Monday/ Wimbledon starts ☔

There was rain in London’s SW19 just an hour after Day 1’s tennis had gotten underway at the All England Club.
Centre Court has a retractable roof, though (since 2009), as does Court 1 (since 2019).

Court 1 was where the fierce battle in the Gentlemen’s First Round, between Carlos Alcaraz (19, Spain 🇪🇸) and Jan-Lennard Struff (31, Germany 🇩🇪) was taking place.
Struff’s coach must have instructed him to play gangbusters and go for the margins, hit two first serves every point, just to have a shot at beating Alcaraz. He did just that, with great effect.
Alcaraz had to pull a rabbit out of a hat in the must-have fourth set-tiebreaker, to be at 1-2 and not 0-3.
Struff followed his shot in the forehand corner to the net. Alcaraz got it back, then had to streak crosscourt like a cheetah, to pick up the volley from Struff. He made a scorching one-handed backhand winner out of it. (Under normal conditions the Alcaraz backhand uses two hands).
Final score: Alcaraz 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 after 4 hrs 11 mins.

The grass is fresh and still green everywhere (a little slippery, watch out).
The players look resplendent in their gleaming Wimbledon whites. Grass court tennis shoes have pimples on the soles to provide a little more grip.
Fast balls will skid a little and stay lower than on clay, so it’s a slightly different game and one that Alcaraz is still coming to grips with. One needs lightning-fast reflexes and a little luck, to catch a cannonball serve on one’s strings, which is why serve-and-volleyers do so well on grass.
[Photo of Alcaraz in action today, by Getty Images]

Wednesday/ tennis, on the grass 🎾

The short lawn tennis season is in full swing with the ATP tournaments in Eastbourne and Mallorca this week⁠— and then there is Roehampton, the qualifying tournament for Wimbledon (that starts on Monday).

Wimbledon has banned Russian and Belarussian players from the tournament this year. The ATP and WTA (representing the players) have retaliated by announcing that no ranking points will be awarded for those that are allowed to play.

Seven-time Wimbledon champ Serena Williams (40), has been given a wildcard to play. Rafael Nadal (36) has announced he is good to go as well (he has had a lingering foot injury).

An undated picture of the Wimbledon qualifying competition at Roehampton, just 10 miles away from the famed All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club grounds where Wimbledon is played.
It looks lovely, with the sun casting shadows on the grass courts, spectators on the knoll, but it really is a bare-bones venue, loathed by the players. The lawns are uneven, with too few practice and warm-up courts. No water and extra towels on the courts, no technology to help with line calls, no stands for the spectators and no parking anywhere. ‘Take the bus or a taxi from the nearest train station, and bring a lawn chair’, advises the website.
Still: do you want to have a shot at Wimbledon or not? Win three matches and you are in. Even if you lose in the final round at Roehampton, you could still get invited as a ‘lucky loser’ to fill a last-minute opening in Wimbledon’s main draw.

Sunday/ it’s good to be king ♚

Well, I got up at 6 am Pacific Time to watch the Nadal-Ruud French Open Men’s Final, but the match was very one-sided.

Nadal was never in trouble and won easily: 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. A ‘bagel’ for Casper Ruud (Norway, age 23) in that last set, as we say in tennis.

Rafael Nadal ⁠—the King of Clay⁠— turned 36 on Friday.
Will the king reign for one more year? We shall see, of course.

I love this collage on the front page of Monday’s Beeld. 
(Newspaper from South Africa; Beeld translates to ‘Image’).
Each picture was taken moments after Nadal had won the French Open Men’s Final that year. Rafa does a great job demonstrating all the different ways to collapse onto the red clay! 😂
Nadal was emotional today as well (far right), but did not fall down onto the clay.

Friday/ lots of French Open

I basically turned off Twitter and the TV this week, and just watched French Open tennis on the Tennis Channel (it’s a subscription streaming service).

A bird’s eye view of Stade Roland Garros in the 16th arrondissement in ‎Paris. Completed in 1928, it was named after WWI aviator and war hero Roland Garros (he was not a tennis player). The main stadium on the right, Court Philippe Chatrier, can accommodate 15,000 spectators. Chatrier (1928- 2000) was a French tennis player and tennis administrator.
This is an iconic picture of the incomparable French player Suzanne Lenglen, whom the other main tennis court and stadium at Roland Garros is named after.
Her feet rarely seemed to touch the ground when she played. Her tennis career was interrupted by World War I, but it is said that by the end of the 1920’s ‘La Divine’ Lenglen was more famous, and more popular, than any other athlete in Europe— or for that matter any movie star, singer or politician.
The photographer did a remarkable job to capture Lenglen in action. That must be another photographer on the far side, with a contraption of a camera!
[Photo: Getty Images Archive]

Wednesday/ tennis, in Lyon & Geneva 🎾

The men’s professional tennis tour action is in Lyon, France, and Geneva, Switzerland, this week. The clay court season is nearing its end, with the French Open in Paris starting in just a few days on Sunday.

Lyon (also spelled Lyons) is the capital of both the Rhône département and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes région, in east-central France. It is set on a hilly site at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Lyon is the third largest city in France, after Paris and Marseille.
Geneva (French Genève, German Genf, Italian Ginevra) is the capital of Genève canton, in the far southwestern corner of Switzerland that juts into France. [From]

Lyon. That’s Saint George Church of Lyon on the right, with the passerelle Saint-Georges (foot bridge) crossing the Saône river.
The Georges Prévéral velodrome (Tête d’Or velodrome) is the site of the Lyon Open tennis tournament. Today, Holger Rune (Denmark, age 19) beat Adrian Mannarino (France, age 33) 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. [Still from Tennis TV]
Geneva, at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).
The big man-made fountain is a city landmark, Jet d’Eau (The Geneva Water Fountain).
The Geneva Open is staged at the Tennis Club de Genève at the Parc des Eaux-Vives, the oldest and largest tennis club in Switzerland.

Tuesday/ the GOAT slayer 🐐

Carlos Alcaraz finds himself at No 6 on the ATP rankings after his spectacular run in last week’s Madrid Open. He took out Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev to win the championship.

He is not playing this week in Rome, though⁠— he is resting up a sprained ankle for the French Open that starts in less than two weeks.

El asesino de cabras- ‘The GOAT killer’/ ‘The GOAT slayer’.
GOAT = Greatest Of All Time (in men’s tennis).
My apologies for posting a picture depicting gun violence, but I could not resist reposting this meme that did the rounds on Twitter after Carlos had taken out Nadal and Djokovic in the Madrid Open.
PS 1: The usual debate is if Nadal (age 35), Djokovic (34) or Roger Federer (40) is the GOAT. And then there is Rod Laver. Only two men had ever won the Grand Slam (the four major tournaments in one year): Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969).
PS 2: Carlos has not played against Federer, and it’s looking more and more that he never will. Federer had a third operation done on his right knee last year, and will miss the 2022 French Open as well as Wimbledon.

Monday/ tennis in Roma 🎾

The Italian Open tennis tournament in the Eternal City has started, at the beautiful Foro Italico sports complex.
The tournament was first held in Milan in 1930 as the Italian International Championships, and was moved to the Foro Italico a few years later, in 1935.

The Nicola Pietrangeli court is surrounded by green lawns and 18 large statues. It is named after Italy’s greatest tennis champion, Nicola Pietrangeli (age 88). The main stadium with its steel structure is in the distance.
[Undated photo posted on Reddit]

Wednesday/ the Sounders make history

Seattle Sounders FC made history tonight by becoming the first Major League Soccer team (team from the United States or Canada, that is) to win a Concacaf* Champions League title.

*The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, founded in 1961, one of FIFA’s six continental governing bodies for association football (soccer).

The Sounders beat the Pumas UNAM (based in Mexico City) by 3-0 in front of a record home-crowd of 67,000 at Lumen Field.  The weather played along, as well:  a high of 65 °F/  18 °C today before it starts raining on and off for the next several days.

Seattle Sounders players celebrate after winning the CONCACAF Champions League title over the Pumas UNAM from Mexico City.
[Picture Credit: Getty Images]

Monday/ tennis, in La Caja Mágica

The Magic Box (“La Caja Mágica”) was designed by French architect Dominique Perrault. (Also design by him: the François Mitterrand National Library in Paris).
The Magic Box opened in May 2009 at a cost of some US $300 million. The main moving roof is 101m x 72m x 4m (surface area of 7250 sq m/ 78,100 sq ft). The architect used very slender steel columns and trusses in the design. Horizontal trusses in the roof sections help to resist wind forces.

The 2022 Madrid Open tennis tournament is under way, in the multipurpose stadium complex called La Caja Mágica.
During the Madrid Open, it is the only facility in the world with three tennis courts under a retractable roof.

This year, the top Men’s Singles seeds are ‘No Vax’ Djokovic, Sacha Zverev, Rafael Nadal (the ‘King of Clay’), Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Norwegian Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev— but no Medvedev (he had hernia surgery), Carlos Alcaraz and Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime.

The entrance lobby to the center court named for Manolo Santana, Madrid native and world No 1 as an amateur in 1965. He had passed away last December at age 83. 
[Still from Tennis TV]
It was a rainy day, so the roof was closed today. This is a first-round match between two Grand Slam champions Andy Murray (Scotland, 34) and Dominic Thiem (Austria, 28). Thiem is recently back from an injury to a ligament in his wrist. (He did not need surgery). Murray won 6-3, 6-4.
[Still from Tennis TV]

Wednesday/ Alcaraz out, as well

Djokovic lost yesterday in the Monte Carlo Open, but so did young Carlos Alcaraz, today (against Sebastian Korda). Aw. That really hurt my interest in the tournament, but I will continue to watch.

I love this picture. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the 22-year old Spaniard, went for it with everything he had, against Djokovic, for the win. He took a tumble in the second set, and did not even change his shirt until much later. That red clay dust gets into everything: your shoes, your socks, your racquet, all of your kit, really. And you have to know how to slam on the brakes and slide, as Fokina does here, to scoop up a drop shot at full stretch. [Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters]
Writes Christopher Clarey in the NYT: ‘Davidovich, 22, looks like a Viking prepared to make mayhem with his head closely shaven on the sides and his fair hair pulled back into a knot. His father Eduard Mark Davidovich, a former boxer, is originally from Sweden and his mother Tatiana Fokina from Russia. But he was born in Malaga, Spain, and raised, as his accent makes clear, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. He started playing tennis at age 2 — even younger than Djokovic did — and has become one of the flashiest, fastest men in the game under the tutelage of his longtime coach, Jorge Aguirre’.

Monday/ tennis 🎾in Monaco, and a yacht

The annual Monte Carlo* Open tennis tournament has started.
It is one of the big 9 second-tier tournaments on the calendar (the big ones are the four Grand Slams: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open).

*Monte Carlo is one of the four quartiers (sections) of Monaco. It is situated on an escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera, on the Mediterranean, just northeast of Nice, France.

Novak ‘No Vax’ Djokovic will play (still unvaccinated), as will Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sacha Zverev.

The courts at the Monte Carlo Country Club are red clay, same as for the French Open. Sebastian Korda (21, USA) is changing sides while playing against Botic van de Zandschulp (26, Netherlands). Korda won 7-5, 6-4.
These waters by Monte Carlo are called the Ligurian Sea. That’s Monte Carlo Beach on the left of the picture (a beach in name only, say I, with just pebbles and no sand). The  rocky outcrop is called Pointé de la Veille.  Let’s pan to the right, though. Is that a warship, the vessel in all gray?
Why no, it seems to be a superyacht of some kind. (The cameraman zoomed in on the vessel, but the commentators of the tennis match were of no help. WELL. Then I will have to find out for myself, I thought).
A few clicks on the icons on floating around Monaco revealed it to be the Olivia O. She is owned by Eyal Ofer (age 72), Israeli billionaire based in Monaco (of course), and active in shipping and real estate. Price tag: $200 million, with an estimated running cost of $15-20 million per year. The vessel has 7 cabins for guests and 15 cabins for the crew (not nearly as luxe as the ones for guests, I am sure).

Wednesday/ tennis in Miami

There is tennis in Miami this week: the annual Miami Open, a tournament that I attended in person in 1990, during my maiden visit to the United States.

Up-and-coming superstar from Spain, Carlos Alcaraz (18), ousted Stefanos Tsitsipas (23) in spectacular fashion on Tuesday. Alcaraz will face Miomir Kecmanović (22) from Serbia for a place in the semi-final.

This between-the-legs shot (also called a ‘tweener’) from Alcaraz came early in the match against Tsitsipas On Tuesday, at 1-1. Alcaraz had to run back to retrieve a lob from Tsitsipas, and there was no time to turn around. It won Alcaraz the point.
[Still image from streaming service Tennis TV]
March 1990. My brother Chris and I, before hitting a few balls on the green clay court of the Miami Intercontinental hotel on the third floor. We were there to see our brother Piet play in the Miami Open for real (he was a professional tennis player). At that time it was only the 6th year that the tournament was held. It was billed as the 1990 Lipton International Players Championships.

Friday/ Indian Wells tennis

The men’s semifinals of the Indian Wells Masters tomorrow will be very interesting.
Semifinal 1: 🇪🇸 vs. 🇪🇸
Semifinal 2: 🇺🇸 vs. [the country that shall not be named]

19* 🇪🇸 Carlos Alcaraz (age 18) vs. 4 🇪🇸 Rafael Nadal (age 35)
20  🇺🇸 Taylor Fritz (age 24)        vs. 7       Andrey Rublev (age 24)
*This is the seed number for the player for the tournament.
On paper, the player with the lower seed number is favored to win.

May the best man win as far as the Spaniards go, and go USA!
We don’t want a Russian to win. Not this year, anyway.

Sat 3/19: Fritz won 7-5, 6-4, and Nadal won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Sun 3/20: Taylor Fritz beat Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), the first American to win there since 2001.

Here are Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz (far side) and Rafael Nadal (he with the killer bicep) practicing, at the Indian Wells stadium. There is actually not that much to be learned from a practice session. Match play is a different beast, and will make these two guys into ‘animals’ (it’s a compliment). They will hit the ball with all their might, stretch their legs for shots far and wide, and chase down dropshots with a dead bounce .. and do that for four hours if they have to. Amazing.
[Still picture from clip posted on YouTube video channel 12kgp on Mar 10, 2022]

Sunday/ the new No 1 is Russian

The annual Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament is in full swing (in Indian Wells, California, of course). Novak Djokovic is not there: no vax, no play. Just last week, Djokovic lost his No 1 position on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) rankings list, to the Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Should Medvedev be allowed to play, given that his country invaded Ukraine, and now wages a brutal war there? (Brutal being superfluous: all wars are brutal). The ATP has banned Russia from team events (such as the prestigious Davis Cup), but also ruled that Russians can compete as individuals, just not under the Russian flag.

Daniil Medvedev preparing to serve, in the first game of his match against Tomas Machac (Czech Republic), which was played on Saturday. (Medvedev won 6-3 6-2).
There is no Russian flag next to Medvedev’s name on the electronic scoreboard.  

Friday/ the show that is called the Olympic Games

From the New York Times, as reported by Chris Buckley and Andrew Das:
In a climactic moment to end the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, China chose two athletes — including one it said was of Uyghur heritage — to deliver the flame to the Olympic cauldron and officially start the Games.

The moment was tinged with layers of symbolism — a man and a woman working together, a nod to China’s Olympic history — but it was the choice of Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a cross-country skier who the Chinese said has Uyghur roots, that confronted head-on one of the biggest criticisms of the country’s role as host.

The Chinese Communist Party state has conducted a mass detention and re-education campaign targeting Uyghur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang that the United States has declared as genocidal. It was among the reasons that several countries, including the United States, took part in a diplomatic boycott of the Games.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, left, and Zhao Jiawen, both Chinese Olympians, helped light the cauldron.
[Photo Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times]

Sunday/ congrats to Rafa

“Huge respect for beating me, because I tried my best”
-Daniil Medvedev (Russia, age 25) after losing to Rafael Nadal (Spain, 35) after a marathon Australian Open final that lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes

Medvedev was two sets up to none, at 3 am Pacific Time this morning, as I was watching the 2022 Australian Open Mens Final. I turned off the iPad and thought: ‘Looks like Medvedev has it’.

Several hours later on the other side of the world though, the scoreboard read 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in Nadal’s favor. Quite a comeback from two sets down, and from a chronic foot injury that had him contemplating retirement late last year.

Nadal hugging his father, Sebastián, after the match.
[Photo Credit: Martin Keep/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images]

Wednesday/ a very rare shot

This shot made by Pablo Carreño Busta (Spain, age 30) in his five-set match against Tallon Griekspoor (Netherlands, 25) at the Australian Open is perfectly legal but very rarely seen.
Busta won the match after 4 hrs 10 mins of play.

You are not allowed to touch the net, or to jump over the net to play a ball, to return a shot. You can run around the net post and play from there, provided your feet/ your racquet does not touch the inside of the opponent’s singles court.

It is OK to reach over the net to hit a shot, while not touching it, nor touching the inside of the opponent’s singles court lines.

Griekspoor (not in the picture) had hit an overhead and almost missed it. He had clipped the ball with the top edge of his racquet frame, giving it a severe backspin. So Griekspoor’s shot cleared the net on the near side (Busta’s side), and then it bounced backwards over the net to Griekspoor’s side.
Busta, quick as he is, saw what was happening, followed the ball by running AROUND the net post, got his racquet to the ball, and made it bounce inside the singles court on Griekspoor’s side. (Griekspoor had no hope of getting to it. The ball went into the net on Griekspoor’s side after it had bounced once.)

Sunday/ the tennis Down Under

All right. You-Know-Who (The No-Vax One) has departed from Melbourne, Australia (reportedly flying to Dubai, and presumably getting to his home in Monte Carlo, from there).
It is Monday morning, 72 °F (22 °C) and sunny in Melbourne, so hopefully the tennis tournament can bounce back from the ugly run-up to its start.
‘Lucky loser’* Salvatore Caruso (age 29, Italy) finds himself in the main draw now, in the spot that held the world number one’s name.

*He lost in the Australian Open qualifying tournament’s final round.

I resubscribed to ESPN+ again, to catch the Australian Open tennis. Here’s a peek into the player entrance area and the hallway running out to the court in the Margaret Court Arena. Margaret Smith Court (age 79) is an Australian retired tennis player and former world No. 1 herself. She is unfortunately also known for her outspoken and disgraceful criticism of the LGBT community. (Shrug. It’s 2022 and not 1822 or 1922. So I don’t even know what to say about that).

Monday/ not out of the woods

Looks like we will have to wait until Wednesday Australia time for the final word from Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, regarding the fate of No Vax Djokovic.

There are reports that his travel declaration form (travel before the trip to Melbourne) was filled out incorrectly. He had in fact, traveled to Yugoslavia and Spain, which was not noted in his declaration. Then there are Twitterati that got a hold of the (now publicly available) QR-code of his Dec. 16 Covid test, scanned it, and says the test result show as negative, not positive. If one can believe that.

Here’s Team Canada (Brayden Schnur, Félix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov) taking the Canadian flag and the 2022 ATP Cup* that they had claimed on Sunday, for a jolly in Sydney Harbor.
*A team competition between competing nations to kick-start the calendar year for the Association of Tennis Professionals.
[Picture from @felixtennis on Twitter]

Saturday/ no vax, no play

From Yahoo Sports:
The Victoria state government allows medical exemptions for people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last six months. That’s why Djokovic received a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open. The event is hosted in Victoria, one of six states in the country.
Border authorities, however, did not accept Djokovic’s previous COVID-19 diagnosis as an acceptable reason for a medical exemption, leading to Djokovic being detained and his visa being canceled.

My opinion: Djokovic should just go home. Bye-bye.

Reported by Tennis Channel: in spite of testing positive on Dec. 16, Novak ‘No Vax’ Djokovic attended public events— sans mask— the very next day and the day after that.  I think he is obnoxious, and I am indifferent to his self-inflicted dilemma.

Mon 1/10 (reported by @MetroSport on Twitter):
Judge Anthony Kelly declared that the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was ‘unreasonable’ on the grounds that he had not been given time to speak with his lawyers or representatives from Tennis Australia after being detained, and overturned the cancellation.

That means that the judge’s call hinged on a technicality, concerning the way in which the border force implemented the rules, rather than an outright declaration that Djokovic should have been completely free to enter the country all along.

Now the ball is in the court of Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, who must decide whether to personally intervene and cancel Djokovic’s visa himself.

Fri 1/14: Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa was announced at 6 pm Melbourne time. Djokovic’s legal team is challenging the decision.

Sun 1/16: The Australian Federal Court upholds Hawke’s decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa. The court panel returned their unanimous decision just a day before the World No. 1 was set to play his first match of the Australian Open. Djokovic will now be deported and will not compete in the tournament.