Tag Archives: Cincinnati

The Story of My Unforgettable Barbora Strycova Experience

I want to share a story that most of you know some parts by now, but I never got a chance to explain it more in detail from my heart on how cool and memorable it was. (And it wasn’t just one day) I didn’t think at the end of my trip i’d be writing a story on a player not named Petra or Simo but here we are and it’s fully deserved. Now, she isn’t my favorite player of course but it may seem like it with the way I think I’m gonna end up fanboying. She certainly did leap way closer to the top after this though. Let me just start by saying if you didn’t already know how special of a human being Barbora Strycova is, this story will prove it to you. I can’t help but describe how awesome she made me feel. That was the most important reason for this is she made me feel like more than just an average tennis fan, but someone who is appreciated at least a little more than usual and made me feel better about myself than any other tennis player has done before. It’s kind of hard to explain the feeling but hopefully this story does it better.

It all started during her first practice of the week which was in the early evening as the sun was beginning to set. I didn’t even know if she’d be out there because this was the day she was flying from Rio to Cincy. She was originally on the practice schedule for 330 and 6 pm but the first one got removed which was expected. The second one was still there though but then a huge downpour of rain came late in the afternoon and halted play for awhile and that can always mess up practice schedules. So I still didn’t know if she’d be there at around 6. I knew she was on the grounds, as she came through the gates just a little bit before then but it doesn’t guarantee the time of practice or anything. Aaaaanyway turns out she came out at her scheduled court 13 at around 6 like scheduled. The only problem was the courts were still soaked from the recent downpour. This was one of the funnier moments of the week as Bara was out there starting to dry the courts with her coach, but she only lasted about 5 minutes and then she was like peace out and left the courts for like 20 minutes while her coach kept drying. She came back to get her headphones it looked like and then left again. She does what she wants and no one tells her otherwise. Finally after her court was dry she was back out there and started to hit. Now, you might be reading this thinking how does this part of the story have any relevance to the later events? You have a right to think this but read the rest and find out!

As I do for a lot of players, I took a bunch of pictures of her hitting and such on both the camera and phone. There was one in particular on my phone that I loved and it’s this one here. She was hitting one of her shots and the sun shined in a perfect position and I just thought it was perfect. This picture was how you say ‘sent in’ to a brilliant Bara fan account on IG @strycovaswarm. Who I give a huge shoutout and thanks to for using it (You know who you are!) because it’s the main reason all of this started because that’s how she saw my picture (follow it, it’s all about Bara as you would expect and there’s no hiding how much she loves it too) to use for the beginning of her journey in Cincy. I will get back to the continuation of this part of the story soon, and there is still so much to say too.

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I ended up getting a selfie and an autograph after this practice and it was the first time we came face to face and there was no surprise how nice Bara was at our first meeting. There weren’t many other people waiting for her but I heard one fan kind of softly say as we watched her take pictures with a couple other fans “you don’t see many players giving that kind of a smile every single time” Yup. Just look at all of her selfies. They’re all amazing in every way.

The next day for the first time ever I went to watch her play a singles match live (I saw a couple of her doubles matches in Miami with Makarova earlier in the year and they were pretty good) and it was against Genie Bouchard on grandstand which is a nice court to start on. Although all the courts are great to get a really close look at the players except stadium. The worst part about this match was the rain was a huge factor once again. There was a delay for a bit before it started, and then they played awhile where Bara was doing very well taking a set and pulling away in the second. Then there was another huge delay just before the match seemed it was going to end because Bara was up 4-0 in the second. So by the time they came back on court it was past 9 pm and they originally arrived on court at around 330. So Bara was able to complete the bagel at around 930, so six hours between the start and end to this match it was crazy! I ended up sitting in the pouring rain again to save my good spot up front even though I probably would have gotten it back anyway lol. It was all good and then after she won I got another selfie and this is where the first interesting thing of my experiences happened… There weren’t that many people again waiting for her to sign or take pictures because not many reappeared after the lengthy rain delay. I asked her for the selfie and when she saw me at first she said “oh hey” like she already remembered me from that brief encounter the night before at her practice. Hmm. The selfie was pretty much identical to the first which I had no doubts it would be but it was fun.

The next day she won another match against Sam Stosur this time and it was even a better court to be on than grandstand, court 7. It was small but if you got a seat you were guaranteed to be nice and close it’s awesome. However, I’m gonna skip to the next day and continue my story from earlier about the picture I took at the first practice.  This day in a surprising development, Bara and Simo were scheduled to practice together in the morning before their matches. So of course I knew I’d be there. Ok, before I talk about the practice you need the background of what happened even before I arrived to the grounds that day. I woke up and found out that Bara first liked the post on the fan account where my photo was used without her even being tagged in it. (Again, this is a regular thing she’s too good) Then she took the photo and posted it on her own IG account and that was only the third time a player has used one of my photos for social media. Andreea and Simo were the others.  Anyway that would’ve been enough for me as I was pretty excited about it, but turns out that was only the beginning…

I got to their practice court early (court 16) and waited and once the time came Bara was the first to arrive. There were very few people there again, at least until Simo showed up after. But the brief time before that when it was just Bara it was empty. I was just sitting on the bleachers and there’s a walkway in front of the bleachers where the players go through to enter the court; she came through and looked my way and said “Hi! You made a really nice picture yesterday!” I mean… how do you respond to that when it comes out of nowhere? I could barely say thank you because of how speechless I was. My heart was racing and so many questions ran through my head. How did she know it was me that took it? I mean I was tagged on the fan account picture, did she go onto my profile to see? She had to of. That’s the only way she could’ve put it together so quickly. Then Simo came through and it gave me no time to recover from what just happened. However she only hit for 15 minutes and then bailed out. As did the rest of the crowd. Like literally every single other person but me was there for solely Simo. So it was just Bara again for a little while longer. Then after she was done she came through one more time and I was like, a selfie won’t do me any good here I have to get a nice regular picture. I can’t lie, I was so tempted to ask her more about how she knew about me, and the fan account and everything, but I don’t want to be someone who takes up too much of her time, I mean she’s got a match to play soon. Knowing Bara she probably wouldn’t have minded since no one else was there, but I’m not the bravest person sorry! Another quick funny thing, I wanted her coach to take the picture but he was walking away. So Bara points to a little girl closer to us who couldn’t have been much older than 3-4 and says “oh she can take it” In my head I’m like no let’s not try that lol. The coach ended up turning around and he took it. Of course the picture did not disappoint either like the person I was standing next to.

Later in the day, she ended up losing her singles match to Kerber in straight sets but she played as well as she could have. Angie was just on a mission for that number one spot she was chasing. I made an IG post about my experience with her earlier in the day and she liked the photo. The last thing I want to talk about from this story is the last practice I got to see her during the week. It was a nice practice. I was on the other side of where she sat, behind a short fence on court 13, the same one where her very first practice was. As she was walking off she looked over and waved at me. I swear I’m not making these things up. I don’t blame you if you think this but it all happened! That’s why I’m writing this because I have never experienced anything like it. I have no reason to ever doubt this woman.

And to cap it all off, she won the doubles title in Cincy with her brand new partner Sania Mirza. I saw a few matches and this team is great. They passed every challenge with flying colors, especially in the final coming back from 1-5 down in the first set to win it 7-5. It was such an incredible week! Now, if you ever wonder why I’m a fan of Bara and why she is in my bio, you can read this. It’s not just this experience either; I have a list saved on why she is cemented into my bio forever.

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Thanks to all who read this and I hope you enjoyed it! Have a nice day.

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My 2015 Cincy Tennis Experience; Faves Galore

For the 2nd time in 2015 I attended a tennis tournament, and for the third straight year I attended the Western and Southern Open here in Cincinnati and once again it failed to disappoint in a big way. This post mainly tries to show some of the best and unique experiences I had everywhere on the grounds, especially with all of my faves who I always have some fun stories to share whenever I see them. It may also include some comparisons of Miami and how things were better or worse than what I experienced there, and how this year here compares to last year in Cincy. Hope you enjoy it!

The easiest thing to notice over the course of the week was how crowded it was this year and it seems to grow every year. For example, on the first day Saturday you would think maybe it wouldn’t get too crowded since it’s only qualifying. I know a lot of big name players practice too but I just didn’t expect it to be how it was. They had a record crowd on the first day over 13,000 which I couldn’t believe when I first heard it. Then on Thursday which I knew would be the busiest day, they set an overall record crowd on a single day of over 26,000 which is amazing. I never had a problem with crowds and lines this time, but it’s nice to see how well this place continues to do in a country which tennis isn’t very popular compared to other sports.

Another note worth talking about that is always a concern whenever you go to an event is how the weather is going to be. Now let me say that for the most part, it was very nice and it never got so bad where they had to play multiple rounds in one day which was good.  However, unlike Miami, there were considerable delays on a couple of occasions. As long as they don’t drag out all day then it’s not the worst though which was the case here. On Tuesday I believe there was about one-two hour delay in the middle of the day, then the next day there was a bit of a delay at the beginning and more of it after the first wave of matches ended. Then a pretty big one like three hours at night due to thunder and lightning which was a bit rough. All in all though it just meant for some late night tennis which you can’t complain about!

I wanted to lay it out so you could hear about the experiences I had with each of my faves and the other players I really like In case you wanted to hear just about a particular one. It’s easier for me this way because these are the players I spent the most time watching so there is a lot to talk about. I could not have asked for a more perfect week with them and unlike Miami, I got to see all of them which I was so happy about it. It certainly makes for a better week.

Lucie Safarova- Lucie is always an enjoyable player for me to watch just because of how positive she always is and how much she enjoys being out there. I saw her practice once and watched a match and a set of her week that saw her reaching the QFs. I watched her practice in Miami and she had a good time practicing with genie, and this time she practiced with Petra which I knew would be pretty fun. She walked to her practice about 15 mins early so I got to experience a lot of extra free time with her that I enjoyed. I said it before but her and Rob get along so well, they were always laughing and joking with each other, you might not think they are two hard core professional tennis people. I didn’t even see that much but they still seemed the most happiest with each other based on that practice. It’s not that other teams aren’t happy it’s just they showed it the most.

Another experience with Lucie is with her fans during that time period. Before her practice, as she was walking from the players lounge to the courts there weren’t a ton of people recognizing her but whenever they did she happily signed or took photos and usually players don’t really want to do that before practices. Also at the end there was a big difference between the people who wanted her autograph and Petra’s. Everyone waited for Petra, and Lucie kind of just walked along the side and looked for people, obviously some were there but not that much. I was happy to get her signature and a selfie with her which I also did in Miami. She is so sweet and a great player to watch. The funniest thing I saw was in her match when she faced Coco and on double match point it started to pour so play was suspended. Then after the kind of lengthy delay was over, they had a decent rally and Coco netted it and it was already over. They both laughed about it at the net it was pretty funny DSCN9521

Stanislas Wawrinka- Stanimal is such an interesting guy it’s hard to figure him out sometimes but he seems like a cool guy. It’s amazing how big of crowds he draws these days, as everywhere he went it was always packed. The very first day he practiced with Roger which that wasn’t a surprise, but every doubles match he played it was always filled. It was dumb though that the first match was on the smallest court so not a lot of people could get good spots. I guess they didn’t realize how big of a draw he might be. Stan was one of the rare players that got to play on so many different courts in his stay. He played on stadium, grandstand, 3, 4, and 9 and every single one was full like I said. Having said that, it made it really hard to get any autographs which I never got. However, there were two great chances I had but I missed both. The first one was when I sat right on the rail of court 9 during the doubles match where the players leave the court, but I left early because I had to eat and get ready for Roger. I saw pics later of those people near me getting stuff signed. Oh well. Then he also had an autograph session but I had no chance because it was during the very end of the Lucie Petra practice and I didn’t know anyway since they don’t alert you unless you stop by and ask which was one of the few annoying things at Cincy. Overall, Stan is a great guy to watch as the fans are always cheering him on hard and his game is quite powerful and fun to experience up close.

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Andreea Mitu- I only got to see her for one day but it turned out to be quite fun for me. It’s always fun to see a new fave for the first time in person just to see how they play, their personality, and what makes them unique. I originally wasn’t going to go the first day on Saturday but after I saw she was on the qualifying list I decided to go just in case she lost her first match that day. That’s what ended up happening so it turned out to be a great choice because I enjoyed getting to see her. I brought a picture of her to sign and she did, there weren’t many people watching her practice as expected, and I got a selfie, she’s a sweet girl too. I showed her the pic and she said “French Open” Then I said “good memories right?” And she smiled. One thing I kind of regret with her was that I actually thought of bringing a little stuffed minion thing to give her because I know she really likes them and she just posted a video about trying to get one. I think she would’ve liked it, but I’m always hesitant to try those things but maybe next time

About her match, she played ok. She made a lot of errors, blew some leads and bps that hurt but it is what it is and I’m glad I got to see it. On center was kind of cool although I figured I’d get to be more up close with her. It was funny whenever she hit a big winner only me and her team clapped since she was facing American Lauren Davis.  Also bonus fact for anyone that didn’t know, she used one of my camera pics on her IG post the day after her match which was the first time a player used one of my photos so I thought that was really cool.

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Roger Federer- It was nice to see the king again after he skipped Miami to rest and spend time with family which was a bummer but understandable. No surprise every practice was as packed as possible and it was impossible to get in anywhere close, but I somehow did once as you’ll find out soon. He usually always practiced on 15 which is a bad practice court to get close because they don’t let you stand on the fence, at least until after the practice is over, and there’s only a little patio area where some can sit but it’s always full. The rest have to all cram together on the sides or watch from on top of grandstand which is kind of cool to see. His practices are fun but hard to take good pics because of how squished you get. The first time I got anywhere close on that court, he signed but I still wasn’t close enough and I got crunched badly that time. I couldn’t move for like five minutes after he left, and during his signing people were pushing and shoving as expected it was so wild. The second time I got close I was actually very close to the fence but he decided not to sign. I probably would’ve gotten something but oh well. I missed a few of his practices due to bad timing and the fact I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere near him, but the ones I saw were fun. The coolest thing I saw was when after one of his matches he went to the ESPN booth and talked, I was still standing up in the stadium and could see the monstrous mob that watched and waited for him to sign. A sight to behold for sure.

I saw two of his matches (would’ve been three but Simo was playing during oneJ) and seeing his matches never gets old. The guy is a wizard on court and at his age I’m always in awe of how he does it. He pulls off all of the shots, moves majestically around the court, and can serve out some games in a minute or less it’s incredible. He just seems so calm and collected when he’s playing and this is someone you really should see at least once before he retires. I wished I could’ve been there for the SFs and Finals because he played two great opponents and won like it was no big deal. He’s now won all five of his matches when I’ve been there live so I feel lucky as you’ll see with another fave soon.

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Simona Halep- The only fave I got to see twice this year and I couldn’t be happier. It’s funny how both events I was worried she wouldn’t attend because of making both finals in the previous event. However it was awesome to see her play so well and then decide to come along and also play well at the events I went to. She’s got some serious toughness and mental strength when it comes to hard courts this year. I happened to be at the players entrance when she walked through for the first time on Monday and I was so happy and relieved because at that point I still didn’t know if she was coming or not. A lot of this info you probably heard me tweet about but not all of it, and it’s here just in case you missed it the first time. I was literally just about to leave because my Wi-Fi was bad there and nothing happened in like 15 minutes so I figured it was probably time for a break. But then she showed up and it was awesome, she looked a little tired but happy too.

Then she practiced for the first time on Tuesday and it was another court that I don’t like because again you can’t get that close and there’s a giant fence in the way, but I always find ways to get it done. It was weird because she practiced in a turquoise outfit for about five minutes before leaving the court to change into a white one and nobody knows why but it was pretty funny. Every practice Simo is working so hard in it’s really nice to see. It was hard for me to tell that she had been really struggling only a couple days before this. She is very fit and works up a good sweat in every practice but also has a lot of fun in them too, especially with Darren.  Darren will usually yell something across the court to one of her other hitting partners and fitness guy and Simo will crack up about it. I have to think she’s one of the best players to watch practice. Now the chaotic part started while trying to get an autograph and a selfie. Remember I got three autographs and two selfies with her in Miami and it wasn’t that hard at all. This time it was very tough. One of the biggest differences was that she was way more popular in Cincy than Miami. Maybe it’s because the crowds were bigger but that’s not all of it. The first practice I got to the front and I showed you those very close-up pics but behind me it was crazy, there was very limited room and bottom-line is I’m just glad I was in the front.

For those that didn’t hear the selfie fail, it was a big bummer when it first happened, but every time I think back on it now I realize how hilarious it was. Being in the front was nice because I got the autograph right away and asked for the selfie, and she said yes but she was basically trying to sign other people and take the selfie at the same time. I had it all set up but for some reason couldn’t get us both in the same picture, and after many struggles, she kind of had a look at me like “did you take it yet or what?” then I think she thought I took it and stopped trying but nope, never got it. Oh well at least I got the pic I want signed. It was the only autograph I got from Simo that week but it completed my amazing pic of her and Petra in the same pic both signed it. That’ll be one of the coolest things I have. The only other chances I had at selfies or autographs was a practice which she didn’t sign. The rest of them were on stadium and grandstand which you’re not gonna get those usually.

One more quick thing about that crowded area where she signed and I got the autograph; there was a bit of a sad moment at the end because a little girl about four or five I’d say had a picture of Simo to be signed and I think she was Romanian. In the midst of all the chaos Simo couldn’t sign for everyone and missed her, and she was crying. Lots of people felt for her but it was impossible for Simo to see her I feel like since she was so small and everyone was pushing and shoving towards the front.

And of course, you knew it was gonna happen but it’s impossible to go to an event with Simo where she isn’t sneaky and hard to find. Miami was very brutal in terms of that, but there was only once here where she didn’t show up to the court she was supposed to and we looked around everywhere with no sight of her. She finally showed up on center of all places where they usually don’t let you in before the night session so they can clean up, so barely anyone could see it. Simo being Simo. I still got about 10 mins to enjoy and take pics before they kicked me out because it’s what I do.

As far as her matches go, the previous three I saw live before this event I never had the chance to be that close. However, her first two this time I was right there pretty much on the court and it was so amazing. I said it before, but she hits the ball so clean, is super-fast, and is so damn cute up close in matches. The whole time I couldn’t believe how close I was to super Simo. The fist pumps were intense, whenever she complained in Romanian was great, and her movement was fun to watch. I was so glad to have the chance to be where I was and I’m glad a lot of you saw me on TV for one of her matches; I loved that spot J Also, I thought it was stressful to watch them on TV, but being there is another story. You want to see her win so bad, every emotion comes out and it was amazing to watch sometimes, and other times I couldn’t look. The craziest thing I saw while watching her matches was when she really slammed her racquet down after losing the 2nd set to Kiki, I never thought I’d see it like that damn.

You can really tell with every Simo watch you watch how badly she wants to win and how much a perfectionist she is so it’s fun to analyze her and see what she tries to do differently and how to react on certain moments. It’s also great to see how she always has a big Romanian fan base there and yelling so loud even if it isn’t that crowded. It feels like it’s packed with them and it’s a unique setting to be a part of. It’s all it’s cracked up to be on TV that’s for sure. All in all, I got to see her win three more matches while improving her record to 6-0 when I’m there. Another memorable experience with the Romanian sensation Simona Halep.

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Petra Kvitova- The part of the trip I was looking forward to the most was being able to see Petra again. I was really sad when she skipped Miami because of being fatigued and recently finding out it was partly because of a battle with mono too. She still isn’t 100 percent you can tell but it was amazing to be able to see her up close again. She only played one match in a tough three set loss to Garcia, but to me it felt like she was in Cincy forever due to all of the practices I got to enjoy. She says she can’t go full steam ahead in her practices but I saw her working very hard at the best level she could and I was happy to see it. She is also another player who seems to have a good time in practice and always practices with good friends which helps of course. The best part of Petra practicing is she always picks the best time and court to practice so it’s always very easy to get access and enjoy everything about her. It’s also nice to get to see her work with David again and them having a good time and trying hard to keep getting better. I like when David shows Petra things on his phone, it makes for some interesting pictures. The first practice was the only time she practiced on a bad court but usually she always practices on court 8 at 10 am and I noticed that from the previous years I was here too. Court 8 is easily the best practice court in my opinion because of how close you can get and Petra always entered the court by the front gate and not the back gate so I could say hi to her, which I did once and she said hi back, I think that was cool.

The first day was funny because her 2nd practice she was supposed to be on court 15, and Roger and Stan were supposed to be on 8 which was awesome. I was actually gonna miss some of Petra to watch them because I was in the front and this spot doesn’t come around that often for them. All of a sudden Petra walks on 8 and everyone was confused it was hilarious. One guy was like “Well that’s not Roger wtf.” Everyone quickly heard he was actually on 15 and filed off, poor Petra. So I decided to stay there of course and enjoy the practice and eventually got my Wimbledon pic signed which was sweet.

The 2nd day was the most memorable of them all as I not only got to see two more practices, but both ended with selfies and I was waiting to get one of those for a long time. The first one didn’t turn out too well in my opinion because the sun was so bright and I was tough to see but the 2nd one I really liked. Speaking of the 2nd one, Petra is so sweet because she always signs for everybody if she can and that particular time went to both sides of the court to sign which I don’t see too often. Also took selfies and signed for every single person and it was great.

Her last practice that I saw with Lucie was probably one of the best that I went to because we know they are great pals and it always fun to share some stories on the changeovers, and I was really close to them this time. I say that because a lot of practices Petra would go kind of further away into a corner where it was shaded so it was tougher to hear the conversations from far away. At the end of the practice like I said before, Petra had way more people surrounding her for pics and autographs compared to Lucie. That was the day she signed my photo of her and Simo and she took my sharpie and signed for everybody with it, and then when she was done gave it back to me I thought it was sweet. This was the closest I was to her for a decent period of time and I could go on and fanboy but we know that story by now. I can say what we all know in that Petra is so beautiful up close, you stare right into those eyes and bye. She doesn’t even know. It’s mostly kids she’s signing for at this point so they don’t realize the beauty either. You’re looking at a one of a kind player right there, take it all in.

Match day was a bit strange for her as she was last on three and I knew that could be big trouble with all of the rain set for that day. The rain didn’t disappoint as the total delay was probably around almost 4 hours. Petra actually came out at a reasonable time probably around 6 or 630 but just as they finished warming up it started to rain with a mix of thunder and lightning so they had to shut it down. They didn’t start the match till around 930 or so either so it was a tough wait. I really wanted to see Petra win at least once after she really struggled last year in Cincy, and even though she couldn’t, it was a pleasure getting to watch her step on the court again. Sure she made some bad errors as usual, but there were also so many winners that left me speechless. I was right up close so to see those beauties struck so hard and perfect was incredible. She had lots of troubles but whenever it got close and tense it was also nice to hear those pojds loud and clear. There were no massive barks but still she was into it and I was hoping so bad she would turn it around and have enough to finish the job. The problem was that in the third set she was really tired, heavy breathing I could hear after several points, and it was harder for her to move as well. You could quickly tell where the third set was headed even if after a good 2nd set. I know exactly what I get from Petra, I am never upset for too long of her results here. It’s so refreshing to see her live and while it’s nice to be lucky for my other faves, I wish I could transfer some of that luck to her because seeing her win would be awesome. I know however, that the wins will come again like they always do.

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So that’s my post, tons of what I did here was what I just told you so hope you liked it. It went way too fast as expected and hopefully next year can be like this one because it was unforgettable. I said it before but this was better than Miami because seeing every fave at once is truly special. Thanks to everyone that read and commented on my tweets once again. It was a fun ride, and now we wait until 2016…