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].

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]

Saturday/ a bad ending at the US Open Tennis

Oh man! What an unfortunate ending unfolded at the 2018 US Open Women’s Final today. Down by one set, in the second set, Serena’s coach gestured to her to ‘move up’ (not allowed). Chair umpire Carlos Ramos gave Serena a warning, which she took very badly – as an insult, and ‘unfair’ – saying that in men’s tennis they get away with coaching all the time, and much more. (She’s right about that, but this was not the time, nor the place, to argue that). She would not stop berating the chair umpire, and at the next change of sides, called him a thief, and demanded an apology. Then she also broke a racquet on the court. When she again launched into a tirade, it was the third violation, and she was given a penalty of a whole game.

As ESPN notes, at least everyone can agree that the winner, Naomi Osaka (20) from Japan, was cheated out of an uncontroversial win.

The final point of the match. Osaka (serving from the far side) would close it out 6-2, 6-4 right here. Osaka played great tennis throughout, and displayed remarkable composure through Serena’s meltdown and the drama with the chair umpire.

Tuesday/ a Seattle Storm game

It was a beautiful late-summer day here in Seattle (78 °F/ 26 °C).
Friends and I attended a WNBA* women’s basketball game in the Key Arena by the Space Needle.

*Women’s National Basketball Association, founded in 1996. There are 12 teams that play in the league.

The Key Arena is in Seattle Center, and started out as Washington State Pavilion, at the 1962 World’s Fair (with the Space Needle). It is currently the home of the Seattle Storm, the women’s basketball team. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the American flag is at half-mast to honor Senator McCain.
Here is the scene inside the arena, at the end of tonight’s exciting game. The game went into extra time with Seattle Storm besting Phoenix Mercury 91-87, to go up 2-0 in the Western Conference play-off series.

Wednesday/ the South African drill

South African sports legend John van Reenen (71) passed away on Tuesday at his home in Calitzdorp, South Africa. (He suffered from diabetes). He studied art right here in Seattle at the University of Washington until 1971, and was a world-class discus thrower at the time.  He wanted to attend the 1972 Olympic Games, but was barred as a South African citizen. South Africans were barred by the IOC from the Games from 1964 to 1992, due to the South African government’s apartheid policies.

At an event in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 1975, Van Reenen set a world record with a throw of 68.48 m. Discus throwers studied and imitated his technique, known for a long time as ‘the South African drill’. Perfecting a good technique is notoriously difficult – which may be why the world record of German Jürgen Schult of 74.08 m, set in 1986, still stands today. It is the oldest record in all of men’s track and field.

Shaun Pickering posted this picture of his dad Ron (on the left), coach to South African discus thrower John van Reenen. This is around 1975.

Friday/ a very titanic tennis match

Brian ‘Babe’ Norton in 1920. [Source: WIkipedia]. He lost against ‘Big Bill’ Tilden in the 1921 Wimbledon Final.
Wow! Kevin Anderson is the first South African in almost 100 years to make it to the Wimbledon Men’s Final (Brian Norton made it in 1921).

The match ran for 6 hrs and 36 minutes, Anderson finally prevailing over American John Isner, with a monster score of 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 26-24. There is no ‘tiebreaker’ (played at 6-6) in the final set. To win, a player have to lead by two games (called an advantage set).

So far, the US Open is the only major tournament that dictates that a tiebreaker be played even in the final set .. but I bet other tournament committees are now going to look into doing it as well. Long matches such as these wreak havoc on the tournament schedule, and on the eventual winner’s ability to be ready for the next match.   The other semi-final between Djokovic and Nadal had to be suspended, and will only be completed on Saturday.

Kevin Anderson on the front page of ‘Die Burger’ in South Africa. Thriller King! says the headline.

Tuesday/ clash of the Wimbledon & World Cup titans

The Wimbledon Men’s Final and the World Cup Final are both set for Sunday.  (England plays Croatia on Wednesday for a place in the World Cup Final against France).  So far, Wimbledon’s management has refused to budge, and will not reschedule the traditional 2 pm (1300GMT) start time.  The World Cup does start two hours later, at 4 pm (1500GMT), but there is no way the tennis final will have been completed by that time.

I guess I will have to toggle back and forth – but if Roger Federer plays on Sunday, I will have to miss some of the soccer.

It might be the last Wimbledon hurrah for Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He turns 37 in August.  Are there any praises still left to sing? asks

Update Wed 7/11: South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Federer today in a tough 5-set match (13-11 in the final set). Yay! for Kevin. Aww .. Roger is out after all. And England fell to Croatia, 1-2. So it’s Croatia and France on Sunday.

Soccer legend Sir Bobby Charlton (80) greets Australian tennis legend Rod Laver (79). Charlton is regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, and was a key member of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. [Picture from].

Tuesday/ England in the last eight

I love the Three Lions shirt badge of the England team.

England went through to the final eight in the World Cup, but they made their fans bite their nails through a penalty shoot-out against Columbia.

One has to feel sorry for the team that loses in a penalty shoot-out. It’s like the tie-breaker in tennis. A stray shot, a lucky break, a bare miss, makes the world of difference between winning and losing.

From the online edition of the Daily Express. (‘Southgate’s Lions’: Gareth Southgate is the head coach of the Lions, the nickname of the England team).  Check the green box for the four match-ups in the final eight.

Tuesday/ modern ‘Vikings’

I try to watch as many World Cup matches as I can, and I just love the bit of pomp and ceremony at the start. The players come out onto the field with the kids, the giant flags are unfurled on the field, the national anthems play, and the game starts.

Denmark and France squared off today, in Moscow. Shortly after this moment, the Danish anthem ‘Der er et yndigt land’ and the French ‘La Marsellaise’ were played, while the camera panned over the players – very touching. [Photo from].
Enthusiastic fans rooting for Denmark. One wonders where in Moscow they found those croissants that they stuck onto their Viking horns! The match ended in a 0-0 draw, and both France and Denmark will go through to the next round.  P.S. There is actually no evidence from archaeology and historical sources that Vikings wore horned helmets.  [Photo from].
Hmm .. I thought, I am a little unsure which are all the modern countries that can lay claim on Viking heritage, so let me check. Looks like it would be Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Finland to the east: not really. The purple is Viking home territory and the blue areas are territories that they set out and conquered. [Map from Wikipedia].

Thursday/ the 2018 World Cup starts

The 2018 World Cup is underway! The mascot is a wolf called Zabivaka, ‘the one who scores’.  The wolf character beat out a tiger and a cat character by garnering 53% of an on-line vote for Russians.

The collage of World Cup winners through the decades, comes from FIFA’s web site. I bet the Germans would love to win again – and that everyone would love to beat them!