Tag Archives: Tennis

My First Time Fed Cup Experience Czech Republic vs USA

Over the years I’ve attended plenty of professional tennis tournaments and they all have been equally tremendous fun. However, fed cup was something that seemed extra special and entertaining to me and as soon I knew USA was hosting my favorite team of all time, a team that represents the beautiful country of Czech Republic, I knew I had to make it happen. I first prayed it would be in a location that was accessible to me. Lo and behold, they put it in Florida. Not just a random city in Florida… Tampa, an area that I was very familiar with over my lifetime. This was my chance to see some of my favorite players play in a setting unlike any other.

There was only one obstacle I thought that could stop me from going and that’s the one that I ended up having to face. I enjoy watching all of the Czech players play I always have; but of course I’m going to have a few that stand out above the rest that I really wanted to see play. Everyone knows Petra is the one that I love most aka the love of my life. We knew before any of this was possible that she couldn’t play until the final at best if they ended up making it there. So she was out. There were still the other three big players that had a chance to play and it seemed at least one of Bara Strycova, Lucie Safarova, and Karolina Pliskova would play to give their team a chance to make another final. I was admittedly gutted when they all passed on the decision to play. I obviously realized going all the way to Florida from Europe just for the weekend was never going to be easy for them and the decision was understandable. I just needed a bit of time to let it sink in.

I immediately gave no thought (which was dumb) and said it’s not worth it without of them playing. That thought disintegrated from my mind only about an hour later. The Czechs RARELY come to the United States let alone a city I can actually go to. They have only come twice in the last 27 years. 27!! The last time was 2003 and the time before was 1990. So I did not want to take any chances and miss it because who knows how long it’ll be before they’ll be back. I mean yes it could happen sooner next time but I’m not about to wait and find out. Plus by the time they do come back, I still assume the quickest time possible is 4-5 years and my faves could all be retired by then and then maybe I don’t want to go. OK I REALIZE WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY! ME GOING NOW IN THAT SAME SITUATION IS NO DIFFERENT THAN IN 5 YEARS BUT STILL… 4-5 IS STILL BEST CASE! I’m not sure I still want to go when I’m like 40. Anyways so here I am!!

Ok that was my background on my decision to go to this tie. Now the real experience of everything about attending it. The hotel I stayed at it was extremely close to the resort (5 mins drive) that was amazing. Now where they played is an actual resort where people stay and you could see all of the different amenities they had there like nice rooms, a big pool, tennis courts, golf course, etc. it was quite beautiful. The resort only knew they were going to be hosting fed cup for about a month a half ahead of time. So they had to plop a stadium down onto the resort somewhere in that amount of time which they did and it holds about 3,000 people so it’s nice all things considering. If you were curious about how the parking was sorted out, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t that bad actually. With it being a resort, it just felt like being inside a little neighborhood so it was like one big circle. There were different lots around the resort and none of them were that far from each other. You could even walk to them from the stadium if you really wanted but shuttles would come and go from the lots and that was that. Once you got to the stadium, the actual grounds around it were extremely limited. There were basically little plaza square areas around each stadium exit with about 2-3 food/drink stands and that was about it. But you could go way back to the resort where there was much more room (like by the huge pool) if you wanted; there wasn’t an issue with leaving the grounds area and not being able to come back. Because of that, it was never as crowded as you’d expect in those little squares which I liked.

The stadium looked great as far as I could tell and I feel like any seat you had would’ve been terrific. It’s obviously not a gigantic stadium like other events I’ve attended so it makes even the highest seats pleasant for viewing. I sat in one of the corners of the stadium which I love and the action was great. The atmosphere was how you would expect, heavy USA cheering but a few sections scattered about with Czech fans and the biggest group was behind the Czech bench which is usually how it is for visiting teams. The most notable thing about the atmosphere was the noise. I knew it was coming but still, I could clearly tell the crowd around me at least was not ready for the heavy blasting of vuvuzelas, trumpets, and whatever else they had after every point. Especially the Czechs behind the bench. They let them roar after every point they won. I enjoyed it personally but it’s not a typical tennis thing so it had to throw off the crowd a bit. At least until they got used to it. If they ever did.

I’m not gonna talk too much about the matches because you all saw them or at least know what happened. I’ll just say live tennis is as good as it gets no matter who is playing. I didn’t know what I’d get from this tie but it was as intense as I ever hoped. I was also rooting for it to go to a deciding doubles rubber to see what that would be like and it did which was fantastic. Maky showed brilliant strength and mental toughness on the last day with the Czechs down 1-2 to force that decider and as a Czech fan that was the coolest part of the weekend to see someone like her succeed against the tough crowd when it mattered most. That was the match I enjoyed most.

I’m someone who enjoys going against the majority crowd and getting to show my Czech pride was so invigorating. I was fistpumping, pojding, and sitting next to a great group of fans who appreciated how good the Czech girls played despite rooting for USA unsurprisingly. My favorite part of it all was the constant crowd chant battles of U-S-A! U-S-A! Vs ČES-KO! ČES-KO! This is what it’s all about. The players were heavily into it and the crowd never let up either. Regardless of the result, I’ll never forget this weekend and will hold my head high of the girls’ effort. They did their country proud. Good luck to USA in the final as well!

Thanks for reading!

Jake

 

2017 Season Preview/Predictions of Simo Halep. Is a Grand Slam Title Finally in the Cards?

Welcome back fellow Halepenos and HalepBand!! It is that time again as we are ready to kick off another year of supporting our champion. Last year Simo started very slow with a first round exit in the first slam in the year down under. She came into it with an illness which ended up becoming a more serious issue than initially expected and she even announced that she would have nasal surgery to fix it which would’ve sidelined her for at least a month including fed cup. Here’s where I jump in to say THANK GOD SHE POSTPONED IT WE GOT THE GREATEST KVITALEP MATCH OF ALL TIME BECAUSE OF THAT!! Ok. Moving on. Simo went on to win three titles in 2016: Madrid, (her first one in 14 months) Bucharest for the second time in her career (the first one she ever won multiple times) and another huge win in Montreal over Madison Keys the week before the Olympics which she didn’t participate in. She kind of struggled towards the end of the year but one of her highlights even in defeat was a very hard-fought battle against Serena in Flushing Meadows at the US Open which she lost in three sets. Including one of the most clutch sets you’ll see in a long time where she faced 12 break points in the second set and saved every single one to win it.

So…. What does 2017 have in store for us? She will begin her journey in Shenzhen again; an event which she won back in 2015. Barring health issues, as I believe every year, the highlight of this year will be seeing her stand in front of a massive crowd kissing her first career grand slam trophy. Doubters and haters will say she will never be able to do it because of weak mental strength, power, etc. but they have never stopped us before in believing it will happen. Simo has to trust herself most importantly, live in the moment and play without fear because that’s the only thing holding her back as of now since we know her fighting spirit and talent has never been in question.He can’t help her on court during them but believe in Darren to show her the way to this majestic trophy! He’s a wizard don’t ever doubt that! This partnership has many great things left to accomplish in her career. I think Simo can win at least five titles this year (my bias could even do more if I wanted! But five sounded nice to start with) And I’m gonna predict them (despite not knowing draws which of course would help) and the results at every slam for starters here:

Australian Open: QF- This one is hard to predict for a lot more reasons than usual mainly because it’s so early in the year and it can be hard to get fully zoned into grand slam mode immediately starting 2017, you don’t know who is hot and who is cold yet, and the extreme heat is always random and that can get concerning on certain days. I mean I know she can go further but she has never reached a SF here and so I’m hesitant to think she will all of a sudden, but she has the talent to even win this so I’m trying to be cautious but at the same time optimistic! Based on plenty of experience… it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than expect a title and get let down again.

Roland Garros– Winner! A boring and obvious pick for many as the one she will win first but hey, this is her favorite event to play so why shouldn’t it be here? And she has shown amazing success here before and on clay in general. I still am very bitter about how it ended last year as the conditions were extremely horrid and they made her play through them and it cost her a loss. It’s not like she played great but come on she should’ve never been out there. That could’ve easily been her first slam too who knows. Ok that’s enough of Jake’s rant session that’s a topic you don’t want to push me on! So throw away the loss to Lucic Baroni in 2015 and her resume here doesn’t look too shabby.

Wimbledon: QF- This would be the same result as last year and I feel the same way about this one as AO because I know she can have success here and the 2014 SF shows that, but grass has never been her best surface and I feel she will need some draw luck to go deep. If she didn’t have to play Angie last year I think she could’ve had a shot at the title again so while this wouldn’t be an amazing run, I am still optimistic that she can go even deeper here! She has to believe I keep saying that’s always the key!

US Open- Final. I don’t know if she can win but I can easily see her making her first USO final this year because she has played some fantastic tennis in New York and nearly made it in 2015 before falling very flat in the SF vs Pennetta. If she gets there, it’s not like I’m automatically predicting a loss I am just saying I think she’s gonna get there and the rest will play out itself. I mean it could be against Serena for all we know and that’s big trouble (not that it’s totally impossible to beat her 😉 If she already has one this year coming into this one, the thought of her playing for her second one in the same year gives me so many feels don’t touch me right now I’m getting emotional.

The main thing I’m praying for this grand slam season are that there are no extremely early round flops to break our hearts. (Ok YES ANY GRAND SLAM LOSS WILL BREAK OUR HEARTS BUT YOU GET ME) Because this has happened at least once in each of the past couple of years and we know it’s very difficult to deal with! It crushes me seeing all of her fans sad after losses like those because it’s so unexpected and it’s just like a huge bomb out of nowhere dropping down on her fanbase. If she is gonna lose at a slam I prefer it to be later because at least she gave herself a much better chance to lift the trophy.

Also another prediction that is probably worth mentioning is her ranking status this year. She is currently #4 in the world and you have to think if she can maintain that consistency and stay in the top 5 the whole year that would be another great year for her. Of course her reaching #1 in the world is another huge achievement that we would all love to see her get to at some point, but it certainly won’t be easy. However, it’s obviously not impossible and there will be some nice chances early for her to get at least to #3 by the end of the Australian Open and if she wins it, could leapfrog all the way to #2 if I’m not mistaken. Bottom line, my prediction is that she will end at #3. I think staying in the top 5 is still my main wish but I’m not ruling her out to get higher and higher if she believes in herself and takes her chances.

Last but not least, my four other trophy predictions include Shenzhen again, Miami, Cincy and Singapore. Why not try for some more new trophies for her trophy case! Feel free to make your predictions on her titles, her grand slam results and anything else you want! Regardless of how her year plays out I can’t wait to support Simo with all of you for another year. Win or lose we always have her beautiful smile, her positivity, her cuteness, her kindness, her hard work ethic, and too many more amazing qualities to count. That counts for more than any tennis result could. I wish you all a healthy and Happy New Year and let’s make 2017 the best one yet! Hai Super Simo!!

Hope you enjoyed reading!

Jake

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.

Reliving a Trip of a Lifetime; Attending the 2016 Miami Open

Hello everyone! Last year I had the opportunity to experience the Miami Open in Key Biscayne for the first time in my life for five days. What an experience it was. It made me realize I had to come back again ASAP and this year I did something I couldn’t have imagined would happen so soon but I made it work: attending this great event for nearly the whole two weeks. 12 days to be exact; including my first ever final on the WTA side. It was absolutely incredible. The best part was Petra was here this time after sadly skipping it last year due to fatigue and needing a mental break from tennis. No event is the same without her. That was the only negative of last year but all was well this time! I will try to recap all of my greatest moments here, any fun stories while on the trip, what it was like to be here for an amazing 12 days, and anything else I can think of! Hope you enjoy reading!

First a quick background for you, I stayed about an hour and 15 minutes from the park and with the traffic it added up to about 1.5 hours every day there and back. Compared to Cincy where the drive is only about 20 minutes for me every day. I don’t know how many of you do something like this when you are attending live events but it’s not something I see people do often. I told some fans here about this and they were stunned I would do that. Some people within a half hour of Miami even wouldn’t dare to tackle that traffic everyday like that it’s so rough. The traffic in Miami is one of the worst in the country and that was easily the toughest part of every day. I’m a good driver though no worries. Doesn’t mean that everyone else there is though 😉

Not much changed from last year regarding the scenery, player access, practice schedule chaos and such and most of that is never a bad thing. As always, coming in my mind was set on getting to see as much of my favorites up close as possible and I think I accomplished that mission in a huge way. I saw at least one of them every single day except the first day and the last so it definitely made the trip that much more enjoyable. One of the funniest things about coming every day was some of the staff members especially the parking and ticket people started to recognize me pretty easily. Like every day I came through it was “back again?” Or “Welcome back nice to see you again!” I brought the same stuff every day a little green bag and a camera so it wasn’t the hardest to spot me out I guess.

One of my favorite parts of last year was media day and how close I got to be to Simo as she did various interviews; most of which were funny and interesting so plenty of smiles were involved. This year was no different. This is a very rare time at an event where you get to be up close to players where they aren’t so serious practicing or playing a match and just relaxing and talking and having a good time. It’s quite exciting to watch and just in case you didn’t know, Kvitty and Simo are every bit as relaxed, beautiful and smiley as they seem on TV 🙂

Two moments stood out on this day that were pretty hard to describe how amazing they were but I’ll try. First, right before media day started at about 11 I was walking around looking at the practice courts for my faves because that’s what I always do during a lot of my time. Like last year, the practice schedule was nowhere to be found anywhere so you basically had to walk around to every court every hour to have a chance to find someone you wanted to see practicing. There’s two sections of practice courts, one near the entrance and one way across towards the back of the park so they were far apart. It just created much more work for people to walk all of that way back and forth. That’s the one huge flaw this event has but to give them credit, it was only for the first 4 days or so. Then they had the schedule viewable to the public.

Anyway, the first story. Like I said I was walking around the practice courts and all of a sudden I hear Simo’s grunt and I’m like really… Looking at the time it was just about 11 so I figured I missed all of it. I literally stopped in my tracks and ran over there and sure enough, just as I got there they were walking off. So I found an open spot by the gate where they come out and since there weren’t too many fans around, I got a selfie. That’s never happened and I never expected to get a selfie from a fave after missing their whole practice but that’s how it went and I’m not complaining. (Well I would’ve liked to see some of the practice at least) Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good as they say.

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During media day another moment I’ve dreamed about for the longest time happened for a brief moment.  Kvitty was the first to do her interviews and I was watching her do them and it was of course mesmerizing to watch, and I quick turn around a little to the right of me and pretty much right next to me Simo is standing there! No warning! Kvitalep were so close to each other and I was right in the middle of it bye. She went upstairs shortly after but I have to say that alone was worth the trip. I was screaming inside and not breathing I’m not kidding. You just have to know me and something like that does not come around often if ever. Even if it was for a second.

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I also watched Petra practice that day which was great as always. The stunning part was that she practiced with Genie that day and she’s probably at the bottom of the list of people you’d expect Petra to practice with but it happened. It was just a bit awkward I have to say… Not very long after that I saw fed practice on stadium court and what a delight that was. It was funny because Lucie was on before him and at the end of her practice while she was still hitting, fed came on and the crowd roared and she was laughing because it just happened suddenly. They passed each other later and there may have been some other words exchanged who knows. As for Roger’s practice, it was great to see him back in action after a couple months missed due to a knee injury sustained after the Australian Open. This practice was the highlight of my experience with him here because I didn’t get to see much else of him sadly the rest of the event after he pulled out of his first match with a stomach virus. He was crisp, moving great and happy, he put on a nice show for the fans.

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I had many selfies during this event and the perfect day regarding selfies came on the third day when I got selfies with Kvitty, Simo, and Lucie. All came out pretty good I have to say. Kvitty and Lucie practiced together that day and I was a bit surprised I could get pics with both considering it doesn’t always work that way if they come out at the same time. I also told Petra about me being in the fan book she got for her birthday and she smiled and said it was very nice. We knew that but I doubt she expected someone in it to say something to her about it so soon after she read it. I was just glad to put a smile on her face because she put so many on mine 🙂

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The next day was the first match day for Kvitty and Simo but I think those will all be separate articles like I’ve been doing since those are a whole different story. But it’s always an amazing experience seeing those two play live, it is such a joy. Win or lose it’s a dream come true.

The best day of the whole tournament I have to say was the exact day I could’ve hoped it would be; my birthday. I was hoping before it started that Kvitty and/or Simo could’ve played on it but neither did which was fine since it probably was better they didn’t considering what happened. The beginning of the day was a bit strange because I thought Petra’s practice was at 11 so I started to go over to her court at about 10:45 but checked the practice schedule again just to make sure. In yet another misunderstanding it was actually from 10-1130 so it wasn’t the end of the world since I could see the second half of it still, but I was just a bit annoyed that I missed some of it again.

Anyway, I watched her practice and it was easily the best one I saw of the week as she was laughing constantly with her relaxed and goofy team. When it’s not a match day you can expect a little more of this and it didn’t disappoint. My favorite part was when they threw around a nerf football and Petra threw it over the fence and they lost it. Boy that got some great laughs 🙂 Most of you know what happened after but I can’t ever say it enough how happy and amazed I was during it all. I came into the day hoping I could get a birthday wish from her and I told her it was my birthday and she did indeed wish me a happy birthday and then I had a picture of her and she was very nice to write happy birthday on that I was just speechless pretty much. After she signed it I was too out of it and in awe to get a selfie but that didn’t matter. I tried to take a video of her doing something else after it was over and if you ever see it, you can tell how much I’m shaking because I still couldn’t believe what happened.

I could’ve tried to tweet her for a birthday wish and probably wouldn’t have got it, and even if I did it wouldn’t have been anything close to as special as one in person. Like I said I will never be grateful enough I had the opportunity to do this; the fact I could even see her hitting and smiling right in front of me on my birthday was such a great gift already. She is such a wonderful human being as I already knew to take the time to do those things for me, to make a dream come true. It’s so normal for her to be nice but we appreciate it so much for every little thing she does because she never has to be perfect for everybody, it’s just in her nature.  I can look at this photo forever and remember exactly what happened and remember it actually did happen, it wasn’t a dream. My year had been made thanks to her and usually she makes it anyway. I want to praise her much more but can’t because it would take way too long 🙂

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Simo practiced later in the day and I tried the exact same thing but there were much more people so I didn’t say it because it wouldn’t feel like the right moment. I got the picture I wanted most signed though by her and that was her gift to me 🙂 I received two perfect birthday presents.

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Last but not least about this day, I want to say thank you again to every single person who wished me a happy birthday it means a lot. I am lucky to be a part of such great fandoms and not just for Kvitty and Simo but everyone else on tennis twitter that I’ve gotten to know. You make it all more exciting for me and I’m thankful there are people who are so kind enough to say nice things to me and I always want to do the same for you when I get the chance. Much love to all of you 🙂

It was kind of a surreal feeling once we got to the second week because pretty much every event is only a week long besides slams and these in March. Plus, the longest I ever stayed at a tournament was five days so when I woke up on the second Monday it was quite a feeling to have another week of tennis left. Not all of my faves were still there but more tennis is never a bad thing. I have to say it was a bit tougher walking around the grounds once Petra was no longer there but I knew this wasn’t her best event and she might not be there long. The week I had with her was everything I could ever wanted.

The hardest day of the week for me besides my last day of the trip was the day after Simo lost and I had no more faves left. In fairness, I was happy with nine days with them and I can’t say I totally expected that many so I was satisfied. However, it stung walking around the grounds without any of them to look forward to. They make every event even better and it was just kind of an empty feeling. Also by this point all of the practice courts were pretty much empty most of the day and that was depressing too. When you know the end is near… but at least there was still great tennis to be played for those that were left!

The last part I want to share with you is my last day which was the day of the women’s final. I had never been to a final before so I thought it would be cool to try it once even probably knowing that neither of my faves were going to be in it. I’m an optimistic person yes but with their form not quite where it needs to be yet, it was hard to expect it. I didn’t care because I knew it’d be fun either way. The only weird thing was there was a possibility that my drive there could be longer than the actual final and I think the final was only a few minutes longer. Knowing who was in it and how the two players were playing, the result never surprised me as Vika was on a mission and wasn’t going to let Sveta get another upset. It was clear from the beginning she would win in straights as most could expect. She gave a nice speech after she won and I congratulate her for a spectacular month of March. Her matches against Garbine and Angie were the best ones I saw here so I’m glad she was able to play well throughout this event.

Then, the saddest part of the whole trip was leaving Crandon Park for the last time and knowing I wouldn’t be back for a whole year and that’s a maybe. Still, the memories that were created for me during these two weeks were unforgettable. I had a brilliant run here and I knew it would end eventually no matter I didn’t want it to. I lived the dream. That’s as best as I can say. I saw the top players in the world play and my favorite people right in front of my eyes as I dream every day. I only hope other fans can experience something like this because you all deserve it. I thank all of my friends on twitter who experienced this ride through me and all of my favorites who gave me things so hard to imagine. It wasn’t all about the results, you just have to hope for the best in that regard. Seeing their personalities up close and their friendliness is what mattered most. I got it all.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed and hope you all get to experience your favorites in the near future and enjoy them like I did!

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…

The Curious Case of Two Slumping Stars: Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep. What’s next in 2015?

Three grand slams are in the books, and for fans of Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep including myself of course, there are many reasons to feel unsatisfied at this point. Both have ran into a rough stretch during the past couple of months, with no indication of what lies ahead for either of them. So I ask these questions which I cannot help but wonder… Which of these two faces the tougher road ahead of them in 2015 and how can they fix their problems?

Petra Kvitova- I’ll start with Petra who as we all know started the year on a high note with a SF appearance in Shenzhen and then followed that up with a win in Sydney. However, ever since then it has been a huge downhill slide for her for pretty much the whole season, other than when she came out of nowhere in Madrid to Stun Serena for her first loss of 2015 and then go on to win the title. That was her first clay title since she won that same tournament during her historic 2011 season. In the middle of all of that she took two months off while skipping two huge events in IW and Miami which already was a cause of concern because of the reason, ‘fatigue’ only a couple of months into the year.

However, all of this being said, we knew like last year that no matter how inconsistent she was, that this whole season could be turned around at her favorite event of the year… Wimbledon. She hadn’t failed to make a QF there since 2009, the only slam she’s really had a ton of success at. Through the first two rounds of this year’s Wimbledon she picked up right where she left off from last year and demolished her first two opponents, the first one being the fastest WTA match of 2015 in only 36 minutes. It was very hard for Team Petra or anyone else to think she wasn’t going to be Serena’s biggest challenge in her quest for the calendar slam.

That is, until she squared off against Jelena Jankovic in the 3rd round, someone who can be dangerous but definitely does not prefer the grass nearly as much as Petra. Petra was even up a set and a break and things were looking like the first two rounds all over again, and that’s where it all fell apart. Jankovic played more aggressive, Petra was more passive maybe thinking she had this in the bag, and before we knew it Jankovic stole the 2nd set. She looked like the more confident player in the 3rd as well and was able to finish the job and shock Petra in one of the biggest upsets of the year you could argue.

Crushed. Speechless. Unimaginable. Horrific. Devastating. Some of the many words to describe this one in a result none of us could have ever seen coming this early here. In what we’ve seen from her over and over again at grand slams, her nerves got to her and when it mattered most made some silly mistakes (don’t even get me started on that critical challenge towards the end) that even her beloved grass wouldn’t let her get away with this time. Everyone knows what they get with Petra. You take the highs with the lows and there isn’t a lot of questioning. That is, until she finally flopped at Wimbledon; something we had never seen before. To see it end so quickly like this at her home was really tough to watch and begs to go back to the original question… what is next and is she in trouble for the rest of 2015? If so, how much?

I’m just putting my two cents in here so feel free to disagree or make your own points, it’s all good. The first thing we have to look at of course is her schedule for the remainder of the year, and then the points defending in each of them. It would seem to be that she’ll again play Rogers Cup, Cincy, New Haven, and then the USO to conclude the USO series. Last year she committed to Stanford before pulling out a week before because she didn’t want to play so many events before the USO. Is there a chance she thinks about playing it again this year after this early exit? I don’t know if it’s too late to enter as a WC but I’d still highly doubt it anyway based on her disappointment, lack of confidence, and in no hurry to arrive in the states. It’s also really hard to encourage it since she’s already playing so much. Then again, she needs matches now more than ever to get any kind of confidence. Yes, three tournaments is plenty but she is definitely not a player you can guarantee to go deep in any of these events so maybe one extra one won’t hurt. Or worst case skip Toronto or Cincy, but that wouldn’t seem very smart to miss a big event like that to play a smaller one like Stanford. The real one she should skip is New Haven even though it won’t happen. There is no reason to play an event like that the week before a slam for any top player, at least one that has already played two big ones the previous weeks. I get she loves it and feels comfortable there but if it means less preparation for USO and a bigger chance of fatigue then what’s the point? If she wins who cares, she won’t gain much from it. However, I do realize that because of the fact that she never really goes deep in Canada and Cincy, this one is always there to get one last good run of preparation in. Still, just once I’d like to see her play Rogers Cup/Cincy and then USO to give her a nice week stretch (or even longer if Cincy doesn’t go too well) to get ready for USO. This would give her plenty of time to get used to everything in NYC, a place she has so much trouble adjusting to.

She doesn’t have to defend much points at all besides New Haven in the summer in so that’s one of the positives going forward. It’s impossible to know where her head will be at come her next event; hopefully she is ready and motivated to bounce back because she’s still Petra after all. No matter how bad things may seem, with her talent there is always the potential for a huge run at an event and if she’s feeling good, (big if) there can be success in North America. That being said, if success doesn’t happen there, it might only get worse and that’s the main concern. She had a huge run in Asia last year winning Wuhan and then making the final of Beijing so lots of points to defend there. I’m not saying she can’t defend those points, but there’s so much more pressure to do it if North America doesn’t go well.

The bottom line for me regarding Petra is that my level of concern right now is high. I hate to say it but I don’t trust her a lot in North America until she proves us otherwise. Plus I have no idea how much motivation she has for the rest of the year after blowing her biggest chance of success. I pray she is feeling good and ready, otherwise the future looks dark. Sorry for sounding so pessimistic so I want to go back to my normal self now. Petra has a whole month off to clear her head. She could forget about tennis again a little if she has to because it helped her come back strong and win Madrid. She could think about how little pressure is on her in North America because of how much she struggles there. If she plays smart, loose, and confident, who knows maybe she’ll gives us a nice gift! I’m concerned but I, and all of Team Petra will never give up on our Czech Lioness!! POJD Petra!

Simona Halep- Heading into her favorite surface in April, there was no way you’d think she’d be mentioned in an article like this. She had already won three tournaments including Dubai and the biggest one of her career in IW. She followed it up with a SF in Miami where she nearly beat Serena in one of the biggest battles of the season. Nothing was ever the same after that and it’s hard to figure out exactly why. She had a decent run in Stuttgart, flopped poorly in Madrid, and another decent run in Rome before collapsing against CSN in a match many argue she should’ve won and maybe that’s where it all started.

Then the two biggest surprises and disappointments of her season came about to cement her in this conversation. Like Petra at Wimbledon, Simona fell very early at her favorite tournament of the year in Paris. She was blown off the court in the 2nd round by the same person who replicated that performance against her in New York last year, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Her first grass event in Birmingham didn’t go great after another rough loss to Kiki Mladenovic. Simo came into Wimbledon with a new approach. “No expectations” Maybe taking pressure off of herself would help her advance deeper in this event. However, that was far from the case as during her first round match it only got worse. She could never quite find her footing and was eliminated in three sets to Jana Cepelova, ranked outside of the top 100.

It’s widely known what the issues are with Simo. It’s the pressure factor, and that’s where we’ll start. She is asked this question every tournament it seems a million times if the pressure gets to her, or if she feels it before every match in big events like slams. She can’t avoid it but she doesn’t reject the topic either, she admits to it. Simo knows she’s got a target on her back every time she goes out there, and it’s gotten to her and there lies the problem. Her case is different from all other top players though, as it feels as if the whole country of Romania is on her shoulders every time she plays, and when she struggles the criticism is loud and clear. There is nothing she can do but try to stay focused and play the game she loves and is so talented at, but it’s hard not to hear about tabloids all over her home country having something mean or false to say when it’s not going well. Of course she has tons and tons of fans who also support her positively in the worst of times and we can’t forget them, but when it’s going bad the critics speak up a little louder.

So it’s time to look at what’s ahead for Simo this summer and if the future looks good or not. Her first tournament of the summer will be Cincy again and not Rogers cup which I don’t understand, especially with her hard court success earlier this year. She should try to get as many matches in as possible before the US Open at the end of August. She has New Haven on her schedule again which also is a bit questionable to me and like I said with Petra, if it were up to me I’d like to see Toronto and Cincy for sure and New Haven only if absolutely necessary if the first two don’t go well. Otherwise a full week to prepare for New York is plenty because she may also need time to adjust to the bright lights of New York City.

There is pretty much zero points to defend the rest of the season and that’s something huge she’s got going for her. She made the QF in Cincy but that was it until the WTA finals so her ranking shouldn’t be an issue. However, that was never the concern, at least to me. The main thing is she has to find a way to go back to the way she played in the first quarter of the season where she was relaxed and confident. That clearly hasn’t been there the last few months and it doesn’t matter how well she plays if she has no belief when the going gets tough. I’m not saying she has no belief, but if she was confident and prepared I doubt she’d have left Paris and London in such a quick manner.

Maybe the hard courts are exactly what she needs as that’s all she’ll have the rest of the way. All it takes is one great tournament early on and she can feel like she’s back on track. I am about 50-50 on my level of concern. On one hand I believe she has all the talent to turn this season around and can easily do it on the hard courts especially. On the other hand, all it takes is another early loss and we’re back to square one. Everyone has seen she’s more vulnerable than she used to be in the beginning of the year, and the questions of pressure won’t stop. All I care about though is if she feels good heading into New York for the US Open because I still believe at least out of these two players, she has the potential to win it.

Last but not least I want to wrap it all up and give you my honest prediction of who I think has the better chance to turn it around in these last couple of months. My answer is Simo. Of course I’m not saying Petra’s season is lost, I just believe in Simona’s chances of succeeding more. She loves the hard courts more than Petra, the climate isn’t an issue like Petra in North America, no points to defend, and the main concern I have for Petra is her motivation the rest of the year after this Wimbledon loss especially after she said “This will take me a while to get over” How long is that? Nobody knows. No guarantees it’ll be before the USO series starts.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope I can hear your opinion on which player you think has a better chance to turn it around if you had to pick. Sure, not everyone that reads this may be a fan of either of these two or only one, but those people’s opinions are ones that are very important as well. It’s not an article I wish I had to write but I wanted to let some things out. We all know how talented these two girls are and I love them both to death and always want the best for them. Even in the struggles I know these two wonderful fanbases will always be there for their girl. So I leave you by saying Pojd Petra and Hai Simona! Let’s hope for some more success in 2015, and maybe they’ll finally play each other again at some point this year!

Reviewing My Five Day Journey at the 2015 Miami Open

Hello guys, I am very excited to write about and share with you my experience at this year’s Miami Open, a tournament I attended for the first time. As far as other tournaments go, I have only been to the Western and Southern Open located in Cincinnati in the past, 2013 and 2014 and those were amazing experiences. Now, towards the end of 2014 I strongly started to consider going to the Miami Open because I always like to try new things and I knew it would be another great experience if I could go because tennis is amazing in person. This wasn’t the first year I considered it either because this event is at a perfect time every year and the location is very good for me. It’s always during my birthday at some point, and I always figured it’d be fun to spend a birthday at a huge sporting event, particularly my favorite sport. I also have relatives in Florida that don’t live very far away from it, and lo and behold this was the year I finally made it happen.

I want to try to write some pros and cons about this event and perhaps compare some of them to Cincy because some there were a few things that stood out.

PROS:

  • Grounds: One of the first things you realize as you start to get familiar with the grounds is how controlled and open it really is. What I mean is no matter how crowded it got, it seemed there was never any trouble getting around or getting too hectic at any point; it wasn’t really hard to find anything either. I was also especially surprised how there were never any huge lines for food stands or bathrooms, ever! Like in Cincy it seemed to me you were always standing in huge lines for like 15-20 mins, and here I could just walk right up to anything even during the crowded days.
  • Stadium/Match Atmosphere: For those who have gone to a live event, you know it’s important to have good crowds to enhance the matches. I was only there for the first week so the crowds were a little sparser than normal but still it seemed the crowds were always pretty good. The stadium is really nice even if I was up top but I got to sit lower than my assigned seats every day because there wasn’t a whole lot of people there and I loved my seats. At nighttime too it’s hard to beat it, especially during that Sharapova match was probably the best match I saw with the crowd into it. It was also nice to be able to walk into any court on the grounds and watch any match I wanted and get really close, obviously closer than you get in the stadium. I prefer seeing outer court matches because of that reason but stadium can get you some great ones too which I saw. My favorite match I went to was Simo’s match which I got into a little more detail later. Aside from her I would say Sharapova’s match, Stan’s match and Delpo’s match were ones I really enjoyed.
  • Player experience: The whole fun of going to tennis events is seeing how close you can get to the players and in Cincy it was very easy to be able to see them up close during practice. Here was the same thing as you could sit right on the practice courts and get really close which is always nice to enjoy.

There was something else about that though that I thought was even cooler. It literally seemed like you could not go very long without spotting a player walking around on the grounds where all of the fans were, and a lot of times they went unnoticed by many, even some of the bigger ones. I’m talking they would just stroll through the food court area because it was set up where they had to go through there to get to some of the practice courts and it was fun to just see them blend in with the others. I would catch myself being able to walk casually right behind a top player and it was just cool to me. Now I’m not one of those people who feel the need to approach them all of the time for autographs because a lot of times you see them walking to practice and that’s not the best time. You just have to be able to pick the right time, like after, and most of them are very friendly. I feel in Cincy I didn’t really bump into as many players, and even if I did, it was so crowded at times you couldn’t really get that close. Maybe it’s just me.

  • Fan Events: There were two big events I wondered how easy it would be to access and they were the draw ceremonies and media day. Both passed my expectations with flying colors. The draw ceremonies were Monday and because there weren’t many people there for the first day of only qualifying, it was easy to get right up there and watch them do both draws and get close to the players helping too. The ATP one did get a bit jammed at one point, probably because nobody knew it as the WTA one got leaked the day before, but nothing I couldn’t handle since I was in the front anyway. I never saw a draw made live before so that was neat to get to share some of it first with you all.
  • Fan Events cont: The next day they had media day with all of the top players and this was really cool to experience as well. I came into this expecting there to be a mob scene filled with fans because a lot of the top players were going to be there. Surprisingly, that didn’t come to fruition as I was able to stand pretty much anywhere I wanted at least where we were allowed, and take pics of all the big names. I don’t even think most knew where this was as it was kind of hidden in the far back away from everything. It was especially fun as you all know by now how close how I could get to Simo and from what I saw throughout the day, as usual she drew the least amount of attention from the fans which was ok with me 😉 And I’m sure everyone saw me appear in the background of a lot of photos Simo was in so you kind of knew what it was like for me to stand that close. I mean it’s kind of hard to explain what it’s like when you’re inches away from a fave, especially for a decent amount of time. I just stared and admired Simo and enjoyed her in all of her cuteness glory. She also doesn’t seem as short as you might think in person, to me at least. She’s just so friendly too like there was just mainly kids there besides me because it was kids day, and when she signed for all of them she was asking them questions like “do you guys play tennis? What are some of your favorite players?” This one I liked too: “Did you guys watch me at Indian Wells? Did you like?” Too funny.
  • Concessions: Now I’m not one of those people that go to events like these to taste all of the food they have because I just like to get whatever I’m feeling, so I didn’t really try a ton of different things. However, I must say everything I had was great, so if you were curious about that, don’t worry because it was good. The Pinto burger and crepes were some of the foods that stood out to me, and the Michelob Ultra bar was a fun time. Nothing out of control there though 😉 Like I said before, the lines were always short, and there was always places to sit too which was nice.
  • Friendly People: I was happy to see how many friendly and generous people there were here in Miami, and I really emphasize the latter in a moment. For me it was fun because there were a lot of casual fans there as you would expect and I was asked many times who a certain player was that walked by and practiced and I was always happy to answer. Everybody would say how they were glad to have me around because I knew virtually everyone and that made me feel kind of important for at least this week 🙂 It was fun having chats with everyone about their different autograph and pic stories with their fave players and I just never had any problems with the other fans around me.

Two fan stories I want to share with you; one you most likely already knew but a little more in depth, and another you didn’t. Suspense….

So both happened on the last day of the trip and the first one was at the beginning and it’s about my experience watching Simo’s 2nd round match on stadium court. Well you already know by now how fun it was for me to watch her play because she doesn’t disappoint, but the crowd made it that much better for me. I discovered a couple of fans with a Romanian flag actually a few seats next to me so I approached them and asked if I could take a pic with them because I always wanted to meet Romanians in real life because of how passionate they are about Simo. They then let me hold the flag and pose for a pic with it and that was pretty neat to me because I obviously never held that flag before and I felt a tiny bit Romanian lol. We had a little conversation and they noticed my shirt and knew I was a big fan too and there was a really funny thing they asked me I just loved. First they asked, “Are you from Romania?” I said no, from here in the United States” and they go, “Wow and you still love Simona that much?” I just laughed because it’s funny how it might not seem Simo can have diehard fans from the U.S. but yeah it’s true.

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They didn’t mind me sitting with them after that and boy did that turn into a blast, because much more Romanians than just those two showed up and I swear whenever she hit a good shot or needed some extra encouragement, the SI-MO-NA chants were in full swing and I loved doing them too. I tweeted I was able to cross that off of my bucket list and I just really enjoyed it because it was different. You know in team sports when you’re at an event you have thousands of other fans on the same side as you. Well tennis it’s obviously not like that where people don’t have jerseys and don’t cheer hardcore for only one player but for Romanian fans that’s exactly how it is. I always wanted to have another hardcore group to cheer with because it’s more fun when I’m not alone and this gave me that and I just embraced every moment.

Ok so this next story I never told you guys because it was actually quite frightening. It’s not life or death don’t worry but it certainly wasn’t good. First try to think of the worst thing that can happen at an event like this that doesn’t involve physical harm or anything dangerous like that? If you guessed losing something valuable, then good for you. Yep that’s what happened to me, at some point I realized I dropped my wallet which had literally everything you could think of in there and a little too much cash to go along with it (thousands….) well it’s a big sporting event you tend to carry around a little more than usual. This being on the last day of the trip near the end of the day it wasn’t easy to stay calm because it’s kind of hard to fly home without an id. Anyway, saving all of the dramatics, someone returned it with everything still in it. Trust me they don’t have to return anything if no one knows, or they could’ve taken it all and then returned it. I said earlier I really emphasized the generous part of the people there and I’m just thankful the trip didn’t end on that sour note.

CONS:

It’s hard to pick out cons at a great event like this, but there were a couple of things that really stood out that were a bit annoying. Now I’m just comparing these to Cincy, so maybe this could be similar to other tournaments too I don’t know.

  • Practice Schedules: Most who have been to a live event know how critical knowing the practice schedules is because it’s another chance to see the players up close. Now I’m saying this because in Cincy it was nice because every morning I could wake up and check online and the whole schedule was up there and I can plan every single thing I want to do that day. Well here in Miami, that wasn’t the case at all. Maybe it’s not as a big of a deal as I’m making it but it’s just annoying that you have to guess what time to leave that day and who is gonna practice early in the morning and hope you don’t miss someone you want to see, in case you don’t arrive right when the gates open (which happened most days for me because the traffic wasn’t too good, more on that soon) Because chances are they won’t practice again that day. 

So another thing, it really wasn’t that long after they opened the gates that they released the practice schedule, it’s just for the first couple of practices you had to walk all around the grounds to see who was out there. So if you decide to stay on a court and watch a practice, you risk missing someone else you might really want to see that’s practicing at the same time without having any idea. Once they got it out however, they would post it at a guest services stand and there was only one copy, you couldn’t take a paper copy or get it on your phone until later; and the guest services was pretty far away from the practice courts so you had to take pics of the schedule which was kind of annoying too. That explains the problem I had with one of Simo’s practices and how I almost missed it because of the weird system they have.

  • Simo’s Sneakiness: Ok so if you don’t care about Simo, or already heard this story, then skip this part. I thought since I just brought it up again I’d either refresh your memory in case you wanted to hear it again, and here I can explain it in more detail, or tell people who hadn’t heard it yet. It’s not really a con, it’s just that I had to work harder than I expected to and it was a bit of a hassle lol but at least it was worth it.

I arrived to the grounds close to 10 as usual because that’s when they open the gates. Another thing that wasn’t surprising, no practice schedule available yet. So I do what I normally do and walk to some of the practice courts, and these are the ones that are farthest away from where they post the schedule, keep that in mind for later. I spot Sabine practicing on one and thought that was a good place to start because lots of people enjoying seeing pics of her and I like to watch her practice too. So as I’m watching and taking pics of her, quick funny thing happened I tweeted where Vika said “excuse me” to me from behind because she needed to open the gate to get into another practice court. I was taken aback a bit lol because she was right there without warning and I’m just like ok yeah of course. Anyway, so I’m watching Sabine and Vika for about the whole hour since that’s how long the practices usually are, and I get a text at about 10:55 of a photo of the practice schedule that just came out.

I look at it and see Simo on the schedule at 10 and insert all of the obscenities here because it’s frustrating that the player I want to see most is practicing and I don’t have a clue. So at this point I’m pretty bummed out because I know this is the last day I’ll have a chance to see her practice since the practice would probably be too early to see on match day. I couldn’t see which court she was supposed to be on because it was like cutoff from the pic or something so that added even more chaos. The person that texted me it wasn’t near the guest services stand anymore so I literally ran all the way over there, it’s far I tell you. I’m just hoping I can at least catch her walking out and get an auto or pic or something to salvage it. I make it to the schedule, turns out Simo was practicing on the court right behind where I was sobbb! So if I had just walked around quick while I was watching Sabine/Vika I would’ve saved all of that running, but obviously there was no way I could’ve known she was there and no time to check. Plus, there are courts kind of close to the GS stand as well so I thought she could be there too.

So now that I know she is on the court behind the one I was just at, I run all the way back to it, and she’s not there of course; probably because it’s past 11. At this point I really don’t know what to do because she could’ve left and that’s it I missed it, can’t do much about it. I start to walk back to other practice courts again and lo and behold I see a tiny girl with a bun hairstyle, in a pink shirt with a big bag come around the corner and I had to do like a double take to make sure it was her and it was! I didn’t quite know where she was going though because she wasn’t walking to a court that top players practice on, I followed her and turns out she was just starting a practice. So not only did she practice at a different time, she also practiced on a court that wasn’t listed on the practice schedule! So sneaky! I was very lucky to catch her and thanks to my detective work, you guys saw extra pictures, and I got another selfie and she signed my shirt which I always wanted. Plus she liked it too so everything worked out amazingly!

So that’s my story, sorry it was so long. BUT THIS IS WHAT DIEHARD FANS DO!! I DID IT FOR YOU GUYS TOO!! Hope you enjoyed that story in a little more detail 🙂

  • Traffic/Parking: This one wasn’t a huge issue for the most part, there was just times and specifically one time, where it was a bit confusing. The first day we went, on the way there they had signs posted all over saying general parking and what not so we pulled in there. The first time there was like a police guy that said “no this isn’t it, go to Lot 5 farther back from this.” So we did and that’s like some random dead end place with a loading dock boat area it was very strange. So we’re confused, we ended up driving way further up and there was a lot 2,3,4,6,7 and there wasn’t really one where everyone was pulling into. So we basically just went into one until it was the right one which you’d think is a little absurd to have to do but whatever, we eventually found it. The rest of the days it wasn’t that hard but still it could be better set up. They also have a shuttle going to the park for some lots and that’s a bit annoying too but whatever lol this isn’t that important but I’m just telling you another con that I didn’t really like. In Cincy it was very straight forward where you parked, signs everywhere and they just put you in the grass and you walked up into the place.

Last but not least the traffic was pretty brutal in the morning in Miami like you’d expect though because it’s a big city and it’s rush hour early in the morning on weekdays. The only problem with this is that it delayed us getting there and it caused us to miss a bigger portion of practices than I wanted. All in all though, you just have to accept it and as long as we got there I didn’t complain.

So that’s it. Sorry if it seems a little long, not sure how much you guys read but I wanted to make sure you got as much of the experience as possible in case you were ever thinking of going here. The cons aren’t really a big issue, I easily found ways to live with them so don’t worry too much about them. This is a great place and I didn’t know what to expect but it definitely did not disappoint and I would recommend this to everyone. I got lucky with the weather too as besides the very last portion of my trip, it was nice and sunny all week which always make these kind of events way better. One last thing, as weird as it sounds, I didn’t really notice too much that my number 1 faves from ATP and WTA (Roger Federer and Petra Kvitova) weren’t there because of how fun the whole week was. I got dealt with some very unlucky cards in that regard but it just goes to show favorites aren’t everything in tennis. As long as you love watching the sport, you can easily learn to adjust and while I obviously wish they were both there, that’s how it goes sometimes and I’m glad it didn’t affect me at all during the week, considering I thought it might. (Now if Simo wasn’t there…. We’d have to see how calm this paragraph would be lol)

Have a great day, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed. Also thanks again to all of you on Twitter who made this fun for me to share all of the info and photos as it was happening. I was very happy to do it, it was a unique experience for me and i’m glad you all liked what I had to say. If you have any other questions about my experience, just let me know 🙂 Jake