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.
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.
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%).
‘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).
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’.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.