, and did very well at his Jan. 21 nomination hearing. The vote for his confirmation is still pending.

Friday night news dump

  • The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) grants emergency use authorization for the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.
  • The pandemic is far from over (more than 3,000 deaths just on Thursday).
  • Texas attorney general’s ‘lawsuit’ (stunt), to try to overturn the certified election results (certifying Trump is a LOSER) in four battleground states, is smacked down 9-0 by the US Supreme Court. The AGs of seventeen red states, and 2/3 of House Republicans had joined the lawsuit. (Hey Republicans, newsflash for you: the United States is still a democracy. Your attempt at a coup is now dead.)
  • The Space Needle is lit up in green, in support of the Seattle Sounders, that will take on Columbus Crew in the 2020 Major League Soccer Cup Final on Saturday.
  • Update Sat 12/13: Sounders lost 0-3 to Columbus. Congrats to Columbus.
The Space Needle, bathed in green, and looking even more alien than usual. The reflection is on the nearby Museum of Pop Culture.

Sunday/ it all worked out, in the end

Here’s how my Sunday afternoon went.
1.30 pm Are you free for tennis? texted Harris. Yes, sure, I said. It was a sunny day (but not warm! 49 °F /9.5 °C), and now we had three; still needed a fourth.
Ardee was at Costco. Jesse was a no, as was Chuck. Jackson might be available .. checking. No, his girlfriend says no, he texted. What?! How dare she? was our reaction :-).
2.00 pm Still no luck finding someone. Alright. Let me go and scout out the courts, I offered. We were not even sure if the courts were, in fact, dry.
2.15 pm I arrive at Amy Yee Tennis Center. (Inside is closed, of course). The six outside courts are dry, kind of (big damp spots) – but already filled with players. We had no reservation. The courts can be reserved the day before with non-refundable deposits, but nobody really does that this time of year. The weather is too unpredictable.
2.30 pm Just come on out to the courts, I texted Harris & Cam: Worst case, the three of us can hit a few balls on a semi-dry court.
3.00 pm I’m still camping out by Court 5 & 6, waiting for one to open up. Alan from my social tennis club happens to play on 5. Maybe he will stay on and play with us, I thought.
3.05 pm Harris & Cam arrives.
3.10 pm Court 5 opens up. Yay! We can go on, and Alan agrees to be our fourth.
3.40 pm The thin sunlight disappears for good, behind swirling low-land fog that’s rolling in. We keep on playing.
4.20 pm Yikes. It’s becoming difficult to see the ball in the twilight and fog! Almost done, though. It’s 6-6 in the second set and we’re into a 7-point tiebreaker. Alan and I lose it 5-7.
No matter, it was just great to be able to play!

Getting into my car to leave the courts at Amy Yee Tennis Center. This is 4.40 pm, with the sun long gone behind the fog, and now below the horizon as well.

Saturday/ ready for the ATP Finals

I lost what little tennis the ESPN channel offered on TV when I cancelled my cable TV subscription. So with the year-end Nitto ATP* Finals looming (it starts in London on Sunday), I had to make a plan.

I subscribed to ATP Tennis TV – very reasonable at $8 a month for streaming of year-round tournaments with no commercials. Looks like it excludes coverage of the four Grand Slam tournaments, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

*Association of Tennis Professionals. (Nitto is the main sponsor, manufacturer of high-quality car & truck tires).

The Nitto ATP Finals is invitation only, for the top 8 singles players, and top 8 doubles teams. The event is again in the O2 Arena in London. There will be no crowds; the players and their teams will live in a closed hotel & tennis court ‘bubble’.
From left to right: Diego Schwartzman (28 yrs old, from Argentina), Andrey Rublev (23, Russia), Rafael “Rafa” Nadal (34, Spain), Alexander “Sascha” Zverev (23, Germany), Stefanos Tsitsipas (22, Greece), Novak Djokovic (33, Serbia), Dominic Thiem (27, Austria), Daniil Medvedev (24, Russia). Sadly, no Roger Federer and no Americans made it to the Finals this year.

Sunday/ Rafa makes it 20

There was French Open tennis very early this morning on TV: the final between Rafael Nadal (Spain, 34) and Novak Djokovic (Serbia, 33).

Nadal played like the champ that he is, against a Djokovic that could not find his footing, and won in straight sets, 6-0 ( a rare bagel for Djokovic), 6-2, 7-5.

Nadal and Roger Federer each holds 20 Gram Slam tennis titles now, the largest number amassed by any player in the history of the game.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his second round match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno-Busta in the recent Italian Open at Foro Italico, Rome, Italy, Sept. 16, 2020 [Photo by REUTERS/Clive Brunskill]
Nadal serving against Djokovic in the final today. The sparse, socially-distanced crowd got their tickets by lottery. It did make a difference to have onlookers in the stands, cheering the players on. This French Open final was the first to be played under a roof with lights. [Picture Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images]

Here’s a look at the new retractable roof over Philippe Chatrier stadium.
Earlier this week, the officials let a little too much rain come down before they closed the roof. So in came a few wheelbarrows of clay (wheelbarrow in the distance), that they swept onto the court to clear up muddied patches. Yes, that’s Djokovic himself in the red shorts, pitching in and clearing some clay dust from the baseline!
The top layer of clay is very thin, followed by crushed limestone, clinker, and crushed gravel. That red clay dust gets into EVERYTHING: the tennis balls, the racquet strings, the players’ shoes and socks, and even their clothes (when you fall down because you did not slide properly into a deadly drop shot or wide shot!).

Wednesday/ my TV is now smart

My Samsung TV was 10 years old, and at long last it was time to upgrade to a smart 4K* TV.  I picked a Samsung again, and was planning to replace my 55″ screen with a similar size .. and then at the last minute in the store, opted for one with a 65″ screen.

I paid  $1,899 in 2010 dollars for the old TV (that’s $2,264 in 2020 dollars). The new one was all of $529, practically given away for free. (Alright, so not completely free).

*Smart= the TV can connect to the internet and offer all kinds of online content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and others.
4K= the screen resolution is 3840 x 2160; a fourfold increase over Full HD (1920×1080 pixels).

The 2020 French Open is underway in Paris. The silly American networks are VERY STINGY with their coverage. I should sign up for Tennis Channel’s content (it’s $100 per year).
YouTube posts highlights of the matches every day. My wifi signal is poor in the corner of my living room where the TV is, so what I did here is connect my laptop computer to the TV with an HDMI cable to get the tennis on the big screen. I’m still trying to find out why the laptop can pick up the wifi signal OK but the TV cannot! Anyway, here is the King of Clay (Spaniard Rafael Nadal, 34 yrs, nearside in the turquoise and pink!) in the second round against American Mackenzie McDonald, 25). Nadal won easily, but it was a triumph for McDonald just to be able to play. He tore his hamstring tendon last year in May and could not walk for two months after the operation to mend it.

Sunday/ team Thiem has it

There were lots of sports on TV today, but I stuck it out for the 4 hours of the 2020 US Open Men’s Final.
Dominic Thiem (27, Austria) prevailed over Alexander Zverev (23, Germany) in a thrilling match: 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6).
It was Thiem’s first win in a Grand Slam tournament final.

Look at the score: tie-breaker in the 5th set! Thiem is about to hit a backhand on his 3rd match point (which is also championship point). The next shot from Zverev would sail over the sideline on the left, giving Thiem the 5th set tie-breaker at 8-6, and the match, and the 2020 US Open championship. [Video still from].
This is a heartfelt Instagram post from Zverev’s older brother Mischa (on the right) after the match.  (Alexander’s nickname is Sacha). Their parents emigrated from Russia to Germany to give their kids a better shot at becoming professional tennis players. Sacha was born in Germany.
Sacha was very emotional at the trophy ceremony, thanking his team, and his family. I think he dearly wanted his family to attend in person, but for this tournament-in-a-bubble each player was only allowed a limited number of people in their entourage.

Monday/ the US men are all out

Frances Tiafoe (22, coached by South African-born Wayne Ferreira) was last man standing of the American men, in the 2020 US Open tennis tournament. He lost against Russian Daniil Medvedev in straight sets today.

Tiafoe won the prestigious 2013 Orange Bowl at 15 years old, making him the youngest boys’ singles champion in the history of the tournament.

Serena Williams won in three sets over Maria Sakkari though, who had just beaten her two weeks ago in an earlier tournament.

Frances Tiafoe in action against Daniil Medvedev during today’s 4th round men’s singles match at the 2020 US Open. (Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA)
Frances Tiafoe in action against Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev, No 5 in the world, was too consistent and too sharp for Tiafoe to be a threat to him. (Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA)
Tiafoe had a Black Lives Matter sweater & mask on, as he came onto the court, and made sure that down to his shoes he makes makes a statement as well. There is none of the controversy around tennis players taking a stand about BLM, as there still seems to be to some extent in the National Football League, for example. (Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA)

Sunday/ shocker: Djokovic disqualified

From the US Open website:
In tennis, there are two ways to be defaulted from a match: through an accumulation of code violations or by a singularly egregious act.
In Novak Djokovic’s case from the US Open on Sunday, the incident was firmly the latter. After losing his service game to trail 6-5 in the opening set of his Round 4 match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, Djokovic struck a line umpire with a ball hit in anger, and was ultimately defaulted from the tournament by US Open Referee Soeren Friemel.

Not only is the overwhelming favorite to have won, out of the tournament— he also forfeited his 2020 US Open prize money for reaching the 4th round (a whopping $250,000) and the ATP ranking points he would have gotten.

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, checks on the lineswoman after accidentally hitting her on the throat with a ball, in reaction to losing a point to Pablo Carreno Busta, of Spain. A replay of the incident shows he just swatted the ball to the back fence, not hard, but carelessly, without looking where it might go.  A similar incident at Wimbledon in 1995, saw former British No 1 Tim Henman disqualified from Wimbledon, after hitting a ball girl. [Photo Credit: Seth Wenig, AP]

Monday/ 50 yrs ago: no visa for Arthur Ashe

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
– Arthur Ashe, American tennis player (b. 1943- d. 1993)

The US Open tennis tournament starts in Queens, New York City today.
There will be no crowds at the courts, nor in Arthur Ashe stadium —the largest tennis stadium in the world (capacity 23,771).

It was 50 years ago, in Jan. 1970, when the South African apartheid government took an outrageous stand: it refused Ashe a visa to play in the South African Open tennis tournament. The fallout and damage to South African sport were extensive. It solidified South Africa’s pariah status in the sports world. The country had already been banned from the Olympics in 1964 & 1968. It would be until 1992 before South African athletes could again compete in the Games.

Reporting from the New York Times in Jan. 1970. It was in 1968 that Ashe had won the US Open, at the time of this controversy he had just won the Australian Open in 1970. In perhaps his most celebrated win, he won Wimbledon in 1975.

Thursday/ put your game face on

Our social tennis club’s management splurged on expensive tennis balls for us for tonight. The can features Roger Federer’s ‘game face’ and signature, and there is a note inside that says he worked with Wilson to design a premium tennis ball. (For a premium price, of course: a good 20% more for a case of these).

Put your game face on! Veteran champion and one of the best protagonists of the game—ever— Roger Federer, turned 39 on Aug. 8. He is still recovering from a second arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and is out for the rest of the year. So we will not see him in the US Open that will start on Aug. 31st in Queens, New York City, but without crowds! Oh no! and boo! to the pandemic.

Thursday/ it’s the Seattle Kraken

It’s offical: the name for Seattle’s National Hockey League team is The Kraken (rumors had been swirling for months). The kraken is a legendary cephalopod-like sea monster of gigantic proportions in Scandinavian folklore (per Wikipedia).

The official Seattle Kraken sweater looks great (it’s not for sale just yet). The website says there is deep sea blue, boundless blue, shadow blue and ice blue in it, with ‘red alert’ for the accent lines and angry Kraken eye.

Fans will have to wait until next year’s NHL season to cheer for the team in the remade Key Arena, which will be called the Climate Pledge Arena (the world’s first certified net-zero carbon arena).

An artist’s rendering of the completed new Climate Pledge Arena (Amazon secured the naming rights to the stadium). The roof structure and supporting pillars from the old Key Arena will be kept intact.

Monday/ three is just right

‘Een in die was, een aan die bas, en een in die kas!’
– Afrikaans for ‘One to wash, one to wear, and one to spare!’

I picked up my new tennis racquet from the tennis shop today. My social club has started playing super-safe and social-distanced tennis*, and I needed one more, as a spare.

*We play on outside courts only. Each player has his/ her own set of numbered tennis balls (to handle, and to serve with). Other players pick up & pass the server’s balls to him/ her with the racquet only, so without touching them.

My weapons of mass destruction: the Wilson Clash 98. I’m still experimenting with different strings. The top racquet has a Wilson Durability string that is thicker and supposed to last longer than the black string in the racquet below it. I’ve settled on a string tension of 54 lbs for now.
Higher string tension gives more control (for volleys at the net, say), but less power.
Lower string tension gives more power, but less control.

Tuesday/ that tennis party in Zadar: so, so over

Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake.
– Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios on Twitter, commenting on footage of Djokovic and others partying shirtless, maskless and distance-less in a nightclub in Belgrade

The Adria Tour debacle is an exhibition tennis tournament series that kicked off in Zadar, a city on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Only: they did everything wrong, and the whole tour has now been canceled.

From the New York Times: Social distancing was not enforced in the stands during the series, and face masks were a rare sight. Players mingled freely, exchanging hugs and handshakes, playing pickup soccer and basketball, and even dancing the limbo one night in Belgrade, Serbia. At the tournament, players posed for photographs with workers, tournament officials and spectators. No systematic coronavirus testing was required of the participants before the event began, according to the organizers. Some Croatian tennis officials are calling for the resignation of Nikolina Babic, president of the Croatian Tennis Federation.

The result: Novak Djokovic (world’s No 1 player), his wife, two coaches and at least three prominent players tested positive for the virus: Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki, a Serb whose wife, Aleksandra, also tested positive.  Officials in Zadar were left to scramble to try to trace and test people that had contact with those that had tested positive. There had been no confirmed infections in Zadar before the tennis.

Novak Djokovic during a match against Nino Serdarusic in Zadar, Croatia, on Sunday. Djokovic & the tournament officials displayed complete disregard for the risks of the coronavirus pandemic. Djokovic is president of the ATP Player Council and recruited the players. In April he expressed doubts that he would be vaccinated, even if a vaccine were to become available. [Photo Credit: Antonio Bronic/Reuters]