Monday, August 24, 2015

Dream week for Federer in Cincy

Why do I call this a dream week?  After all, it was Roger Federer's 7th time to win the title in Cincinnati; it's not like it was anything too new to him.  But how often does a player not only not lose a set on their road to the trophy, but more importantly not even have his serve broken one time?  And not just that, he only faced break point three times in the tournament, and not one time in the final against the world #1.  That is simply unheard of!

Anyone who watched any of Roger's matches during the week couldn't help but have heard about and observed his ultra-aggressive tactics.  His new return strategy started out as a joke in practice - moving up to within just a couple feet of the service box and taking the serve incredibly early, stunning his opponent.  He even used this on big server Kevin Anderson, much to the shock of everyone watching.  Some of the shots he produced during the week were just outrageous.  To continue to add to his game at 34 years old after all that he has accomplished in his career is so impressive and can be added to his extensive list of what he is so admired for.

The quick conditions in Cincy are so well suited for his game.  I kept thinking through the week as I watched Federer shine and Djokovic struggle how things would be different if so many of the court surfaces hadn't been made ridiculously slow.  There were still quite a lot of long rallies during the tournament, so the argument that there are no long rallies with quick courts doesn't ring true.  There was a lot of very exciting tennis!  I will hold myself back from going on a long rant about this, but I'll at least say that I wish it was more even as far as slow and fast surfaces.  I mean, this year Federer beat Djokovic on the quick surfaces, Djokovic beat Federer on the slow surfaces.  Different strengths for different players.  Enough said.

I heard it said many times after the final that this was the first time Roger had ever beaten the the #1 and #2 player in the world in a tournament.  To me that sounds bad because it sounds like he wasn't capable of doing that.  What many were ignoring, however, was the fact that the majority of the time he has been ranked #1 or #2, so it would have been impossible simply because of that.  Again, enough said.

I loved seeing the Federer girls at the tournament, seeming a little more tuned in than previously.  When Roger went to greet his family after his win, I couldn't stop smiling for many minutes afterwards.  Even though I know everyone has already probably seen it, I still have to put the sweet video in.


And finally, I leave at the end of the week for my first experience at the US Open!  I will be there the first week.  It will be a very different experience than my time at Indian Wells this year, where I was able to sit right down at the front because I was volunteering; here I will be up in the nosebleed section.  But being at a grand slam for the first time will be quite an experience and I'm very excited!  Hopefully will still get some good Roger time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Perspective on Roger Federer's Wimbledon

Most of those who read my blog are, I'm sure, crazy Federer addicts like I am.  That means that you are probably, like me, still working through the disappointment that Roger wasn't the one kissing the trophy on Sunday afternoon.  To be honest, for me his whole year was building up to Wimbledon.  I knew how much he wanted to win it, so that made me want it all the more for him.  The whole time in Halle as he marched closer to his 8th title there, my thoughts were on the Wimbledon trophy.  The whole two weeks at SW19 as he played brilliant tennis, getting broken only once in his first six matches, losing his one set in a tiebreak, I was dreaming of him lifting that beautiful prize he has held seven previous times.  And when he played a masterful class A match against Andy Murray to beat him in straight sets, really not even giving him a chance, I thought this surely must be the year.

The problem is, though, that when expectations are set so high that there is only one option that is acceptable - being the 1 person of 128 left standing at the end - that leaves room for a lot of disappointment if it doesn't go according to plan.  And it did until he ran into a very impressive world #1 Novak Djokovic.  I know a lot of Fed fans are still smarting at this loss and may not want to think about Djokovic, but we have to give credit where credit is due - he really did play an amazing tennis match.  Every time Roger had chances Novak came up with a clutch serve or a brilliant get.  Thankfully Roger was able to take the second set in a wildly intense tiebreak that gave me heart attacks over and over, but he just wasn't able to keep it up, for sure in part due to what was happening on the other side of the net.

Roger sounded quite positive in both his trophy ceremony speech, in which I thought there might be some emotion shown, and in his press conference.  Though of course disappointed, his disappointment wasn't at the level I would have expected and he sounded like he still has much passion to continue playing and pushing forward.  

I know for me, though, I allowed myself to have only one acceptable result for this tournament, for him to win it, something I hadn't been letting myself do as much the last couple years.  I'm going to try with everything I have to not be at that point anymore - where I fully expect him to win a tournament.  Do I still expect him to win titles?  Of course!  But to expect him to win a major at the age of basically 34, I'm just not going to do it anymore.  I hope desperately that at some point in the next couple years he absolutely delights and thrills his fans, and surprises the skeptics, by winning at least one more.  But if he never does, I will love every moment that he continues to play, appreciating that he is still playing beautiful tennis at this stage of his career and not only that - he is #2 in the world.  We would have killed for that in 2013.  

So to sum it up, yes I'm still bitterly disappointed and sad.  But at the same time I realize I set myself up for it.  He got to the final of Wimbledon and I'm going to appreciate that fact and try not to dwell on any negatives.  Hopefully he's having a wonderful vacation time with his family and we will look forward to seeing him on the hard courts of North America after the rest that he deserves.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summing up Roger's clay season

It's been too long since I've written a blog post, between busyness at work where I'm doing a ton of typing, plus getting up early every morning to watch tennis. So I'm going to do a casual post and at least give a few of my thoughts on Federer's French Open.

First of all, I know many Federer fans are very disappointed that he didn't go further, given his good draw and the form he seemed to be in.  Obviously I was disappointed too, but it wasn't one of those losses where I spent a lot of time feeling bummed out long term.  I realized quickly this season that to have big expectations on clay would just be setting myself up for discouragement, and as it turned out he had very mixed results when you look at the two month period.  He had both early round losses, yet also won a title and got to a final, so I knew it could go either way in Roland Garros.  Monfils was the match I was particularly concerned about and I wasn't really thinking much farther than that.  When he got through that with a bit of difficulty but successfully I certainly thought he had a good chance, but his good buddy Stan has the ability to play some amazing tennis and that is certainly what he did.  And frankly, Roger just didn't seem to have it that day.

While we know that Roger has had some good success on clay throughout his career, reaching the final of RG multiple times and of course his historic 2009 completion of the career grand slam, not to mention quite a few other clay titles, we still also know that clay isn't his best surface.  Add to that the fact that the points are grueling and his body is getting older, I really felt that although winning the title would be amazing, most likely it was a long shot.  I did think he might get to the semifinals or even the final, but overall he at least did better than last year.

Of course I wish he had played amazing against Wawrinka and gotten to at least the semifinal if not further.  But am I losing any sleep or feeling depressed all day about it?  Not by any means.  In my mind he is still playing great tennis at 33, is still #2 in the world and is doing himself and his fans proud.  I will say, though, that my hopes and dreams for the grass season are much different.  He has stated strongly that his goal is to win Wimbledon, so anything less for him or his fans is going to be a great disappointment.  I know I will have to steel myself for that eventuality, but until then I'm going to dream of him kissing the trophy once again.

And even though this may not seem like it relates, for those who are still feeling sad about this loss, I just watched the Brisbane final from this year where Roger won his 1,000th match.  What an amazing feat.  Take the time to watch this award ceremony and it will make you feel much better, I guarantee:


And as I close, I have to share this sweet picture of Myla and Charlene that was taken at one of matches - so cute.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Federer claims 85th title in Istanbul

It was a topsy turvy week for Federer in Istanbul, but at the end of it all he was holding up a beautiful trophy to inaugurate this brand new tournament.  And who better to always have on record as the first title holder than the GOAT, the Maestro, his majesty Roger Federer?

The final started out strong for Roger, playing aggressively and cutting down on the errors that seemed to plague him through the week.  He closed out the first set easily at 6-2.  But from experience both watching and playing, I was well aware that a 6-2 first set doesn't necessarily mean anything.  And sure enough, the 2nd set was a much tighter affair.  In spite of a break which should have ended it in much easier fashion, this was given back, and other break point opportunities not taken (in part definitely due to some great play by Pablo Cuevas).  It inevitably went to a tiebreak and wow, what an experience that was.  Both players had some definite moments of choking, and really, I'm surprised it didn't end up in a 3rd set.  Roger had several wasted match points, but Pablo decided to return the favor by wasting his set points.  Ultimately some better play ensued and Roger was able to close it out finally at 13-11, after blood pressure rising and heart attacks from many Fed fans.

This was the first clay court win for Federer since Madrid 2012, but as that was blue clay it was surprisingly his first red clay title since 2009.  Now he will head to Madrid, I'm sure with more confidence, and hopefully a couple days rest before starting a difficult journey with a tough draw.  But that's a different story for a different day.  For now we will celebrate the happy feelings of his hard fought 85th trophy. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Federer's week so far in Istanbul

Roger Federer is into the final of the inaugural Istanbul Open.  It definitely hasn't been without a fight though!  In fact, the above picture I think portrays some of the emotions his fans have felt this week - the "what in the world is going on."  Before each of the last two matches I was feeling quite comfortable beforehand thinking he would get through fairly easily, against Gimeno-Traver and Schwartzman, both ranked quite a bit lower.  However, both matches went three sets, and in the semi against Schwartzman Roger lost the first set 6-2.  Schwartzman was definitely playing well, but at the same time the errors coming off of Roger's racquet were simply too many, and his frustration was evident at times, with even a code violation coming after hitting a ball out of the stadium.

It feels like he can't quite seem to get the feel on clay so far this year.  His early exit in Monte Carlo was a surprise after having made it to the final last year, but he said he just never felt comfortable.  Watching him this week it kind of feels the same way.  I'm trying to lower my expectations of what to expect for this clay season, with at least Madrid and the French Open coming up (still not sure of Rome).  To be honest I have never enjoyed clay.  The long grueling points, the difficulty in hitting winners because of the slow conditions and, yes, the fact that one unnamed player has been winning for the last decade.  I'm sure the long matches get more difficult on the body as Federer gets older, but he continues to soldier on, adding in this new tournament this year for the opportunity to play in and visit places he hasn't been to before, which is admirable.

And despite the difficult matches, he has a chance to win another title when he faces Pablo Cuevas, who surprisingly beat Dimitrov in straight sets.  Whether he wins or not, he has given himself a lot of clay practice this week, he had an enjoyable time as a sight see-er, and he has added some impressive stats once again.  One of these is that with his 200th win on clay he became only the 2nd player to have 300 hard court wins, 200 clay court wins and 100 grass court wins (along with Jimmy Connors).  He has also moved into third place with the most aces.  So regardless of whether he is kissing a trophy or holding a plate, it has overall been a successful (though slightly frustrating for those watching) week in Istanbul.  And Roger seems happy is and having fun, so that's what counts!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The experiences of a volunteer at IW, and meeting Roger and Mirka

I'm home and getting back into the groove of normal life, so I am going to attempt to share some of the incredible experiences I had while volunteering at Indian Wells.

My friend and I got to the site the Saturday before play began to start our first shift as drivers in VIP Transportation.  We really didn't know what to expect.  We knew we would be driving some players, coaches, chair umpires, but that was about the extent of our knowledge.  We didn't know even what our perks were out of it, other than we didn't have to buy tickets until the final weekend.  We discovered in the orientation, run by the tournament director himself, that our benefits included having access to the lower portion of the stadium in several of the sections on the side the players boxes are on.  We would just flash our credentials and then we could go find any open seat starting at row E (not that I didn't sneak down a little lower when I could, mind you).  If the ticket holder came, we just went and found another seat.  Let me tell you, once you get to sit down there and watch the best of the best play close up, it's very difficult to go sit at the top of the stadium again!  
First match watching courtside - Monica Puig
One of the other perks we received from volunteering was on the days we worked we got $16 worth of credit for meals, which was very helpful.  One of my favorite parts, though, was that we had access to some of the regions that the average person can't go.  Though I couldn't get into the actual player area, I could see into it easily and could see them either doing exercises or just sitting and eating at tables in the player eating area (in fact, I got to see Roger Federer walk into the player eating area, see Juan Martin Del Potro for the first time, and give him a big hug).   
Roger and Delpo talking in the player area

It was interesting to watch the tournament build up, since we got there so early.  When we first got there a lot of the players weren't even there yet, and others were just starting to practice.  So over the next several days it all started to come alive, and that's when it really got fun.  Our transportation trailer was located in the player parking lot where those who drove themselves parked and where others were dropped off.  I would often stand outside the trailer just watching the view to see who would walk by.  Other times players, coaches, chair umpires would just walk into the trailer to ask for a ride.  For example, Martina Navratilova walked in one day, which is just a little surreal (I wasn't the next one up to drive, though, so someone else gave her a ride).  Often I would walk right past prominent players.  I saw Serena when she first came on site, watched her get out of her car and into a golf cart.  Many of them were so much better looking in person than on TV.  For example, I walked past Matosevic and he was actually quite handsome.  Stan Wawrinka looked great close up, as did Berdych.  There were so many I saw I can't even list them all.  I saw Sam Stosur so many times.  In the beginning I knew Federer wasn't even there yet, as he was playing the exo in NYC, so I had more freedom inside of not being uptight hoping I would see him; I just enjoyed seeing all the other players.  Once I knew he was there, then I was always on the lookout, probably a bit of a stalker.  :)

As far as my actual job, I worked eight 6 hour shifts over the two weeks.  We had a great trailer we would sit in waiting for our turn to drive, which was just a sign up list, so it was just random and by chance who we ended up driving.  I drove all different kinds of vehicles - suburbans, vans, SUVs, and had to get used to each one.  A lot of the time I was going to a hotel to pick someone up or drive them back.  I only did one airport run.  On that one, the slip they gave me said I was picking up Juan Martin and that was all it said, so I wasn't actually sure if it was Del Potro or not.  So I stood outside the airport with my BNP Paribas Open sign and suddenly I saw him come out.  I ran up and told him where I was while he went in to wait for his bags.  When he finally came out and I went up to talk to him, it felt absolutely crazy to go stand right next to him and just talk casually.  He is incredibly good looking in person.  I talked to him a bit while we were driving, asked him a couple questions, but then he started talking to the person he was with in Spanish.  The embarrassing part was when I got a bit lost and had to pull over and try to figure out where I was going.  I felt bad because I knew he was anxious to get to his hotel.

Some of the other notables I drove were Nick Kyrgios and team (Nick didn't talk to me at all - it was pretty early in the morning - though he did with some others), Pablo Andujar, who was very nice, Daniel Gimeno Traver a couple times (I'm not sure if he really even speaks English).  I think there's another player I'm missing, but I can't remember at the moment.  For me it was more fun to drive coaches, chair umpires, line judges, or just people who worked with the ATP/WTA because they tended to be much more talkative.  One of my very favorites was driving Kevin Anderson's coach.  We were waiting for a while for another person to show up, plus we got stuck in traffic, so we ended up having quite a bit of time.  We chatted about everything from Kevin's career, our kids, my tennis game, weather where each of us is from, etc.  I also drove Jelena Jankovic's coach right before she was going to play Sabine Lisicki, who he had also coached, so that was an interesting conversation.

The chair umpires and line judges were fun to talk to because they travel all around the world and work closely with all the players, so we had some great conversations.  I also drove some ATP officials.  One thing that was so cool to me was the reaction some of these people had when I brought up Roger's name.  These are people who work closely with him and know him both on and off the court.  When several of these people started talking about him, it's like their tone of voice would soften in admiration as they talked about what a great person he is on and off the court, how much he has brought to tennis, and how much the tennis world will lose when he retires.  It's one thing to hear this from people who are fans, but to hear it over and over from people who work closely not just with him, but with many other players, meant a lot to me and just confirmed all the more why he is so loved.

One of Roger's practices
He only practiced on site a couple times
Now to my most exciting moments - talking with different members of the Federer family.  I had hoped and actually prayed for a couple different things before the tournament started and during - that I would get a picture with Roger and that I would have the opportunity to talk with Mirka.  Both wishes were granted and I couldn't be more thrilled.  I had tried to "make" it happen to get a picture with Roger without success.  He is so surrounded by people it seemed almost impossible.  Without going into the whole story, we ended up being over by the player area at a time we normally wouldn't have been.  All of a sudden, there were Roger and Michael Lammer (who he played doubles with in the tournament) standing by themselves by a golf cart.  Now, it was specified during our orientation that when we are wearing our volunteer outfits we are not to go up to the players and ask for autographs or pictures.  However, I was dressed in normal clothes.  Technically I probably still shouldn't have asked for a picture there since I was in the privileged access section, but the way this all happened, it was if this was being set up specifically for me from above, so I just had to.  So I went running up to him and said "Roger, can I get a picture?"  He said sure, so I stood by him and started to do a selfie.  Instead he said that Michi could take it for us, so he snapped a few pictures with my phone.  Then Roger said we should make sure they turned out, which I thought was very sweet.  There were two that turned out really well.  Since I didn't want to take anymore of his time I said thank you so much and left.  Looking back I wish I had said that someday I would love to talk twins with him, since I also have a set of twins, just to see what he would have said.  But my heart was pounding so hard and I couldn't think straight.  It all happened fairly quickly, but the experience of looking right up into his face and have him look at me and talk to me was something that will always stay with me.  And looking at my picture makes me so happy!

Dream come true
As far as talking with Mirka, I had been given the hallway player access pass to go use the bathroom.  As I was coming out of the bathroom into the hallway I saw Tony Godsick carrying one of the twin girls and then his daughter with the other one.  I waved to one of them as they went out the door.  Then I looked and right beside me was Mirka.  She had a beautiful lacy white shirt on and looked just great.  I had already planned out what I would say to her if I should be so fortunate to get to talk to her.  So I touched her arm and said "Hey, I just wanted to tell you what a hero you are to me.  I have a set of twins, so I think you are just amazing traveling the world with two sets."  She said thank you very much, as we were walking along together, and then added that it was just nature that she had two sets of twins.  I said I know, but she is traveling the world with them.  She said thank you again, then turned to go the direction she was going where I didn't have access to.  I was so happy I had been able to tell her that; I hope it meant something to her too.  I also had a little conversation with Papa Federer and I helped him find his seat.  He was very sweet.  Then I smiled at Lynette, who smiled back at me.  Would have been fun to talk to her too.

Okay, this is getting really long, but I thought we were going to have to sit up in the higher area of the stadium for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  We did sit up there Friday and Saturday and after being so spoiled sitting down below, it was really rather frustrating with everything so cramped, and obviously the view just not the same.  On the day of the final, though, one of the friends we met in our trailer had gotten some free tickets with incredible seats by doing a favor for one of the CEOs.  As she was there by herself, she wanted us to sit by her.  We were happy to oblige!  Even though Roger lost, it was an amazing experience to get to sit so close where I could see every expression on his face when he walked to the back of the court and watch his spectacular movement as he played as hard as he could, fighting back to take the 2nd set after being down a break.  Let me tell you, the crowd went crazy when that happened!  The support of the crowd for him is always heartwarming.

So to sum if all up, I totally loved volunteering.  It really didn't even seem like work, and the experiences I had driving all different types of people (oh, the last person I drove was multiple grand slam champion Roy Emerson and his wife), having access to so many areas that the general public don't, and getting to sit way down in the stadium, was just wonderful.  I have so many great memories to look back on, and I hope to do it again next year.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Roger Federer back to winning ways in Dubai

After a much deserved month off from competitive play, Roger Federer is back on the courts in Dubai, rested, refreshed and playing his beautiful brand of tennis again.  He started out his first match a little rusty against Youzhny, but once he found his range he cruised through to his first win with no worries.  His match against Verdasco in the second round again started a little slow, going down a break as Verdasco looked to be dominant.  All of a sudden, though, everything seemed to click for him.  He not only broke back, but he went on to win 20 points in a row, closing out the set in supreme fashion.  

The way he was hitting the ball to me looked so clean, aggressive, dominant, and basically just amazing.  When Roger is in full form, playing with confidence, it would hard to find anyone who could beat him.  And most definitely there is no one on planet earth who has such a beautiful, graceful, free flowing game.  Simply a joy to watch.

I really enjoyed some of the pre-match commentary on Tennis Channel with former coach Paul Annacone and Tracy Austin.  It's always a pleasure to listen to Paul, and especially when he's talking about Roger, since he knows him so well and has a different perspective, having worked so closely with him.  He and Tracy were both talking about what a quality guy he is, and that what we hear about him and how he is off court, giving of his time, so friendly, etc., is absolutely true, and even more so.  Tracy said he goes out of his way to go up and talk to people, asking questions about their lives.  What a testimony for our #1 guy!

Roger will continue his quest of a record 7th Dubai title when he takes on Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals.