I played my final tournament match in Barcelona last night. I had the “early” start time of 6pm, and we started right on time. I played Carmen Chilleda-Belzunce and played well to win. I played on a sunny day on an East/West facing court and it was tough to see on the side facing West!
After winning the singles, I watches several matches and had dinner. I watched a few games of the 60 singles final between American Veronica Lima De Angelis and Giovanna Tortorella of Italy. Tortorella is a very good player…smooth, accurate strokes and good anticipation. That match went pretty quickly, in contrast to the one between 55s players Sophie Orsini (FRA) and Elisabetta Morici (ITA). Orsini was the more expressive of the two, and she started the match very frustrated, losing the opening set 60…Orsini though found her range on drop shots and steadied her shots from the baseline to finish the mach 64 63. Both players have loopy western forehands, but Orsini has both a slice and two-handed backhand; Morici has a very good one-hander.
I finished the evening watching Lisa play mixed…it was a good match though tough to see the ball, especially high balls, under the lights…both guys had great forehands; the opposing woman had good court sense and cutaway volleys, and there were far more winners than errors. I finally tried one of the crepes being sold at a food truck and it was very good (goat cheese, spinach and walnuts in case you were wondering). The match finished within 30 minutes of the end time for sporting events due to the curfew. Susana Amelia Diaz and Ramzi Shuaibi-Morales won 64 63 over Lisa and Martin. I ran for the tram after the match finished (and made it).
Last night we were scheduled for doubles at 9pm but our match went on about 15 minutes early.. I was scouting my singles opponent for tonight…their (not before) 7:30 pm match started around 8:30, so I didn’t get to see much before doubles. Kim Reed and I played a decent team, the #1 seed in 60 singles and her partner. We had some nice points but won 62 61. Playing under the lights was a bit challenging, though the lights are decent. As we were warming up an official came out to tell us the scoring for doubles had changed to no-ad and a 10 point Match Tiebreak for a third set due to the new curfew (of 1am).
Kim is to my right above and our opponents are on either side of us. Kim just switched racquets and as it turns out we play with the same Volkl model, the V Cell 4. We play rather similarly so that makes sense.
After we finished and took photos, it turns out the match I was scouting (which was on an adjacent court) was till ongoing. Carmen Chillidea-Belzunce, who I play tonight, won the first set 60 before it got dark, but the second set was turning into quite a battle. She was playing Mireia de Gispert Talavera who I played Monday night. Mireia was playing a lot of high topspin balls and coming to net behind some of them, pretty successfully, and pounding some two-handed backhands to good effect. She held off some match points at 5-6 and got the match into a tiebreak, which was even to 3-3…then Mireia stopped hitting high balls and lost four straight points and the match. Carmen stayed pretty calm to finish out the win.
This morning I practiced again with Lisa for about an hour, then took the tram back to the hotel. Just before we started the club had all the kids from the camp on our court to take a photo…there are a lot of them of all ages, from about 3 years to teenagers. She plays mixed not before 10pm. It’s not bad playing at 6 and even 8:45 wasn’t terrible, at least it was light during warm up, but 10pm is tough!
Yesterday I practiced in the late morning (the earliest practice times are 11am) with Lisa B, then went back to the hotel to write my blog and relax before my 6pm singles match. There aren’t many people practicing in the mornings, Reinheld Adams and Michelle Bichon have been out every morning at 11am though. I played Magdalena Gual Pascual, a club member whom I have played her a few times before. She’s very nice and we had a pretty good match. I won 61 61. She whacks her forehand if it’s in her strike zone…but didn’t like my drop shots so much. The other RR match will be played tonight at 7:30 so I’ll go and scout the players.
On the way into the club I watched some of the kids activities…some were learning to ride horses and others were learning to hit a golf ball. I saw yet another big hockey field (and no soccer fields)…hockey is the big game at the Polo Club.
The order of play for the evening only comes out the morning of play…till then players don’t know from one day to the next if they have a match. Luckily for me, the referee told me my schedule yesterday, so I knew I was playing the doubles final tonight, and not singles. We play doubles at 9pm against the #2 seeds (one of whom is the #1 singles seed in 60s), and Kim Reed, my doubles partner, plays her singles semi at 6pm. There are matches scheduled till 10:30…one player has a 9pm and 10:30 pm match. However, due to new curfews in Barcelona from tonight, all sporting events have to be finished by midnight and the club will close at 12:30am.
I practiced with Lisa again today, and we got in nearly two hours before being bumped. Again, only the 70 women were out practicing till we were bumped by two guys around 12:45. We did move courts after an hour and the second court was much drier and faster than the first one, even though they were side by side in the stadium.
After practice I made another trip to the grocery store, for apples and snacks. This time I found the bakery and gourmet part of the grocery, and a Lindt store. I looked at the fish department because it’s so extensive and different from those at home. Normally one doesn’t see three types of squid for example.
Last night I caught the tram just before midnight back to the hotel after a “not before” 10pm start for doubles. The tournament was behind schedule but fortunately our match was quick. I played with Kim Reed, a Brit who lives in Marbella, and she’s a solid singles and doubles player.
Earlier in the day I went to the club to practice serves again, and Kim and her husband ran into me. So I had a good hit with Kim which was great. We warmed up on one of the two center courts which are very deep…good for running, not so good for walking to pick up balls.
After tennis, I took the subway to the L3 Diagonal stop on the Passeig de Gracia, a broad tree-lined shopping street. My destination was Tennis Point Barcelona. I was on the hunt for tennis balls and practice balls for the tournament. I found the latter Wilson French Open balls but no Head tour XT balls. The shop also had a huge selection of Padel racquets which are large thick paddles with holes in them and brightly colored. There was also a large selection of clay court tennis shoes.
The subway stop was also near La Pedrera, a Gaudi designed apartment house which I toured a couple of years ago. There weren’t many tourists around compared to August of 2019.
After that adventure, I returned to my hotel for a late lunch, late because my doubles match wasn’t till 10pm. I returned to the club around 7pm, so I could scout my next opponents. I got there just in time to see the last 20 minutes of the match. Then I waited three hours or so for my match, but ran into some Brits, Alex, Liz and Peter and also an American friend of mine from Florida who was playing mixed. Alex practices with Sue Bartlett of GBR (and Tennessee) when she’s there and just played American Michael Beautyman in the final of the European Championships…both Lisa and I practice with him. Tennis is a small world.
By 8pm, the food trucks were open, champagne was popped and there was a musical entertainment (a woman singer who was pretty good). By 9:30 Lisa and I were both yawning.
Kim and I played our match under the lights. It was pretty dark, but since our opponents were not very experienced, it was ok. After the match we walked to the tram station and got one of the last trams of the night back to our respective stops.
Today I play singles at 6pm. But that’s an article for another day.
Yesterday, after I went to the club (via the tram) I went to El Cortez Ingles, a huge department store about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. It’s 4 or 5 stories…two of which are below street level. I went to the large grocery store in the basement. The Spanish love tinned and fresh fish, along with Iberico ham, sweets and fruits and vegetables. The milk aisle (unrefrigerated) and yogurt (refrigerated) were also large. I got some cooked mussels (delicious with lemon and a salad) and a couple of tins of shellfish…and of course a chocolate bar and apples.
I played my first match in Barcelona at 6pm on Monday night, which is the earliest any matches are scheduled here. I got to the club around 4pm and it took me about 20 minutes to get practice balls and find my court. The kids camps were still going strong with hundreds of kids playing tennis, running through sprinklers on the soccer fields and generally seeming to have a good time.
My practice court was court 38 which is a few hundred meters from court 37. I walked past courts and two field hockey (not soccer) fields to find it. There’s one hard court at the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona and I could hear the sound of the players on that court…the sound of very good players hitting. When I got closer, I saw that one of them was Carla Suarez Navarro of the beautiful one-handed backhand club.
I finally found my court and a pro with a bunch of students came on the court within minutes…but also moved to another court, maybe she was lost too. I hit some serves and bounced some balls and did a bit of running…that was my warm up yesterday. At 4:45, there were. still lots of people running around the tournament check-in site, setting up food trucks, the check-in area, etc, but by 6pm everything was fairly sorted out. There was a long line to pay entry fees. Everyone was given a nice shirt (v-necks for women, polos for men, lime green), and a mask from the sponsor. No one asked for the ITF form that everyone was supposed to fill out and show the tournament before playing. The only ask was for proof of payment of the entry fee (80 euros plus a 5 euro IPIN fee). When I left around 7:45, there was music going, champagne being handed out and the food trucks were operational, though things don’t really get going there till well after 8pm.
I played Mireia de Gispert Talavera. I played her here 3 years ago and won 60 60 this time. We played on a court that went east/west, but fortunately it was cloudy or the sun would have been a problem. I was going to watch my future opponents play but ran into one of them…she said her opponent couldn’t play Monday so asked if she could play Tuesday…so I know I don’t play singles today. However, the order of play for today came out as I was writing this (at 10:22am) and I play doubles not before….10 pm!
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 played the singles final, and the doubles semis and final both today. I played Jutta Boekmann in the singles final and won 60 60, though she had several game points. It was a good style matchup for me, plus I scouted her yesterday and had a good idea how to play her. After about an hour break we played the doubles semis a bit early against Yvette DeRoche and Christina Gehrke. We won 61 60 and then played the doubles final almost immediately after against Sylvia Balkow and Gabriele Meier and won 60 60, though we had many fun points. So Essen is done for this year, I have the day off tomorrow to go to Dusseldorf and then on to Barcelona on Sunday morning.
I watched a few matches including the 30 singles final against two ridiculously young looking “seniors”; Ellen Neumann, Heidi Eisterlehner, Keith Porter and Fritz Raijmakers and Haim Ohn.
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!
Sunday in Germany is mostly a rest day…few stores are open other than at airports and railway stations, or gas stations, and restaurants are open. I had a pretty relaxing day as well…when in Germany…
After lunch, with an eye on the weather (rain was forecast), I drove to the ETUF Essen, where the tournament will be held. I saw the TD, Sabine Schmitz, and Fritz and Dagy from Netherlands and Austria. Sabine had set me up to hit with a friend and practice partner of hers and we had an excellent hit, even though it was raining, at times pretty hard, during the first 45 minutes or so. I didn’t even take a jacket with me to practice…it was warm enough when I left but in the mid 60s and damp when we finished. My hat was soaked when we finished and my racket handle was slipper than when I play in 90 degrees temperature and humidity in Florida!
After hitting we joined Sabine and her friends in the restaurant for drinks (they drank, I listened). It was nice to be back at a European tournament.
The Etuf Essen club is on the Baldeneysee, a lake created by damming part of the Ruhr river. The club has sailing, soccer and hockey, golf and of course tennis. The restaurant has a large terrace in addition to nice indoor seating.
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.
The tournament started today in Santiago, but the women don’t begin play till tomorrow. I play I presume on Wednesday. There are three players in my round robin group A and three in group B. The other two players are playing tomorrow morning. I play them the next two days.
I was able to practice a decent amount today though always with three to four players on the court. I hit with Andrew Moraghan from GBR and an Italian, Marco Catelli, (I’m pretty sure…). Andrew and I hit a second time on Court 11 which was a mess of bad bounces, likely because it was a practice court all day and there hadn’t been an opportunity to groom and water it much. But the bounces were interesting, most creating no bounce situations but a few bouncing sideways.
Where there was an empty garden yesterday, today there was a beehive of activity, with a trainer/masseuse, mobile pro shop (they even had Volkl racquets and bags!), a sitting area sponsored by what appeared to be a travel or tourism site promoting Chilean tourism (it’s really a very long and skinny country), and a display of old racquets for sale.
I paid my entry fee, and got my player badge, which will be useful as it has a barcode to get into the park, and read the security recommendation, the last sentence of which is “They should avoid going out at night, especially alone.” Yet 7:30 matches are scheduled. So I didn’t sign up for mixed. It was played under the less than luminous lights five years ago.
The weather today was great, cooler, only around 80, and cool by the time I left around 7:30 or so. I went by the grocery to get a chicken and a drink and the line for quick checkout was about 20-30 people, but moved very quickly and took only about 5 minutes.
The jacaranda trees are almost in full bloom now, with the heat of the past three days and are very striking. The plants growing here are very similar to those grown in California.