Today I played my first round robin matches here in Karlovy Vary. I practiced a fair amount yesterday and a little on Monday too, but hitting and playing on these fast courts (I know, it’s an oxymoron to call red clay courts fast, but they are!) with what are apparently fast balls (Head ATP tour) was quite different from hitting with used balls. To add to the challenge, it rained last night extremely hard and was cold today, 50s or low 60s, so the courts were heavier, making them perfect for dropshotting, but still for some reason fast.
This tournament is pretty well run. Almost every match has a chair umpire…however all of them are local junior players, some as young as eight. On the one hand they have good, young eyes and can leap in and out of the chair with ease. On the other hand, some lose track of the score (the score cards here only have spots for keeping track of the games played, not the points played) and I saw one teenaged girl who was quite distracted from her job when one of the teenaged boys came by and she stared to flirt with him. All call the score well in English or Czech.
Today I had to start my tournament by playing Olga Markova from Czech Republic, the #2 seed. I’m not sure why there were any seeds, if the two seeds meet in the first match (second match for Olga). I won the first two games, and it was deuce in the third, but the chair called game, and I don’t speak Czech and Olga doesn’t speak much English, so it was 2-1. I called the score the rest of the match, lesson learned. Olga was playing well, and very relaxed, hammering returns when she wasn’t hitting perfect drop shots followed by lob volleys, should I manage to reach the ball, serving second serves on the line…she was going for her shots. However, she wasn’t feeling well and was coughing between points. After the first set she retired, and I was a bit lucky to get out of the match so easily. Blow Olga and our chair umpire Hannah.
About 45 minutes after we finished it started to sprinkle, then it turned into a hard rain and was cold. There’s a restaurant on site so I was able to go inside and get a hot drink and wait out the bad weather. I had another match not before 2pm on the same court against Andrea Dustmann. Andrea had won a three setter in the morning. I beat Andrea 60 61, but still found myself late on some balls. In the last game, at deuce, Robert, our chair, called game set and match for me, but we both agreed it was deuce and two points later, I did win the match. Below, Andrea, our chair, Robert and me after the match.
Tomorrow I play Gabriele Seubert who has played three matches here and has lost all three but two went three sets. We also play doubles.
One of the nice things about international tournaments is that the few Americans in a tournament really bond, common language and nationality. Here there are a few Americans, Mirek Wierzbiki from Florida and John and Mary Hall from Santa Monica. There are also quite a few Aussies and a few Brits and one South African player, Petro Krueger. Below, John, Mirek and me.