Friday, March 23, 2018

My experiences at Indian Wells 2018

I just spent 17 days in Palm Springs volunteering at the amazing Indian Wells tennis tournament for the fourth year.  As always it was an incredible experience filled with great tennis, sunshine, palm trees, and fun times as a volunteer.

Let's get the frustrating part out of the way first.  Probably 98% of the people who read this blog are Federer fans.  That means that the way the final ended between Federer and Del Potro was painful.  Sure, we can be happy for Delpo winning his first Masters 1000 after all his wrist surgeries, and we can say Roger never truly found his best game at IW.  However, after fighting back in the second set (which involved anger on both sides and intense conversations with the chair umpire) in an extremely tight tiebreak to stay in the match, it seemed like maybe he had the momentum to be able to get it done.  When he finally went up a break in the third and attempted to serve it out he ended up at 40-15.  How often have we seen him serve an ace to take the match?  In this case, though, that was only a dream as we saw eventually three championship points go by the wayside.  When he got broken I had the terrible feeling that was it.  And, in fact, my premonition was true as he managed to get it to another tiebreak, but played one of the worst possible, to finally see Juan Martin Del Potro raising his arms in victory.  As one who watched the match live, all prepared to jump to my feet as he won the tournament, it was extremely deflating to see it slip away.  Ok, phew, that's over.  It will always be painful, but there are more tournaments to play and win to add to his incredible achievements.

Now on to my experiences.  For those who aren't aware, I have been volunteering in transportation for four years, meaning I work eight 6 hour shifts over the course of the tournament driving anyone from players to coaches to ATP/WTF officials to commentators to line judges to special guests.  It's the luck of the draw as to who I drive, and some are boring and others are very fun/special.  This year some of my notable ones were Borna Coric, Monica Puig, Cameron Norrie, Sam Gore (ESPN commentator who was working the world feed) along with Nick Lester, Felix AA's coach, a high up ATP rep, one of the well known female line judges, members of Gladys Knight's team (she rode in my friends car, but she smiled at me 😊) plus many others.  I had some great conversations with many of them.  It's always special to get to talk to people who work in the tennis world, which to me seems like a dream job.

A special part of the tournament this year was that, as defending champion, a portrait of Roger was unveiled with him being part of the ceremony.  Being the Fed fan that I am, I knew to get there early, meaning I had a front row view (albeit, still blocked by the media people inside the fence).  Here are a few pictures from that event.   

As a volunteer I am able to go into the lower bowl of the stadium for free until the final weekend in a particular section.  If the actual ticket holder of that seat comes, we move to another free seat.  For a time during one match I had a seat in the very front, diagonal from the back of the court.  It was awesome because when Roger was on that side I could actually lean over and yell encouragement, knowing he could actually hear me!  

 I went to several practices.  Unfortunately I was always in the wrong place for getting an autograph or selfie, which I would have loved, but we can't have everything I suppose! 😄 One hilarious thing that happened during one of the practices was when Roger walked over toward the fence to get a ball while he was still practicing and everyone in the crowd stood up and moved towards the fence thinking he was coming over to sign autographs.  He got a look on his face like "What's wrong with you guys?"  Then he was smiling for a while after that.

My most special experience of the tournament was the interaction I got to have with Roger's dad, Robbie Federer.  He already knows me from having driven him and Lynette from the airport last year, talking to him in London in November during Roger's practice, and emailing him several times with some information he asked me for.  I saw him on the grounds early in the tournament and went over to talk to him and we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes while watching some matches on the big screens.  He gave me a kiss on the cheek at the end, which was so sweet.  I talked to him several times and also got this special picture with him and Lynette.

 I got to meet up with several twitter friends, which is always really fun to have personal experiences to go along with the online interaction, so thanks for that you all!

So another wonderful 2 1/2 weeks has come to a close once again and the tour moves on, but I have some incredible memories to add to my existing ones.  We'll see where the tennis world brings me next!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Why is Roger Federer so loved?

In the last weeks Roger Federer has not only defended his Australian Open title, getting to 20 majors, but has also returned to #1 in the world.  There surely must have been a million articles already written on these amazing feats so why should I bother to write another one?  That's why I thought I would come from another angle - reiterating some of the qualities that make this man so very special.  So here are some in no special order.  We already know them, but sometimes it's fun to be reminded.

- He doesn't think of himself as anything too special - he's just a normal guy growing up in a normal family, normal town, normal country.

- Even though he doesn't think of himself as too special, he treats everyone else as if they are, whether an average fan (like when I got my picture taken with him in an area where I wasn't even supposed to ask him, yet he still wanted to check to make sure the pictures had turned out), someone in the media, or other players, whatever their rank.

- He is loved by other players so much that he continues to win the Sportsmanship award year after year after year, both by the way he acts on court and also off court, with great respect towards everyone.  I have heard multiple stories of him reaching out to players who are injured, encouraging someone after a bad loss, or just remembering details about their lives.

- He not only gives press conferences in multiple languages in spite of how busy he is, but he takes time to give thoughtful responses and explanations, in spite of being asked the same questions over and over again.

- He obviously loves his wife and children so much and puts them first.  He has said multiple times that if Mirka didn't want him to keep playing he would stop right away (thankfully for us she loves it as much as we do, always cheering for him and taking picture after picture).  And his kids are the pride of his life.  I remember him saying when his boys were quite young that he couldn't stop kissing them. So sweet!

- He gives much credit to his parents for who he is and for all that he has been able to accomplish.  They often travel with him and have much to do with running the Roger Federer Foundation.  Having spent some time with them myself, they are wonderful people, very down to earth.

- He is concerned for those living in poverty, giving his own funds plus time out of his schedule for charity matches to raise money for his foundation, which provides education for impoverished children in Africa and Switzerland.  He has also taken several trips to Africa himself to see how the funds are being used.

- He's not afraid to let the world see his emotions.  While some might look at this as a weakness, to me this shows how much it all means to him, in spite of all that he has accomplished.  I find it beautiful.

- The reason he keeps playing, in spite of all the records he holds, money he's made, etc., is his genuine love of the game, which shows in everything he does.  Being a lover of tennis myself, it makes me happy to see how much he loves it.

- He has a great sense of humor and isn't afraid to be silly.  From bongo drums to dancing with Mickey to making jokes with Jim Courier, his joy for life just comes through.  Many of the players comment on what a funny guy he is.

- All of this and we haven't even talked about his beautiful tennis, gliding around the court like a ballet dancer, coming up with shots still after all these years that no one has ever seen before, that makes those who have seen it all still gasp in appreciation.

I'm sure there is much more I could have written - this is basically just off the top of my head.  He is so loved around the world for so many reasons and I wanted to give appreciation in writing while we wait for his next appearances.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thoughts before the final, plus some London memories

As we prepare for another grand slam final for the amazing Roger Federer, I thought I would take a few minutes to write down some thoughts, since it's been a while.

Though I was eager for 2018 to start, I must admit to being a little nervous.  I mean, after some years of struggle with no major wins, injuries and the 6 month break, the dream year of 2017 happened to the great delight and surprise of many, with two majors and three masters wins, along with some incredible emotions to go along with joyful moments.  It's hard not to have the expectations high again, which leaves room for bitter disappointment.  So far, though, there has been no disillusionment whatsoever, as we've seen Roger march to the final yet again, but this time with no sets lost.  What's not to love?

I've thought several times over the past year what it would have been like had Roger not won in the final last year.  Seriously, he was down a break in the 5th; it looked inevitable.  What would have been different?  Well, Nadal would have come much closer to his major record, creating more stress to at least get one more.  Also, what would it have done to his confidence?  Going into the quarter of death in the Indian Wells tournament it's hard to think he would have had what it took to get through that, especially having to beat Rafa again.  But look what happened instead?  What a blessed year it was!!

So when I think about this upcoming match I can do it with much less stress.  Will I still be extremely nervous, talking to my TV in the middle of the night, and feeling incredibly disappointed if Cilic ends up on fire?  Of course - that's just part of being a Federer fan.  I would absolutely love to see him hold up that trophy again and get to 20 (TWENTY!!!) major titles (good grief, that's ridiculous).  But if it ended up happening that he doesn't win it, to me it holds much less importance.  I don't think it would affect his confidence level to not have this trophy or affect the rest of his year in any way, which I do think would have happened somewhat last year.  He proved that he can still come in fresh after his successful year last year, not even dropping a set.  So I'm hoping I can enjoy the final more this year without the intense stress and feelings of almost despair if he were to lose.  All that said, though, I have high hopes for the outcome of this match.

On another note, I never ended up writing a post about my amazing trip to London for the ATP finals.  It was a sensational time all the way around.  Being in Europe my first time, seeing some of the sites of London, taking a tour of Wimbledon (highly recommended), feeling like a pro using the public transportation around London, and of course a lot of great tennis matches at the O2 arena, including watching Roger live.  A huge highlight was getting to meet quite a few of my twitter friends, which was an absolute pleasure!!  And, one of my favorites memories, after going to say hi to Lynette, Robbie and Mirka Federer and talking briefly to Tony, two days later I got to visit with Robbie Federer during the whole of Roger's practice.  What a very special experience!  Then followed a few emails back and forth when I got home after he asked me for some advice on something related to travel in the U.S.  It was a wonderful time in every way and I'm so glad I took the opportunity to experience something so special.

Looking forward to hopefully writing a very happy post after another AO win!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Random thoughts before Roger's season ends

Do you guys mind if I just ramble a bit?  I meant to write a blog post after Roger's win in Basel, saying something along the lines of......
As every Federer fan is more than aware, Roger won his hometown Basel tournament for the 8th time, claiming his 7th title of the season and his 95th career title.  When I was thinking about writing a blog post I thought, what more can I possibly write that hasn't already been said about this incredible man, his career, and his supremely amazing 2017 season?  It's been an absolutely wild ride that I never would have dared to imagine.

I never ended up getting it written, though, and life is moving on. For example, we had the joyous and hilarious experience of seeing Roger play an exhibition match in Glasgow Scotland to help Andy Murray raise money for Unicef in which he ended up wearing a kilt provided from a woman in the crowd.  He has a way of just making things so much fun!  After much laughter, I still kept randomly smiling all day long just thinking about it.

The biggest focus in my mind right now, however, is that (wait for it).... I'M GOING TO LONDON!!!  I have never been anywhere in Europe, so this is exciting in itself, but the big reason I'm going right now is because I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can to watch Roger play live.  These are the kinds of moments that make special memories that last a lifetime and I don't want to someday regret that I missed out.  So my tennis friend and I are taking a big trip for the sheer pleasure of watching some amazing tennis, while taking what time we can to explore London a bit (for example, we plan on taking a tour of Wimbledon, which I'm excited about - Roger, do you want to come show us around?).  We have tickets to each round robin session and then head home on the day of the semis (in which I will be dying to know what's going on!).  It would be so special if Roger could finish off this incredible year with another win at the ATP finals, but regardless, seeing him play at such an amazing tournament that he's had great success at will be so worth it.  No one knows how much longer he will play, not even Roger himself, but let's enjoy each and every moment we have to experience this extremely talented and supremely special person.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Roger caps off superb week in Shanghai with 94th title

Remember the days when the head-to-head between Federer and Nadal was 23-10 in favor of the Spaniard?  When it seemed that he was in Roger's head so much that it didn't appear there was any way to right the ship?  I admit that Fedal match still strike some fear in my heart, but who would have ever believed that victories would be 4-0 Federer for 2017, and five in a row all together?  That he would beat him in a major final and two Masters 1000s, in a year that has been equally impressive for both as to the titles they have won?  And that by October their H2H would be 23-15?  I still have to pinch myself sometimes to believe the happenings of this glorious year for Roger aren't really just a dream.

Nadal has been on a roll this fall, winning the US Open and Beijing and looking quite fierce as he moved into the final in Shanghai.  In comparison, Federer sustained a back injury in the final of Montreal and then struggled in the US Open before his loss in the quarters.  I must say I wondered if his amazing results from the first half of the year were over.  However, Roger being Roger, he knew what he needed - time to let his body recover and then proper preparation to get himself into good form.  Arriving early in Shanghai he got himself into the tennis form he was hoping for, which improved more and more as the matches went on.

By the time he got to the final, in spite of a late match the night before, he knew what he needed to do in order to beat his biggest rival; the same thing he has been doing all year, playing aggressive, hitting glorious FH and BH winners, and serving out of this world.

Roger is now tied for second place for number of titles won with Ivan Lendl at 94.  Though 109 (Jimmy Connors) still seems a long way off, 100 is certainly getting closer.  There are a potential three more tournaments he could play this year.  I would think he would play in his home tournament in Basel, but I'm rather hoping he chooses to not play in Paris, though it would get him closer to catching Nadal at #1.  However, he has already stated that the ATP finals in London are his priority and for him to be at his best his body needs to be 100%.  Can you imagine him capping off this unbelievable year with a win there?  2017 has already been a miracle year for him - that seems an appropriate way to finish it!  And I have tickets for all the round robin sessions with my first trip to Europe.  London calling!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Federer back to himself in 3rd round win

Lately I haven't been writing many blog posts in the middle of tournaments, but I'm feeling so many emotions after Federer's third round win that I just have to get them out.

Roger's US Open started rather unexpectedly.  After a back injury in the final in Montreal and then pulling out of one of his most successful tournaments in Cincinnati, his first couple rounds in New York were less than stellar, both going to a very surprising five sets. It was easy to be concerned about the back, which he said he was nervous about in his first round. After his very up and down second round, though, even though it went five sets, I was relieved to hear him say afterwards that he never thought about his back.  His explanation was that since he had been rehabbing his back right up to the start of the tournament, he didn't have time to do the intense preparation he would have normally done before a major and that he would play better after playing 10 sets to start.

I chose to believe him, though I know some were still doubting, but the big test would be his third round match against veteran Feliciano Lopez. 12-0 head to head record or not, nothing could be taken for granted. However, Roger came out very focused, looking very intent on making this an easy win. Sure, it would have been better if he hadn't been broken back in the third set, but overall he proved once again that he indeed knows what he's talking about! He looked much more free in his service games, fluid overall and like he had found his rhythm. In his first two matches he made so many uncharacteristic errors, but he seems to have righted himself and to be back to the real Roger once again.

All that I've written may seem very obvious, and if so I'm sorry but I simply had to share it.  Not sure what the rest of this crazy tournament will hold, but Roger is once again in the second week of a major, and who knows what can happen from here?  Fingers crossed for a great final week.  Still believing for #20.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Are we dreaming? Federer continues to amaze

As the dust settles on another Wimbledon fortnight and the hype and excitement of Roger Federer's 8th title there begin to fade just a little bit, it's time to share some of my own thoughts on these incredible happenings.

A year ago we were mourning his announcement that he would not only miss the Olympics but all the rest of 2016.  What did it all mean?  Would he every regain his form to challenge the top guys again, let alone win not just titles, but grand slams?  No one knew, not even Roger.  He didn't win a title all of 2016.  I guess if he had to be stuck at a title number, 88 was a good one, but I was starting to question how many more he could even win.

Have you ever had a dream that, while a bit strange, also seemed so real that the next day you ask yourself "Did some of that really happen, or was it all just a dream?"  In a way that's what the past six months of Roger's career feels like.  Did he really win the Australian Open, beating Nadal after being down a break in the 5th set?  Well, I've watched it a million times on my DVR so I know it must be real.  How about winning Indian Wells a little over a month later, beating Rafa quite handily on the way to the title, and overcoming the "quarter of death?"  I watched that one in person from the second row so I know it's true, experiencing some heaven-on-earth moments over the couple weeks I was there.  But Miami - really??  Maybe that one is a dream.  I mean, come on, the guy is 35 years old, came back from a six month break, gets to another Masters 1000 final and beats Nadal FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS YEAR to win his third big title in a row. Crazy!

Disbelief in Miami

As always, Roger is so wise in his scheduling.  Though we missed him during clay, which I always grit my teeth and just through anyway, he knew how much he can handle at this stage of his life, and he knew what his real goal was - his beloved grass (plus, by missing the clay season it meant he could come to Seattle for another dream experience for me).  Sure, there were some questions when he lost in his first match in Stuttgart.  But even dreams aren't perfect.  I think it was a good wake-up call, however, because he then went on to cloud 9 in Halle and, of course a perfect Wimbledon, not losing a set in either tournament.

So the dream continues.  Seeing his joy holding the trophy, seeing the tears come when he saw his kids in the audience, watching all the hugs from family, royalty (tennis & otherwise) and friends was so endearing, I just couldn't stop smiling.  So Roger is now the holder of 19 (did you get that - NINETEEN!!) majors, after being stuck at 17 for almost five years.  No, it's not just a dream - we really got to experience this absolutely joyful six months.  Is it too much to dream of another US Open title, another World Tour finals title, getting back to #1?  Maybe, but I've seen dreams come true and it would be hard to be surprised by anything at this point.