04 November 2012

My 2012 tennis dreams: 33 days of glory

This tennis addict had another amazing year, watching 33 days of live tennis! There was no calendar fan slam but I made it to two slams and actually worked in some way at four of the five tourneys I attended. Not bad at all.

Here is a look back at my 2012 tennis adventures:
  1. ASB Classic - 7 days
  2. Heineken Open - 7 days
  3. Australian Open - 7 days
  4. Western and Southern Open - 7 days
  5. US Open - 5 days
Got sunburned, but had a great position for a Rafa practice!
Favourite tournament: Australian Open.
I've written about how much I love the Australian Open, and nothing changed this year, my fifth visit to the tournament since 2000. It's always great to go back to tourneys you're familiar with as I've certainly learned the ropes to getting the most out of this slam. I so highly rate the tennis fans, food, weather, location, etc. And player accessibility with practices is great (other than the crazy crowds when watching Rafa or Fed). I will so miss going back to Melbourne in 2013.

Best match: In one of my all-time favourite courts, the Grandstand at the US Open, I saw Marion Bartoli just get into a crazy zone against Petra Kvitova. I find Marion just fascinating, and she is so intense when she plays. After badly losing the first set Marion just turned it on and ended up bageling Petra, who only won seven points in the third set. It was just awesome to see. I had media access at the US Open and I was seated right by Amelie Mauresmo, the new French Fed Cup captain. After many points, Marion would stare intently at Momo while fist pumping. It was so cool to be that close to the action and the crowd was loving how well Marion was playing. Good stuff.

Bartoli zoned in beating Kvitova at the US Open


Best match (runner up): Being a huge Venus Williams fan, I got to see her play in a few great matches this year. Even tho she lost to Angelique Kerber at the US Open and didn't really play superbly well, it was still amazing to be in Arthur Ashe Stadium for this match. Late night in NYC with a legendary American playing. It was hard not to enjoy this match. Venus had the break in the third set but ended up losing 7-5 in the final set. It hurt, but still was an amazing night.


Best doubles matches: Bryan Brothers, Cincy
I have seen a lot of doubles matches and other than Davis Cup final, I've never seen so much support for a team like the Bryan Brothers got in Cincinnati this year. Wow. Yes it was right after the London Olympics but the crowd LOVED the Bryans. It was wonderful to witness.

Most painful match: Li Na vs Kim Clijsters, Australian Open
Wow this one hurt me so much. I love Li Na, and don't love Kim. Li Na had the match, with four match points in the second set tiebreak. And she lost. As soon as that tiebreak was over I knew the match was too so I bailed to a safe place inside Hisense Arena where I could recharge my phone and drink beer.


My office at the 2012 ASB Classic and Heineken Open

A shout out to Auckland:

The ASB Classic is a small tournament and is near and dear to my heart as until March 2012, I had spent the past eight years living in New Zealand. I'm still the social media manager for the two pro tourneys there and this year the ASB Classic saw a few of the biggest surprises on the WTA this year: Sara Errani and Angelique Kerber.

Errani took out 2010 champ and 2011 runner-up Yanina Wickmayer before losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova, but she was still so impressive. Her fight was clear despite her small stature. And Angelique Kerber was battling top seed Sabine Lisicki when the former had to retire with an injury but Kerber made the semis before losing meekly to Flavia Pennetta in the semis. It's been amazing to follow Errani and Kerber this year as they moved up the rankings and made noise. Kerber ended up being one of a few people who beat Serena Williams this year, and she made a number of fans at the WTA Championships with hugely memorable matches against Victoria Azarenka and Aga Radwanska. Errani ended up making the French Open final, winning 3 or 4 tourneys and became part of the #1 doubles team. Hugely impressive year ladies.


Other highs and lows: 

Venus was all smiles after her first win in Cincy
  1. Biggest letdown: Juan Martin Del Potro vs Novak Djokovic, Cincy.
    The Delpo/Nole Cincy semifinal was just a non-event. Novak was just too tough. It was a bummer for this Delpo fan. But it meant I could live with leaving before the finals (14-hour drive home awaited me).
  2. My fave doubles team of the year: Sveta and Bepa. They won the Aussie Open doubles title - hard to believe after their 2012 disappointments but yes they won a slam! Ah I have fond memories of watching them, and watching Sveta basically try to hit every ball. Well, it worked!
  3. Fave matchup between two of my faves:

    Rafa vs Tommy Haas, Australian Open
    This was a great match, and tho it was straight sets it was close. I think most of the crowd loved both these guys and had no idea if they'd ever see Tommy play again. Of course, now the old man is back inside the top 25!
  4. Saddest withdrawals: Rafa from Cincy and the US Open
    I had a week's worth of tickets to Cincy and looked forward to seeing all my faves. Nah, Rafa pulled out. My mom was especially sad and I thought we probably wouldn't see him in NYC. I had media credentials to both tournaments and missed two chances to be in a press conference with Rafa. Maybe next year?
  5. Most bittersweet victory: Roddick def Tomic, US Open
    Oh, his last match couldn't be a loss to Bernard Tomic. And it wasn't. I got to watch Andy win his first post-retirement announcement match and then attended his press conference afterward. Brooklyn Decker actually sat a few seats away from me and a few other family and friends of Andy's were in that presser too. It was a lovely moment, but sad as well. I'm so lucky I was able to be there to appreciate Andy before it was all over.
  6. Oddest crowd reaction: Hisense Arena's booing of Tomas Berdych
    After the painful Li Na/Clijsters match, I sat inside Hisense Arena to beat the heat and charge my phone. All of a sudden I heard the craziest booing and noise - it sounded like a protest was taking place right above my head. I soon learned it was the crowd booing Tomas Berdych because he didn't shake Nicolas Almagro's hand after beating the Spaniard. Nico had hit Tomas with a shot during the match, and Tomas took issue. I have never heard such crazy booing, and seriously just for that? I have only ever watched one day of tennis in Hisense (
    but I picked a good one!) but I've heard the crowds are a little less civilized than those in Rod Laver Arena...
  7. Best match up of the old guard: Ferrer vs Hewitt, US Open
    Lleyton Hewitt doesn't give up. His prime was 10 years ago, he's a father of three and he's certainly got money in the bank. But there he was, out on Louis Armstrong Arena taking on world #5 David Ferrer. It was hard telling how Lleyton's body would hold up but for the first few sets the crowd got what it wanted - a wonderful battle! These two fought so hard, with so many huge rallies. It wasn't always the prettiest tennis but it had drama and some great shot-making and defense. A+ boys!
  8. Strangest match circumstances: Li Na vs Laura Robson, US Open
    Fire! Luckily it didn't stop play at the US Open

    It was a hot day, and all of a sudden dark smoke was billowing into the air near Louis Armstrong Arena. I was trying to find out what was happening - I believe I finally heard it was a fire at a nearby garage. It was rather crazy to see all this smoke but luckily it passed relatively quickly. Actually  given that Li Na was upset by the British teen maybe a smoke interruption would have been a good thing...
  9. Short and sweet: Serena Williams
    I saw Serena play two slam matches this year. In Melbourne, she beat Greta Arn 6-1 6-1 and in NYC I saw her double bagel Andrea Hlavackova. Serena is by far my #1 and I loved seeing her win but certainly would have enjoyed her a bit longer in these matches. I saw her play in her two wins in Cincy, but when I saw how her match vs Kerber was going I finished watching that one in the media room. Slam Serena was a bit more fun, tho over far too quickly.
  10. Venus - the epitome of highs and lows.
    Venus broke my heart when she pulled out of the ASB Classic in late 2011. It was made worse by the fact I work for the tournament and had to deal with the fallout but I knew she just wasn't ready to come back after her health issues. Then what a roller coaster year she had - some wonderful wins and some sad losses (that Wimbledon match. Oh. I wanted to kill the TV crew for following her back to the locker room).  Then, after her gold medal trip to the Olympics she played in Cincy and I was able to see a post-gold medal Venus. I nearly teared up during her first press conference in Cincinnati. She was so happy and was on a total high from realizing another Olympic dream. It was amazing to witness. Venus' smile lit up the entire room.

07 October 2012

Tennis regrets

Having attended a pretty significant number of tennis tournaments around the world, I know I have lived a charmed tennis fan life. But I prioritize, and most of my travel involves a tennis tourney. I usually go by myself so making a last minute decision tends to only have consequences (and opportunities) for moi.

Last year, despite not working full-time I managed to get to all four grand slams plus the WTF and Davis Cup final. I had the time off due to my contract work situation (and inability to find a full-time job) and could stretch my funds as I had friends and family to stay with in England and France. In addition, I was living a quiet, cheap life to save money for my travels (and of yeah my parents paid for my flights to the US Open).

I hate having regrets. Though it's part of life, I just prefer to just leap and deal with any consequences later. So I normally jump any time it seems likely I can get to a tennis tourney. But it hasn't always been this way, and I was thinking recently about my tennis regrets. Here are a few:

1) Not going to the 1992 Davis Cup semifinal tie between the US and Sweden. I was a high school, and did not have money for a tie (I think it was $100 or something). Andre Agassi, Stefan Edberg. What was wrong with me? I am sure had I begged my parents they may have relented but I didn't. I never got to see Edberg play and still kick myself. Tennis being played live in the midwest, just a few hours away. Sigh.

2) Monica Seles came to New Zealand in 2005 to play an exhibition against Martina Navratilova. I lived a few hours away from Auckland, where it was held, but I didn't try hard to go. I was carless at the time and a bit buried in a relationship. Oh dear do I regret not going to see these two legends play. I'd seen Monica play a few times but as she was THE player that got me into tennis I really wish I'd had done more to go to this exo.


3) In late 1999, I was toying with the idea of going to the Australian Open. I was living in Beijing at the time and I feel like I took weeks to decide whether to go or not. By the time I finally made up my mind, I was on the phone with Ticketek buying tickets and I actually had a ticket for the 2000 semifinal that would have been the legendary Agassi/Sampras match. Had I moved a bit quicker in making up my mind I would have been able to see that match live. I did end up watching it in a pub in one of the best tennis environments but I still am bummed I missed being there in the stadium.

These regrets happened while I was younger and a bit less financially able but I think they have helped me be a bit more carefree when it comes to attending live tennis. 

Anyone else have any tennis regrets?

25 August 2012

US Open 2012 - planning and picking



Being the tennis addict I am, of course I can't miss a grand slam that's in the same country....so off I go next week to US Open 2012.

This summer has been full on for most sports fans with the Olympics, but given the French Open-Wimbledon-Olympics triple header and my week in Cincinnati for the Western and Southern Open  this tennis fan is hoping for a very relaxing five days in NYC.

But who am I kidding. This is New York and this is the biggest slam in terms of people. I can't wait. This will be my third trip to the US Open and it's always easier to go back to tournaments that are familiar.

I'll be at the tennis Thursday to Monday and am hoping for less rain this year! Last year is a bit of a blur, but I was back in New Zealand for the finals and both scarred me as my two fave players lost (and I was at work so couldn't watched either live). I did rewatch Rafa and Novak's match, but have somehow not sat through Stosur's win over Serena (did that really happen?).

So back to 2012, here are my fearless picks:

Women's picks:
Quarters: Li def Lisicki; Maria def Petra; Serena def Wozniacki; Venus def Vinci
Semis: Li def Maria; Serena def Venus
Final: Serena def Li

Men's picks:
Quarters: Federer def Berdych; Murray def Tsonga; Isner def Haas; Del Potro def Djokovic
Semis: Murray def Fed; Del Potro def Isner
Final: Del Potro def Murray

Yeah, I admit these are not picked just with my brain, but here's hoping!

22 August 2012

Semifinal day in Cincy

I'm too lazy to blog much more about Cincy, but here are photos from my last day. I skipped finals day to drive the 13+ hours home to NW Iowa. Had Venus and/or Delpo won on Saturday I may have stayed, so maybe it's best they lost? Nah, not really. Delpo's semi vs Novak was kinda depressing for me, and seeing Venus serve and move so badly due to a back injury was not so fun. I can't remember the last time Venus got treatment on court.

Some photos from Cincy semis:


Delpo Nole




Bryan Brothers doubles semi


Li Na Venus

Venus Li Na



Friday QF day in Cincy

Venus Stosur
Cincy is over, but I'm behind. I think my brain got sunburnt last Friday at the Western and Southern Open and I haven't blogged since. Cincy was a wonderful tournament for practice watching, and seeing Venus Williams up close is always fun. I loved the crazy bold tights she rocked all tourney long, and with her super long hair she just looked amazing. Venus makes 32 look like 22!

Center court matches at so many tourneys end up a total bore, and today was no different. There weren't many highlights in Juan Martin Del Potro's win over Jeremy Chardy (why Muzz, why?)  and the match of the day for me was Venus vs Sam Stosur. Venus played in the Grandstand court for most of her matches, and today the crowd was massive for this match.

Even tho this was less than a week ago, I still remember how hot it was. And how tense! Venus served for the match in the second set against Stosur, and then lost a dreaded tiebreaker (what happened to her mental toughness in TBs? She's lost so many of them lately in big matches). After that match I had to leave - so hot, no water and dumb fans around me commenting that Venus just hits the ball with no idea where she's hitting it, and criticizing her serves. Live tennis is amazing, but I often want to muzzle fans around me. I watched the end of Venus' match in the media center, and nearly bit all my nails off as Venus was broken while serving for the match again in the third set. She nearly let Stosur back in AGAIN but closed it out 6-4 in the third set. A semifinal! First once since THAT semifinal at the US Open in 2010.

The evening session in Grandstand was rather sad. With Federer playing Fish in Center Court, the women had few people in the stands. And what we saw was Li Na clock top seed Agnieska Radwanska 6-1 6-1. Aga had some strange tape job on her shoulder and she was never in the match. LI Na's hitting was solid and Aga's serve horrible. The most interesting aspect of the match was Li Na's new coach! Carlos Rodriguez, he of Justine Henin and infamous illegal coaching fame. From my seat, I could see how tiny he looked. It was odd to see him come out to court after the first set for some on-court coaching. This one will take awhile to get used to.


Some more photos from the day:

Delpo FH

Venus BH

Li Na

Li Na and Carlos

Aga

Li Na face

Beautiful night in Cincy


16 August 2012

Thursday in Cincy

Another big day at this fantastic tournament. Here are a few pics of the grounds, which are pretty easy to navigate, with lots of space for the crowds and so many places to sit and relax, eat, hide from the sun, etc.

Entrance from Lot B parking.


Delpo walking from player entrance toward practice

Draws on side of center court

Popular place to get player autographs as they enter/exit the grounds



View of court 9 from center court
Today was another hot day, but not quite as bad as yesterday. Match of the day for this fan was Venus Williams. She played Sara Errani and was in stellar form. She just couldn't miss for most of the match and there was nothing the Italian could do. Venus' groundies were in great form - so wonderful to see. In press, Venus said having just played Errani in the Olympics helped her stay relaxed for this match and it showed. She looked wonderful.

Serena's match, on the other hand, was a bit painful. She looked ill, slow, lazy whatever you want to call it but didn't need much more than her C game to advance over Urzsula Radwanska. She'll need to sharpen up for Angelique Kerber tomorrow. The German looked okay but not fantastic against the improving Andrea Hlavackova, who seems to be getting some good results on the singles court to go along with her huge doubles success of late.

I ended my day with the Bryan brothers, who once moved from Ct 3 to Ct 9 RACED to a 0 and 1 win over Jarkko Nieminen and Stanislas Wawrinka. It took 30 minutes, and then rains came so I think the Bryans had a hunch they needed to get it done fast.

Some other pics from today - hard to believe we only have three more days!

Stosur practicing

Kerber

Serena Ula Radwanska

Serena first pump

Yeah I am sure my serve doesn't look like this. Wow.

Venus hitting a BHDTL winner

Winner!

Evening doubles action

Bryans won in 30 minutes. Truly.

15 August 2012

Midway through the Western and Southern Open

We're halfway to the finals weekend of the Western and Southern Open in Cincy. The weather's been pretty lovely so far this week, but today we burned. The players and fans suffered through very hot conditions and there were a few withdrawals due to heat illness.

As I sit in my hotel room with burned feet and lips, I can only admire tennis players who are able to play through hot conditions. The tourney I've been to the most is the Australian Open, and it's scorching there for most of the two weeks but today still felt brutal to me.

After 3+ days at the tourney, I have to say I think the crowds are amazing. They seem so supportive of the players and there's none of that horrible cheering faults and errors you can sometimes get at other tourneys. As an American who's been overseas for more than a decade, it's heartwarming to hear such great support for Venus, Serena and the Bryan Brothers. I'm used to crowds appreciating them or booing them (well Serena and Venus anyway) tho I've mostly attended tourneys in Australia and England) so to have such huge support is pretty special to witness.

Of course, being on the heels of the London Olympics and the Williams/Bryans gold medal runs it's expected the crowds would be appreciative but it's more than that.

Today, I watched the beginning and end of Venus' match with Chanelle Scheepers. The crowd's welcome onto Grandstand court was wonderful, and boy did they cheer her on in that tricky third set. She even commented afterwards how lovely it was to have the crowd want her to win so much. Both she and Serena have said how much they love the crowds here, how midwestern people have such great hearts and are so nice.

The Bryan Brothers practiced this morning, and a large crowd was loving every minute of it. Bob arrived first to huge applause, and when Mike showed up a few ladies went up to give him a hug and congratulate him on the Olympics. During their practice session, the crowd ooohed and ahhhed and it was so entertaining. Great stuff Cincy.

Their support is not limited to Americans - today's match between Tommy Haas and Juan Martin Del Potro was also well received. Tommy got a huge welcome and send off and Delpo also felt the love. I love watching live tennis, but it can be hard when you feel like the crowd is actually against a player instead of cheering for one. I can't say enough positive things are the Cincy crowds.

Some photos from today:

Bob Bryan arrives to practice

Hewitt losing to Troicki

Troicki beating Hewitt

Haas and Delpo

Haas

Delpo forehand

Lovely court 3



Tommy

Game set match - Del Potro

Great send off for Tommy

Delpo makes some fans happy

Petra surviving

Venus winning in three sets again

Fist pump Venus