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  • Adios Mallorca, Hello Hungary

    On an airplane somewhere between Mallorca and Munich….

    I had my last training in Mallorca today, then quickly made it to the airport. I checked in and then went to the first security station I saw and was surprised it was so empty. I used about 4-5 bins for my various electronics, hats, etc…never having noticed it was the security for only the Balearic Islands…Mallorca, Menorca etc. So I packed back up and went upstairs to regular security. I picked the expedited security line, because I had Gold status with Lufthansa, and the gate opened…followed by an alarm! But the security person waived me through and I did quickly make it through security the 2nd time. Moral of the story: pay more attention to the signs and pick out the English explanation among the four languages shown.

    My trip to Mallorca involved a lot of tennis; 12 hours to be exact and not a lot else, partly because I rented the aftorementioned electric Renault Zoe which demanded to be recharged frequently and which took it’s time to recharge. It spent a fair amount of time at the Lidl charging in the evenings so I could get to tennis practice and back a couple of times the next day!

    Inca was a fairly industrial town in the center of Mallorca…not one of the lovely mountain villages of the west coast or one of the beach towns on the east coast. It was convenient but not noteworthy. I did go into Inca to do laundry once. I went in the middle of the day, thinking the laundry would be quiet that time of day, only to encounter someone washing load after load for some local hotels (small ones, with 15 or fewer rooms he said). He left one small machine open though so I got my clothes washed and dried them in the car and later, in my hotel room.

    I finally tried the surimi shaped like eels that I kept seeing in tapas and at the stores. It was in a garlic/olive oil mixture and was pretty good in a salad.

    I didn’t get back to watch Andy Murray because if I had I would not have had enough charge for the next day to drive to Global Tennis Team…needless to say, I’m not renting an electric car again till there are fast chargers galore and at all gas stations! Andy by the way lost in the quarters 76 in the third and cramped in the third set, so for him it was a successful venture I imagine…he got matches and knows where his fitness level is.

    I had a great time practicing though and learned a lot. I watched the kids hit more this time. They work so hard, and the instructors do not let them get by with anything less than 100% effort…..those who put in less effort find themselves running laps at a minimum. The instructors never have more than four players to a court and often have more than one instructor on court for 2-4 players. And they are watching intently or feeding. The players are the ones doing the work and hitting. One warm up involves cross courts with 3 players and one ball..hit it into the net and the player runs to pick it up. A player not hitting is shadowing a stroke. The two players alternate for a certain number of balls or time, then one goes to join the solo player and the remaining player hits solo for a while. It’s high energy.

    Next up for me is a tournament a couple of hours outside of Budapest…but first a couple of nights in Budapest, in Hungary, a country I’ve never before visited. It’s a part of the European Union and Schengen (unified passport) area but still uses its own currency. The exchange rate is $1 to 300 Hungarian currency, so I’ll be doing math in my head a lot this weekend.

    Hopefully I’ll have wifi this week in my room. However, the sim card I bought in Madrid, $20 from Orange for 20-25 GB of data for a month really came in handy this week. It works as a hotspot too, so I can write my blog on an Ipad and upload it by connectiing it to my phone’s data via wifi. Not a new thing but magical anyway.

    And that’s a wrap on Spain for this year.


  • Mallorca Encore: Training and Watching Andy Murray

    Mallorca, Spain

    This trip I am staying in a completely different area from Bunyola, north of Palma in Inca. However, the hotel is in the middle of orchards and very quiet (completely the opposite of where we staying in Madrid for sure).

    I got to the airport and found out I’d reserved an all electric vehicle. It took Hertz a while to put in the SD card that had the navigation and for someone from Hertz to explain how to charge it. It had a range of 180 KM and they said no problem, Mallorca is small…well, it’s down to about 80km and that included a 30 minute charging stint at Lidl today, so I’m going to have to leave it there for a few hours tomorrow in between practice sessions. I don’t think I’m quite ready for a full on electric vehicle as range anxiety is real. On the other hand, the cost to refuel it this week is zero.

    I checked into my hotel…my room wasn’t ready but I was able to change and get ready to practice for 90 minutes. Then I charged the car a bit and shopped at Lidl more before getting ready to go watch Andy Murray. Murray has been one of my favorite players since I first saw him playing Clement at the US Open when he was 18. He is playing the Mallorca challenger this week in Manacor at the Rafael Nadal Academy. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive but it was a zoo parking. Entry is free and the center court was SRO. I got there about the middle of the first set but the match was quick. Murray was playing a 17 year old, Imran Sibille of France…with career earnings of $150. He was overwhelmed, couldn’t handle the pace of Murray’s shots and hit a much lighter ball than Murray. Murray looks a little rusty on the short balls, but then it was such a lopsided match, it was hard to tell. The crowd was very vocal every time Sibille won a point and when he won his only game…at 06 05 down, the crowd really roared! It was a fun atmosphere. Murray plays again at 6pm CET tomorrow.


  • Delray Beach ATP 250: Tommy Haas Wins in Doubles; Taylor Fritz Wins Battle of 19 Year Olds

    Monday February 20, 2017, Delray Beach, FL

    It was a beautiful night to watch tennis and there was some good tennis on tap. I went to the Delray Beach ATP 250 for the second straight year tonight (thank you Dave and Margaret!).

    There weren’t a lot of people in the stands, though more showed up for the 8pm match than for the doubles at 6pm. The grounds at the Delray Beach Tennis Center are nice, and made festive by the addition of sponsor tents and vendors selling food, tennis clothing and more.

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    The first match up was Tommy Haas (Germany/USA; also the Indian Wells TD) and Vasek Pospisil (from Canada) against Steve Darcis (BEL) and Adrian Mannarino (FRA). Haas/Pospisil returned well…their opponents won fewer than half of their service points, even on first serves and only one out of three on second serves. The scoring makes breaks more prevalent, as any deuce game is decided by the next point. H/P were having a tough time holding Haas’ serve though in the second set; they changed up formation then and played “I” formation in the final game and Haas served it out comfortably. Haas makes his singles debut here tomorrow night. All four guys were having fun…they seemed to have the intensity of a practice or exhibition match at times.

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    After a break (which gave us time to check out those food vendors…the chicken on a stick was good), we watched Taylor Fritz from SoCal play Akira Santillan who plays for Japan but lives in Australia. Both players are only 19. Fritz was the last direct acceptance into the main draw; Santillan won two qualifying matches including a beat down (61 62) of Benjamin Becker in the final qualifying round; he’s ranked 193 to Fritz’s 112. Fritz is listed at 6’4, Santillan at 5’11; Fritz has a 2-handed backhand, Santillan a one-hander. Santillan is strong and very naturally quick around the court; Fritz lankier, with great hands and improving speed. The crowd grew somewhat for this match; USTA coaches Jay Berger and Mardy Fish were watching along with Taylor’s mom Kathy and Larry Riggs (Bobby’s son).

    Fritz just seemed more mature as an ATP player than his opponent, at least tonight, and was better able to make inroads on his opponent’s serve. He made some nice backhand down the line winners on a couple of big points and had more easy power. Santillan though has a lot of power for a smaller player…he had multiple serves in the 130 mph range (not all went in though), and is fast. It will be interesting to see how these players develop in the future.

     

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  • Lights On Regent Street; Is Rafa Back?

    Yesterday I wandered again in Green and Hyde Parks and down to Regent Street to see the lights, which were turned on Sunday night. It was an interesting display…a digital one where the message on the disks over Regent Street changed from pictures to “Merry Christmas” to “Tis the Season” to “Regent Street”. The lights on other streets were fun too…one street had lights looking like chandeliers, were stars and globes, yet another a light filled passageway.

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    After seeing the lights I went to see the tennis again, this time by the “tube”. Last night I wasn’t allowed to bring in my SLR, as any lens longer than 55 mm wasn’t allowed (just a warning to anyone wanting to bring in a camera to the O2). No food or drink is allowed either, which would be ok if drinks didn’t cost three or more times what they cost in the shops just outside or inside the arena. However, these restrictions didn’t deter the audience, as the arena was packed with people hoping to see some good tennis.

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    I saw doubles first and the French team, Mahut and Herbert looked to have the match sewn up at a set and 52 up. I was going to leave the arena then but couldn’t get out (too many people to step over). I’m glad I didn’t because Dodig/Mello rebounded, “holding” off two set points on Herbert’s serve (he double faulted three times in the game, and Dodig/Mello only had to win 1 point to win the game. The set ended in a tiebreak and again the French team forged a lead, 41, only to lose the next 6  points and the set 7-6. That set up a match tiebreak won by Dodig/Mello. Mello, a tall, lanky Brazilian is the #1 doubles player in the world and hasn’t lost a match tiebreak in months. He did pick up his game as the match went on.

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    Then it was on to the main event, Wawrinka/Nadal. (I got there early enought to see Rafa and Uncle Toni practicing and went courtside to see them.) Wawrinka came out strong, breaking Rafa to win the first game, but then Nadal broke back and broke again at 3-3, serving out the set emphatically..he aced Wawrinka on set point. Stan fought very hard…many deuces in the long first game, before winning it…it would be the last game he’d win for a while. Stan did go up break point on Rafa at 0-1 30-40. He hit a seeming winner but Rafa got to it and hit a brilliant lob…that point was the match. Stan never recovered from it and didn’t get another game till he was down 5-1 in the second. Rafa won 63 62.

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    And that’s the wrap from London.


  • Buckingham Palace and Tennis Royalty, Roger @ the 02

    Changing of the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace happens every other day during the winter months and Sunday was one of those days. Last time I tried to see this event it happened to be Veterans, or as it’s called here, Remembrance Day and nothing happened. Yesterday though, the changing of the guard did occur, but I found out that unless you are glued to the fence nearest the palace all you see is the top of the guards’ heads. So I ended up just seeing the soldiers marching and heard the music. The palace is very impressive and so are the parks around Buckingham Palace…Green Park and then on the far end, Hyde Park, which is huge and a nice oasis in the middle of a big city.

     

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    After viewing the changing of the guard, and  a late lunch, I walked along the Thames, then took a boat to the 02 to see the World Tour Finals for the men. The Bryan brothers were playing doubles and Federer was  playing Berdych in singles! The Bryans lost; they had a tough time holding serve, and were broken 5 times in two sets. Mike played pretty well, but Bob was staying back on his serve all night and was off. They lost to Bopanna from India and his Romanian partner.

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    After a break, Federer came out and lost about 8 of the first nine points, double faulting to break himself, but then he found another gear and won 12 of the next 16 games. He sliced and diced Berdych to death, dropshotting him so much I’d say he was practicing for the seniors tour! Then he pulled out the SABR (Sneak Attack by Roger) which didn’t work at all.

     

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    After the match, Fed was presented with the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship and the Fan Favorite Awards. The latter should be renamed the Roger Federer Fan Favorite Award!

     

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  • ATP WTF Final Friday

    A quick post in transit from London to Santiago via Houston and Lima.

    Last night, after our all day ITF Seniors meeting (quite interesting), I went to the O2 again with my colleague, Sergio Elias. We didn’t get to see the doubles, our meeting finished just as it began, but finally saw a competitive match between Wawrinka and Cilic. Wawrinka only needed to win three games, which he did quickly, breaking and holding for 3/1 but that was the only break of the set and there weren’t any more till Wawrinka played an awful game at 45 to lose the set. The third set was weird…Wawrinka had double break in the first game, played a tight forehand (erred) on the first one, then Cilic caught a little US Open magic and broke. Wawrinka though broke right back on multiple errors by Cilic, held and broke again at 3-3. The round robin portion of this event fittingly ended with a double fault by Cilic.

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  • London: ATP World Tour Finals

    I arrived in London yesterday morning and after a quick nap hit Regency Street, for a bit of shopping (Uniqlo!) and to see the Christmas decorations,   before going out to the O2 for the ATP/WTF. Fortunately I left early as the Tube line was late and crowded.

    The O2 is a big arena, named after one of the big telecoms here, 02 (sort of like ATT). In addition to the arena, there are tons of restaurants and a huge megaplex cinema and lots of bars too. And all the restaurants were crowded.

    The format of this event is one afternoon and one evening session with a doubles match (at 6pm for the evening session), followed by a singles match not before 8pm. Since the doubles is no-ad with a match tiebreak in lieu of a third set the doubles, even if very competitive (and the doubles matches have been the only competitive matches this week) they finish normally in under 90 minutes. The singles have finished in under 70 minutes pretty much though.

    The doubles was Lindstedt/Kubot (Sweden/Poland) vs Peya/Soares (Austria/Brazil). The Kubot duo dominated the match even though it went to a match TB, with superior returning, I thought. There were some good rallied but really, the final match of the super senior world team championships in the men’s 60s in Turkey was more exciting with longer rallies…but it was played at a slower pace and on red clay. Lindstedt/Kubot won 10-6 in the MTB. Given that any deuce point is also a break point, there weren’t many breaks, only one in each set, but both were at the beginning of the sets.

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    The singles, Novak Djokovic vs Stan Wawrinka I thought might be very good as they’ve played epics at the last two Aussie Opens. But those courts are better for Stan, higher bouncing and slower. After an early break and hold by Wawrinka, Djokovic went on a tear and the match was over in 65 minutes 63 60. The fans were polite…instead of booing Stan for not being able to put the ball in the court (and that had a lot to do with Djokovic who played amazingly), they cheered him on and encouraged him. Djokovic did everything better last night and Stan  had no answers. When the players walk out, they come out with young ball kids which is endearing.

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  • Hot Day at the Sony Open

    Today I went to the Sony Open in Key Biscayne, FL (near Miami) for the first time. This is a Masters ATP 1000 and a Premier Mandatory (or something to that effect) for the WTA. In other words, all the top players are there just like at a slam but the men only play 2 out of 3 sets and there’s no mixed doubles or junior ITF tournament.

    Today 2nd round matches were played. It’s a great day to go because all the seeds are starting to play and there are matches everywhere on the grounds. I went with a tennis buddy, Vesna. We are both huge Roger Federer fans so after we practiced yesterday made a last second decision to go see him and it was worth it.

    Federer played around 2pm…the women’s match preceding his match between Vinci and Barbara Zahlova-Strykova went nearly 3 hours (Z-S won 75 in the third against a struggling Vinci). Federer played Ivo Karlovic who is abotu 6’10”, about Isner’s height. Federer won the toss and elected to receive and for some reason Karlovic chose to serve on the sunny side the first game…and was broken on his only double fault of the match. That was pretty much the set, as Fed only lost one point on serve the rest of the set! He really looked sharp and was ready to pounce on any opportunity. A lot of serves though went unreturned, that’s what happens when your tall opponent is getting in a high percentage of first serves and is serving out of a tree. Fed’s backhand pass down the line was particularly impressive. It’s not easy to pass a guy with Ivo’s wingspan but he did it repeatedly. The second set Fed had one chance, up 40-15 at about 4-4, but Karlovic hit some good serves and volleys and the set went to a tiebreak which Fed won 74. He ended the match winning all but 3 points on his serve! Then, at the interview stage there was a video of fans (mostly femaie) telling Fed how much they’d missed him last year when he skipped this event (the boys said they loved his backhand, the women how much they loved him!). It was cute but Fed was caught off guard and said he wasn’t retiring any time soon.

    We headed off to see other matches after that one…saw a bit of Dimitrov…does look a lot like Fed in the way he hits the ball but is less intense and more erratic. Before we went to see Fed we looked in on Bouchard/Svitolina and Bouchard was well in control when we left and did win the first set 62 but lost the next two sets. She seemed to be off on her serve but otherwise looked pretty good, though she won some hard fought, close games to win that set…had she lost them the set could have gone another way.

    We also saw both Wawrinka and Nadal practicing when we first arrived, around 11; later on we saw Lisiki and HIngis practicing for their doubles (it worked, they won) and saw Raonic and Berdych practicing (Berdych let loose with a fantastic, shoe skidding running forehand pass that drew a big cheer from the crowd) and saw Hewitt. I also saw McHale and Keys practicing; McHale lost 76 76 to Kanepi while Keys beat Hantuchova 2,4.

    We peeked in on Sock/Harrison in doubles; they were playing another American wild card team and were down 41 when we left and it was pretty dull doubles, no one could return serve, but Sock/Harrison won 75 64. They looked like they thought they would walk all over the other team but Harrison in particular was struggling on return and at the net. Sock is really a good volleyer though.

    Nick Bolletari was there signing his autobiography.

    It was extremely warm in the afternoon. I think it feels hotter watching than playing.

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