This morning I left rainy Essen, Germany for sunny Barcelona, Spain. I flew Vueling airlines (affiliated with Iberia), a discount airline that had the best nonstop flight today to Barcelona from Dusseldorf. I think Sunday may not be a great day to fly in Germany in particular. There was one woman at the check in counter for the entire plane full of people. And the way some of the fares work, is that a cabin bag (such as a small roller bag…anything that won’t fit under the seat) has to be checked. I got there early when there were only 30 minutes of people in front of me. But the check in counter only opened a bit less than two hours before the flight was to take off. By the time I’d checked my bags, the line was several hundred feet long. On the other hand, there were few people at security, most of the TSA equivalents were standing around. The security guy though where my bags were inspected decided to check everyone’s bags for what I assume was explosive residue. I still had plenty of time though and the flight was on time. By noon I was in warm Barcelona and at my hotel by 1pm.
After checking in and organizing my stuff, I walked to the Reial Club do Polo de Barcelona to meet the Guille, the son-in-law of members of my club at home. We’d hit once before when his family visited there, and they’ve since moved back to Barcelona. We had a good hit. The tournament is using the same Wilson balls as were used at the French Open and they were good to hit with, a little less flighty than the heavy duty Wilson US Open balls used three years ago. They seemed more durable too.
After hitting, I walked to a gas station to get more water and snacks (all other stores are closed on Sundays) and then back to the hotel.
I had a pretty easy semi today. The woman I played, Corrine Franoux (France) had a three hour semi yesterday and a two hour match the day before and fit as she was, it slowed her down a bit. I won 60 60. Her running was good but her technique let her down. I play Jutta Boekmann in the final. She had a two hour match with the #3 seed, Sylvia Lievers-Kronenburg. I warmed up with Sylvia this morning and did think they would have a good match. It was punch (Sylvia)/counterpunch (Jutta), and Jutta in particular made very good use of the drop shot, and anticipated Sylvia’s responses well.
The weather looks iffy tomorrow…hopefully we’ll get to play on clay and not indoors on carpet (or I will have to get carpet shoes, which have smooth soles).
Jutta and I also will play doubles tomorrow, assuming out opponents get their match in later this afternoon…the forecast apparently is dire.
Heide Orth lost her final today to Barbara Von Ende 62 63…my warmup must not have been good enough today. Von Ende though gets a lot of balls back and is very fit (as is Heide).
I started today by somehow getting lost on the way to the courts (I think my gps was set to the wrong address)…somehow I got to the club though and had good warm ups with Heide Orth and Heidi Eisterlehner at 9am. Since I didn’t play till 1:30 I think went back to the hotel for a while (didn’t get lost 👍).
I played Jutta Brandtmann at 1:30. She had a nice big forehand, but missed a fair amount. I won 60 60, but I play a much better player tomorrow, a French player, Corrine Franoux, who edged the 4th seeded Swiss player, Yvette de Roche 63 67 76 (5). We were set to play at noon but now play at 10:30. She’s either in great shape or tired…or both. On the other side of the draw, Jutta Boekmann beat #2 Dagmar Sperneder 62 61 and plays #3 Sylvia Lievers-Kronenburg next. They play at noon so I can scout that match.
The lines here are thin and perforated, and brushed with a thin brush (sometimes) after sweeping the court with a mat.
We are playing with Dunlop tournament balls, which are good balls…they should be, one can costs 12.5 euros (for 4 balls), or about $15!
I am playing with Boekmann in doubles but we don’t play till Friday afternoon.
Today was another practice day in Essen. I hit quite a bit, first with Heide Orth (what a beautiful backhand and deadly drop shot), then with Heidi Eisterlehner (also a beautiful backhand!), then with Haim Ohn, the men’s 65s 9th seed, from Israel who was nice enough to hit with me. He’s a lefty with a great serve and forehand (massive topspin). I broke a string against him, the third one since I arrived June 24th. In Spain labor was 9 euros (about $11) a racquet (with my own string); here it is 15 euros (about $18). It was quite windy today especially in the afternoon. Below are photos from the courts around 9:30…two were very wet and two were dry; the Women’s 65 draw, and the flags blowing full out around 2pm.
I went back to the hotel mid-afternoon and decided to do a load of washing while I was at the gym (the laundry room is off the gym). The machines are controlled by an app called Wewash…no coins needed. The app is pretty cool…you can reserve a washer or dryer or see if it’s occupied before going downstairs and when the load is done you get a notification.
I cooked my pfifferlinge (chanterelles) tonight and added them to pasta (with tomatoes, a little butter)…very good.
Tomorrow I play my first match at 1:30 pm. I am warming up early, 9am, and after my match I have to change out my rental car because I was notified there was a recall on it. I have a Toyota Yaris which is quite small, perfect for the small parking spots at the club, and pretty much everywhere in Europe.
I ran errands early, grocery stores and picked up my newly strung racquet.
I went to a Rewe, a supermarket chain here. I found more of the colored German eggs. I read about them yesterday and found out they are boiled eggs “Brotzeit Eier”. They used to be available only at Easter but now are available year round. I also found more chocolate and some water, with and without bubbles. I also got some German rolls. I know France is famous for its baguettes but to me, the bread in Germany is unsurpassed. There’s lots of whole grain rolls with nuts and seeds, and they are reasonably priced and delicious.
Next I went to Aldi. Aldi also owns Trader Joe’s, and had several items sold under the Trader Joe’s name, including peanut butter and pistachios. I found pfifferlings (a type of mushroom, chanterelles in the USA) there (they will make an excellent addition to a pasta dish.)
At both Aldi and Rewe they had a sign “Kundenparkplatz” and either 1 or 1.5 std. “maximal parkdauer”. It means you have to display this device on your dashboard (every car comes with one), with the time set to hour you left the car, or you can be towed.
After picking up my racquet and a can of balls (12.5 euros for 4 balls…about $15 a can!), I had lunch. Of course I had to try one of the colored eggs (which of course were not refrigerated). It was surprisingly delicious, perfectly cooked.
I practiced a bit in the afternoon with Dagy Spernader for an hour or so, and it was raining most of the time. After that Heide Orth and Heidi Eisterlehner arrived and we joined Dagy and Sabine and a few others to catch up. I think I am warming up both Heide and Heidi tomorrow and also hitting with Dagy and Sabine!
It was a “hurry up and wait” sort of morning Saturday. I left my Airbnb early, before 6 am (finally saw a sunrise in Spain). Luckily I bought fuel the day before because the gas station at the airport was packed. My fuel gauge was still close to full so I passed. Good thing because I followed the GPS (google maps), not the rental car signs to the airport and ended up first in the drop off area, then in the parking garage (and it was tricky to exit… I owed 65 cents and the credit card payment wouldn’t process at the exit gate.. it took 15 minutes to exit). The rental car return signs are small but once I abandoned GPS I found them and returned the car.
I flew Eurowings to Düsseldorf. It’s a discount airline owned by Lufthansa. I don’t really pack well to fly discount airlines but after figuring out where to check in (tip: take the elevator outside the terminal to the 2nd floor to check in. You won’t be admitted into the arrivals area.) and showing my vaccination card and passport (and paying a bag fee, since one small carryon only is allowed), I was good to go through security. FYI there was a COVID testing spot at the airport and the line was long. Take a self antigen test with you if you aren’t vaccinated or are returning to the USA and take it the day before flying.
Another tip: go upstairs to go through security unless you are traveling to another Baleric Island. There’s an escalator by the front of the terminal.
Once in the terminal the waiting began. We left the terminal 30 minutes late. As is common in Europe, buses took us from the terminal to the plane. In this one terminal there were so many airlines: Eurowings of course, Lufthansa, Ryan Air, Lauda, Norwegian, Wizz Air, Easy Jet and more. Europe feels like one country in some ways but this was definitely an international terminal.
Upon arrival in Germany, unlike in Spain, I didn’t have to show any proof of a covid test or vaccination which surprised me. So the check-in personnel at the airport are the ones validating vaccination cards or covid tests, at least traveling from Mallorca to Germany. And no one asked me how long I had been in Spain. Mallorca is considered a low risk area.
In Dusseldorf is in the North Rhine-Westphalia state, about 45 minutes north of Cologne, is not really a big tourist destination. The airport wasn’t super busy, but was not empty. The rental car pickup is on airport ground but quite a walk. I rented from Alamo and it was on the 7th floor of the parking garage and was pretty much deserted. There were only a few cars there and no line for once.
After driving to Essen, (30 minutes north of Dusseldorf) and I checked into my hotel (and there I was asked for a negative covid test…I showed my vaccine so I was ok). I then went to get my racquet strung at Tennis Point (which recently I believe bought Midwest Sports, an online retailer in the USA..or the other way around). This is a big retailer what sells lots of racquets, balls, shoes, accessories, bags, and clothes. There are different brands than we normally see in the USA, such as Bidi Badu, Ellesse, Lotto for clothes, and there were large numbers of clay court shoes and even some indoor shoes (smooth soled). In the USA K-Swiss doesn’t normally sell clay shoes but there were a large number of them in the store. I bought a can of balls and paid for my racquet and it was on the next stop.
I went to Decathalon to get an exercise mat (about $3), and came across a large grocery/variety store, so of course I had to check it out. It was another large store like the one in Spain which sold everything from washing machines to candy bars, but not quite as nice, particularly the produce. There was more bread but less ham (still a lot) and of course a huge number of yogurt and quark options. The chocolate and candy aisles were larger too. Since I was in Germany I bought some Ritter Sport bars, which were present in large quantity, variety and low in price (about $1-2 for a 100 gram bar).
After dropping off the items at the hotel I walked to a nearby Lidl which happened to be at the train station. I am also near the center where there are some pedestrian streets full of shops and people who were enjoying their Saturday afternoon.
Later today I am hitting at ETUF-Essen where the tournament is set to take place. Weather permitting…looks like there will be some thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Kristin Kraujina of Florida won the 30 singles on a sunny, breezy Saturday. Kraujina lives in a town called Sunny Isles Beach, which sounds awfully pleasant! She won the four player round robin without dropping a set.
Jenny Klitch of Florida dominated the 50 singles, dropping only two games (routing her opponents en route to the title one could say). She beat Yvette Kruger who is a very good tennis player, 60 61, playing steady, aggressive and smart tennis. Alice Stubbs of NC placed third, winning a tough three-setter over Canadian Adrienne Simmons.
Toni Novack, also currently residing in Florida (there’s a theme here), upset top seeded Molly Hahn of MA 64 62, hitting her usual (for her) magical dropshots to take the 70s title. Susan Kimball placed third over Brenda Winstead.
Inge Weber, of Canada (but spending the winter in, you guessed it, Florida) beat Dorothy Wasser, her doubles partner 75 62 to take the 80s crown. Burnett Herrick took third over Lucille Kyvallos.
The 60s had a larger draw so only the semis were played today. I beat a tired Kathy Vick 61 62 and in the upset of the day, Wendy McColskey won a set from Diane Barker. Then Diane, according to Wendy, changed her strategy, which was a very effective adjustment since Diane won the next two sets 61 61. Their match lasted only a few minutes longer than our match.
Klitch and Andi Piski won the 40 doubles over Stacey Williams/Mariana Hollman 61 62 in an entertaining match.
Susan Harris/Patricia Randolph from Alabama won the 50 doubles, beating Williams/Hollman in a marathon match 76 (5) in the third!
Ellen Goodman/Winstead upset Hahn/Kimball in the 70 doubles final, 64 67 64. Hahn/Kimball rallied from 15 down in the second to force a deciding set, but Goodman/Winstead played awfully well to get the win. It was really windy in the afternoon (I saw a tent blow over) which affected the 70s doubles match a lot but overall the quality was very good.
Wasser/Weber won the 80s round robin doubles over Carol Wood/Herrick in three sets.
In semifinal action, the 60s doubles semis were both decided by a third set. Ann Jacobs/Betsy Savitt took out Kathy Vick/Kim Jones in three sets while Ligia Bottinelli/Abbi Neuthaler beat Kathy Foulk/Bunny Allare 61 in the third.
On the last day in Essen, I practiced some tennis with Jenny Cerff. After tennis we packed up and loaded the car, then finally decided to walk next door to the Folkswang Museum, an art museum. It’s a nice airy place with some nice art…Rodin, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso were amongst the artists and we saw a photography exhibit (Luigi Ghirri) which was interesting as the photographer had an interesting perspective (for example, taking photos of people from the back, to get the whole scene, and taking photos through windows and fences).
We left Essen for Düsseldorf and tomorrow I fly to Barcelona while Jenny flies back to winter in Cape Town.
Here are some photos from the museum. Can you tell I like Van Gogh?
Today Jenny Cerff and I had a plan (well I had a plan) to go to Düsseldorf, walk the full length of the Konigsallee and then go to the Rhine and walk along it and possibly visit a castle. We made it to Konigsallee and a few streets around it and not much further. We did however cross the Rhein in the car several times due to missing turns! Fortunately it’s not a toll road.
It was another lovely day, and there were again hoards of people out shopping and watching World Cup soccer.
We arrived about 11am in Düsseldorf and left after 9pm when shops were closing. Jenny is a shrewd bargain hunter and found some nice work and tennis clothes and I got a dress. We actually had to talk one dress (for Jenny) off of a mannequin since it was her size and the last one in the store. Below are the before and after photos of the mannequin. The mannequin’s arms had to be removed to remove the dress. Many years ago my Cup teammates and I attempted to undress a mannequin in a German sporting goods store to buy the clothing it was wearing. It was a hilarious moment in a “you had to be there” way (we removed a leg but not the shorts, finally a store employee helped us out). This time it was a smoother process…
We found a huge sports store, the Decathalon. It had everything from girls ballet leotards to bowls to camping gear to tennis clothes under one roof.
It was a fun day and we do plan to make it to the Rhein tomorrow after a morning tennis practice.
It was a perfect day for tennis today. It was in the 70s, slightly overcast and calm. Jenny Cerff warmed me up and Lyn Mortimer and I started play around 10:30. We even had a chair umpire, Sabine Henn (who will also be in Ulm for the world championships).
I played well today and beat Lyn 62 63. She had played consecutive three-setters, but ran well especially to dropshots and made a lot of winners, but I ran well too and hit a few winners and not so many errors.
There was a prize giving ceremony, then we left. I got ice for my shoulder, and had a racquet strung (and was able to see the 5th set of Fritz/Zverev…there’s no channel here carrying Wimbledon so I’ve only been listening to the Wimbledon channel on my phone). We returned bottles for the pfand (deposit) and had a relaxing evening.
Here are some German words: The first sign says that this is customer parking for this business and unlawfully parked vehicles will be towed. It’s always important to know how to avoid getting one’s car towed! The last sign says that Tennis Point is the largest tennis store in the world. The other signs are pretty self explanatory.
At European tournaments and especially at German ones, the custom is to have a drink with your opponent after the match. The day before the tournament began, workers were busy painting and putting together a wooden building with a grill and benches and tables under the trees. Here’s the menu:
Tomorrow we are off to Dusseldorf for the day. We will be back on Sunday to practice and see some of the finals before leaving Monday.
Thursday began with Thunder (donner) and lightning (blitzen) followed by scattered showers The courts got wet at the club but many people worked hard to dry them off, mostly by dragging mats around to get rid of puddles. No fancy clay court dryers here!
The 9am consolation matches were farmed out to other clubs and main draw 10:40 matches started by 10:30. Sabine and I got on at 11:15 for our 10:30 match (the one that was scheduled for 1:30, then 6pm then 10:30!
I won 62 60, but the first set was closer than that, many back and forth long games. Our match lasted about 75 minutes; the other semi between Gundi Weiland and Lyn Mortimer went over 3 hours. I saw some of the first set and both players were playing well, long rallies and deep slices. Lyn prevailed 57 64 62. We play tomorrow, presumably at 10:30.
Jenny Cerff won the consolation singles and is playing mixed now at 6pm. There’s a player dinner later.
Today, Wednesday (Mittwoch in German), I played my quarterfinal match against Sabine Robertz, a German player who lives about an hour from the tournament site. She is a quick, steady player, but I played well and beat her 60 61. We played on Center Court again and once again the stands were empty! I play next the winner of Sabine Schmitz, the #2 seed (and tournament director) or Annelies Simons from the Netherlands. They started late, after 6pm, since Annelies drives after work from the Netherlands to play). Update: Now the top half of the draw (with a local club team member) is scheduled for 10:30 am and the bottom half at 6pm with the final at 10:30 am! Originally both were scheduled for 1:30.
The top seed in my division, Australian Lyn Mortimer, took on Jutta Boekmann, who took out Jenny Cerff yesterday. Lyn prevailed in three sets, winning the third set decisively 61 after splitting two tight sets earlier. And speaking of Jenny, she won her consolation match today handily to put her in the consolation final tomorrow. Fortunately Jenny checked the draw one last time before going to sleep. She was surprised to find out she played at 9am! Not as surprised though as her opponent who didn’t have internet access and showed up at 11.
The match of the day was that between Nora Blom and Heidi Eisterlehner. Heidi won the first set; Nora attacked the net in the second successfully and continued her success in the third, going up 5-2 before Heidi changed tactics and drove the ball more, keeping Nora back. Nora had one match point at 65 before Heidi won the match 76 (5) in the third (62 36 76). It was a nice match between two outstanding players.
After I finished my noon match, Jenny and I did the rounds…of grocery stores. We stopped first at Edeka to get ice (the Edeka was the only store which carried ice of the three we visited today) and chocolates (Ritter Sport, 59 cents this week!); Aldi (apples), and Netto (owned by Edeka) (feldsalat, what we call Mache, a type of lettuce). We also learned many new words, to go with our new favorite saying Gute Fahrt (Bon Voyage or Good Trip).
This is a photo of the bottle recycling machine. Leergut hier means “empties here”, and of Jenny with our ice, a rare commodity here.
At the Aldi, we saw this sign that said Kundenparkplatz and parkdauer: customer parking and parking time (1 stn = 1 hour) respectively. (Since there was a photo of a car being towed, we wanted to know what the sign said.) In the stores, the chocolate and sweets aisles are long and fully stocked…similar to the chips aisles in an American store.
The last word of the day is ankunftszeit which means arrival time; it was on this placard which was in the rental car. We figured out that it was something to put o the dashboard showing what time we arrived in the parking lot.
Today was another warm, sunny day in Essen, and I finally played my first match. I played Eldeltraut Horstmann from Germany, a steady, quick lefty. However, she didn’t take any volleys or overheads in warm up…and approached the net only to retrieve drop shots. We had some good rallies, but I managed to win most of them, and after dropping the opening game won 61 60. We played on Center Court before one fan (hundreds of empty seats…must have been roaming the grounds instead of watching us!).
Jenny Cerff had the match of the day. She played Jutta Boekmann who is a member of the German Marble Cup team this year. She has a nice drop shot and a very good backhand. Jenny said she made too many errors in the first set but was on track in the second, on serve and finally broke to go up 65…then she started cramping. That was just as I finished my match (we started about 40 minutes later than Jenny). I could see she was having some issues but she still managed to win the 2nd set 76 (5). The third set was tough to watch since Jenny kept cramping, but she didn’t stop, fought till the end and lost 62 in the third. She plays consolation now at 9am…fast turnaround after a long match.
In the women’s 65s, Heide Eisterlehner plays Nora Blom in the final in a battle of two former world champions. Heide Orth is in the 75 semis in singles and doubles. I had a nice visit with all of them…Heide and Heidi are shown below.
And below are some words for the day, courtesy of the wall of the Mercure Hotel (which has one of these pairs on each floor in the stairwell).
After a day off , Jenny Cerff and I hit the practice court today for a final tune-up before the tournament. We had a solid practice. It was another warm sunny day, marred only by the racket of a grass mower cutting several feet of growth off the levee behind the courts. I thought they were grinding wood, it was so loud! Then music began over the PA system. It was a good challenge to our concentration.
I found out a bit about my opponent today. She’s a marathon runner, very fast and left handed, it’s a bit of a tricky opener. Jenny plays a woman who is on the German Cup team this year, also a challenge.
After tennis, as usual we bought ice from the Edeka, then hit Tennis Point (so I could get my racquet strung), and Penny Market.
The recycling of bottles here is interesting. There’s a deposit of 15-25 Euro cents on most cans and bottles. At most stores there’s a machine where customers can insert bottles they purchased at that chain and get a refund to use at the store. It’s fast and easy.
We returned to the club and they have put flags up from many countries including South Africa, which Jenny appreciated. There’s no USA 🇺🇸 flag though, so I stood in front of the German Open sign instead.
Top 65s players Nora Blom and Heidi Eisterlehner were in action on the 2 center courts today. Nora is shown below (iPhone photo).