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].

Friday/ on tennis tournament duty

I helped out as a volunteer at the Seattle Classic tennis tournament today.
The tournament is sanctioned by the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA). The GLTA is an international body that oversees an impressive worldwide circuit of tennis tournaments (check out the table below).

The tournaments do not have prize money to speak of, but it is a great way of encouraging the LGBT community to participate in the wonderful sport of tennis (of which I am a lifelong fan).

Doubles play in progress today on one of the six outdoor courts at the Lloyd Nordstrom Tennis Center at the University of Washington. The speck at the top left is a float plane.
There are six indoor courts as well. The different divisions for different skill levels: Open, A, B, C and D. Some tournaments add draws for over-35 or over-45 players.
JuneAlegria OpenRotterdam, NetherlandsClay
JuneSeattle ClassicSeattle, WA-USAIndoor and Outdoor Hard
JulyPrague Friendly Tennis OpenPrague, Czech RepublicRed Clay
JulySan Diego OpenSan Diego, CA-USAHard
JulyLiberty OpenNew York, NY-USAOutdoor Hard
JulyEurogamesRome, ItalyTBD
JulyHanse Cup HamburgHamburg, GermanyClay
JulyThe Philadelphia OpenPhiladelphia, PA-USAHard court
JulyMadrid Tennis Open (Masters)Madrid, SpainGreen set (outdoor) and clay (covered)
AugChillli Tennis Open (Masters)Katowice, PolandClay
AugVIP (Vancouver International Pride)Vancouver, BC, CanadaHard Court
AugSecond City Tennis ClassicChicago, IL-USAIndoor Hard
AugAd-OUT CologneCologne, GermanyClay
AugParis Summer CupParis, FranceClay
AugZurich Rainbow OpenZurich, SwitzerlandRed Clay
AugBarcelona Open (Masters)Barcelona, SpainClay
AugNew Hope OpenNew Hope, PA-USAHard Court/Clay
AugTallinn Colour GamesTallinn, EstoniaHard Court/Carpet
AugMontréal Coupe de la ReineMontréal, Québec, CanadaIndoor Hard
AugThe Peach InternationalAtlanta, GA-USAHard
AugRose City OpenBeaverton, OR-USAHard
SeptIGO-Italian Gay OpenMilan, ItalyClay
SeptKiss My Ace-Manchester GLTAManchester, EnglandGrass
SeptIndyTennis ClassicIndianapolis, IN-USAHard Court
SeptBali G-SlamBali, IndonesiaHard Court
SeptThe Capital ClassicWashington, DC, DC-USAHard and Clay
SeptWrocLove CupWroclaw, PolandHard Court
SeptQueen City OpenCincinnati, OH-USAHard
SeptVicTennis Hard Court ChampionshipsMelbourne, AustraliaHard
SeptTexas Open (Masters)Dallas, TX-USAHard
OctGran Canaria OpenMaspalomas, Gran CanariaClay
OctOut in Hong Kong OpenHong Kong, Hong KongArtificial Grass
OctPeter Deacon TournamentSydney (Concord), NSW, AustraliaSynthetic Grass
OctSan Diego DoublesSan Diego, CA-USAHard Court
OctTennis London InternationalLondon, EnglandIndoor Hard
OctBrilliant Games (Masters)Antwerp, BelgiumHard
NovHOUTEXHouston, TX-USAHard Court
NovSunshine Doubles Gran CanariaMaspalomas, Gran CanariaClay
NovSegundo Abierto del Orgullo Argentino LGBTBuenos Aires, ArgentinaClay/Hard Courts
NovPalm Springs OpenRancho Mirage, CA-USAHard Court
NovCitrus Classic (Masters)Tampa, FL-USAHar-Tru Clay
DecFrankfurt OpenMaintal, GermanyCarpet
Dec10th Bangkok Pride Tournament (Masters)Bangkok, ThailandHard Court
Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) Tournaments 2019

Friday/ Adidas ‘barricade boost’

My new Adidas tennis shoes landed on the porch on Friday, shipped all the way from Sharonville, Ohio. (I’m going to play a little social tennis this summer). Sporting goods stores seem to carry very few tennis shoes nowadays. Running shoes and basketball shoes take up all the shelf space, instead.

I guess one can play some tennis in a pinch with any athletic shoe, but proper tennis shoes have a sturdy base, and support for the player’s forefoot and toes that get dragged across the tennis court.

The 2018 edition of the Adidas ‘barricade boost’ tennis shoe. Black and scarlet red is a first for me in a tennis shoe! Tennis shoe designs now change almost every year. So one never knows for sure if the new shoes will actually be better – or as good as – one’s old pair that had been a perfect fit.

Sunday/ a not-so-super Superbowl

Well, the Superbowl was a bust.
The one and only touchdown of the game finally came in the 4th quarter.
The New England Patriots won over the Los Angeles Rams, as expected – congrats to them.

We did get a little snow on the ground here in Seattle, with more expected overnight. I was adventurous in the kitchen and tried my hand at a red lentil soup. It turned out really nice.

The final step in making the soup is adding in lemon juice and chopped cilantro and stirring it in. I didn’t even know before seeing the recipe, that there was such a thing as red lentils!

Thursday/ naming Seattle’s NHL team

It is almost a done deal, that Seattle will be granted a franchise for a team to join the National Hockey League (NHL).  The team actually playing is still two years away. The Key Arena stadium still has to be upgraded, and a team put together – and all that goes with it.

In the meantime, the Seattle Times is running an informal survey of its readers to determine a name and a moniker for the team. It’s now down to the final two: the Totems, or the Sockeyes – after eliminating names such as Seattle Freeze, Seattle Sasquatches and Seattle Emeralds.

A rendering of Key Arena’s inside after its proposed upgrade, for when the NHL comes to Seattle. (Courtesy of / Oak View Group)
Hmm, I don’t know about either of these two. I like Seattle Totems, but would that still be acceptable today, to appropriate Native culture into a nickname & mascot? Seattle Sockeyes sounds good, but man! that makes it a FISH for a mascot. Not the best. Can we not have a snarling Mountain Lion, or an Osprey or an Eagle or a Bear? [Graphic & Text by the Seattle Times]

Tuesday/ the 2 hour marathon: almost there

Kipchoge took off a whopping 1 min 18 s from compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s 2014 record. [Graph: NRC Handelsblad]
The Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (33) set a new world record in the Berlin marathon on Sunday. Roger Robinson writes in Runner’s World that he is now, without question, the greatest marathoner of all time. He won every one of the last nine marathons that he had competed in.

‘How long will this time stand?’ asks the headline. Eliud Kipchoge shortly after winning the Berlin marathon in a world record time of 2:01:39. [Picture: NRC Handelsblad]