Sunday, 19 October 2014

Full Translation of Tarpischev's Comments about the Williams Sisters

Shamil Tarpischev, the president of the Russian tennis federation, was recently fined and suspended by the WTA for problematic comments he made on a popular Russian talk show regarding the Williams sisters' gender and appearance. Today, the WTA published an apology letter sent by Tarpischev the day before the fine was publicized.

The full content of the talk show, "Vecherniy Urgant" (Evening Urgant), is available on YouTube, and I bring here the full translation of the relevant part, in which Ivan Urgant, the show's host, talks to Tarpischev and Elena Dementieva about the Williams sisters, seemingly for no other purpose than to make fun of their physique. The translated part starts at 8:04.

Urgant: "I want to share with you my personal observation... for the first time in my life I was in a big tournament, it was the olympics - which is important - unfortunately not THAT olympics, Lena, where you became an olympic champion... It was the olympics where Masha Sharapova played with one [female] of... with one [male] of... those... "
Tarpischev: "- the Williams brothers -"
Urgant: "... the Williams brothers, because my tongue gets twisted, I can't understand how - look at ours, our [female] tennis players, how they're all slender and elegant - and then when [somebody like that] comes out... It's just that... Well, a *sister* passed by me - [laughter] - we went under the tribunes, and one of the sisters passed by me, and I have huge respect for these outstanding sportswomen, but... when she went by, I was covered in shade, and only after 40 seconds the shade disappeared, all this power... Lena, wasn't it scary to play against one of the Williams sisters?"
Dementieva: "Vanya, it was scary, but what could I do?"
Urgant [interjects]: "What could you do?"
Dementieva: "What could I do? You weren't there to help me, I was all alone by myself" [smiles]
Urgant: "I don't think I could have helped much! I don't think so... And what do you think, Shamil Anvarovich? When... when they come out, they're such incredibly physically gifted sportswomen, I understand that against other players the game is more or less on the same level, from a physical point of view, but this... what is this, they can just go like this with the racquet [mimics bending a racquet]."
Tarpischev: "It's scary, really, only when you look at them [laughs]. But Lena had to play ball - when a sportsman comes out on court, if he's focused only on the ball, he doesn't see the stands, the opponent, nobody. It's a question of performance, what you're doing with the ball, then you forget about everything. It's a question of concentration."
Urgant: "So basically, you're not paying attention to who's behind the net, only to what's flying over the net?"
Dementieva [trying to deflect]: "Shamil Anvarovich?"
Tarpischev: "Yes, only to what's flying away [laughs]"
Dementieva: "I think tennis players pay attention to everything, just like good hockey players, yeah? They need both to play and to see the blonde in the stands"
Urgant and Dementieva talk a bit more about how she paid attention to everything that happened around the court, he congratulates her on the birth of her daughter, and finally the conversation veers elsewhere (the upcoming Kremlin Cup).

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Israel Tennis Association appeals the ITF decision on the Israel-Argentina Davis Cup tie

The ITF's Davis Cup Committee has recently announced its decision on the location of two Davis Cup ties scheduled to take place on September 2014. While Ukraine is currently allowed to host Belgium in Kiev, it was determined that Israel wouldn't be able to host Argentina in the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv.

Yesterday, the ITA (Israel Tennis Association) submitted an official appeal to the ITF.

The Israeli appeal quotes several precedents which the ITA feels should affect the decision regarding the tie's location. First, it quotes the parallel decision on holding the Ukraine-Belgium tie in Kiev.
"The tie in Ukraine is confirmed to be played in Kiev despite the civil unrest and an ongoing war in the East of the country.
[...] the ITF has approved the home match being staged in Kiev, based on the fact that it is believed that secure environment may be provided for both teams.
[...] We agree that the fighting is away from Kiev, and we totally support the Ukrainian Tennis Federation in their ability and knowledge to provide the required arrangements for the tie."
Similarly, the ITA is suggesting to move the tie with Argentina from Tel Aviv to Haifa, since
"a) The Haifa Area is far away of the Gaza Strip and life in Haifa continued as normal even during the difficult days of the military activities in Gaza.
b) Israeli security is one of the best in the world, and "arranging necessary needs" would be an understatement regarding the security measures to be taken."
Next, the ITA brings examples of ties which were held on different dates than their original schedule. Specifically, there are ties being played on October 24-26, and there is the week of the Davis Cup Final in November. The ITF, in its original decision, stated that the tie can't be moved to November, due to several reasons - there's no guarantee that the security situation will be different; it will hurt the players' rest period; it clashes with the Davis Cup final; finally - it will delay the draw for the 2015 season and will prevent proper preparation for the new season by all the other countries.
"Even if the ITF decides that playing in Israel in September is not possible - there are another OFFICIAL Davis Cup weeks during 2014. All national [associations] must make themselves available during these designated weeks and it is an integral part of the tennis year."
The ITA add that the 2nd Round Play Off in Europe/Africa Group I or in Asia/Oceania Group I are both played on October 24-26, which is an alternative to playing during the Davis Cup final. To support their request to postpone the tie, the ITA bring an example of a rescheduled tie between China and Vietnam.
"'The ITF Davis Cup Committee approved the change of dates based on the vast social significance of Chinese New Year in both countries and the operational difficulties it would create for the host National Association, players, public and sponsors if the ties were played over the weekend of 31 January-2 February 2014.'
This is a quote from the Davis Cup Website about postponing China vs. Vietnam tie early in 2014.
This is a great proof of one of the Davis Cup values: 'To strive placing people in the heart of everything they do' (BNP Paribas and Davis Cup values - ITF website)"
 The ITA adds that moving the tie to a neutral ground
[... involves] not just the operational difficulties (as described in CHN vs. VIE tie) - it is a forced cancellation of all activities including crowd's experience, players' attitudes, huge financial losses for the national association and local sponsors.
The final paragraphs of the appeal say:
"We call upon the Board of Management to review the inconsistency and discrepancy of the decisions made in the above two cases and request that reconsideration be given to return the hosting of the tie to Israel, either in Tel Aviv or Haifa, and either in September, October or November.

To sum up I would like to emphasis how extremely important it is (especially during these tough times), for Israel as a country, for the Israeli people in general and for the sport in Israel in particular, to host this prestigious event at this time or at a later date.

Sincerely yours
CEO, Israel Tennis Association"
A decision on the appeal will be made by the ITF on August 12, 2014. Meanwhile, the ITA has until August 14 to submit an alternative venue (on neutral ground) for the ITF's consideration. If Israel doesn't choose a neutral venue, the ITF can decide to hold the tie in Argentina or in a neutral venue of its own choice. If the tie is held in Argentina, Israel will have choice of ground in the next two ties between the countries.

All the aforementioned quotes are direct excerpts from the official appeal submitted by the ITA to the ITF. The Hebrew translation of the full appeal can be found on the ITA website.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Completing the Career Fan Slam - Wimbledon 2014

Roland Garros 2011, US Open 2011 & 2012, Australian Open 2014, Wimbledon 2014 - my Career Slam as a tennis fan is now officially complete!

My trip to Wimbledon started back in February, when I got an email telling me I won the famous Ballot, and had a chance to buy two tickets to the 2014 Wimbledon Ladies Semifinal day on Centre Court. After a few days of hesitation (London is not cheap), I decided that this might be a once in a lifetime chance, and bought the tickets. The rest of the trip was built around that.

The problem with going to Wimbledon, as opposed to all the other slams, is the inability to plan much in advance. Other than the ballot tickets (where you also don't have the choice of which or how many tickets you get), you have to either queue to get in - sometimes for long periods - or be one of the lucky few who manage to buy online tickets the day before. In all other slams, it is much easier to buy multiple tickets both in advance and on short notice, not to mention ground passes which are often readily available on the day of play (with a possible exception of the French Open, where I didn't try to get a grounds pass).
This system is undoubtedly very frustrating - you can't really plan anything in advance, and you heavily depend on the level of attraction of a particular order of play, which determines the size of the queue on each day. On the other hand, you can buy tickets according to the players you actually want to see, and don't need to guess well in advance which tickets to get in order to watch your favourites play.

Those two feelings - frustration and flexibility - stayed with me throughout my London vacation. I traveled with my brother, who's 14, and we got incredibly lucky at first - on the day of our flight, we managed to buy Court 3 tickets on Ticketmaster for each of the next two days. This was a tremendous relief, as we were assured two consecutive days of play (Thursday and Friday) with no queuing during the first week. In addition to that, we queued for a grounds pass on "Manic Monday", which was less manic than usual due to schedule delays caused by the Saturday rains, and then queued from Tuesday noon for Wednesday's quarterfinals. This was also easier than expected, since the scheduling changes still dragged on, and both Tuesday and Wednesday featured a mix of men's and women's matches instead of the regular separation of quarterfinal days by gender.

So, how does Wimbledon stack up against the other slams?
To tell you the truth, at first the comparison wasn't favorable. You get the feeling that you're queuing all day just to queue some more after that - to get into the grounds, for a court, for a place to sit, for anything really. On second Monday, for example, we started queuing at 7am, got into the grounds around 11:30, had to wait for a long time until we could get two seats on court 18 (the grounds open at 10:30, and all the available seats on the outside courts get taken very quickly), and then... it started raining. So we waited out the rain on the court, because there's no way we're giving up our seats, right? Of course, right. By the time the sun came out (cue a cheering crowd), we were so hungry that we watched for maybe another 45 minutes before leaving our cherished seats to get some food. Then we waited for a while around the practice courts, which was when our patience was finally rewarded, as my brother got an autograph and a photo with one, Mr. Roger Federer. Around 5pm we joined the resale queue, and stayed there for two more hours of waiting, during which rain confined all play to the Centre Court. As soon as Murray beat Anderson, the queue started moving and we were able to get ourselves resale tickets for Centre Court and watch the last two sets of Djokovic - Tsonga.
To sum it up - this day was long and tiring, but you get rewarded for waiting a lot.

The reward for waiting became even clearer during the next couple of days. We joined the queue on Tuesday, hoping for a Wednesday schedule that would put both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on Court 1. We survived the full queuing experience, with a tent and sleeping bags and all, and were cranky and sleepy on Wednesday morning - both because we had a cold and slightly sleepless night (mostly cold), and because my brother was very disappointed to miss Nadal, who lost to Nick Kyrgios the day before. As my brother's other goal was to get as close as possible to the players (and hopefully catch a little souvenir when matches end), imagine our excitement when we realized that we could choose the seats closest to the players' entrance on Court 1. After getting our tickets, we spent our first hour on the grounds near the practice courts, where my my brother received a signed wristband from none other than Novak Djokovic himself. When we finally got to Court 1, it turned out that our seats weren't exactly near the players' entrance - but rather, front row, directly behind one of the players' chairs. Specifically, Djokovic's chair during his match with Cilic.

During the 5 sets that followed, we were Novak's personal cheering squad. I'll talk more about the Wimbledon crowd and their cheering habits later, but I think it would be fair to say that we were the ones who cheered the most and loudest, especially when he was close to us. We couldn't be sure if he heard us, or if he did - whether he knew where the cheers were coming from, yet we persisted. Thankfully, from two sets to one down, Novak changed his slippery shoes and generally started to play better, and finally won the match. After celebrating his win, and as he came to his chair, we tried to call him - but as it turned out, it wasn't necessary. Novak took his (clean) towel, sought us out, and threw the towel straight into my brother's arms. He then picked up his faulty shoes, threw one of them to us and another to another fan behind us, and proceeded to the exit and to sign dozens of autographs. There was no doubt at all that he heard our cheers and appreciated them, and made sure to personally thank us in this small way.

To illustrate how close we were, here's the same scene from two opposite sides of the court:

That's one of the photos I took of Novak's celebration (a better one is here)
That's me in the [bottom right] corner,
That's me in the spotlight,
Losing my religion
Now, the Wimbledon crowd... is a weird thing. They're so overly polite, that it becomes ridiculous. I get clapping politely for both players (at any match, I'm not being specific here). I get not interrupting the players, this is great behaviour. I even get not cheering on errors, even though from my experience - that's a bizarre reaction from a tennis crowd. Occasionally, there'd be a good rally, but if it ended on an unforced error, maybe two people in the whole stadium clapped, one of them being the player's coach. When you're actually cheering for a specific player, you start feeling bad for cheering on him after winning such a rally... Anyway, what I don't get at all is only really cheering for a player when he's deep into the third set and the match might be getting to its end. Where were you earlier? A perfect example of this was the Cilic-Berdych match, for which we were lucky to have front row seats. For two and a half sets, the crowd politely clapped for any decent point, and stayed quiet on errors. There were small groups of Czech and Croat supporters who made a bit more noise on the more crucial points. But the crowd, as a whole, only got into it deep into the third set, as the sky was getting darker to the point of Hawk Eye not being able to function. On a side note, the crowd never realized that the players can't use Hawk Eye anymore, and kept urging Berdych to challenge the calls he was unhappy about. On the whole, though, this match - which was really of great quality from start to finish - completely lacked in atmosphere until it was too late to matter. While I appreciate a well-behaved crowd, it does dampen the mood when you feel you can't even properly cheer on a player, because you would be one of a select few who do it.

A similar effect of an overly-polite crowd is seen around the practice courts. While we can't complain about it at all (since we benefited from it), it's a bit funny how those who wait for an autograph hardly try to call the players or do anything other than get their ticket, ball or program autographed. My brother was almost the only one who asked the players for a photo, and this is also how he got Djokovic's wristband and Federer's bandana, both signed by the players. The large majority of players go by unrecognized - I was literally the only one who tried to call Andrea Petkovic to come over ("after practice," she said), and I don't think anyone recognized players such as Kristina Mladenovic, Max Mirnyi or even Martina Hingis.

They did recognize him, though.
Federer in practice.

Despite what might seems as a post full of complaints, we had a great time in Wimbledon. While the constant queuing was tiring, the site has great courts, with excellent seats all over the place (especially if you're willing to wait for them). The resale system is a fantastic idea, letting people buy returned tickets for the big show courts at a silly price which goes to charity, and enabling ground pass holders making the most out of their day at the venue. All the queues are incredibly well organized, there are a lot of helpful stewards around and the facilities are convenient. Additionally, and this might seem like a minor point, but I think the Wimbledon food courts are the best among the four Grand Slams.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing of all - the tournament has great champions!

Check out the blog's Facebook page for more photos from the different matches we've seen in The 2014 Championships.

My apologies is this post seems somewhat disjointed, I've written it over a few days while plagued by a nasty ear inflammation which made it hard to focus on anything.

Monday, 26 May 2014

'Let It Go' - The Tennis Version

"Where there's tennis, there's a rain delay"
     - old Chinese proverb
The 2014 edition of the Roland Garros barely started, and we're deep into a rain delay already. And what's a better way to spend a rain delay than to listen to a tennis player singing Let It Go at the top of his lungs?

I'll tell you what - writing a new set of lyrics for Let It Go, tennis themed of course! Thanks so much to @triplebagel for the idea and the corrections.

When you read the song, think... Maria Sharapova.

The clay shines red on the court tonight
Not a ballmark to be seen
A kingdom of tennis matches
Which player is the Queen?
The wind is howling and the forehand lands outside
Couldn't keep it in;
Heaven knows I've tried

Don't let them win,
don't let them see
Be the best, just like you have to be
Conceal, with feel
The slice goes low
Well now they know

Let it go, let it go
Don't hit it short anymore
Let it go, let it go
Ace away, smash like before

I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the crowd rage on
The noise never bothered me anyway

It's funny how some backhands
Make this court seem small
And opponents that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all

It's time to see what I can do
To test my limits and break through
No LET, no OUT, no rules for me
I'm free!

Let it go, let it go,
I am one with the court and sky
Let it go, let it go,
You'll never see me cry

Here I stand 
And here I'll serve
Let the crowd rage on...

My power hitting through the air into the ground
Sends the ball spiraling to lines and corners all around
And every forehand is unanswered, like a blast
I'm never losing now, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise at the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
Those errors are all gone

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the crowd rage on
The noise never bothered me anyway!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The return of #AskRF

Following his first #AskRF hit, Roger Federer did another Q&A session on twitter today. Some of his answers surely didn't disappoint!

This one should be hashtagged #humble:

So is this one:

Is this fanboying, Roger?

Federer's Christmas tree is very pretty...

... and the twins helped decorate it!

Phone problems. Don't we all have them?

I'm sure everyone can agree with that


Guess we shouldn't wait for him now?

Ah, he's back!

And... he's jealous?

Perhaps it's Mirka tweeting

Also, Federer's favourite pizza is a "Fat Tony", he can't draw, he really liked Casino Royale and his favourite fruit are strawberry, apple and mango. The more you know!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The 2014 Tennis Calendar

If you liked last year's tennis calendar, and couldn't wait for the 2014 version - wait no longer!

Have you ever felt the need to integrate the tennis calendar with your own? Well, now you can! The calendar you see below has all the ATP and WTA tournaments for 2014, including information about tournament category (250/500/M1000/GS for the men, International/Premier/P5/PM/GS for the women), surface, and dates (including Sunday starts or Saturday finals).

If you're using Google Calendar, you can add these calendars (ATP and WTA separately, for those who only want one of them) to your schedule with a couple of clicks (in fact, if you've already added the 2013 version to your Google Calendar, the 2014 events are already there!).
If you're using a different calendar, you can import the calendars separately in XML or iCal format for the ATP, and the same for WTA (XML, iCal). Or, you can just use the calendar in this post, if you wish!

Enjoy, and let me know if there's anything else you'd like to see here.

Friday, 8 November 2013

World Tour Finals 2013 - Qualification Scenarios (Group B)

Group B of the 2013 World Tour Finals - including Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet - ended its second day of matches with similar results to those of Group A (check the link for scenarios). We have player who won his two matches, two players with one win, and one player who lost both his matches and won't be able to qualify, no matter what.

Saturday's matches are Djokovic-Gasquet and Del Potro-Federer. Here are the qualification scenarios for every possible outcome of those matches (winner + number of sets):

Del Potro in 2 Del Potro in 3 Federer in 3 Federer in 2
Djokovic in 2 1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
Djokovic in 3 1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
Gasquet in 3 1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
Gasquet in 2 1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Del Potro
1. Djokovic
2. Federer
1. Djokovic
2. Federer

So really, there are only two scenarios and it's all super simple:
  • Djokovic already qualified from the 1st place.
  • The winner of Federer-Del Potro will qualify from 2nd place. The number of sets doesn't matter!