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  • Hungarian Triple

    On a train near Lake Balaton, Hungary

    Janos Latura and I won the mixed doubles in Hungary today over Eva Bogar Szabo and Peter Sakovics from Hungary 64 31 retired. We were down 3/1 in the first set (we couldn’t get in a warm up, the tournament had not hired the courts we had been warming up on past noon today), and nearly down 4-1…we won a 3-3 point to make it 2/3. Eva was banged up from playing three events this week…she had a back brace, knee braces and both quads taped…the joys of senior tennis. We didn’t even have to ask for new balls today, we were just automatically given them, as it should be.

    The weather today really changed, it was cool and overcast and the forecast was for rain all afternoon. We were lucky to get on 15 minutes early and get in our match before the rain hit.

    After the match we went to the Krystal Hotel where we received our prizes, for singles a metal thermos and trophies for mixed and doubles. No prize money, though that’s not why we play ITF tournaments, it’s more about seeing and meeting old and new friends and playing tennis.

    I am on the train now to Budapest and fly back tomorrow to the USA. It’s been a fun summer in Europe but will be great to get home again.

    Thanks for reading.


  • Hungarian Doubles Champion; Mixed Final Friday: New Balls Please

    Keszthely, Balaton Lake, Hungary

    I played the mixed doubles semis and our first and last women’s doubles match today.

    Our mixed was scheduled yesterday for “not before 2 pm” but this morning it was changed to “not before 12;30 pm”. Good thing my mixed partner looked again at the time. Today there were no practice courts.

    We got on a bit early and played the #1 seeds who were better than they looked. Before we took the court I asked the referee if he’d given our opponents balls. He said yes. Then I asked if he’d given them NEW balls and he said no. So I asked for new balls. After a big sigh and and eye roll I got them. (See the photo…the balls at the top were the ones we were supposed to use for our match; the ones below were the new ones after we played nearly two hours with them. In other words, they not only expected us to play with used balls, they expected us to play with really bad used balls!)

    Our opponents formed a yin/yang team, the guy was a runner and steady, and pretty much played back the whole match, while the woman whacked her forehand and overheads and was not a runner. We lost the first set 62, made some adjustments, went up 42 and won the deciding point to go up 52 (we are playing no-ad in doubles). We circled the correct mark and our opponents came across to our side (allowed in ITF tournaments), found another mark (also out), complained to the referee…who looked at the second mark, said he wasn’t sure if it was in our out (to be clear, the referee was nowhere near the court during the point in question, so did not even know which mark was the correct one). The referee then told us we had to replay the point! After more argument, we did and lost the point and therefore the game and then lost two more games to go down 54. However, we ended up winning the set 75 and the tiebreak 10-3. We play another unseeded team in the final, my doubles partner Eva and her partner.

    We played doubles about an hour later. The time was a TBA time, after suitable rest. “Suitable rest” turned out to be 10 minutes after my partner and one of our opponents finished their mixed match. We won the match 60 64. We were down 43 but played a good last three games. We beat Sylvia Singer and Encarnita Gomiz Ruiz. My partner was almost mummified…she had both quads wrapped, her back wrapped and both knees. So I played singles and covered the lobs and she did a good job whacking her forehand and hit some nice volleys too. We got a default from the third team in the round robin, so are Hungarian Champions.

    After the tennis, I biked to the train station and bought my ticket back to Budapest for tomorrow. The ticket seller didn’t speak English, but I managed to convey the information than I needed the train times and to buy a ticket for tomorrow, and bought the ticket.

    We play not before 1:30 tomorrow afternoon, and then I will bolt for Budapest right afterwards.

    Draws are here.


  • Singles Done & Won; Mixed Semis and Doubles Await; Biking Around Keszthely

    Keszthely, Balaton Lake, Hungary

    It was an early start today at the Hungarian International Grade A. I had a “not before 9:30” match and warmed up around 8:30 and we started a little early. I played Maria from Venezuela and won 60 60 to finish first in the four player round robin. Later in the day Yanos and I played Maria and her husband Ricardo in mixed and won 61 63. Ricardo was given used balls for us to use in our match. All ITF tournaments which give ranking points are required to give players new balls…long story short, I asked for new balls and with some reluctance, was given them. However, the tournament continues to give players used balls unless they insist on new ones for doubles. The doubles and mixed format here is no-ad and if teams split, a match tiebreak. We started off using ad scoring but the referee came out and told us to switch. I also found out today that Hungarian players pay only 45 euros entry fee while non-Hungarians pay 90 euros. Players 80+ pay no entry fee. So younger and foreign players subsidize the tournament for Hungarians.

    Tomorrow we play the top seeds in mixed and play one of the two other teams in women’s doubles.

    In between singles and mixed, I biked around a bit. I finally saw the Balaton Sea. It was pretty calm at the courts, but only a few meters away, it was windy on the water. I was surprised that the water was so green. Also, though I read it was shallow, it was odd to see people 50 yards from shore and not waist deep in the water. School started here already and so many of the restaurants and shops were closed already for the season (or at least during the week). There are one-hour “cruises” on the Sea available at the pier, which is not far from one of the tournament sites.

    I visited one more grocery store, it was a small one and pretty much a miniature version of the Spar…lots of ketchup, mustard, mayo, drinks, a small deli and a big bread area. There were some seasonal fruits and vegetables..but no apples! So far here I like Lidl the best of the grocery stores I’ve visited.

    Draws are here.


  • Windy & Cool Tuesday in Keszthely

    Keszthely, Balaton Region, Hungary

    Today was very cool and windy, quite a change from the mid 90s on Sunday! There are two venues here, the Fonix venue and the Ady venue. The Ady venue is bigger, with six courts outdoors plus two (not very good) practice courts and a bubble over two courts. From the patio overlooking the courts one can see the big church in the distance. As you can see the courts are in a long line and on a windy day such as today, there’s not much wind protection.

    I played Sylvia Singer from Austria. She speaks several languages, German, English, Italian and seems to understand Spanish pretty well too. The other interesting thing about Sylvia is that she’s a diabetic and has a port in her arm for insulin and she tests herself pretty often to see if she needs to eat or needs insulin. She’s pretty high energy too. I won 60 61…the one game I lost Sylvia was convinced I’d won when it was deuce, but I wouldn’t win a game that way…and she ended up winning the game with a nice smash and was so happy. I play Maria Faria tomorrow in singles and in mixed.

    Sylvia is the tall woman in purple; Eva, my opponent from yesterday is bottom right; and Maria, my opponent tomorrow is top left with Eva.

    I watched a couple of matches today; there were two American guys playing, both lost, Janos lost in 3 sets to the 5th seed and had 2 match points (the Hungarian guy was a very good counterpuncher, who footfaulted 90% of the time at least); Aussie Alan Walsh beat Hans Webber who played a good match; Alan was simply too good.

    Warming up this morning there were more Aussies on the court next to us than Americans in the entire tournament…four. And none were under 75.

    Draws are here


  • Train to/for Success in Hungary

    Keszthely (pronounced “Kes Kay”) Lake Balaton, Hungary

    Yesterday was a pretty long and tiring day…travel can be stressful in new places and Hungary is definitely a new country with a confusing and difficult language, at least for me. It’s not as foreign as China, but the communication is nearly as difficult. Thank goodness for Google translate!

    The train trip from Budapest was nonstop, but nearly three hours, and with outside temps in the mid-90s, it was a warm trip as there was no AC on the train (I know, first world problems..and I did have an open window). The owner of the apartment I rented picked me up. (I recommend the Dora Holiday house in Keszthely.) The apartment is is great and there’s Eurosport so I can watch some of the US Open, and a bicycle to get around…perfect!

    The couple staying in the upstairs apartment are from Florida and the husband, Janos, is playing in the tournament and speaks Hungarian. He’s a nice lefty player, and was nice enough to warm me up today for my match, which as it so happened, was against a lefty. We are going to play mixed here.

    Anyway, yesterday I set out to 1: find the Lidl before it closed at 5pm and 2: find a racquet stringer, as my strings were starting to look like Susan Wright’s strings did in Portugal…ie one racquet with broken strings and another an hour away from breaking (though I had three racquets with me, not two). I succeeded in finding the Lidl, though I’m not exactly sure how I got there. I biked by the Festetics Castle on the way to Lidl and down the market street (a pedestrian street lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and a copious amount of ice cream vendors) on the way back. The market street ended at the big church, “Our Lady of Hungary Church” set in a large plaza. So I pretty much hit the highlights of Keszthely in one bike ride, other than Lake Balaton. .

    I next went in search of a racquet stringer. I went to the courts nearest my apartment, where I could see the ITF Seniors and Tennis Europe signs going up. But no one there really spoke English, though I did learn that the tournament office was in a hotel, not at either tennis venue. He said the Krystal hotel and pointed. I found the hotel, but somehow went to the back of the hotel, tried a door and it was closed, and the hotel from that side appeared to be closed. I never looked on the other side, which had a patio and was clearly open. I ran into a couple of Aussies, one of whom had been there before, and he led us to where the tournament used to be. So I did see the lake (it’s the largest one in Central Europe, about 50 miles long, and fairly shallow, so it warms up nicely in July and August). Finally I looked again at the fact sheet, entered the hotel name into the maps app, and we walked in a big circle to, you guessed it, the Kristal hotel, this time to the front side. We checked in (the tournament is giving each player a nice vest…nice for the men as they are not even unisex in size and the men’s small was huge, even on me…would be nice if they had women’s sizes too as we pay the same entry fee). I was told to go to the venue I first saw on Monday (venue #1) to get my racquet strung. And we also found out information about practice courts, and where the Fonix courts were (venue #1) so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

    I warmed up today with Janos at venue #2, and then biked to venue #1, where I was to play, to try and get a racquet strung. At venue #1 I was told to go to venue #2. I went back to the hotel, and the referee again told me to go to venue #1…where after more confusion (apparently the racquet stringer was not answering), someone came to pick up my racquet and it was done by the time I finished my match. Stringing was 2000 HUF or about $7. As confusing as Hungarian is to English speakers, English must be equally confusing to Hungarians.

    My match was at not before 11:45, but since the previous match was scratched, we were set to go on a bit early…..then it poured for about 20-30 minutes. And 15 minutes after it stopped raining we were playing! Amazing. I played Eva Bogar Szabo, who is a nice player, with a good attacking lefty forehand that was very effective on short balls (such as my second serve). She won the first game and I won the rest of them, but we had some deuce games and good points. The training in Spain was helpful. The other two 60s players had an occasionally dramatic match next to us, Sylvia Singer from Austria and Maria Faria from Venezuela. So our draw is small but quite international. I play Singer tomorrow not before 1:30.

    After our match, we stayed for a while, and I offered to buy Eva a drink but ended up with Eva and her husband buying me a drink (cola zero of course) and strudel. The cherry strudel was good, not quite as sweet or rich as strudels in the USA.

    Today I hit the Spar market. Judging by the aisles, Hungarians like ketchup and also like sweets; the fruit flavored soft drinks were in the same aisle as the hard liquor and wines across from them.

    The weather has really changed, from the 90s the past three days to low 70s tomorrow for a high and very windy. Fall is in the air.

    And that’s a wrap on Day 1 of the Hungarian Seniors…back to watching Schwartzman hit winners against Zverev (7-5 in forehand winners at the moment, midway through the second set).

    Draws are here.


  • Budapest: Bridges, Night Lights, & 25,000 Steps

    On a train to Keszthely, Balaton, Hungary

    Photos may not be loading, will try again tonight.

    I arrived on Friday night from Mallorca (via Munich) to Budapest, and from my room (I was staying on the Pest side), could see the beautiful night lights over the bridges, particularly over the Szechenyi Chain Bridge but also over the Margaret, Elizabeth and Liberty Bridges. Beyond the bridges I could see the Buda Palace and Matthias Church. Last night I walked over the Chain bridge to see the lighted Parliament buildings from the Buda side.

    Yesterday I walked and walked and walked…25,000 steps, nearly 40 flights of stairs, about 11 miles. I walked over the Chain Bridge towards the old Palace (now a history museum…closed…I did try to go there, and an art museum), skipped the funicular and took the stairs;, then walked to the Matthias Church and tower, old town Buda and the Buda Tower. It was in the 90s by midday.

    The Matthias Church is lovely, painted inside on the ceilings and walls and yet gothic in design of the nave and pillars. I also took the tower tour which involves over 200 steps (nothing to anyone who has climbed the Ulm cathedral, though I was warned there was no elevator (😏@Pat Purcell). The views from the top of the Danube and buildings on the Pest side were good though the light was flat at midday.

    I was ready for lunch by then and air conditioning so I tried some fish soup, which despite the red color, from paprika I assume, was pretty bland, but the bread was good and I was hungry. And the air conditioning was appreciated!

    I finished off my tour of old town, walked by the Buda tower and around the castle/palace area, then headed back to the hotel before further exploring the Pest side.

    I ended up just walking around a shopping area, mostly pedestrian streets (there were an inordinate number of Thai massage parlors which were 30 euros an hour for a massage). I wandered down towards the Opera House (totally encased in fabric as it’s being renovated, at least on the exterior) and down the elegant Andrassy Avenue. This street is like the central street in many great cities, wide, lined with trees and nice stores, though in Budapest it also has theaters, so is a mix. It leads to Hero’s square, which I saw in the distance but didn’t quite reach.

    I was very tempted to buy what seemed to be a local specialty, a chimney cake, and fill it with ice cream. I had a similar confection in Prague last year which was really good. But it took three of us to eat about 75% of and I was alone so I contented myself with taking photos.

    I also wandered into a couple of grocery stores, because what trip in a foreign country would be complete without that. They seemed to have a huge section for chips and drinks, a lot of alcohol, a lot of fresh breads and rolls, and small sections for cereals. It wasn’t a huge store though. The apple selection was pretty small, seasonal fruits and vegetables were abundant, especially tomatoes.

    I took the subway back to the hotel, buying a ticket from the machine just above the subway station was quick, easy and inexpensive. After a quick bite to eat, I walked back to the Chain Bridge for one more look at the city at night.

    Today I am on a train to Keszthely, which is not pronounced anything like it’s spelled (nothing in Hungarian is pronounced anything like it would be in English or vice versa). I typed the city and time of departure I was looking for into my phone which was good since the ticket agent didn’t speak English, and got my train ticket (2 hours, 45 minutes, not a fast train as the drive by car was going to be about 2 hours), just under $12).

    I play not before 11:45 tomorrow against a good Hungarian player, definitely the second best (I hope second best!) player in the draw, so I have to hit the ground running (literally).

    Next update will be from Keszthely, in the Balaton area of Hungary. It’s on a lake, and has a castle, so should be interesting.