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]

Thursday/ the ‘end of the world’?

From the German translation of ‘The Shooting Star (French: L’Étoile mystérieuse)’ by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, 1942.
A giant meteoroid was projected to hit Earth at 20:12:30 pm. A very anxious Tintin dials for a countdown to the exact time of doom. NOW .. ! he thinks, and then There! It is the End Of The World! dropping the phone and covering his ears. 
Tintin and Snowy survived, and ran out into the street, celebrating.
P.S. Even in this internet & smartphone age, the US Naval Observatory still offers a dial-in number to get the exact time. Dial 202-762-1401.

More cancellations today: the entire NBA season cancelled — and the NCAA’s March Madness games, as well (Madness? No, necessary).

Trump’s muddled speech about banning travel from Europe to ‘stop the spread of the coronavirus’ landed with a thud in the financial markets, as did the Federal Reserve’s announcement today, that they will intervene in the markets and pump in more than $1.5 trillion (yes, trillion with a T).

The United States is having a crisis of confidence in the President, and the White House, during this nationwide public health emergency.

Saturday/ fun and games in Cape Town, for charity

It was all fun and games in the Cape Town Stadium on Friday night, where the charity tennis match (‘Match for Africa’) between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took place.

Comedian Trevor Noah and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates joined them on the court, to start the proceedings with a set of doubles.

Cape Town Stadium, made into a tennis arena. The stadium was filled with some 55,000 spectators. The US$3.5 million raised for education and sport for kids in Africa, far exceeded expectations. This is a curtain-raiser doubles match, between Nadal & South African-born comedian Trevor Noah on the left, and Federer & Bill Gates on the right. [Picture by Mark Sampson @MarkSampsonCT on Twitter]. 
A scene from a long rally in the Nadal-Noah vs. Federer-Gates match. Federer was running back, chasing down a lob, and is doing the very difficult between-the-legs ‘tweener’ shot that is always a crowd pleaser. The players were all fitted with microphones, so that the crowd could hear their banter as they played. It absolutely does not matter, but Federer & Gates won the one-set match by 6 to 3.  (Gates is a little bit better at tennis than Trevor Noah, and for their part, Federer and Nadal just kept the ball in play, until one of the other two made a mistake).

Sunday/ Kansas City: not in Kansas

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers by 31-20 today, to win Super Bowl No 54.
Trump promptly tweeted out congratulations to ‘the Great State of Kansas’.
Some 11 mins later, he deleted the tweet and sent out a corrected one that congratulated the state of Missouri.

Here’s former US Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri, calling out Trump’s mistake. I have actually done the 4 hr drive from St Louis, MO to Kansas City, MO. Kansas City sits on Missouri’s western edge, straddling the border with Kansas, but it is considered to be in Missouri, and not in Kansas.  I suppose it’s an easy mistake to make (to think it is in Kansas), but it is still a sore point with the people of Missouri.

Friday/ it’s not over — until it is over

Wow, just wow. What an ending that was — to the third-round match in the Australian Open, with Roger Federer (38) playing Australian John Millman (30).
They had played ferociously for 4 hours, and the match was now in its death throes: the fifth and final set’s super tiebreaker. (First to 10, lead by two).

Soon Federer found himself down 4-8, two points away from defeat. Right then, he must have thought ‘Never say die’. He shut out Millman from winning even one, of one-two-three-four-five-SIX points in a row, going to 10-8 for the win.

Final score: Federer beat Millman 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 [10-8]. Go Federer!

Here is match point. In this video still it looks as if Millman (far side) is about to win the point, smacking it down the line from the other side, but no. Federer got to it and hit a cross-court winner to clinch the match. P.S. Commentator Brad Gilbert called out unsportsmanlike conduct from Millman afterwards: when he was serving, Millman turned his back on the umpire and rolled/ rubbed the ball as long as he could, on his soaked shirt. What does that do? It makes the ball heavier and unbalanced, so that it bounces a little less true on the other side, making it a little harder to return. [Video still from Federer-Millman match highlights at ausopen.com]

Tuesday morning/ ATP Cup tennis

The 2020 ATP Cup is a new annual 24-country tennis team competition, hosted by Tennis Australia in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney. So we jumped at it when we got complimentary tickets to watch some of the action here in Perth.

The sparse crowd inside of Perth’s RAC Arena (constructed in 2012). We watched the two singles matches (there is also one doubles match) in the Russia vs. Norway match-up in Group D. This is the little opening ceremony with Norway’s flag on the left and Russia’s on the right. We all stood while they played the national anthems. Let me just note:  Russia has one of the world’s great national anthems (composer Alexander Alexandrov; Stalin commissioned him and lyrist Sergey Mikhalkovto create a national anthem and it was adopted in 1944).
This is the Russia team’s No 2 player, 23-year old Karen Khachanov, 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) tall. He was born in Moscow, and is of Armenian descent.
Here is Viktor Durasovic, Norway’s No 2, serving against Khachanov as his team mates and captain look on. In team tennis, the team mates and coaches can offer advice and support from the court side .. which is not allowed on the ATP professional tennis circuit tournaments.
The Durasovic double-handed backhand. Good form, meeting the ball down low and in front, but not good enough for a win against Khachanov. He lost 1-6, 2-6.
The next singles match between the No 1’s on the teams, had Russia’s Daniil Medvedev take on Norway’s Casper Ruud. Here he is hitting a powerful forehand on a short ball. Medvedev had compiled a very good  record in 2019, pushing him up all the way to No 5 in the ATP world rankings.
And here is Norway’s Casper Ruud, playing against Medvedev.  The match was fairly close: Ruud losing 3-6, 6-7 (6-8), in the end. By then Norway was down 0-2 matches, and Russia had effectively won the tie.

Friday/ for my stamp collection

I stopped at an ‘Australia Post’ post office today.
I had the poor clerk behind the counter flip through the big album, full of sheets of stamps, so that I could pick out colorful and interesting stamps to buy. She was very patient with me!

Top to bottom & left to right: Set of freshwater crayfish stamps by naturalist and zoologist Roger Swainston | ANZAC Day 2019 (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) mini-sheet | Celebrating marriage equality (the law was passed two years ago, Dec. 2017) | Little penguins, the smallest penguin species, found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand | 50th anniversary of the moon landing | Snorkeling, windsurfing, kite surfing and just old-fashioned board surfing, at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a remote territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean.

Wednesday/ choosing my weapon

My Wilson tennis racquets are more than 10 years old, so I am getting new ones.
I tested out a few ‘demo’ racquets that I had loaned from the pro shop at the Sand Point Tennis Center. The Wilson Clash 98* felt really nice and I am going to buy one. (They all have dramatic names. There is also the Wilson Burn, Envy and Blade).

The Wilsons still have graphite in, a long-standing material used in frames. There is a new Head racquet called the Head Graphene.  Graphene is an allotrope of carbon: a sheet of a single layer of atoms in a two-dimensional hexagonal lattice. It is impossibly light and incredibly strong .. but it’s not cheap, and just much of this stuff had made it into the Head racquet frame, and how much is just marketing hype, is hard to say.

*Graphite frame that is heavier than most, but the balance is head light; 16 mains and 19 cross strings allow for more spin, but not quite as much control.

Choose your weapon! Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is on all the Head racquets, and there is also Wilson brand (on the left) and Yonex (right). The Yonex brand from Japan used to be called Yoneyama, and one of the first manufacturers in the ’70s to make metal Yoneyama racquets (aluminum, green color).
Moi .. putting the Head Graphene Speed Pro racquet to the test against the wall on Saturday, just as the sun was setting. (Still frame from out-of-focus iPhone video). 

Sunday/ winter tennis: has to be indoors

It’s winter (well, almost) – so the days are short and cold, and it rains a lot. Luckily for me, the Amy Yee Tennis Center has opened its doors after it had been closed for 6 months.

The courts themselves have not changed much, but insulation was added into the roof and walls. (It used to feel like playing inside a giant refrigerator in winter time). A new fire alarm system was installed, and the locker rooms were improved as well.

The new and improved Amy Yee Tennis Center on Martin Luther King Jr Way South. The paintwork outside is new, as are the parking area and entrance plaza accessibility improvements. The court fees are $38 for singles play and $42 for doubles (for 1 h 15 mins). 

Sunday/ Seattle Sounders: top of the heap

The Sounders MLS Cup tifo. (Tifo: a choreographed display in which fans in a sports stadium raise a large banner together or simultaneously hold up signs that together form a large images). [Picture Credit: Charles Boehm/ mlssoccer.com]
The Seattle Sounders beat out Toronto today, for the 2019 Major League Soccer Cup in front of their home crowd, 3-1. CenturyLink Field Stadium was packed with more than 69,000 spectators, the most ever for any event there.

Here is how the goals came about, as the game unfolded:
57′ Kelvin Leerdam (SEA)
76′ Víctor Rodríguez (SEA)
90′ Raúl Ruidíaz (SEA)
93′ Jozy Altidore (TOR)
Final Score: SEA 3- TOR 1

Seattle Sounders captain and midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro lifts the MLS Cup after their win today. Lodeiro is from Uruguay, and it is his third full season with the Sounders. On the right, that’s goal scorer Raúl (nickname ‘The Flea’) Ruidíaz with the red & white flag from Peru over his shoulders. To his right is Kelvin Leerdam from Suriname. Yes, it’s the ‘United Nations’ on the team, but at least there is also Jordan Morris – from Mercer Island, a stone’s throw from Seattle.  [Picture Credit: Seattle Sounders on Twitter@SoundersFC]

Saturday/ the Springboks have it!

The South African rugby team made it #3 today with their upset win in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final against England. They won in 1995 against New Zealand, and in 2007 against England.

There were two beautiful Springbok tries in the second half, one by left wing Makazole Mapimpi, and one by quicksilver right wing Cheslin Kolbe. The final score was 32-12.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi lifts the Rugby World Cup trophy, flanked by the littlest guys in the team: scrum-half Faf de Klerk, 5′ 8″, 194 lbs (left) and right wing Cheslin Kolbe, 5′ 7″, 176 lbs.
Cute cartoon in the Daily Mail. (Croydon is just 15 mi south of London, and the Final was played in Yokohama, Japan). Alas, the English fans had to return home very disappointed.

Sunday/ go Bokke!

The South African Springboks are through to the World Rugby Cup semi-final. They beat Japan’s Brave Blossoms 26-3.

Next up: Wales, on Sun Oct. 27 in Yokohama. The other semi-final is between England and New Zealand on Sat. Oct 26.

The Springboks are about to score another try here (try= touchdown), in the last 10 minutes of the game. Full back Willie le Roux is passing the ball to wing Makazole Mapimpi, and he went over and scored to bring the score to 26-3. No forward throwing or passing as in American football – that would be completely illegal in rugby! And no tackling, or holding someone back, if he does not have the ball. [Source: YouTube: HIGHLIGHTS: Japan v South Africa – Rugby World Cup 2019]

Thursday/ here comes Rugby World Cup 2019

There Rugby World Cup 2019 starts in a week on Fri Sept. 20 in Japan. It starts out with four pools (A B C and D) with five teams in each. The top two teams in each will go through to the final rounds.

Ireland is at the top of the world rankings, South Africa is #4, and the United States (yes, there is a team, actually), is a definite underdog at #13.  South Africa will play New Zealand in its first match; the USA will play England.

Do I want some Rugby World Cup cards? asked the lady at the grocery store check-out today. Um -yes, sure, was my response. Confession: I barely know any of the South African rugby players .. looks like the guy in the middle here is Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira (36), though. Some years ago the Seattle Seahawks (American football) had a running back called Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch.

Sunday/ don’t do this (with your tennis racquet, at the US Open)

Mike Bryan (41) of the famous men’s tennis doubles duo ‘the Bryan brothers’, was fined $10,000 for a playful gesture on the tennis court at the US Open on Sunday.

He challenged a line call – no problem with that – but as they waited for the replay, he flipped his racquet around and pointed it rifle-style at the line judge.

Code violation, said the umpire, and after the match the U.S. Tennis Association handed down the $10,000 fine. (Bryan apologized in a statement. “I apologize for any offense I may have caused. We won the point and the gesture was meant to be playful. But given the recent news and political climate I understand how my gesture could be viewed as insensitive. I promise that I will never do anything like this again.”)

 

Sunday/ the one who does not risk, does not drink champagne

I watched the final of the Cincinnati Masters tennis tournament on TV today.
Daniil Medvedev* (Russia) beat David Goffin (Belgium) 7-6, 6-4 in the final. He went all-out for his serve in the final game, serving three aces.

In the post-match meeting with the press, Medvedev said he was starting to get cramps, and ‘as we say in Russia, Кто не рискует, тот не пьёт шампанского/ the one who does not risk, does not drink champagne’.

*On the way to the final, Medvedev also beat world No 1 Novak Djokovic.

A still from a YouTube video from vlogger Angelos Georgakis. He walked around in a park in Kiev, Russia, and asked people what their favorite Russian proverb is. This lovely couple mentioned the same one tennis player Medvedev did: ‘The one who does not risk, does not drink champagne’.

Thursday/ more tennis

I have run out to the tennis at Seattle Tennis Club every day this week to watch the tennis there.
It’s a great way to enjoy the sunny weather.

Here is the little jetty on the shore of Lake Washington by the Seattle Tennis Club. Hobie Cats (like the one with the yellow, white and orange sail) were wildly popular in Plettenberg Bay in South Africa back in the day when my family went there in summer, and they probably still are. 
These are yellow and pink coneflowers (Rudbeckia), also called black-eyed Susans, basking in the sun by the tennis courts.

Monday/ action at the Seattle Tennis Club

The Washington State Open tennis tournament started at the Seattle Tennis Club today⁠— for the week, and I went out today to go and take a look. The facility is not even 2 miles from my house, but I have never been there. All other times of the year it is members only and very exclusive.

It was $30,000 to join the Club in 2015 (a figure almost certainly higher by now), plus annual dues. The wait list time is said to be 8 years or so. Rumor has it that Bill Gates wanted to become a member, but now has to wait his turn, as well.

The Seattle Tennis Club on the shore of Lake Washington. That’s the city of Bellevue in the distance. There are 19 tennis courts on the roughly 8 acres of real estate. As it turned out, the guy in red is the No 5 seed in the Men’s Open section, and I watched him play a match just a little later.
A little bit of history, from a banner put up on one of the fences. The first tournament here, was held in 1890, only 13 years after London hosted its first Wimbledon tennis tournament in 1877.
The Washington State Open logo, done in flowers and greenery.
Here’s No 5 seed Riley Smith (22 yrs old, from Long Beach, California). He’s 6’7″ tall, and makes full use of it to smack his serves down into the opposite court. Bam!
His opponent was Jesse Schouten from Mill Creek WA (north of Seattle). Shouten is a good player, but lost in straight sets against Smith.

Saturday/ Nadal, 33 and Federer, 37

The Federer-Nadal semi-final at Wimbledon produced an incredible display of tennis — nevermind that the protagonists were 33 and 37 (almost 38) years old.

They have played each other some 40 times, but last met at Wimbledon in 2008 – so this match was in the making for 11 years. In all this time, they both only got sharper, fitter and even better than they already had been at their game, so long ago.

Federer (Switzerland) celebrates after defeating Nadal (Spain) 7-6(3) 1-6 6-3 6-4 on Saturday in the Wimbledon Men’s Semi-final. It was a very memorable match to watch. I love the fan that simply waves the little Swiss flag. Picture from the official Wimbledon ‘The Championship’ website. Credit: AELTC/Thomas Lovelock.

Friday/ ‘today was not my day’

I watched a little Wimbledon tennis every day this week.
New kid on the block, 15-year old American Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff, continues to make waves. Today, she clawed her way back to a 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Slovenian ‘veteran’ Polona Hercog (28), in the third round.

To the disappointment of many (and mine), 16-year old Leo Borg, son of Bjorn Borg, lost at his first bid to make it into the Wimbledon Junior tournament main draw. ‘I was very happy to play, and I am very thankful to play here, but today was not my day’, he said afterwards.

Leo Borg made his appearance on Thursday at the junior Wimbledon Qualifying event on Thursday. He did his best, but came up short against No.9 seeded Frenchman Loris Pourroy: 1-6 and 4-6. [Picture from Wimbledon.com].