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April 25, 2004

April's team vs. October's team

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The Yankees/Red Sox showdown at the Stadium on Sunday was a disaster from the point of view of New York fans. The Yanks are 1-for-7 against Boston in 2004. So much for the supposedly huge payroll advantage the Bombers have! Ah well, it's April . . .

(By the way, I snapped the pretty good photo above: Pedro Martinez in the process of shutting down Derek Jeter--again!)

April 30, 2004

Three cheers for Sir Roger

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We are fast approaching the golden anniversary of perhaps THE great milestone in sport: Roger Bannister's breaking the four-minute mile "barrier." In 1954 the English medical student thrilled the world by doing something the supposed experts had thought might be impossible. Click here for more details.

He set a world record that he only held for weeks. And in the past fifty years, hundreds of athletes--some of them just high school runners--have bettered Bannister's achievement of 3:59.4. In fact, the world record in the mile is over sixteen seconds faster than it was when Bannister set it. But he got there first. And he did so before the many advances in the science of sports physiology and training, before helpful developments in equipment and track construction.

Most important of all, Bannister's is a wonderful example of a life well-lived. Like the Arch "Moonlight" Graham character in A Field of Dreams, this is a guy who thought his career as a doctor was far more important than his attainments as an athlete. But he will always be remembered for his successful effort to, as he put it in his memoir The Four-Minute Mile, "do one thing supremely well." Bravo, Sir Roger!

July 6, 2004

Pot Pourri

In an effort to catch up on my lapsed blogging, what follows is an assortment of quick takes on a variety of topical subjects.

John Edwards: Kerry made what was probably the safest choice for a vice-presidential nominee, but one that I think ultimately will help him in November. Yes, the pollsters will tell us that Edwards may not move any of the swing states into the Kerry column--not even North Carolina, probably--but he represents an articulate, charismatic presence on the ticket that could be reassuring to swing voters in various demographic categories that will be crucial in what should prove to be a close general election. The Tar Heel senator has a fascinating life story, coming from humble origins and facing genuine adversity along the way. Of course the GOP immediately attacked Edwards this morning as lacking the experience for the vice-presidency, what with only six years in the United States Senate. This is laughable, given that the man at the head of the Republican ticket boasted exactly six years experience as governor in a state in which that office held little real political power. Moreover, Bush was more or less a failure at everything he attempted in his life before his political career, in spite of all the advantages conferred by Poppy and his friends. In contrast, Edwards was a self-made millionaire who fought corporate wrong-doing and then distinguished himself in Congress by co-sponsoring sweeping reforms such as the Patients' Bill of Rights.

John McEnroe's talk show: Tomorrow night CNBC debuts a new talk show featuring former "Super-Brat" John McEnroe. As an adolescent tennis fan, I always rooted for Mac's greatest rivals: Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. (Though I never warmed up to Ivan Lendl, so McEnroe occasionally enjoyed my support!) I must admit that I've come around on McEnroe over the years. Maybe he's mellowed; maybe I have. When he started as an announcer on tennis telecasts I found him occasionally amusing but fairly undisciplined as an analyst. Nowadays he's refreshingly insightful, more open-minded (while still refreshingly honest and opinionated), and is capable of substantial slef-deprecating humor. So I am looking forward to seeing what he'll bring to the table as a talk show host. Mac seems to have become something of a polymath, with genuine interests in art, music, politics, sports, etc. He can do no worse in this new role than Dennis Miller, whose show is in the adjoining slot on the cable network; Miller is someone I used to enjoy immensely before his gradual transformation into a right-wing crank (which corresponded fairly precisely with his becoming more or less unfunny).

Spider-Man 2: This film deserves the box office success it has enjoyed the past week. It won't change the world and it not quite perfect, but it's a pretty spiffy summer popcorn flick. Have fun with this one.

Farenheit 9/11: On the other hand, this movie--also a relative box office champ--might, in fact, change the world. Michael Moore's documentary skewers "W" and company pretty effectively. For the most part Moore avoids the heavy-handedness that made me feel sorry for Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine. That's not to say there is no point of view here; quite the opposite, the director has conceded. He wears his politics on his sleeve and is unabashed about presenting his opinions on the Bush Administration, the war on terror, the Patriot Act, and the current Iraq misadventure. But for the most part, Moore himself maintains a lower profile in this picture, instead letting the objects of his derision condemn themselves on camera.

Wimbledon 2004: In spite of the seemingly endless rain (that kept me from getting out to the All-England Club while in London during the opening days of the fortnight) this was one of the best Wimbledons in recent memory. Finals weekend was particularly satisfying, with the coming of age of the charming and talented Maria Sharapova in the ladies' championship and the enjoyable and highly competitive Federer/Roddick tilt on Sunday. The sport needs a few more majors with the excitement we saw in SW19 the past two weeks.

Sting in concert: I caught the former Police front man in an outdoor show at Jones Beach last week. He was in exceptionally good voice, sharing the bill with Annie Lennox. I knew it would be a good show when the second song played was one of my Police faves, "Synchronicity II."

Whither Euro 2004? While I was ambling around Paris, Scotland, Ireland, and London in June, I could not escape the football frenzy surrounding the European Cup soccer championship. Every day, there was wall-to-wall coverage in the newspapers and on television. Upon returning to the States, I was struck that highlights of the tournament merited hardly a mention in our papers.

July 9, 2004

Tour de Lance

I thought the televised distraction of transatlantic sporting spectacle would end last Sunday with the conclusion of Wimbledon, but now that I have digital cable, I get the Outdoor Life Network, which means I can watch the extensive coverage of the Tour de France once I get home from class. The drama of the peloton snaking through bucolic France is surprisingly seductive.

July 14, 2004

It's come to this . . .

Apparently I am in this month's Teen Vogue magazine. For real. I wouldn't make this up. (Well, actually I might, but I am not in this case.) I haven't seen the issue myself, but I've heard about it.

July 16, 2004

Climb Every Mountain

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The 2004 Tour de France has entered the Pyrenees and Lance Armstrong was simply amazing to watch as he steeled himself for an ascent up La Mongie, decimating his major rivals on the steep uphill climb at the end of a 123-mile ride. Though tomorrow's ride brings more fierce mountain climbs, the American may have given himself a huge psychological boost by leaving the greatest threats to a sixth straight Tour crown in his dust. This is FUN to watch.

July 17, 2004

Fashion Accessory Du Jour

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Lots of folks around here have been wearing the yellow wristbands supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the fight against cancer. The publicity Lance is getting during the 2004 Tour de France--he won today's stage after an absolutely grueling climb up Plateau de Beille, the seventh (!) climb of the 128-mile Stage 13 ride--seems to have peaked interest in his fortunes in the Tour, in the sport of cycling, and in his favorite charity.

This is a worthy cause and I've got extra "Live Strong" wristbands on hand for the asking.

July 25, 2004

An American In Paris

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It's a wrap. This Texan is now a six-shooter, with a half-dozen consecutive wins in the Tour de France under his belt. Watching Lance tackle the uphill finishes in the Pyrenees or the time trial up L'Alpe d'Huez was nothing short of inspirational.

August 10, 2004

What Makes A Good Runner

A thoughtful piece in today's New York Times on why some are naturally disposed to be better distance runners than others. Click here (registration required).

August 11, 2004

Required Reading For Red Sox Fans

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Point your browser here to find out why the Yankees always win; it ain't about just the money, as Chris Smith argues in New York magazine.

August 26, 2004

A Good Walk Spoiled

. . . is what Mark Twain called the sport of golf. I played miserably on one of the country's best courses out in Kohler, Wisconsin. A bad round of golf is far worse than not playing at all.

October 21, 2004

Red Sox Nation

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Someone asked me if I was upset that the Red Sox won the ALCS last night. For the record, I don't hate the Sox. I'd go so far as to say as they're my third favorite baseball team. It's Red Sox FANS that are insufferable. And of course never more so than today. I concede New York fans can be obnoxious. But they can't hold a candle to Red Sox Nation.

It was amusing to see so many of their supposedly devoted following bail out on the team last weekend, like rats from a sinking ship, only to become the loudest celebrants in the past 24 hours.

October 28, 2004

Even The Blind Squirrel Finds The Occasional Nut

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November 1, 2004

Yeah, Packers!

I don't usually lose much sleep over Green Bay's football fortunes, but since the Redskins moved to D.C. in the 1930s, the outcome of Washington's last home game has accurately predicted whether or not the incumbent party will keep the White House. A win for the 'Skins would have been good news for Bush. The final score yesterday: Packers, 28-14.

November 6, 2004

Thoughts On Cross Country

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Confucius once said:

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

January 16, 2005

Tennis Season!

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The Aussie Open starts Monday (7pm EST Sunday) to kick off the 2005 professional tennis season. It's midsummer in Melbourne and hot! I was last there in January 1998 and expect to be there again in 2007--my next sabbatical is just two years off! Oi, oi, oi.

January 24, 2005

Thriller Down Under

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Tuesday night, Melbourne time: Andre Agassi vs. Roger Federer. A rematch of their U.S. Open showdown, which may have been the best men's match of 2004.

January 25, 2005

Too Tough

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Federer rolled over Agassi in straight sets. Can anybody stop this guy this YEAR?

January 27, 2005

Serena Is Back

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At bedtime last night I caught the tail end of the first women's semifinal at the Aussie Open. When I tuned in, Serena Williams was on the brink of elimination, down 3-5 in the final set against Maria Sharapova. Serena saved three match points and competed tenaciously to earn the win after too long away from the tennis limelight.

Upset!

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World #1 Roger Federer got knocked off by Marat Safin last night (actually later tonight, but it already happened in Australia!) in a barn-burner five-set struggle. This ought to help Andy Roddick's chances to win his second major. But first Roddick needs to get by Lleyton Hewitt. The American should be slightly favored only because he's spent literally half the time Hewitt has on court in the earlier rounds. Hard to see Safin beating either Roddick or Hewitt, but the extra day's rest could be helpful after the marathon against Federer.

It's great to see the world's four best players in the semis of a Grand Slam event! I hope the second semifinal is as good as the first one was.

March 16, 2005

Spring Training

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While my own tennis team was engaged in spring training on court this morning, I drove down the road a bit to check out the New York Yankees gearing up for the season ahead. The Bronx Bombers practice and play at Legends Field, a pleasantly accessible and intimate ballpark in Tampa (unfortunately situated at 1 Steinbrenner Drive!). I enjoyed a bit of late morning batting practice.

March 18, 2005

Spring Training (Tennis Version)

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I watched three former world #1 players on the courts at Saddlebrook this morning: Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Courier is retired but competes some on the senior tour, Hingis is kinda retired but certainly looked like she was gearing up to play again (and she's hardly over the hill!), and Henin-Hardenne is coming back from injury. There were a few other pros (Mardy Fish, Chanda Rubin) training as well, in addition to some very impressive junior players. It was fun just watching them hit in drill sessions and practice sets.

April 10, 2005

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

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I am at best a casual golf fan, but the final round of the 2005 Masters was a treat to watch: beautiful scenery, spectacular shot-making, dramatic tension, and the compelling storyline of Tiger Woods ending his drought in the majors. It looks like he'll be a force in the game once again for the foreseeable future.

April 17, 2005

The Real Deal

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18-year-old Rafael Nadal of Spain won the Monte Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament today, signifying his arrival on the main stage of men's pro tennis. He showed glimpses of brilliance a couple weeks back in the Key Biscayne final, coming within two points of knocking off world #1 Roger Federer before losing in five sets. At this point, he's got to be considered one of the favorites to prevail at Roland Garros later this spring (especially since he handled Guillermo Coria--last season's king of clay--relatively easily in today's Monaco triumph).

The pictures of Nadal above I snapped in June of 2003 on an outer court at the All-England Club. The photo that follows is what he looks like today:
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May 8, 2005

Nadal Again

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In a rematch of the Monte Carlo final from a few weeks back, Rafael Nadal defeated Guillermo Coria in the Italian Open title match, squelching any doubts about his favorite status heading into the French Open later this month. The teenager won an epic five-setter that lasted over five hours, rebounding from 0-3 in the final set to win a 10-8 tiebreak. Nadal now owns a 17-match winning streak on European clay and is on track for the Old World Triple, should he win Roland Garros after taking the Monte Carlo and Rome crowns. He has won 5 tournaments in 2005; interestingly, the other teenagers to win at least five titles in one season on the pro tour are Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker, and Andre Agassi--Hall of Famers all! Think this kid has a future?

May 16, 2005

New York, New York

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The Mets and the Yankees both have identical 19-19 records thus far this spring. The Bombers do seem to be heading in the right direction, what with an impressive winning streak that (almost) erases the frustration of their pretty dismal April. On the other hand, it's hard to be optimistic that their neighbors in Shea will spend a lot more time above .500 this year.

June 5, 2005

The Kid Comes Through (Again)

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Unlike the women's title bout yesterday, the men's final at Roland Garros turned out to be quite interesting, after all. Having watched Rafael Nadal dismantle #1 Roger Federer in the semi on Friday--on his birthday, no less--I might have expected a lopsided championship match, but kudos to Mariano Puerta for putting up such a good fight. In the end, though, no one was going to keep this kid from living up to the considerable hype.

July 1, 2005

An American Pair Advances

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The Bryan brothers advanced to their first Wimbledon final today and, with the top-seeded team of Bjorkman/Mirnyi upset in the other semi, should be heavily favored to take the title against the unseeded pair of Huss and Moodie. The twins have been a bit unlucky losing in finals at the other three Grand Slam events lately, so perhaps they are due.

July 2, 2005

Breakfast At Wimbledon

Roddick came through his delayed semifinal, holding off a dangerous (and underrated) Thomas Johansson. I was pulling for Lindsay Davenport to nab another major at the age of 29, and she almost pulled it off, getting as close as a point away, but I was not unhappy to see Venus come back. Amazingly, the Bryan brothers lost another Slam final, this time to an unheralded tandem from Australia and South Africa.

July 5, 2005

A Bicycle Race

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The Discovery Channel squad won the team time trial in today's fourth stage of the Tour de France, putting leader Lance Armstrong back in the yellow jersey for the first time in 2005. It was an impressive display of depth, as the team kept all nine of its riders together throughout the course. This is one good reason to subscribe to digital cable: to see the Tour unfold on OLN's excellent coverage.

July 24, 2005

Soon Everyone Will Be Wearing These

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Fittingly, I was the first kid on the block to get the new adidas tennis shoe model, the Gallagher Barricade III edition. I designed the color scheme (blue and gold with silver trim) myself. This particular pair comes custom fitted for my feet. (The adidas people measured my feet a few different ways as well as my stride pattern to provide an exact fit for each foot, with sole density most appropriate for my needs.) Pretty stylish boots, if I do say so myself!

I gave this pair a trial run on the courts tonight with 2002 Choate captain Jeremy Zuidema and they acquitted themselves quite nicely.

July 30, 2005

Andre Earns His Stripes

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After nearly twenty years of watching Andre Agassi compete with the Nike swoosh emblazoned on his apparel and shoes, it's been a bit jarring this past week to see him decked out in an adidas ensemble. Now that he has a new contract, I guess we'll have to get used to Andre in the three-stripes look. He and his wife (Steffi Graf) can wear matching outfits! They may well come out with Agassi's own adidas line soon, but maybe he'll want to wear my signature edition shoe (the Gallagher Barricade III) instead?

August 9, 2005

Canadian Open Report

I know, they haven't called this tournament "the Canadian Open" for the better part of two decades, but that's still how I think of it. Montreal and Toronto share hosting duties, with either the men or the women in alternate years. This year the men are in Montreal.

I watched Andy Roddick go down in two sets to Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the featured evening match. Roddick didn't play especially well, but Mathieu was pulling shots out of his derriere. In light of Lleyton Hewitt's pulling out with a stomach ailment earlier in the day, the tourney is now missing two of its top four seeds. Anyone for a Nadal-Agassi final?

August 18, 2005

Cincy Tennis

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The ATP tournament in Cincinnati this week is a Masters Series event, which supposedly ensures all the top players are entered. I am hoping for a pair of dream semifinals: Federer vs. Safin and Hewitt vs. Roddick. The fireworks should fly on Saturday should these pairings materialize! (We lost a great potential quarterfinal match-up when Rafael Nadal lost in the first round; he was on track to meet Roddick.)

August 20, 2005

Cincinnati Semis

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Well, I wasn't surprised to see Safin lose to Ginepri yesterday. I watched a lot of the match and it's hard to believe the Russian is the same guy who handled Federer so capably in the Aussie Open semi in January. Safin can be brilliant, but he is SO inconsistent. The other three players I mentioned a few blog entries ago all advanced. The Hewitt/Roddick match later today could be a great one; I sense there's not a lot of love lost between these two. Roddick will need to serve well if he wants to avenge his loss to Hewitt in Melbourne. Hopefully the place I'm staying in Bermuda will have ESPN2!

Okay, I am off to the airport.

A Rivalry Gets More Interesting

Andy Roddick prevailed in a tight 6-4, 7-6 victory over Lleyton Hewitt in the second semifinal of the ATP Masters Series event in Cincinnati. The Australian dominated the rivalry before today, winning six of seven and the last three encounters, including a big showdown in the Australian Open semis in January. So when Roddick clinched the win this evening, he was visibly pumped. Next up for Andy is Roger Federer, who prevailed in a closer-than-expected three-setter over Robby Ginepri.

I watched the semis this afternoon and this evening on ESPN Deportes, the Latin American version of the cable network. Curiously, the matches were broadcast with English commentary, though with different analysts than ESPN uses back in the States.

August 21, 2005

Female Favorite For The Open?

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In light of a convincing win over her countrywoman and nemesis Justine Henin-Hardenne and the fact that she has only lost one match all summer on the hardcourt circuit, can anyone doubt that Kim Clijsters is the player to beat in the women's draw at the Open next month?

August 26, 2005

U.S. Open Preview

The tennis year doesn't end with the conclusion of the U.S. Open, but the fact that this is the final major of the year means there is a lot at stake for the world's top players.

Among the men, three players have a 2005 Grand Slam title already under their belts: Marat Safin (Australian), Rafael Nadal (French), and Roger Federer (Wimbledon). Should either of the latter two prevail in New York, he'll have a convincing case to be considered #1 for the year, as the pair also have split the entire ATP Masters Series titles between them (Safin would have a less compelling argument, in light of his inconsistency). Add into the mix a trio of former U.S. Open champions who play well on DecoTurf II and have reasonable expectations of contending--Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Roddick--and you have the makings of a great tourney. Obviously Federer is the man to beat (and has a great draw) but the Open has produced plenty of surprise results in the past, but it's hard to see anyone outside of these six hoisting the trophy in two weeks time.

On the women's side, you again have three champs in the year's previous majors: Serena Williams (Australian), Justine Henin-Hardenne (French), and Venus Williams (Wimbledon). Amazingly, none of these players in among the top four seeds. Also contending in Flushing Meadows are the two who have traded the #1 ranking back-and-forth the past few weeks--Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova--as well as the woman who has dominated the summer hard-court circuit: Kim Clijsters. This draw will be fun to watch unfold. Among the dark horses: #4 seed Amelie Mauresmo (who always seems to fold her tent when deep in the tournament), last year's champion and finalist, Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva, and Mary Pierce, who is enjoying her best year in some time; hard to envision any of this quartet winning, though.

August 27, 2005

New Stamp

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Arthur Ashe has been immortalized in a stamp, one which features the photo of the tennis great that was used for the Sports Illustrated cover when Ashe was named "Sportsman of the Year" in the early 1990s.

The stamp was officially unveiled today, when the USTA runs the Arthir Ashe Kids' Day event at the National Tennis Center.

August 31, 2005

Andy's Mojo?

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In light of Andy Roddick crashing out in the first round of the U.S. Open last night, do you think American Express regrets the (admittedly very clever) series of ads based on Andy losing his mojo?

More On Roddick's Loss

Veteran tennis writer Peter Bodo started a blog this year as part of the Tennis magazine website and has a good piece on Andy Roddick's U.S. Open loss here.

September 22, 2005

Back On Top

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The Bronx Bombers have recaptured first place in the A.L. East for the first time in months. They better damn well stay there!

January 2, 2006

On The Comeback Trail

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Former world #1 Martina Hingis won her first match back on tour after three years of retirement. I watched her practice quite a bit at Saddlebrook in Florida last March and she looked pretty good then.

January 15, 2006

Tennis Season Is Underway

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The 2006 tennis season kicks into high gear with the start of the Australian Open. Though it's Sunday night here, the time difference means I am watching Monday afternoon's matches live on ESPN2.

January 19, 2006

Waking Up To Tennis

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Kudos to ESPN2 for airing an incredible amount of live coverage of the Australian Open. When I awoke at 6:30 this morning, I turned on the TV--on a whim, really, as I usually would never think to do so at that hour--and watched the closing games of Juan Ignacio Chela's upset of #3 seed Lleyton Hewitt.

February 3, 2006

Time For Tennis

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Spent much of today taking in tennis at the Delray Beach ATP event, nor far from where my parents are spending the winter. My dad and I saw Vince Spadea (pictured serving, above) and Tommy Haas play and watched Andre Agassi on the practice court.

February 17, 2006

You Cannot Be Serious!

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John McEnroe is back, winning a first-round doubles match in an ATP event in California with partner Jonas Bjorkman. The win was completed hours before Mac's 47th birthday.

March 5, 2006

Tennis Season Gets Interesting

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The supposedly unassailable Roger Federer looks like he has a real rival. Young Rafael Nadal is now 3-1 against the Swiss #1, with a three-set win in the Dubai final this weekend on a hard court. Can it be that the #2-ranked Spaniard has Federer's number? Roger is on record saying he hates playing against the left-handed angles Nadal generates with the ferocious forehand.

2006 could be an interesting year with this rivalry blossoming.

March 16, 2006

Watching Tennis

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I've been able to see far more of the Indian Wells tennis tournament on television here in Shanghai--halfway around the world--than I would have back in the States. Live coverage of the event plays throughout the morning on one of the satellite sports channels. The age of globalization is here!

March 18, 2006

Podcasting

I used the new features in the updated iLife '06 suite--specifically Garage Band and iWeb--to create a pair of podcasts and a new site for the Choate tennis team. Check it out here.

March 22, 2006

New Sticks

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My 2006 equipment allotment from HEAD arrived today. My new racquet is the Flexpoint Prestige Mid. I'm looking forward to getting the new frames strung and getting out on the court with them this week.

April 9, 2006

Those Azaleas Sure Are Pretty

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Though I am a total hacker and a casual golf fan at best, it's hard to avoid getting swept up in the ambience of the "very special tradition" of The Masters tournament. I enjoyed watching the last couple of hours of coverage from Augusta, which seemed to feature a little less heart-tugging piano riffs and close-ups of the azaleas in bloom than in the past.

April 30, 2006

City Of Blinding Lights

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I spent much of yesterday in New York City, catching the Rangers game at Madison Square Garden--in which the Devils completed their sweep to advance to the semis of the Stanley Cup playoffs--and then watching the hot new Broadway show, The History Boys, in the evening.

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The production was one of the best I've seen. As a teacher--and a history and English teacher in particular--I found the play wonderfully provocative. The work is a thoughtful meditation on competing philosophies of education, the role of a teacher, and the very nature of history itself. While there is lot that's uniquely British about the play, there are universal themes here too. It's more than just serious "thee-a-tah," though, as the play is entertaining on many levels, with loads of biting humor on hand. The acting was first-rate and the staging wonderfully effective. The production was a critically acclaimed hit on the West End when it opened in London in 2004 and seems destined to a similar fate in its New York run.

It the mark of a great place that one can move seamlessly through the worlds of sport and art so easily. New York City is such a place. So is Choate.

May 1, 2006

Rafa Rolls On

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A week after extending his domination of world #1 Roger Federer to 4-1--and had a few points in Miami last year swung the other way, it would be 5-0--Rafael Nadal extended his impressive streak of clay court wins by capturing the Barcelona tournament. His run now has eclipsed Bjorn Borg's 46 wins by one and is closing in on the men's record of 53, held by Guillermo Vilas (the overall record of consective victories on clay is Chris Evert with 125--a pretty safe mark, if there ever was one!). Still ahead: more tournaments on the dirt in Rome, Hamburg, and Paris.

May 11, 2006

First Place, First Place

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Yeah, it's only May, but isn't it great that both the Mets and the Yanks sit atop their divisional standings?

May 14, 2006

Nadal Again

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A fifth-set tiebreak win gives Rafael Nadal another victory over #1 Roger Federer. Rafa saved two match points en route to the Rome Masters Series title. No doubt the young Spaniard is the king of clay courts; in defending his Italian Open title today, he tied the streak of 53 wins on the dirt that was set by Guillermo Vilas in the late 1970s. While Federer has been largely untouchable on the tour the last couple of years, he is now 1-5 against #2-ranked Nadal. Both are scheduled to play in the German Open next week (though Nadal dropped out last year after winning in Rome). After that, the French Open looms.

Today's final lasted more than five hours. Of course, I'd have loved to have watched it live, but Comcast in my area does not yet carry The Tennis Channel, so I followed the live scores update online.

May 27, 2006

Long Day Of Tennis

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The 2006 New England prep school tennis season concluded with a day-long singles and doubles tournament on the Choate campus. Congrats to CRH players pictured above: Eliot Jia and Ben Gettinger won the doubles crown.

May 29, 2006

Paris In Springtime

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Yesterday marked the start of the French Open. ESPN coverage starts at 5 a.m. each morning, so I will be waking up to tennis for the next two weeks.

U2 Spots For World Cup On ABC/ESPN

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I've been enjoying a great series of inspirational ads running on ESPN2 during the Roland Garros coverage. The commercials promote the upcoming World Cup on the ABC networks and feature the music of U2 as well as voice-overs by members of the band. Check out the ads online here.

Rafa Takes Clay Streak Record

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Rafael Nadal's first-round victory at the French Open enabled him to eclipse the consecutive wins on clay mark held by Argentina's Guillermo Vilas (below)--one of my boyhood favorites.

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May 31, 2006

Good Morning, Roland Garros

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So nice to see the French Open as soon as I wake up each morning: a feast for the eyes!

June 3, 2006

Four-Set Scare For Nadal

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Rafael Nadal survived a tough challenge from French player Paul-Henri Mathieu to win his 56th straight match on clay. Next up for the Spaniard is a showdown with Lleyton Hewitt, whom he's never defeated (thought the two have yet to meet on clay).

June 5, 2006

Captains Courageous

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This picture, which I took in May of 2005, has a generation of Choate Tennis captains from five different seasons: Mark Goldberg (2003 captain), Ben Gettinger (2007), Ming Ong (2005), Angelo Coclanis (2005), Eliot Jia (2006), and Karl Blunden (2004). Pretty cool.

Battle Royale

Lleyton Hewitt made Rafael Nadal work pretty hard in this Grand Slam showdown. Given Hewitt's recent history--he's lost to the eventual champion in seven of the past eight majors the past two years--this was a good omen for Nadal, who now extends his clay court streak to 57. But Federer is playing awfully well in the other half of the draw . . .

June 6, 2006

Happy 50th, Bjorn Borg

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The great Swedish player--one of my childhood idols--turns 50 today. Tennis hasn't really ever been the same since Borg more or less walked away from the game after losing the 1981 U.S. Open final.

June 8, 2006

Roland Garros: The Home Stretch

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The top four seeds face off in the French Open men's singles semifinals tomorrow, and of course everyone wants a Federer/Nadal final (which I'll probably miss due to travel, so I better fire up the DVR!). Justine Henin-Hardenne will be gunning for her third Roland Garros title against Svetlana Kuznetsova. And the Bryan twins reached their sixth straight major final and will take on Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi in a rematch of last's year's men's doubles championship; the Americans have won the last two Slam titles. A pretty intriguing final weekend!

June 9, 2006

Dream Final

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#1 vs. #2 on Sunday in Paris! Federer reached his first Roland Garros final and is in a position to hold singles titles at all four majors at once, should he win. Of course, he'd be halfway to a traditional (read: calendar year) Grand Slam, too, and the prohibitive favorite at Wimbledon next month. Nadal will have something to say about that, with an impressive streak of his own on the line and a pretty nice record against the Swiss star. Nadal's straight-set win in the semifinal and a day of rest should have him fresh for the final after a few grueling rounds earlier in the tournament. Federer has cruised through the draw and looks to be in top form and hungry! Ought to be a very intriguing championship match!

June 17, 2006

European Sports

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June is always a good time to be in Europe from a sporting perspective. While I'll miss Wimbledon this year--it starts a week later than usual, compared to the school calendar my life operates on--I've seen a lot of grass court action from the Queen's Club tournament this week on both Eurosport and BBC. And, of course, there seems to be some sort of soccer tournament getting people's attention here as well. I arrived in Holland early this afternoon and while the Greeks were clearly following the World Cup, the Dutch have a team in the competition and are doing well, so it's a BIG deal. (The photo above is of Holland team and fans decked out in their traditional orange garb.)

As I write these words, I am watching the U.S. side fight a must-win contest in its second game of the round robin against the Italian team. It's hard not to get caught up in the event while here in Europe. I'm sure England will be in the throes of soccer madness, too, when I arrive there on Monday. Anyway, I've been prepping a bit by reading an enjoyable book of essays: The Thinking Fan's Guide To The World Cup, with some excellent contributions by the likes of Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers, and Choatie (and The New Yorker writer) Jim Surowiecki. I recommend it, even for the casual soccer aficionados. (The pic below if the cover to the U.K. edition, which I picked up here in Amsterdam; there is a different cover in the U.S., but apparently the same content.)
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June 26, 2006

The Championships

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Today is the first day of "the fortnight" at Wimbledon. Among the storylines that should unfold in the next two weeks:

• Can Andre Agassi contend in his final appearance at the All-England Club?

• Will Roger Federer win a fourth straight title, as expected, in light of a brutal draw starting from his first-round date with Richard Gasquet?

• Can Justine Henin-Hardenne capture the only major title that has eluded her to date?

• What are the odds Venus Williams will be able to defend her 2005 crown?

• Will Andy Roddick find his long-lost mojo?

• Which of the following will experience a surprise breakthrough in the 2006 tournament: Andy Murray, Amelie Mauresmo, Rafael Nadal, James Blake, or Martina Hingis?

June 30, 2006

For The Tennis Fans Among You

This link will take you to a fascinating video clip (playback requires Windows Media Player) of former world #1 Mats Wilander offering some pretty frank commentary in the wake of the recent French Open final between Nadal and Federer. His observations on the nature of competition at this level are both provocative and astute. The clip is something any serious tennis fan will appreciate.

July 1, 2006

Great Day For Sports

Nice line-up available for consumption on a summer Saturday afternoon:

• Wimbledon third round matches, including Agassi vs. Nadal and the battle of the Andys (Roddick vs. Murray)

• World Cup quarterfinal action: England vs. Portugal and Brazil vs. France

• the Mets vs. the Yankees at the Stadium

• the first day of the Tour de France, which not only has lost its biggest star--seven-time champ Lance Armstrong--to retirement, but has seen the 2nd-, 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-place finishers from 2005 bounced out of the event as part of a doping scandal

• PGA golf just up the road in Cromwell, while the women play the U.S. Open in Newport, Rhode Island

Not a bad range of offerings.

July 2, 2006

The Kid Can Play On Grass, It Seems

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Nadal's thorough dismantling of Agassi in yesterday's third round match at Wimbledon suggests the young Spaniard has emerged as a threat in this tournament. He may not be able to get past Federer in a final, but it's hard to imagine anyone else in the draw would be a lock to beat Nadal.

July 4, 2006

The Final Four

The top four seeds in the Ladies' Singles Championship have advanced to Thursday's semis at Wimbledon: #1 Mauresmo will play #4 Sharapova and #2 Clijsters will take on #3 Henin-Hardenne in an all-Belgian affair. The latter match seems an easy pick, as Henin-Hardenne has dominated her countrywoman on the big occasions. The Mauresmo/Sharapova showdown is harder to call, because both players have shown themselves capable of melting down in big matches. Sharapova has the advantage of having won the title two years ago, but Mauresmo's game and athleticism may be better suited to the surface and she does have some added confidence as the 2006 Aussie Open champ. I'm picking JHH to win it all and complete the career Grand Slam.

July 7, 2006

This Is Why I Love The Internet

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This is a piece of music NBC Sports has used in its Wimbledon coverage since the late 1970s, something I never would have been able to track down and acquire had it not been for the good ol' World Wide Web.

July 8, 2006

Congrats

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Congrats to Amelie Mauresmo, who was impressive in winning her first Wimbledon crown, her second major championship of the year.

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Congrats to the Bryan twins for winning their first title at "the Big W"--they've now completed the career Grand Slam. Like Mauresmo, they won in Melbourne in January.

And congrats to me for my 500th post on this blog!

July 9, 2006

Too Good

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Federer repeats, though Nadal acquitted himself admirably after a slow start in today's final. For someone not given much credit on this surface just two weeks ago, Nadal proved his critics wrong and should be even more of a threat in future years.

Four in a row for the Swiss #1 in a pretty terrific feat, one made sweeter by a long-overdue win against his younger rival.

July 20, 2006

The Tour De France Gets Interesting

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In year one of the post-Lance Armstrong era, another American has emerged as the central figure in the world's most famous bicycle race. After surrendering the yellow jersey after a disastrous outing on Wednesday, Floyd Landis rebounded to put himself back in the title hunt with an incredible performace, winning the race's last Alpine stage. Landis lost more than eight minutes to the race leader in a punishing stage just 24 hours earlier, but reduced the deficit to 30 seconds earlier today in a five-hour effort that blew his rivals away. He now is a legitimate threat to finish on the Champs Elysees as the victor of the 2006 Tour. It will be interesting to watch what happens.

August 18, 2006

Yankee Territory vs. Red Sox Nation

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The cover story of the sports section in this morning's Times has a fascinating article on the geographic divide between Yanks and Sox fans. Of course, living halfway between Boston and New York, the border is pretty close to me. And the world in which I operate--a New England boarding school--seems to be split close to evenly between aficionados of each of the two clubs. It was this way even up in Andover, Mass., when I taught there; the 1986 World Series between the Sox and the Mets exposed a fault line right down the middle of the 44-person dorm in which I lived, given so many students from New York City and its environs.

The article could have explored the eastern end of Long Island, too. There's a border there for two reasons: (a) Sox legend Carl Yastremski hails from Bridgehampton; and (b) in the old days, the east end got Sox games on the radio from Rhode Island. Thus there are pockets of Sox fans out there.

August 19, 2006

The Bronx Bombers Win A Pair

I watched the second game of the Yanks' double header at Fenway to the bitter (actually, sweet, in this case) end . . . this showdown set the major league record for the longest nine-inning game ever. Having shellacked the Sox in the afternoon contest by a 12-4 score, the Yankees then prevailed in a seesaw 14-11 nightcap that included a seven-run seventh inning rally for New York. This puts the Sox 3.5 games behind their hated rival in the AL East race.

Tennis On Television

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The novelist David Foster Wallace has a brilliant piece on Roger Federer in the "Play" magazine insert in tomorrow's New York Times (which arrives on Saturday for home subscribers like me). In the article contains a spot-on analysis of the limits of appreciating the sport on television:

TV tennis has its advantages, but these advantages have disadvantages, and chief among them is a certain illusion of intimacy. Television’s slow-mo replays, its close-ups and graphics, all so privilege viewers that we’re not even aware of how much is lost in broadcast. And a large part of what’s lost is the sheer physicality of top tennis, a sense of the speeds at which the ball is moving and the players are reacting. This loss is simple to explain. TV’s priority, during a point, is coverage of the whole court, a comprehensive view, so that viewers can see both players and the overall geometry of the exchange. Television therefore chooses a specular vantage that is overhead and behind one baseline. You, the viewer, are above and looking down from behind the court. This perspective, as any art student will tell you, “foreshortens” the court. Real tennis, after all, is three-dimensional, but a TV screen’s image is only 2-D. The dimension that’s lost (or rather distorted) on the screen is the real court’s length, the 78 feet between baselines; and the speed with which the ball traverses this length is a shot’s pace, which on TV is obscured, and in person is fearsome to behold. That may sound abstract or overblown, in which case by all means go in person to some professional tournament — especially to the outer courts in early rounds, where you can sit 20 feet from the sideline — and sample the difference for yourself. If you’ve watched tennis only on television, you simply have no idea how hard these pros are hitting the ball, how fast the ball is moving, how little time the players have to get to it, and how quickly they’re able to move and rotate and strike and recover.

The entire article can be read here (registration required).

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Tough Weekend For The Fenway Faithful

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With their 13-5 victory today, the Yankees have scored at least 12 runs in each of the first three of a five-game series at Boston. UN-lucky for Sox fans!

August 20, 2006

Roddick Rebounds

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Andy Roddick captured his first title of 2006 in the Cincinnati tournament, finding form that has been long elusive. His defeat of Juan Carlos Ferrero was a replay of the 2003 Flushing Meadows final. Hopefuly Roddick can ride this momentum into a strong U.S. Open; he can't do much worse than his first round loss last year! Hard to imagine this former world #1 has dropped outside the top 15 in the rankings in recent weeks. At least this result ought to get him among the top 16 seeds in the Open, which will be critical in helping him avoid other contenders before the second week of the event.

Tiger Looking Tough

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Tiger Woods coasted to his 12th major title today in winning his third PGA Championship crown. He's clearly pulling away from Mickelson et al. and looking more like the unbeatable golfer we saw a few years back.

August 21, 2006

Bring Out Those Brooms

The Yankees just completed a five-game sweep of the Red Sox in Fenway Park. This series was as humiliating a string of defeats as I've seen in the regular season--surpassing even the fabled Boston Massacre of 1978. At this point, it's difficult to envision the Sox making the playoffs this fall.

August 24, 2006

I Feel Pretty

Check out this ad, which I'm sure will be in heavy rotation during the U.S. Open the next couple of weeks.

August 27, 2006

Tennis Nostalgia

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Just checked into my New York City hotel. On the eve of the U.S. Open, there are lots of tennis folks around town. (I am here for the USTA's conference for coaches.) As the Open will be Andre Agassi's last event before his retirement, ESPN Classic is now replaying the final of the 1995 Australian Open final between him and Pete Sampras. I have warm memories of this particular tournament, which Agassi won. It was the first appearance of the "pirate look" for Andre; he had finally cut his dyed long hair before playing in Melbourne, radically changing his image. It was also the year when Sampras experienced a semi-breakdown during his quarterfinal match against Jim Courier, in light of the medical difficulties Pete's coach Tim Gullikson (who later died of brain cancer) was going through at the time. At the time, the two players were ranked #1 and #2. Arguably each was at his peak (or, in Agassi's case, one of his peaks!). The final was of remarkably high quality and it was called by the all-star ESPN commentary squad of Cliff Drysdale, Fred Stolle, and Mary Carillo. It's a treat to watch it again.

August 28, 2006

Night Play At The U.S. Open

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Upon returning from the theater, I caught Andre Agassi's rebound in the third set of his first round match from a 0-4 deficit to a tiebreak win. The fourth set will start past midnight.

August 29, 2006

Agassi Wins One

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After a tight start, Agassi pulled out his first round match against a game Andrei Pavel.

Jimmy Connors

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I was supposed to spend most of the day out at the U.S. Open, but rain washed out the schedule of matches. This morning, Jimmy Connors was featured in the closing session of the USTA conference in New York. Having been a rabid "Jimbo" fan in the 1980s, it was cool to hear him wax philosophic about tennis past and present.

August 31, 2006

Late Night Drama

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Andre Agassi is on serve, 3-2, in the fifth set of his match with #8 seed Marcos Baghdatis and this is another match about to head past midnight!

September 2, 2006

The State Of Red Sox Nation

Even though he (somewhat accurately) refers to being a Yankees fan being like "cheering for Microsoft," this piece by Salon.com sports columnist King Kaufman is pretty entertaining.

September 9, 2006

Roddick Is Back

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The Lleyton Hewitt match earlier in the week spoke volumes about Andy Roddick's rebound under the tutelage of Jimmy Connors in recent weeks: Roddick was much more effective against his nemesis Hewitt, particularly with a devastating down-the-line backhand that has been sorely missing for the last year or so.

Today, Roddick advanced to the final with some quality tennis against Mikhail Youzhny. Though Roger Federer will be tough to beat in tomorrow's title match, Andy is in a much better frame of mind than he's been in a long time. Perhaps the final will resemble the genuinely competitive 2005 Wimbledon final the two played?

Now She Feels REALLY Pretty

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Maria Sharapova leaves the ranks of the "one Slam wonders" by winning her second major at the U.S. Open tonight, besting Justine Henin-Hardenne, 6-4, 6-4. Sharapova knocked off the top two players in the world in succession, eliminating Amelie Mauresmo in the semfinal a day before.

(In case you missed my earlier posting on the topic, here is the link to Maria's Nike ad, which has been in heavy rotation on USA Network and CBS the past couple of weeks.)

September 10, 2006

"Grandma" Goes Out In Style

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Heading into her second retirement from the pro tour, Martina Navratilova teamed with Bob Bryan to claim the U.S. Open mixed doubles crown--her 59th title at a Slam event. That she achieved this just shy of her 50th birthday is amazing.

Master Class

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Roger Federer was just too good. In spite of a Andy Roddick's improved physical and mental approach to the game, when the Swiss player broke at a set all and 6-5 to take the third, you knew the steamroller was about to flatten Roddick in the U.S. Open men's singles final. Federer put on a show in the fourth set, seemingly winning points at will with a dazzling array of groundstrokes, serves, and net play. The key statistic of the night was 59 winners to 19 errors for Federer: an amazingly high quality of play. He nailed down major title #9 and--like Tiger Woods, who was sitting in the courtside box with the Federer party--leads one to wonder just how many more lie ahead for this player at the peak of his powers.

September 23, 2006

Tuning My Run

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I calibrated my new iPod Nano with my Nike+ shoes, measuring 400 meters at both walking and jogging pace. The Sport Kit provided a chip for the shoes and a device that connects to the bottom of the Nano, such that a runner can get feedback during a workout on distance, time, pace, calories burned, etc. All the data can by synced with the Nike+ site to track overall progress with some nifty graphs and reports.

October 10, 2006

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie . . .

. . . oi, oi, oi!

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I ordered tickets for Rod Laver Arena so I can attend the first two days of the Australian Open in Melbourne in January, as part of my round-the-world trip during my sabbatical leave this winter. If I can swing a weekend getaway to Paris over Memorial Day weekend, I may try to complete a tennis Grand Slam of my own by attending all four majors in 2007.

October 30, 2006

Sound Clip Of The Day

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This ought to bring back memories of those old enough to remember June 1981.

November 19, 2006

Too Good

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Roger Federer won five matches this week in Shanghai to win the Tennis Masters Cup, the year-end tour championship. Along the way he bested Andy Roddick (coming back from match points down!), nemesis Rafael Nadal, and--in today's final--James Blake.

The semifinal victory over Nadal was a critical result. The young Spaniard had a tremendous start to 2006, beating Federer in four finals and pushing him even on grass in the title match at Wimbledon. It looked like Rafa might play the role of spoiler as the Swiss star aimed to finish at #1 for the third straight year. But Nadal had a disappointing summer and fall and Federer has been nearly flawless, losing just once since Roland Garros in June.

November 26, 2006

A Clever Solution

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So you've got yourself the nifty Nike+ Sport Kit for the iPod Nano, but what if you want to run in non-Nike shoes? Well this vendor has a nifty solution: a little case for the shoe chip that fits into the lacing of any running shoe. Of course, I already splurged for a pair of 180s; had I known about this before, I could have saved myself $100.

December 15, 2006

Convening With College Tennis Coaches

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Most of today was spent in workshop presentations aimed at college tennis coaches--whose work is not all that different from the kind of coaching I do each spring at Choate. It's the fiftieth anniversary of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. There's a big awards banquet tonight, which I will probably skip in favor of checking out the sights in Miami.

January 9, 2007

Tennis Today

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I am heading out to the Olympic park here in Sydney for the Medibank International, a combined ATP/WTA tournament that serves as a tune-up for the Australian Open, which begins next week in Melbourne. When I was here last in 1998, the Sydney event--historically known as the New South Wales Open--was then called the adidas International and was still played at White City, one of the classic venues of the sport, close to the center of town.

I am looking forward to seeing the Olympic facility used for the 2000 Sydney Games. Top seed Rafael Nadal is playing in one of the featured matches of the day in the tennis stadium, as are James Blake, Amelie Mauresmo, and Kim Clijsters.

The Day's Matches

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I took these shots at the Sydney Tennis Centre at the Olympic Park in the Homebush Bay section of Sydney. I had a great seat down low in the stadium for the feature matches and wandered the grounds extensively, spending a lot of time at the practice courts. It was a good day of tennis: Blake won handily, Mauresmo pulled through in three, Clijsters obliterated Aussie Nicole Pratt, then Nadal retired trailing 5-6 (on serve) in the first set of his match against up-and-coming Chris Guccione from Melbourne (who has a huge serve). Nadal strained a leg muscle and opted to rest if before the Aussie Open, which begins next week.

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I stayed late to watch the Bryan brothers play doubles; I left after they won the first set, but apparently they lost in the match tiebreak to Clement/Llodra.

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January 13, 2007

Kooyong

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The Kooyong venue was the site of the Australian Open for many years before the shift to Melbourne Park in 1988. It's clear why the event moved: the club is charming, but the demands of a grand slam event outgrew what the facility could offer. The club is a great site for this exhibition tournament, though, which eight of the top male players use as a warm-up for the Open across town. I took the train from the city center and was deposited a stone's throw from the club. It was fortunate that I booked my ticket online the evening before, for this was the first time a session sold out in the Classic. I arrived as the third-place playoff was underway (Andy Murray beat Marat Safin in a first-set tiebreak and cruised to a quick second-set win). Though assigned an upper-tier seat, I finagled my way down low and spend most of the afternoon at the level of the first row behind court and thus captured these images at pretty short range.

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The main event was the Federer/Roddick match. Roddick took the first set 6-2, and his groundstrokes were penetrating much deeper into the court than they had been in a while. This enabled Andy to come to net to knock off some easy winners time and again. I guess Jimmy Connors gets some credit for that.

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Federer was clearly fired up for the second set and came out like gangbusters, quickly breaking Roddick and showing the smooth shot-making skill that has made him #1 in the world. He won it 6-3. Watching the Swiss player's game from this close, I was amazed at what he could do with a ball when he was in trouble. It's not that he can scramble to recover tough shots--other players such as Nadal are better at that--but rather the way he can take, say, a low short ball with no pace and deftly flick it on a sharp angle with even less pace for a clean winner. Most other players would struggle to do more than put that ball back into play! His touch is buttery.

The third set was hard fought, but Roddick's resolve carried the day, taking the decider 6-3.

January 15, 2007

Grand Slam Action

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I am getting ready to head over to Melbourne Park for the opening day of the Australian Open. I was last here in 1998. The venue has a great layout and is very spectator-friendly. There's a good line-up on the show courts, but a lot of the attraction for me is the outer courts and the practice courts.

There are some interesting storylines building for this year's tournament:

• Can Federer continue his dominance of the major events and win a tenth Slam event?
• Can Nadal breakthrough in a major other than Roland Garros?
• Will Andy Roddick build on the momentum he established in the second half of
2006?
• Will James Blake live up to his seeding and get past the fourth round for the first time in Melbourne?
• Can Maria Sharapova win a second major in a row?
• Will Kim Clijsters add another Grand Slam title to her resumé in her final year on the tour?
• Can Amelie Mauresmo defend her crown?
• Will Serena Williams be a factor again at this level?

Day One Of The Aussie Open

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The tennis is clearly the center of attention in Melbourne for this fortnight, even more than is the case in London or New York (I have yet to be in Paris during the French Open, so I can't speak to that). There's front page coverage in all the nation's newspapers. The city clearly is bending over backwards for the visitors attending the tournament: a ticket to the Open gets you free tram rides throughout the city to get to and from the event!

Feature Matches

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At Melbourne Park, the big names on Rod Laver Arena were Amelie Mauresmo, Roger Federer, and Marcos Baghdatis. Mauresmo cruised, Federer kicked into gear after a tight first set, and last year's finalist Baghdatis prevailed in four sets over another former runner-up, Ranier Schuettler.

I also spent a lot of time on the outside courts, too, watching the likes of Richard Gasquet and Paradorn Srichapan compete and seeing Carlos Moya, Rafael Nadal, and Lleyton Hewitt practice.

The layout of the facility is very spectator friendly and the addition of Vodaphone Arena--new since my last visit here in 1998--makes it a much more expansive venue. I didn't see Roddick's match over on Vodaphone, but he rallied from a set down and 2-5 to win in four, with some verbal fireworks aimed at the umpire along the way.

Though it was warm, it was overcast for much of the day, which made it much more comfortable for players and fans alike.

January 16, 2007

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

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Top seed Maria Sharapova played in the first featured match on Rod Laver Arena today. If today's form is any indication, the young Russian may have a rocky road ahead in this tournament. She eked out the win, 8-6 in the third, after surrendering a 5-0 lead in the final set. But along the way, she sprayed balls all over the court and hit two of the shakiest second serves and the absolute worst overhead shank I've ever seen from a pro player (the ball landed a foot in front of her!). Sharapova's victory was more the result of her opponent--Camille Pin of France--choking when she served for the match and was as close as two points away from pulling off the upset.

A Scorcher

As temperatures soared past 35°C (95°F) in Melbourne, the combination of heat and humidity forced the Australian Open to invoke its Extreme Heat Policy, which meant cancelling the start of any new matches on outer courts. (Matches already underway would be played to their conclusion.) The two main show courts each feature a retractable roof, which meant I got to watch the roof of Rod Laver Arena slowly close over the course of about fifteen minutes; I was amazed at how quiet the process was. Once finished, the atmosphere of the court was entirely transformed for the Nadal and Clijsters matches that followed. It felt like an indoor tournament, as the lighting and even the reverberating sounds of the match were significantly different. It didn't seem to matter at all to the top players, though, as both Nadal and Clijsters cruised in straight sets--the latter with a double bagel! As a spectator, it was surely more enjoyable to watch the tennis from air conditioned comfort.

January 19, 2007

Heavyweight Bout

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The Andy Roddick/Marat Safin third round match in the Aussie Open was great tennis. Roddick prevailed in four sets in front of coach Jimmy Connors who returned to Australia for the first time in thirty years.

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Connors was the 1974 champ in Melbourne but in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Aussie Open was considered lacking in prestige and few of the top male players made the trip Down Under to contest it. A quick look at the honor roll of champions reflects that: Mark Edmonson, Brian Teacher, and Johan Kriek--hardly household names for the general public--all won titles in that era. Even clay court king Guillermo Vilas was able to nab two crowns on the grass at Kooyong. The tide turned a bit in the mid-1980s and certainly in 1988 when Tennis Australia moved the event to the new Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park) venue and hard courts.

January 22, 2007

Rafa Edges Murray

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Nadal just prevailed in five sets over Andy Murray, wearing the Scot out in the final stages of the match in the wee hours of the morning in Melbourne. Though Rafa trailed 0-1 and 1-2 in sets, he battled tenciously and his edge in fitness enabled him to take this first meeting between the two players. This could be the beginning of an interesting Murray/Nadal rivalry.

What this tournament demonstrated was that Andy Murray clearly will be a threat in the majors in the foreseeable future. He was one of only two players to beat Federer last year and the addition of Brad Gilbert to his coaching team is only going to hasten is development as a player. He looked impressive when I saw him in person beating Safin at Kooyong and was repeatedly drilling winners against Nadal for much of tonight's match--something precious few players can pull off. Murray has already broken into the top 20 and I suspect a top 10 slot is not too far away.

January 24, 2007

Tennis Coverage

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My hotel in Saigon gets the Star Sports network, which carries the Australian Open, just as it did in Singapore; the difference is that in the coverage here there is no commentary. Over the weekend, I listened to Vijay Amritraj providing the analysis on each match--supposedly from a Singapore studio, I'm told--but here I guess the idea is to provide a linguistically neutral presentation. So it's basically the raw feed, with live match sounds and the post-match on-court interviews. Though at times the play-by-play and color men and women in the booth can be overbearing, I find it's a little dry to listen to just the match sounds.

No Federer/Nadal Showdown This Time

The top two men's tennis players will NOT be meeting in the year's Australian Open, as a very much on-form Francisco Gonzalez continued his strong run (wins over Hewitt and Blake) at the tournament by bouncing Rafael Nadal out in straight sets. The marquee match left in the event is the Federer/Roddick semifinal tomorrow. Gonzalez will take on Tommy Haas in the other half of the draw.

January 25, 2007

Roger Rolls On

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Well, that didn't take long. Federer thumped Roddick. After 4-all in the first set, the Swiss player took 14 of the final 16 games. The Fed was devastating, playing nearly flawless tennis. It was hard not to feel sorry for Roddick, who had no answers for the dazzling winners his opponent hit from all corners of the court.

January 26, 2007

Gonzalez Advances

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Fernando Gonzalez of Chile continued his dream run, manhandling Tommy Haas in striaght sets to move into his first Slam final. If he plays like this on Sunday, he might even be able to challenge Federer.

Interestingly, the quick finish to the match meant that the scheduled Australia Day fireworks--which awkwardly would have been going off while play was underway--began almost at the moment of Gonzalez's victory.

January 27, 2007

Serena Is Back

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In keeping with the lopsided results in the men's semis, Serena Williams just finishing an absolute pasting of top-seeded Maria Sharapova in the final of the Australian Open for her third Melbourne crown. The score was 6-1, 6-2, and it wasn't that close! Serena's path to her eighth major title evokes memories of Andre Agassi's phoenix-like rebirth at several points in his career; maybe she can enter a second phase of reasserted dominance, too? Today it was clear that even the #1-ranked player in the world could be outclassed by Williams in top form. (Maybe this will inspire Venus to get back on court, too?)

Bryans Prevail

I got to watch the entirety of the men's doubles final on Star Sports. The Bryan brothers successfully defended their title against the second-seeded Bjorkman/Mirnyi team, 7-5, 7-5.

January 28, 2007

Second Thoughts On Federer/Roddick

Star Sports is nothing if not thorough in its coverage of the Aussie Open. Most of the major matches have been replayed at least once. The Federer/Roddick semifinal is being aired now in anticipation of the final, to be televised live.

While I was blown away by the magic of Federer when I watched this match live, in hindsight I wonder if Roddick really helped the Swiss player look so good. Andy seemed intent on coming behind some awfully short balls, for one thing. And where was that big serve and the booming putaways I saw in Kooyong two weeks before? Admittedly, Roger was in rare form, but the American didn't do much to get him out of his comfort zone in this match after 4-all in the first set. Roddick got frustrated quickly and didn't seem to be able to switch game plans. It would have been an uphill battle in any case, but maybe Connors can help him flesh out a few more options for the next time they meet.

February 4, 2007

No Super Bowl For This Guy

As I only get one English language channel--Star Movies--in my hotel, watching the Super Bowl tonight is not in the cards. Not a huge loss, really, though the commercials are probably more than half of the attraction of the event. (By the way, there's a rumored Apple ad on tap, one that announces the availability of The Beatles catalogue on iTunes Music Store, following the settlement of lots of litigation between Apple Computer and Apple Records over the use of the "Apple" name associated with selling music. We'll see. Or rather, you will see and I'll read about it tomorrow.)

February 11, 2007

U.S. Advances In Davis Cup

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Andy Roddick clinched the Davis Cup quarterfinal win for the U.S., giving the Americans an insurmountable 3-1 lead against the Czech Republic this afternoon. That Roddick won the match on clay, against a tough opponent in the form of world #12 Tomas Berdych, was especially impressive.

The U.S. has the potential to go all the way this year and take its first Cup since 1995. Roddick and James Blake are among the top six players in the current rankings and the Bryan brothers have been #1 in doubles for a while now. That's a formidable line-up. Of course, the next opponent, Spain, has Nadal (#2) and Robredo (#7) as potential team members, but the tie will be played on hard courts in North Carolina. That, plus the almost certain point the U.S. will get in doubles, should make the Americans favored. It would be nice to see this squad make a title run.

February 23, 2007

Hosting A National Championship

As I am preparing to head to New Hampshire for the weekend's New England prep school squash tourney, the Johnson Athletic Center is playing host to the Men's Intercollegiate National Championship. We co-host this event every third year with Yale University. Right now, a couple of the top college teams (Trinity, Harvard) are competing on the Choate courts, providing a great spectating opportunity for the students and faculty on campus.

February 24, 2007

Adrenaline Is Pumping

I am spending the weekend bouncing back and forth between the two venues of the squash New Englands. The "A" tournament is at Phillips Exeter and the "B" division is at Brooks School, about a half-hour south. It's tremendously satisfying after a couple days of intensive effort (and weeks of prior planning) to see this event up and running.

February 25, 2007

Conspiracy Theories

Having run the New England prep school squash tournament for over twenty years now, I'm used to hearing some grumbling about seeding, draws, etc. It goes with the territory.

This year and last year, though, one particular school has made some less-than-subtle hints that the draws are always fixed to benefit my own team (which I don't even coach any more!), an accusation that clearly crosses the line. It is particularly galling this time around because it denigrates the efforts of the Choate players who really had a great final day of competition, winning matches against some tough opponents representing other schools finishing just a couple of points apart in the team scoring. The Wild Boars finished tied for fourth overall this year on the backs of these playoff and consolation wins--a bunch of them in five games--rather than through any advantage in the draw positions.

Moreover, the evidence of "a fix" was supposedly a favorable draw for the Choate #1 (a flight wherein the CRH player didn't win a single match for the second year in a row!). Last year the squad--when I WAS head coach--underperformed with a 10th-place finish! And each of the past two years, the team's captain has faced a top seed in the very first round. So if I'm "setting up" the draws, I must be doing a pretty lousy job of it.

Of course, what most of the critics don't understand is that the system is virtually corruption-proof. We have a five-member seeding committee reflecting geographic diversity that is elected by all coaches. Seeding is done by the group, the draws are made immediately by a computer program and posted on the Internet for all to review. It's about as transparent as we can make it, but I guess there always will be people taking cheap shots.

March 4, 2007

Choate Girls' Hockey Wins New Englands

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Congrats to the Wild Boars girls' ice hockey team, which captured the New England championship this afternoon, defeating Noble and Greenough School 5-2 in the final round.

March 8, 2007

Tennis In The Wind

Just got in from the morning tennis clinic on the Marriott courts--an hour of light drilling and an informal doubles round-robin. It's nice to be back on the courts after a layoff of nearly five months. There's something truly satisfying in simply finding the sweet spot and hitting the ball well. What's different here is the incessant wind, a bit frustrating when one is trying find his service timing after being away from the game for a while.

March 16, 2007

Nadal vs. Roddick

The fact that the numbers 2 and 3 ranked players in the world won their quarterfinal matches at Indian Wells yesterday means tomorrow we will be treated to a semifinal showdown between Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick. Strangely, the two have not played since December 2004. Their head-to-head record is 1-1, with the American winning in the U.S. Open and the Spaniard prevailing on clay in the Davis Cup final. This ought to be a great match to watch.

Practice Courts

I spent much of the afternoon out at the practice courts watching the pros work out: James Blake, Martina Hingis, and the Bryan brothers--all of whom lost early out in Indian Wells--were tuning up their games before heading down to Miami for the next major event next week.

March 18, 2007

Rafa Prevails In The Desert

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Rafael Nadal gave Andy Roddick a lesson in yesterday's semifinal (which concluded conveniently before I had to head to the Tampa airport) and fended off up-and-comer Novak Djokovic in today's final to win his first title since Roland Garros last June.

The young Spaniard had been on a tear through 2005 and the first half 2006, earning a slew of tournament wins. He made it to the Wimbledon final in something of a surprise run last July, too, before hitting something of a slump (albeit a "slump" that any player in the world other than perhaps Roger Federer would have loved to have).

Good to see Rafa back in the winner's circle. Maybe a showdown with Federer is in the cards down in Miami in the next event on the circuit?

We'll likely see a rematch of Nadal-Roddick in the Davis Cup tie in North Carolina in a few weeks time, too. Hopefully for the U.S. squad, Blake and Roddick will bring their "A" games, for Nadal is clearly a force to be reckoned with on the hard courts again.

April 7, 2007

U.S. Advances

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Congrats to the U.S. Davis Cup team for dispatching Spain to advance to the semifinal round. Playing in North Carolina, James Blake shook off his slump with a straight-sets win over top-tenner Tommy Robredo in Friday's first match. Andy Roddick followed suit with another convincing victory in the second singles showdown. Today's doubles success by Bob and Mike Bryan clinched the tie for the home team.

April 14, 2007

Tennis Season Is Underway

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Choate Tennis finished the week with victories in the first two matches of the 2007 season: one on Wednesday at Loomis Chaffee, and a contest here this afternoon against Phillips Exeter. We'll try to keep up the good work.

April 17, 2007

It's About Time

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I got a letter from Comcast, my cable company, today informing me that Tennis Channel will be appearing on my line-up around May 8--just in time for the French Open coverage. Yay!

April 19, 2007

Long Day

Just got in from an off-day away tennis match up at Westminster School. Choate won, 5-2, but because we didn't leave until after the class day and our route to Simsbury was detoured due to the flooding of the Farmington River, we started late and of course matches dragged on far longer than they should have. An occupational hazard, I guess.

April 20, 2007

A Place I'd Like To Be Right Now

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The Monte Carlo Country Club is hosting one of the ATP's Masters Series tournaments this week. This event is over a century old and has long been considered one of the premier stops on the European spring clay court circuit. Supposedly the club is a spectacularly beautiful setting, with scenic views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

So far, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal remain on course for a final-round rematch of the 2006 championship. Nadal is gunning for a third straight Monte Carlo title.

April 22, 2007

Double Trouble

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Kudos to the Bryans for adding another Masters Series title to their impressive list of career accomplishments by winning the Monte Carlo title earlier today.

Hat Trick

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Three Monte Carlo titles in a row for Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard beat #1 Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 in a rematch of the 2006 final and now holds a 5-0 edge on the Swiss player on clay. Nadal climbs to 7-3 overall against Federer and extends his clay winning streak to 67. Hard to argue Rafa won't be the odds on favorite for a third French Open title as well this spring.

A Shout Out

Check out a new sports-themed blog produced by a couple of Choate fourth formers: http://www.thebleachercreatures.com/.

April 24, 2007

R.I.P. David Halberstam

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David Halberstam died this week in a car accident in California. He enjoyed a distinguished career as a journalist and a sportswriter. I admire the versatility with which he alternated his work between "serious" topics and sport; of course, I'd argue he approached the latter with the same seriousness of purpose he brought to all his coverage of politics and culture. I've enjoyed a number of his books, which I've always found well written and provocative.

One personal anecdote came to mind in the wake of his passing: some years ago when I was teaching the Vietnam War elective here at Choate, I included excerpts from The Best And The Brightest, Halberstam's book on the genesis of the war among American politicians, on my syllabus. Well, one day Halberstam was visiting the Choate campus--I think one of his children was an applicant--and the tour guide was one of my students enrolled at that time in The U.S. In Vietnam. The good news was that this student told Mr. Halberstam that he was reading The Best And The Brightest as part of his coursework and found it fascinating. The bad news was that he let on that Halberstam's book had been distributed in (royalty-free) photocopy form! D'oh!

Anyway, we will miss this man of letters and his urbane and humane voice.

April 25, 2007

The Wild Boars Tennis Podcast

Choate Tennis has finished the first half of its season and now holds a respectable 5-1 record (the team dropped a 3-4 match to Taft on Monday). I have been producing podcasts with members of the squad after each contest, something that has proved to be popular with players, their families, and others on campus.

It's password protected--as it's intended for an internal audience--so anyone wanting to sample it should drop me a line.

April 26, 2007

Off To The Stadium

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I am heading to the Bronx to see if the Yanks can snap a losing streak. 20-year-old phenom Phil Hughes is on the mound for his major league debut.

April 27, 2007

Bronx Bombers Bomb

The number 6 was not kind to the Yankees tonight. They dropped a game to the Blue Jays 0-6 for their sixth straight loss. Another disappointing effort from the men in pinstripes.

April 29, 2007

Nadal Keeps Streak Alive

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Rafael Nadal three-peated in Barcelona to extend his clay court winning streak on the tour to 72. He is now 15-0 in finals on the dirt.

May 1, 2007

Minor League Ball

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Tonight I watched my second professional baseball game in less than a week. I joined a dozen or so colleagues at New Britain Stadium to see the Rock Cats defeat the Binghamton Mets.

May 2, 2007

Schizo Tennis

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Earlier today, Rafael Nadal prevailed in a third-set tiebreak against Roger Federer in an exhibition match in Mallorca. The result itself is close to meaningless, given the context, but the gimmick in this match is the court, which was grass on one side and red clay on the other--the best surfaces of the two players.

May 5, 2007

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

Ugh. Choate Tennis dropped another match today--this time to arch-rival Deerfield. This was one we should have won. We dropped the doubles point after serving for the match. Even though we took first sets in five of the six singles matches, we could only hold on in three of them. Final score: 3-4.

May 6, 2007

A Day At The Races

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I drove over to western Connecticut this morning to Lake Waramaug to see the Choate crews compete in the Founder's Day Regatta. Watching rowing is sort of like going to watch the Tour de France--a few seconds of frenetic cheering surrounded by lots of sitting around and eating.

May 9, 2007

Channel 277

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At last! I woke up this morning to live coverage of the ATP Masters Series event in Rome. I now receive Tennis Channel (no "the" apparently). This makes me SO happy.

May 11, 2007

The Streak Is Alive At 75

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Rafael Nadal's defeat of Novak Djokovic in the Rome quarterfinals today was his 75th straight win on clay. Impressive. And I got to watch the tennis live on Tennis Channel. I really love this cable channel!

My Trusty Jack Kramer

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At a light team practice today, a few of us hit around with some racquets from my personal museum: wood racquets like the Wilson Jack Kramer (my first "real" racquet, the one that I played with in high school) and the Head Vilas, as well as the steel T-2000 made famous by Jimmy Connors. I have to say I enjoyed the smooth, buttery feel of the wooden stick. It's been many years since I played regularly with wood, but I'm glad I learned the game with the old equipment.

May 12, 2007

From The Mouths Of Babes

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In a conversation with a Choate student, I casually referenced Bjorn Borg. The response was "Who is Bjorn Borg?" Wow! When I was in about 10th grade, I thought Borg was the coolest guy on the planet.

May 13, 2007

Three In A Row

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Rafael Nadal takes his third straight Rome Masters title, waxing Fernando Gonzalez pretty quickly. Rafa closes the gap a bit between himself and #1 Roger Federer. It will be interesting to see: (a) how Federer--who just announced his split with coach Tony Roche--fares in the Hamburg Masters Series event this week, and (b) if Nadal drops out of the Hamburg event, as he did last year.

May 16, 2007

Ouch!

Choate Tennis stumbled again, this time losing to Hotchkiss for the first time since 1999. This was another winnable match that we couldn't put away. I am not used to this!

May 18, 2007

The Phone Is Glued To My Ear

I spent most of today re-shuffling tomorrow's tennis championships in light of the heavy rain forecast for the weekend. It was non-stop e-mailing and phone calling, but we finally have indoor venues on tap for six different sites in Classes A, B, and C tournaments.

May 19, 2007

Vengeance

Choate Tennis avenged its earlier loss to Deerfield by upsetting the Big Green in the first round of the New England Class "A" tournament this morning. Sweet!

May 20, 2007

A Change In The Landscape

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Roger Federer dropped the first set in the Hamburg final against his nemesis Rafael Nadal, but was able to win the final two sets in commanding form, dropping only two games. Suddenly the prospects for his winning Roland Garros have gotten a bit brighter.

A Sporting Day

After watching this morning's German Open final on television, I met some '06 tennis alums for a little doubles action at the Hunt Tennis Center. Following that I took in the Western New England softball championship game here on campus (Choate won, beating Loomis Chaffee in the final!). In a few minutes I will be heading down to Shea Stadium for the Mets/Yankees game.

May 21, 2007

Call And Response

Like an old-time Sunday morning church meeting, Shea Stadium was filled with call and response. It went something like this:
"Let's go, Yankees . . . "
"Yankees SUCK!"

As a fan of both New York teams (which is heretical in some quarters, I know) I enjoyed watching the interaction between the partisans all night.

The Yankees finally won one, by the way, 6-2.

May 23, 2007

Ending With A Whimper, Not A Bang

Choate Tennis concluded its regular season with a shutout win at Avon Old Farms. A rather anti-climactic finish to a season with a handful of hotly contested matches. We celebrated afterward at Bertucci's.

May 26, 2007

Kudos

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Congrats to Ben Gettinger and Max Mullen, 2007 New England champions in doubles.

May 27, 2007

Springtime In Paris

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Opening day at Roland Garros! Tennis time once again. I am looking forward to the wall-to-wall coverage on Tennis Channel. Apparently it is raining in Paris today, so match play is intermittent.

I was actually planning to be on site this year. I would have taken a flight around 11 p.m. last night--after running the NEPSITT at Choate all day yesterday--and seen play on Sunday and Monday before jetting back to school. But when I investigated cashing in some mileage points, it turned out to be too complicated and too expensive to pull it off. I probably waited until it was far too late. Maybe next year?

May 28, 2007

The 1991 U.S. Open

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I can remember being riveted to the 1991 U.S. Open--the year Jimmy Connors advanced to the semis at age 39, capturing the attention of the world with his dramatic come-from-behind wins along the way. After each match, he had to be hooked up to an IV and he could barely walk the next day. As I recall, I was mystified by this: he wasn't THAT old after all. How could a tennis match take that much out of him?

Having played three sets of doubles this evening, I now can fully appreciate Jimbo's position. Even though I wasn't playing at a world class level, I feel stiff all over tonight. The body doesn't recover like it used to!

(By the way, I ended up attending the Open men's singles final in 1991 with Choate captain Case Maner, seeing Stefan Edberg dismantle Jim Courier in straight sets.)

June 2, 2007

New Barricade IV Model For Summer

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adidas is offering its popular Barriade IV tennis shoe in a special "Stars and Stripes" edition for the North American summer circuit, which culminates in the U.S. Open. Presumably we'll see the Bryan brothers sporting these in the Davis Cup.

June 4, 2007

Gunning For A Third At Roland Garros

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Just finishing watching Rada dismantle Lleyton Hewitt on Tennis Channel's live coverage from the French Open: two quick sets and one battle through a tiebreak. Nadal is looking better with each match he plays in Paris.

June 5, 2007

Anticlimactic Heavyweight Bout

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The quarterfinal showdown between Aussie Open winner Serena Williams and defending Roland Garros champ Justine Henin turned out to be a disappointing encounter, mostly because Serena couldn't summon her best tennis. The Belgian won 6-4, 6-3. Most observers considered this match the de facto final, two rounds too early. It was hard to see anyone other than one of these two hoisting the trophy; Henin is now the only past champion remaining in the draw. No Grand Slam in women's singles this year! (Incidentally, I think the best bets for a sweep of the four majors in 2007 are the Bryan brothers in men's doubles, though if Federer can win the French, he'd be pretty well expected to win again at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as he has the past three seasons, to complete the Slam.)

How Grateful Is Federer?

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My sense is that Roger Federer owes Nikolay Davydenko (pictured above) a drink or two for knocking out Guillermo Cañas in straight sets in the Roland Garros quarters. Now, instead of facing Cañas--who beat the #1 player twice in three weeks earlier this season (in Masters Series events, no less!)--in the semifinal on Friday, Federer will play Davydenko, against whom he holds an 8-0 advantage in previous matches played.

I Spoke Too Soon

Maybe I jinxed Bob and Mike Bryan. A few posts ago, I mentioned their chances for a calendar year Grand Slam. Turns out the pair lost today in Paris in the quarterfinals to the Czech duo of Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner. The score was 5-7, 6-4, 6-4; apparently the Americans came back from 1-5 in the third and almost levelled at 5-apiece.

June 9, 2007

Quick Work

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Justine Henin made mincemeat of Ana Ivanovic in the women's singles final at the French Open, dismantling her 6-1, 6-2. The occasion may have overwhelmed Ivanovic but it's hard not to be impressed by the Belgian's fourth Roland Garros crown.

June 10, 2007

The Showdown

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I'm getting ready to settle in an watch the Roland Garros men's singles final featuring the top two players in the world. This is a hugely important championship--probably the most important match in the sport since last year's Wimbledon final, also between Federer and Nadal. Had the Spaniard won that contest last July, it would have represented a seismic shift in the balance of power in upending Federer on grass, where he has been most dominant. Rafa put up a good fight, but after losing on Centre Court, he was not much of a factor for the remainder of 2006.

The significance of today's showdown is whether Roger Federer can unseat Nadal's lockhold on the French Open since 2005. Nadal has never lost in Paris. But Federer's recent victory over his rival in Hamburg on clay suggests he may have the confidence (and perhaps the game plan) to prevail. If the world #1 can win, he'll add the last missing piece of the puzzle to an amazing array of titles, hold all four majors at once, and keep his chances for a calendar year Grand Slam alive (and he'd be the odds-on favorite to repeat at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open). Moreover, he'd make it much easier for folks to declare him the best player ever.

Bring it on!

King Of Clay

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In the end, it looked all too similar to their matches at the French the past two years. While Federer was clearly in this match, overcoming Nadal's tremendous defense--he saved 16 of 17 break points!--turned out to be too daunting a task. And so Roger's ambitions for the Grand Slam were dashed once more. What must be even more disappointing is the notion that as long as the younger Spaniard is around and healthy, Federer will have an uphill battle winning at Roland Garros.

June 11, 2007

Signs Of Life

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The Bronx Bombers seem to winning games, at last! Six in a row now. They still have to dig themselves out of a deep hole, but the second half of the season is when the Yanks have been at their best in recent years.

June 13, 2007

Splendor On The Grass

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Today I met up with Neal Sarwal, an Eton student who was in the South Africa program I did last summer. We arranged to rendezvous at the Barons Court tube stop and then walk down the road to Queen's Club for some tennis. The Artois Championship is the premier Wimbledon warm-up event, a tournament I have always wanted to see since the days when Connors and McEnroe played there. There's something about the red color scheme surrounding the grass courts that is visually attractive--much more so than the All-England Club's all-green look.

Practice court junkie that I am, some of the best tennis I enjoyed today was watching the workout sessions of Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin, Ivan Lubjicic, Tim Henman, the Bryan brothers, and Andy Roddick (pictured below with Jimmy Connors and brother John looking on).

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Since we only scored grounds passes for the day, Neal and settled in to watch Arnaud Clement beat big-serving Aussie Chris Guccione and then Max Miryni top Gael Monfils in an entertaining three-setter on an outer court.

June 17, 2007

Roddick Wins

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I took the pic of Andy Roddick above earlier in the week on the Queen's Club practice courts. With his 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 victory in the championship today over surprise finalist Nicolas Mahut of France, Roddick pretty much locked up the third seed for Wimbledon (which begins in 8 days) and his ranking should return to #3 in the world as well. The American was match point down in the second set before rebounding to win. This was Roddick's fourth title at Queen's, which ties him with John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Lleyton Hewitt for the record in the grass-court Wimbledon tune-up. Federer still looms as a force on the greensward, but hopefully this year Roddick will at least surpass his early-round loss to Andy Murray in the 2006 Lawn Tennis Championships.

June 21, 2007

Knock Wood

There's an interesting article that ran in the international edition of USA Today about wood tennis racquets. Apparently a slew of current tour players were asked to hit with traditional wooden frames and compare them to the modern racquet technology. (One of them, Novak Djokovic--currently the #5 player in the world--had NEVER hit with a wood racquet before!) The common consensus--not surprisingly--was great feel, much less power.

Part of me wishes the tennis authorities did what the baseball folks did: limited the professional game to to the traditional equipment (i.e., wood racquets with smaller head sizes) while allowing the rest of us to benefit from technological advances. The problem with this, of course, is a commercial one: the racquet companies use the top players to drive sales of new racquets. Coaches and teaching pros see this first-hand, too. For example, I am on the HEAD advisory staff, which means I get a couple of free racquets every year. There is a clear push to adopt the company's new technology every season. So as someone who has been using the Prestige line of sticks, I have migrated from the iPrestige to the Liquidmetal Prestige to the Flexpoint Prestige as HEAD has upgraded the line and discontinued the older versions. (This time next year I'll be wielding the Microgel Prestige, by the way, which will be released late this year or early next.)
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Of course the irony is that most of the top pros don't even play with the racquet it LOOKS like they are playing with. At that level of the game, the athletes are so attuned to the exact details of their equipment that the companies produce "paint jobs" for them-customized versions of older models that are made to resemble the current version. It's pretty much an open secret on the tour. Hence Roger Federer's "new" Wilson racquet this year is just a cosmetically altered version of the same frame he's been comfrotably winning with for years. Marat Safin, who plays with the aforementioned HEAD Prestige line, actually uses a Prestige Classic 600 frame, a discontinued model he won the U.S. Open with in 2000, but it has been painted to look like the iPrestige, the Liquidmetal Prestige, and the Flexpoint Prestige over the years (and no doubt soon the Microgel Prestige will follow).

Had the pros stuck with the wooden racquets, none of this would be necessary (though even in the 1970s, Ilie Nastase was notorious for having Wilson racquets painted to resemble adidas models to satisfy his sponsor without playing with inferior equipment). But it's doubtful the world's top players would be getting big bucks for using racquets that most of the rest of us would never dream of buying when we could be using graphite composites, oversized heads, wide bodies, and the rest.

June 25, 2007

The Lawn Tennis Championships

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Today begins "the Fortnight." As a boy I rabidly consumed every telecast of the Wimbledon championships. The pickings were slim in those days: you were pretty much limited to what NBC aired. In the 1970s and early 1980s, that was 15 minutes of highlights each weeknight (perhaps only in the second week, at that) and tape-delayed coverage on the middle weekend. We were lucky to have "Breakfast At Wimbledon" on the finals weekend, showing the gentlemen's championship, and later the ladies' championship, live at 9 a.m., East Coast time in America. I came of age as a Wimbledon fan in the Borg era. The Swede had a stranglehold on the title, winning five in a row, and getting the final a sixth straight year. It was magic.

I went to the tournament for the first time in 1994 and have been back roughly half the years since then. It is still magic.

Rain At Wimbledon

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Precipitation ruined my chances to see tennis today. Although it will likely clear up, at least for part of the day, later on, I need to get to Heathrow for an evening flight home, so I can't really afford to wait around. I made it all the way out to the All-England Club for the start of play at noon, but the skies started to open and the forecast for the afternoon is pretty dreadful. So I turned around and went back into the city.

July 1, 2007

Middle Sunday

The sun is shining in London, SW19, for the first time in days. But no matches at Wimbledon today. In keeping with tradition, play is not scheduled for the middle Sunday of the tournament. Yes, it has happened a couple of times in the past twenty years that a backed up schedule has forced the All-England Club to open its gates on the Lord's day. And Centre Court was filled with die-hard fans those on rare occasons--those who braved the queue to get unexpectedly available tickets--and they filled the venue with tremendous enthusiasm for the likes of Connors and Agassi ("the people's Sunday," it was called).

Too bad the AELTC didn't opt to get back on track with scheduled matches today, for the forecast for the next few days is hardly encouraging!

July 3, 2007

Hard Luck At The All-England Club

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Mother Nature is not making life easier for the players over at Wimbledon. More rain today.

July 4, 2007

Waking Up To Wimbledon

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ESPN 2's coverage of The Championships starts at 7 a.m. here on the East Coast, and the network bills it as "Waking Up To Wimbledon." I reached for the remote first thing when I woke up and within minutes watched the men's second-, third-, and fourth-seeded players advance by finishing rain-delayed matches. So Rafa Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Novak Djokovic are still alive.

July 5, 2007

The Escape Artist

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Rafael Nadal climbed out from under a 0-2 deficit in sets to defeat Mikhail Youzhny today. As of the other night, I have a dinner bet on Nadal winning Wimbledon before Federer wins the French. I still think this could even be Rafa's year on the grass (yeah, I concede Federer has to be considered the favorite, but if the top two meet in the final, an upset is not beyond the realm of possibility). My worry now is that all the rain the courts have absorbed will hurt Nadal's chances, as the ball won't kick up off the courts with his heavy topspin, as it did in last year's tournament. The Spaniard also has a lot of matches ahead with not much rest, as his section of the draw is furthest behind schedule.

July 6, 2007

Painful To Watch

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It was tough to see Andy Roddick go down in five sets after holding a 6-4, 6-4, 4-2 lead against Richard Gasquet. Though he should have been able to close it out in the third, the American did not play badly in defeat. His French opponent was dazzling off both wings with groundstroke winners and crisply struck passing shots.

July 7, 2007

The Drive For Five

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So Roger Federer advanced to the Wimbledon final in his attempt to equal Björn Borg's five in row between 1976 and 1980. He will face nemesis Rafael Nadal tomorrow in the championship. My pick is 60-40 for Federer, but I would not be surprised to see the Spaniard walk away with the title.

July 8, 2007

Title Bout

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It's breakfast at Wimbledon once more: Federer vs. Nadal. The stakes are high. The sun is shining. Centre Court is ready. Showtime!

Roger Holds Off Rafa

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It looked like things might go the other way when Federer was down 15-40 on serve twice on in the fifth set. But the defending champion found another gear in the last few games to add a fifth straight Wimbledon crown to his impressive list of accomplishments.

This was a very entertaining match that really could have gone either way. It's a treat to see a rivalry like this develop. My hope is that Rafa takes the level of play he has shown on grass into the summer hard court season and the U.S. Open, where he has yet to have had the same impact he's had at Roland Garros and the All-England Club.

I am always struck how graceful these two athletes are in victory and defeat, too. They are both a credit to the game.

Oh, man, do I love this sport!

Thanks For The Memories

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One sad note from Wimbledon: apparently, we have seen the last post-match interviews of the finalists by Bud Collins. NBC has opted not to renew Bud's contract after 35 years on the air at The Championships. The network wants to move away from scripted features in favor of more on-court action. I personally like the off-court coverage, the human interest stories, the behind-the-scenes looks. And of course, the wonderfully literate and urbane Collins has done a great job colorfully presenting (especially with his multi-hued trousers) this stuff ever since NBC moved him out of the commentary booth a decade or so ago.

As one who grew up on the network's coverage of the tournament--and also one who has gotten the chance to hang out with Collins a little bit--I am disappointed by this development. NBC is being penny-wise and pound-foolish, I am afraid. There's a reason the man is the dean of tennis correspondents and enormously popular with his peers. He adds class and color to NBC's presence at tournaments. Hopefully another network will find a good way to put his talents to use.

July 15, 2007

Oh, Is There A Bicycle Race On Now?

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Two and three years ago, I would rush back from class late in the morning to watch the daily drama unfold in France, as Lance Armstrong extended his record streak of wins in fascinating battles. Last year, I was somewhat less interested, but Landis was a compelling character and made it interesting. In the wake of all of the scandal surrounding the sport, though, I have virtually no interest in this year's Tour de France. I fear the interest in cycling that Armstrong's achievements stirred here in the States have seriously waned.

July 23, 2007

A Colorful Version Of Tennis

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After lunch, I turned on the television, which was tuned in to The Tennis Channel, which was replaying a 1970s World Team Tennis match between Ilie Nastase and Sandy Mayer. I was struck by the color scheme on the court--something the modern incarnation of WTT apparently has resurrected (see above photo). Kind of funky!

July 26, 2007

How Embarrassing!

The newspapers are full of reports of high profiled people engaged in misbehavior.

The NBA is investigating allegations of gambling on the part of one of its officials, including bets on games he worked.

The NFL is reeling from the revelations of superstar Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting.

Major League Baseball is fumbling around, trying to deal with the very real possibility of one of its most important records being broken by Barry Bonds, who has been surrounded by a mountain of circumstantial evidence of being "juiced" for years.

The Tour de France was rocked again on the doping front yesterday, as Tour leader Michael Rasmussen was kicked out of the competition by his own team for some pretty incrimininating behavior earlier in the spring.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the credibility of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez continues to erode, as the Senate considers charges of perjury (!) as his recent testimony is apparently contradicted by documentary evidence.

August 4, 2007

Rising Star?

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Tonight John Isner, fresh from the collegiate tennis ranks, improbably won a match in a third-set tiebreak for the fifth straight time in the Washington ATP event. He knocked off a series of players with far more accomplished records, including Tim Henman, #8 seed Benjamin Becker, #2 seed Tommy Haas, and--tonight--#9 seed Gael Monfils. Against Monfils, Isner dropped serve for the first time in the match at 5-all in the third, but broke the Frenchman serving for the match to set up another tiebreak. Isner will face top seed Andy Roddick in tomorrow's final.

August 5, 2007

The Bats Are Booming In The Bronx

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The Yankees have scored 74 runs in their last seven games!

Let's hope this productive offense keeps up heading into the homestretch. I will NOT be satisfied with a wild card berth; I expect the Yanks to win the AL East crown for the tenth straight year.

August 7, 2007

Good Timing

I turned on the television not even a minute ago. First thing I see: a pitch. Then Barry Bonds hits the record-breaking home run. Weird.

August 11, 2007

Making A Statement

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Meanwhile, back in Montreal, Novak Djokovic has knocked off the world's #3 (Roddick) and #2 (Nadal) players in consecutive matches to advance to a final round appointment against Roger Federer on Sunday. An impressive run--and all the more if he should he win tomorrow!

August 19, 2007

Lots Of Tennis Today

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I spent the morning playing in a men's doubles round robin tournament down in Guilford, then took one of the Choate players to a men's round robin singles event in Old Saybrook, then watched Roger Federer win the Cincinnati event for his 50th ATP title on television.

August 22, 2007

Tough Draw

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Andy Roddick's recent early losses in Montreal and Cincinnati meant that he dropped out of the top four in the world. This, in turn, made him vulnerable to the possibility of facing Roger Federer before the semifinals in the upcoming U.S. Open--something that, if form holds, will now come to pass, based on the draw made today in New York City. Should both players make it that far, the rematch between 2006's Open finalists will be played in the quarterfinal round.

August 23, 2007

So Long, Tim

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Earlier today, Tim Henman announced his retirement, to follow the upcoming U.S. Open and a Davis Cup tie later in the month.

I can remember watching Henman when he was a teenager; he stayed the whole week at the New Haven ATP event (I was working for the tournament at the time) to practice. This was before his climb to the world's top five and the Henman Hill mania that swept England every June when the player was in the hunt at Wimbledon.

I'll miss his fluid serve-and-volley game and his classy demeanor on and off the court.

August 27, 2007

Showtime In Queens

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In a few minutes, the 2007 U.S. Open kicks into gear. I am heading to Flushing Meadows for the day tomorrow with the last two Choate Tennis captains to take in the action. This tournament will be a major distraction as the opening-of-school rituals vie for my time in the next two weeks.

August 28, 2007

The Open

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I spent eight hours today at the National Tennis Center for Day Two of the 2007 U.S. Open. It wasn't the best possible line-up, but we saw a mix of good matches, including an impressive James Blake win in Ashe Stadium and some intriguing singles and doubles match-ups on the Grandstand and the outer courts. That's the appeal of the early days of the tournament: there's tons of main draw action all over the grounds, plus some doubles and good practice court activity. The photo above I took from the upper level of Armstrong Stadium overlooking the Grandstand: it's David Nalbandian serving.

August 30, 2007

The Sweep

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I had been predicting for weeks now that the Yankees would dominate the Sox as the end of the season approached. Today's win at The Stadium completed a three-game sweep of Boston. Now if the Yankees had shown up to play at all last week, this would mean the gap in the division standings would be erased. But even after the sweep, the Yanks are still 5 games out. As I blogged earlier, I am not settling for the Wild Card; I expect New York to win the AL East (again).

August 31, 2007

U.S. Open Late Night

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James Blake finally won a five-setter, outlasting the versatile Fabrice Santoro in an enteraining match that just ended.

September 1, 2007

Training Camp

The nucleus of this fall's cross country has assembled on campus for a few days of training, a bit of racing, and some team bonding. Okay, now summer's REALLY over.

September 2, 2007

The Frustrations Of Golf

. . . or, in this case, mini-golf. After playing a nearly flawless sixteen holes, I self-destructed on the last two in our annual team outing to Safari Golf. This is why I've always kept the sport of golf at arm's length. It takes just a nudge for things to go horribly wrong and ruin one's day.

September 3, 2007

A Labor Day Ritual

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I took the Choate Cross Country team down to the Elm City early this morning for the 30th Annual New Haven Road Race. In addition to representing the start of our competitive season each fall, this is always a terrific spectacle to take in. There's something truly affirming about seeing literally thousands of people of all ages lined up to race. Everyone seems to be having fun. In addition to our guys, there's always an assortment of alumni, parents, faculty members, former colleagues, and others on hand for the occasion. A wonderful civic spirit permeates the event, staged on and around the New Haven Green.

September 6, 2007

Too Good

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Andy Roddick threw everything he had at Roger Federer the last few hours, but still lost in straight sets. In spite of the American blasting serves and teeing off on groundstrokes to attack at any opportunity, Federer consistently came up with the answers when things got tight (as they did in two tiebreakers); the top seed's crosscourt backhand passing shot was especially devastating. Hard to picture anyone else holding the trophy Sunday night.

September 9, 2007

Hard To Argue With That

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Staving off seven set points in the first two sets, Roger Federer prevailed over Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Though the Swiss #1 did not play his best tennis, he showed why he deserves the reputation he has. He was too tough mentally. That's ten Slam finals in a row and a 12-2 record in major finals. Wow.

September 15, 2007

How Sweet It Is!

The Yankees erased a five-run deficit to post an 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox. You could have heard a pin drop in Fenway Park during the Bombers' rally! This is not 8 of the last 10 for New York against their northern rivals. The Yanks keep their hopes of a tenth straight division title within reach, and build confidence for the possible League Championship Series showdown.

A New Course

Choate hosted its annual cross country invitational today, an informal event to kick off the season. This year we initiated a brand new 5-kilometer course, which we think is about as good a cross country course as you can find on our meet circuit. It took a lot of work and some behind-the-scenes wrangling to have it up and running, but it's a treat to be able to use it now.

September 20, 2007

Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

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One-and-a-half games and closing, baby!

September 22, 2007

Saturday Night Lights

Choate hosted its first ever night football game. The stands were packed, the energy level was high, and the Wild Boars delivered a thrilling win, scoring twice in the fourth quarter and posting the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of play for a 20-17 victory. After a 0-7 2006 campaign, this was just the start of the season our team needed, and Choate fans rushed the field as the clock wound down to celebrate.

September 29, 2007

Ahead Of Last Year's Pace

Choate Cross Country was impressive in dispatching Founders League rivals Taft and Trinity-Pawling in varsity and JV races today in the home opener of our dual meet season. These victories were especially satisfying because we lost to both of these squads in the varsity race in 2006. Our girls' team won, too, for a clean sweep in cross country.

Moreover, elsewhere on campus and up in New Hampshire, Choate teams went 5-0 against Phillips Exeter Academy, including a dramatic win on the gridiron to put the Wild Boars varsity football record at 2-0 in the young season; this is a very welcome development for a program that was winless a year ago!

October 9, 2007

Wait 'Til Next Year

THe 2007 baseball season officially ended last night, so there will be no more distractions on that front.

October 13, 2007

Big Wins!

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Boy, do I love coaching on a day like today! Great fall weather. A spectacular new cross country course. Two worthy rivals in town. Fifty-odd boys, clad in Blue and Gold, determined to do their level best. A quartet of wins over our biggest rivals in two races. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

October 16, 2007

Season Of Life

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The school hosted reporter Jeffrey Marx as a speaker tonight, to talk about the themes he develops in his book Season Of Life, a short meditation on coaching, masculinity, and values. I got to chat with the author over dinner beforehand with a small group of colleagues, too. Marx delivered a terrific presentation, one which seemed to resonate with the student body (no easy feat, that!). His message was what I have found to be true as I've been part of the teaching and coaching profession for over twenty years now: that true learning is made possible when the relationships between teachers and students, between coaches and athletes, are positive and affirming.

October 19, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Joe

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Though it was probably inevitable--and may even be for the best for the future of the team--it is hard to watch Joe Torre part company with the New York Yankees. He's brought his team to the playoffs every year and has proven singularly adept at managing both the team and his boss, George Steinbrenner--quite a balancing act, as history would suggest! Torre is a classy guy and he will be missed.

October 20, 2007

Wild Boars Triumphant

This afternoon Choate Cross Country posted as lopsided a pair of wins over a major rival as I can remember in twenty-plus years of coaching. We put all 10 of our runners ahead of the Hotchkiss #1 in the varsity race, and then 15 in front of the Bearcats' JV leader (even with a few of our guys missing). Wow.

October 21, 2007

Easy As 1-2-3

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David Nalbandian, whom I photographed from above the Grandstand court at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in August, knocked off the top three players in the world en route to his victory in the Madrid Masters tournament this weekend. He defeated Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer.

October 29, 2007

New Sticks

As a tennis coach, I'm a member of the HEAD Advisory Staff and the racquet I play with, the Prestige Mid, is being refreshed again. This sort of upgrade happens about every two years, just to keep consumers coming back for more: the iPrestige yielded place to the LiquidMetal Prestige, which it turn became the FlexPoint Prestige. Now we have the MicroGEL Prestige, available in January 2008. It sure looks pretty!
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New Kicks

The Shanghai Limited Edition of my tennis shoe, the adidas Barricade IV. This pic obscures the very cool gold dragon design on the heel and the bottom. I was born in the Year of the Dragon, so this design resonates with me:
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November 2, 2007

More On Friday Night Lights

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It's hard to convey just how much I am enjoying Season 1 of Friday Night Lights. I watched a bunch of episodes while traveling to and from Washington this week and a couple more tonight. No doubt the coach in me finds this show centered around a high school team appealing, but beyond that, this is simply a great television drama about a small town in Texas.

November 3, 2007

A Good Day

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The Choate boys prevailed in both JV and varsity races at our state meet: the Founders League Championship. The junior varsity was dominant in winning a 12th straight race in this event. The varsity posted a narrow win (a 2-point margin) over rival Loomis Chaffee, earned with some pretty amazing pack running.

November 4, 2007

Another Great Week For The Argentine

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For the second tournament in a row, David Nalbandian knocked off both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. I watched the end of the final against Nadal on Tennis Channel. Nalbandian was in fine form in crafting a 6-4, 6-0 over Rafa--the latter's first-ever loss in the city of Paris! Unfortunately, Nalbandian's season is now over, as he doesn't have the points to qualify for the tour championship in Shanghai next week, even though he is currently the hottest player on the circuit.

Runaway Win

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Choate Football assembled an impressive 48-7 win over Lawrenceville in a Sunday afternoon game. The Wild Boars scored all their points in the first half and never looked back. It was nice that the entire roster got to see some playing time.

November 7, 2007

Hosting A Championship

Much of my time this week is being devoted to preparations for the New England Cross Country Championships here at Choate. There's lots of work to be done on the actual course, particularly in the start/finish area. Moreover, there are race numbers and meet programs to be distributed, T-shirts to be sold, refreshments to be served, awards to be announced, and results to be disseminated on Saturday.

November 9, 2007

Blasts From The Past

This day is one of my favorite in the whole year. It's the final cross country practice of the fall, and after our weekly meditation session, I traditionally read the letters written to the team--"words of wisdom," if you will--from recent alums. Many are funny, some are touching, but all are wonderful connections to runners and teams past. As I read these missives aloud, I can picture very clearly each author sitting on the floor of the hockey locker room one or five or ten years ago, in the place where fifty current team members sit transfixed, eager to hear from their predecessors.

Feeling Peppy

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Tonight we staged the traditional pre-Deerfield Day pep rally, followed by the ceremonial burning of the dragon in a bonfire. Not sure why we burn a dragon, as Deerfield teams are known only as "The Big Green," but we have to burn something. You can see the smoke billowing out of the dragon's snout!

November 10, 2007

The Big Meet

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Well the New England meet is a thing of the past. This event, which took up more and more of my time the past couple of weeks, turned out successfully for the most part. The Choate team was somewhat disappointed with its collective performance, and I always feel guilty trying to give the runners the attention they need while we coaches are juggling the frenetic nature of playing host. But the weather cooperated, races went smoothly, and the reception and awards ceremony was as efficiently run as it's ever been. [Thanks to former Choate Cross Country parent (twice over) Jan Gelb for the above photo.]

November 11, 2007

No Rest For The Wicked

Not even 24 hours after the end of the cross country season, I am off to Simsbury for a noon meeting of the New England squash coaches. From one season, onto the next!

November 14, 2007

The Tour Finale

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Tennis Channel does a good job presenting coverage of the season-ending Masters Cup tourney, though the round-robin matches are aired at odd hours, given the 13-hour time difference with Shanghai. Highlights so far: Federer and Nadal each have dropped a match, but Andy Roddick has looked impressive in already nailing down a semifinal berth.

November 18, 2007

Silencing His Critics

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When Roger Federer dropped a match to Fernando Gonzalez at the beginning of round-robin play at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai this week, it marked the first time in several years that the world #1 had lost two consecutive matches (he fell to David Nalbandian a couple of weeks ago). This development had tennis scribes and bloggers wondering aloud if the Swiss star had finally lost his mojo. But by swatting away Rafael Nadal yesterday and then red-hot David Ferrer--previously undefeated through the week, including a semifinal dismantling of Andy Roddick--in straight sets in today's final, Federer has made it abundantly clear who still wears the crown in men's tennis.

November 23, 2007

The Natural

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I caught the end of The Natural on TCM this morning. I remember Bernard Malamud--the author of the book--speaking when I was in college and how little regard he seemed to have for the film, which took liberties with the story's ending. It's got a great Randy Newman score, though, and certainly is one of Robert Redford's more memorable roles.

November 24, 2007

I Am Not In Van Cortlandt Park

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This is the first year since 1993, I think, that I haven't spent this Saturday morning fighting for a parking spot near Van Cortlandt Park and taking in the spectacle that is the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships Northeast Qualifier. No Choate runners were up for it this year, so I got to sleep in. It's weird to miss this annual event, though.

December 1, 2007

Stars And Stripes Prevail In Portland

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Congrats to the U.S. Davis Cup team for breaking a 12-year title drought. On the heels of yesterday's wins by Andy Roddick and James Blake, the Bryan brothers cemented the win over the Russians with a doubles victory to secure the winning point in this weekend's final.

December 15, 2007

Long Day In The Gym

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[Choate Photohraphy Club photo]

I spent the past 12 hours in the Johnson Athletic Center at the inaugural Eight Schools holiday boys' basketball tournament. With bad weather forecast for tonight, our schedule for the weekend has fallen apart a bit, but we've done a pretty good job hosting squads from Andover, Exeter, Deerfield, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, and NMH and the basketball games have been competitive and entertaining.

January 6, 2008

Tennis Down Under

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The first major of the 2008 tennis season is just about a week away. Defending champ Roger Federer is pictured above working out at Melbourne Park in advance of the Australian Open.

January 13, 2008

Summer Down Under

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As we're bracing for a pile of snow to be dumped on us in the next 24 hours here in New England, it's refreshing to see the beginning of the Australian Open on ESPN2 tonight (the Monday 11 a.m. start works out to be 7 p.m. Sunday night on the East coast of North America, given the difference in time zones). A year ago, I was enjoying the midsummer heat in Melbourne on day one of the year's first major. I am missing being there right now.

The bright sun reflecting off the somewhat garishly blue new Plexicushion courts is certainly an eyeful, too!

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January 18, 2008

Tough Loss

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When he hits a career-best 42 aces, one would expect Andy Roddick to prevail in the fifth set against 29th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber--not exactly a household name--in the third round of the Australian Open. But the American ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, finishing play after 2 a.m. That kind of loss down in the Antipodes has got to make it a VERY long ride home!

UPDATE: For another take on this from the Choate blogosphere, click here.

January 20, 2008

An Improbable Outcome

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So the Giants are going to the Super Bowl. Pretty sweet (and unexpected)!

January 23, 2008

A Tantalizing Menu Of Tennis

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Heading into the final few days of the 2008 Aussie Open, there are some big matches looming. Hard not to like a Federer/Djokovic semifinal pairing. And Rafael Nadal is looking better than ever Down Under, and is a real threat to win his first Slam title outside of Paris (and make a serious bid for the #1 ranking).

On the women's side, it looks like the crown may be Maria Sharapova's to lose, for she has been in awfully fine form. But don't rule out Ana Ivanovic, who took out Venus Williams earlier today to advance to the semis.

January 24, 2008

Surprise Down Under

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In recent years, the Aussie Open has been serving up some unlikely finalists in the men's singles: Arnaud Clement (2001), Ranier Schuttler (2003), Marcos Baghdatis (2006), and Fernando Gonzalez (2007), for example. This year, #38-ranked Jo-Wilfired Tsonga upended world #2 Rafael Nadal in straight sets to advance to the title bout. He'll have to face either #1 Roger Federer or #3 Novak Djokovic--no easy feat.

Profile In Courage

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Kudos to Connecticut's senior U.S. Senator, Chris Dodd, for virtually single-handedly taking a stand against the telecoms who are angling for retroactive Congressional immunity for their illegal FISA wiretaps (that is to say, their complicity in spying on American citizens!). The Bush Administration is finding plenty of Republicans and Democrats willing to support such immunity for these corporations in the name of national security. Fortunately, Dodd is using his position to defend the Constitution vigorously. That's what one hopes to expect from his elected representatives.

January 25, 2008

The Djoker

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I woke up early (around 5:30 a.m.) and turned on the bedroom television in time to catch the end of the live coverage of the Federer/Djokovic Aussie Open semifinal. The Serb's straight-set win this morning (technically Friday night, Melbourne time) was clearly an upset--it's the first time in three years The Fed hasn't made it to a Slam final--but this win was never beyond the realm of possibility. What was surprising was the extent to which the younger player dominated the match. Djokovic's serving was amazing, blasting both corners consistently. Federer arguably wasn't at his best, surrendering a comfortable 5-3 first set lead, for example, but he got beat fair and square.

January 27, 2008

Victory In The Antipodes

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Novak Djokovic's assault on the top of men's tennis took a major step forward with his winning his first Slam title in today's Australian Open final. Looks like he will join Rafa Nadal in the pursuit of Roger Federer's #1 perch in 2008.

February 3, 2008

Game Time

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I am settling in to watch my first SuperBowl since 2005. Two years ago I was on a plane from Florida to Connecticut and missed most of the game. Last winter this time I had just arrived in Cairo, where NFL coverage didn't seem to be a broadcasting priority. This year I actually care about the two teams squaring off, so I will enjoy this game and its associated hoopla (after all, a good chunk of the ritual is the commercials aired between bouts of football).

A Worthy Super Bowl

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So many Super Bowl games turn out to be duds, but this year's delivered: it was dramatic until the closing seconds of play. The Giants defense was spectacular in shutting down the usually formidable Tom Brady. And Eli Manning pulled the rabbit out of the hat more than once in his final game-winning drive. Too bad to see the Pats miss out on the 19-0 season, but as a New Yorker, I found it satisfying to see the Giants back in the winner's circle.

February 8, 2008

The A Team

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Just ten weeks after winning the Davis Cup, the U.S. squad is back in action in a first-round tie in Austria. With Andy Roddick, James Blake, and the Bryan brothers back in captain Patrick McEnroe's roster, the American squad is expected to cruise, even on a slow red clay surface.

February 24, 2008

Some Nice Recognition

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The Choate squash team was once again recognized with the Team Sportsmanship Award, a distinction voted by all the other teams in New England.

March 1, 2008

The Tournament Circuit

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It's championship weekend for several winter sports here in the New England prep schools. I made my way up to Brookline, Massachusetts to see Choate's girls' hockey team lose a semifinal playoff game and then booked over to Deerfield just in time to catch our female swimmers and divers win the New England title!

March 6, 2008

Double Surprise

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Not sure which piece of news was the bigger surprise: that Andy Roddick knocked off #2 Rafa Nadal in straight sets in the Dubai quarterfinals today or when, after the upset, Roddick announced that his working relationship with coach Jimmy Connors had ended a week ago.

The on-court result has to be seen as good news for the American. He had beaten the Spaniard in the 2004 U.S. Open and then lost their only other two meetings: in a memorable Davis Cup final later that year and then in the Indian Wells semis last spring. Next up for Roddick: the hottest player on tour, Novak Djokovic.

March 8, 2008

Dubai Champ

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Andy Roddick completed his week in excellent form, following his win over Nadal with a victory over Aussie Open champ Djokovic and then a three-set decision over Feliciano Lopez in today's final. Perhaps 2008 will shape up as a better season for Roddick? The Indian Wells and Key Biscayne Masters events are within the next month, so it will be fascinating to see if Federer and Nadal can restore their dominance of the top-tier events, if Djokovic can continue to play spoiler, and if Roddick or any others can break through.

March 17, 2008

Weapons Of Choice

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My 2008 shipment from HEAD has arrived and I've got three new racquets to play with. I am shifting to the MicroGel Prestige Pro frame. I'll have the new sticks strung today and I look forward to hitting the courts with them later this week.

March 22, 2008

Something Fishy In The Desert

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If one had predicted this morning that #3 Djokovic would knock off #2 Nadal, 6-3, 6-2, in the Indian Wells semis, I wouldn't have put up much of an argument. If that result still can be considered an upset, it's a mild one at best. But for #98 Mardy Fish to school Roger Federer by the same score in the second semifinal today, well that's a surprise of a different order of magnitude. Assuming the mononucleosis that plagued the Swiss star is now behind him, he will need to find another gear soon if he wants to keep his perch atop the men's game.

And so nearly three months into 2008, neither of the world's top two players has yet to bag a title. Interesting season thus far . . .

April 12, 2008

Preparing The Next Generation

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Let it not be said that I do not introduce my young charges to all that is great in our civilization: here is the Choate tennis team earlier today at the one and only--not counting the other one down the street, that is--Blink's FryDoe in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. This culinary treat followed a dip in the frigid North Atlantic Ocean.

April 20, 2008

It's About Time

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Nearly five months into the 2008 season, Roger Federer has won his first tournament, a clay-court event in Estoril, Portugal. This week brings the first clay-court Masters Series event of the year, the Monte Carlo Open.

April 23, 2008

Meanwhile, In Monaco . . .

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This week the men's tennis tour is in Monte Carlo. I spent some time this morning watching Federer and Nadal win their first matches in the event. The former was lucky to advance, down 2-5 in the third set, while the Spaniard rolled through Mario Ancic pretty comfortably. Novak Djokovic advanced, so the trio atop the game right now are on a collision course for the weekend.

I actually had ambitions to travel to Monte Carlo for the weekend, as the school begins a Long Weekend break after classes on Thursday. This is one event I've always dreamed of attending. I figured I could have seen play on Friday and Saturday (and possibly on Sunday) and it looked like I could get travel virtually for free and secure a reasonably priced place to stay in the principality. But I waited too long to pull the trigger on these plans and the air travel logistics would have been tricky in any case. One of these years, I will get over there, though.

The other two European clay court tournaments I want to visit are Rome and Paris. I may cash in some mileage points and get to Roland Garros next month, but I need to decide in the next day or so if I am going to take this plunge. And I think I need to find a way to get to Monte Carlo and Rome in the next few years.

April 25, 2008

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

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If only I had acted on my plan late in the winter and lined up this trip I had planned to Monte Carlo! Here is the line-up of featured matches I would be watching on the Côte d'Azur right now:

Andreev (RUS) vs [4] Davydenko (RUS)
[1] Federer (SUI) vs [6] Nalbandian (ARG)
[5] Ferrer (ESP) vs [2] Nadal (ESP)
[3] Djokovic (SRB) vs Querrey (USA)

Note that the top six seeds are all still alive in the event.

April 26, 2008

Spectacular Semis

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My regular readers may think I'm obsessed with this tennis tournament in Monte Carlo this week, but I really am kicking myself for not getting over there for the weekend. I doubt the ATP schedule will so neatly align this event with spring Long Weekend break at school in future years, so 2008 might have been my best shot at this. And the match-ups I would have seen yesterday and today! The semifinals in Monaco this afternoon are #4-ranked Davydenko vs. #2 Nadal and then #1 Federer against #3 Djokovic. Thank goodness for the live coverage on Tennis Channel.

April 27, 2008

Four In A Row

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In another classic final, Spaniard Rafael Nadal held off top-ranked Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5 to win the Monte Carlo tournament for a fourth consecutive year. The Swiss player showed signs that new coach Jose Higueras may be helping him face the challenge of Nadal on the dirt strategically, but one wonders if the psychological advantage the younger player seems to have is too much for Roger to overcome on this surface. Federer blew commanding positions in each set, breaking to lead 4-3 in the first and then going up 4-0 in the second before too many errors let Nadal back into a war of attrition; on this court at least, that's the sort of fight Federer can't win.

April 30, 2008

Not A Big Fan Of Losing

The Choate tennis team dropped its first match of the 2008 season this afternoon: a 3-4 decision in a contest that we could have won. The teams I coach tend not to lose all that often--which is a good thing, because I REALLY don't like to lose.

May 4, 2008

King Of The Dirt

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Rafael Nadal notched another clay court tournament victory in winning today's Barcelona final. He is now 20-1 in clay court finals, including the last four events in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and the last three Italian and French Opens (he'll be gunning for four in a row at those two in the weeks ahead). Rafa has won 103 of his last 104 matches on the surface. Not too shabby.

May 8, 2008

When In Rome

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The ATP Tour stops in Rome this week for the Italian Open. Since Rafael Nadal actually lost on clay (!) yesterday, maybe the second best clay court player in the world, pictured above, will have a crack at this title this year.

I am enjoying the live coverage on Tennis Channel every morning this week.

May 10, 2008

A Very Satisfying Victory

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Choate's varsity boys' tennis team assembled a fine win this afternoon over a strong Andover squad. This was one of those very rewarding days when a coach sees past efforts pay off. We've suffered a pair of frustrating losses in the past two weeks, letting matches we might have won slip away carelessly. Happily, in the face of adversity, things went differently today. After a sub-par start in our doubles pro-sets, we ended up sweeping all three contests (after two of our pairs got a bit of a tongue-lashing from yours truly halfway through) and then took four of the six singles contests that followed. This win will lift my mood for days to come.

May 14, 2008

Hard Luck

Choate Tennis narrowly lost the League championship with a 3-4 loss to Hotchkiss up in Lakeville this afternoon. A freak injury during the warm-up took our #6 player (who hasn't lost in that position all season) out of the line-up and probably foiled what should have been a straightforward victory for us. In spite of the adversity, the team fought hard, winning a hotly contested #1 doubles showdown to take the doubles point and then earning a 3-0 lead in team scoring with first-set wins in three other singles matches before faltering in a trio of third-set contests. So frustrating to be this close and stymied by a chance turn of events!

May 17, 2008

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold

Two weeks after a frustrating loss to Deerfield, the Choate tennis team exacted vengeance with a convincing 5-2 win over the Big Green in the semifinals of the New England Class "A" tournament. We won #1 and #2 doubles and then #1, #4, #5, and #6 singles in straight sets.

May 18, 2008

A Reversal Of Fortunes In Hamburg

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Rafael Nadal foiled Roger Federer again today in winning the Hamburg Masters title, taking the only major clay court crown he had not yet won. This victory ended the Swiss player's streak of three titles in a row in this event. Inexplicably, Federer once again built huge leads in the first two sets (5-1 in the first set and breaking early again in the second) only to see them erased by Nadal. Federer did prevail in the second-set tiebreak, but it was clear in the third set that his spirit had been broken. He must wonder what he can do against the Spaniard who is so comfortable pounding away on this surface!

May 24, 2008

Finishing On Top

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For the third straight year, a Choate pair has won the New England prep school doubles title. Congrats to Brian McDermott and Max Mullen.

May 25, 2008

Serving Up Some Tennis

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The French Open (known in the tennis world simply as "Roland Garros" for the World War I aviator whose name adorns the facility) begins today with 32 main draw matches. This is the only of the four majors to begin on a Sunday. Happily for me, Tennis Channel is providing virtually wall-to-wall live coverage with ESPN and NBC.

June 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Bjorn Borg

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Hard to believe the tennis great turns 52 today.

One More Time

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The top two players in the world, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, won their semifinal matches today and so on Sunday will face each other on the clay of Roland Garros for the fourth straight year (and the third consecutive final). Nadal has never lost in this tournament, and with his wins over the Swiss rival in the finals of Monte Carlo and Hamburg earlier this spring, he has to be considered the favorite.

June 7, 2008

The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Queen

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In the wake of Justine Henin's recent retirement, Ana Ivanovic has grabbed the #1 ranking and now her first major title in Paris--a crown Henin won the past three seasons. The likable Serb defeated Dinara Safin in straight sets in the Roland Garros final.

June 8, 2008

Good Ol' Fashioned Beat Down

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Wow. Rafael Nadal was lethal in thrashing world #1 Roger Federer in today's Roland Garros final for a fourth straight victory in the tournament. Nadal won the last nine games and Federer looked at sea on the red clay in Paris. This has to be Federer's worst loss in years, and certainly his poorest performance on such a big occasion since he ascended to the top of the men's game. I have to think the lopsided nature of Nadal's victory may give the Spaniard the confidence to take the Wimbledon crown he nearly won last summer. Certainly he seems to enjoy a psychological advantage over his rival now.

June 11, 2008

From The Dirt To The Lawn

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In the course of just a couple of days, Roland Garros champ Rafa Nadal made the transition from slow red clay of Paris to the lightning-fast grass at Queens Club in London. He won his first match on the lawn pretty easily (though he lost in doubles yesterday). A year ago--on the Wednesday of the Artois Championships--I arrived in London and attended this Wimbledon tune-up tournament for the very first time and had an enjoyable afternoon on the club grounds.

June 12, 2008

The Other Pistol Pete

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I'm about halfway through the new memoir by Pete Sampras. Nothing earth-shattering within, but it's enjoyable quick read, especially when trying to avoid the last wave of reports I have to write at the end of the school year.

June 15, 2008

An Impressive Back-To-Back Feat

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Just seven days after manhandling top-ranked Roger Federer in the Roland Garros final on slow red clay, Rafael Nadal posted a victory over #3 Novak Djokovic to win the Artois Championships title on the slick lawns of Queen's Club. Nadal also dispatched four-time Queen's winner Andy Roddick in the semifinal round. The Spaniard is looking more and more comfortable on grass (thanks to Tennis Channel for carrying live coverage this morning). Anyone still discounting Nadal's chances to end Federer's streak in SW19 in a few weeks?

Tiger Is Amazing Once More

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I missed most of the excitement surrounding Tiger Woods' back nine charge at the U.S. Open yesterday, but I marveled tonight at his sinking that twelve-foot putt on 18 to force a playoff, saving his chances for another major title.

June 16, 2008

All That Is Good In Sport

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People who aren't sports fans really miss out on experiences like today's U.S. Open playoff between dark horse Rocco Mediate and the incredible Tiger Woods. This was yet another entertaining day in a weekend of high drama: the title was determined on the 19th hole played after Tiger birdied on 18 to level the score once more. I am so impressed by runner-up Mediate: like Santiago in The Old Man And The Sea, his attitude and performance illustrates the essential truth that the glory is in the struggle, not just in attaining the prize. And Tiger's response to adversity was similarly admirable, reflecting the qualities of determination and focus that make him a champion.

June 17, 2008

Celtics Triumphant

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The Boston Celtics won Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a rout of the Lakers to clinch the championship. What is amazing to me is the sudden emergence of diehard Celtic fans: people whom I've never heard utter a single word about the NBA are now lifelong supporters of the Celts.

Anyway, congrats to the Boston club and its fans for an exciting series.

June 23, 2008

The Greensward

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Time to tee up The Lawn Tennis Championships: day one of Wimbledon. Live coverage is on ESPN2 right now.

Federer's Fashion Statement

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Nike prepared a custom design to mark Roger Federer's five consecutive Wimbledon titles. He'll be playing in these white-and-gold models pursuing #6 the next two weeks.

June 25, 2008

Serb And Folly

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#3 seed Novak Djokovic was bounced out of the second round of Wimbledon in straight sets today by Marat Safin--admittedly a very dangerous floater for a top player to face so early in the tournament. This development detracts a bit from the three-way rivalry emerging at the top of the men's game. Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer all made the semis in Melbourne and Paris in the year's first two majors. I'm still hoping for another Federer-Nadal showdown in the final!

Russian Roulette

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I'm still processing Marat Safin's upset of Novak Djokovic earlier today. Probably not a total surprise that a former U.S. and Australian Open champ turned out to be capable of such a strong result. But Safin's play in recent years has been so sporadic, it was hard to see this coming. It will be interesting to see how far he advances now. Certainly Roger Federer won't be sad to see the Djoker, who beat him in the semis in Melbourne and again was in the same half of the draw, bounced from the tournament.

June 27, 2008

Black Thursday

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Pretty tough day at Wimbledon yesterday for a handful of contenders: Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, and James Blake were all sent packing. This represents a particularly brutal showing for American men at The Championships; only little-known Bobby Reynolds remains alive in the singles draw.

June 28, 2008

Fall Is On Its Way!

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Got the 2008 summer training website for Choate Cross Country up and running and my first newsletter out to the boys. Two months until the fall season!

June 30, 2008

Big Day At The All-England Club

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Today all 16 men and 16 women left in the singles competitions will see action at Wimbledon. Among the day's featured tilts: a contest between the only two men's champions in the draw, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt; Rafael Nadal vs. Mikhail Youzhny; and Richard Gasquet vs. Andy Murray. And for the first time in a week, I'll be able to watch live coverage!

Looking Impressive

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Roger Federer may very well make a liar out of me, but Rafael Nadal is looking more and more like a Wimbledon champion this year; he appears more effective on grass with each match. Rafa schooled Mikhail Youzhny--a player who might have been expected to give him trouble--in the Round of 16 today.

The British Hope

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The crowds at the All-England Club are always electrified when a home-grown player makes some noise in the singles draw. This happens rarely nowadays, but today Scot Andy Murray assembled an exciting comeback from 0-2 down in sets to get Centre Court on its feet.

July 2, 2008

Virtuoso

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Rafa Nadal's performance against Andy Murray today did nothing to make me reconsider my view that he has an awfully good shot to win this year's Wimbledon. Murray was riding a wave of confidence and had the support of the home crowd (some 50% of the British public watched his come-from-behind win on Monday night) but Nadal never lost more than two points in any of his service games.

July 6, 2008

Magical And Magnificent

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The just-concluded Wimbledon men's singles final was, quite simply, a contest of extraordinary beauty and drama. This marathon struggle was wrapped up with a ferociously fought fifth set in the gloaming, with the final points played in the lingering light past 9 p.m. local time.

As these two great players appear to be such grounded human beings, I'd have been happy to see either one host the familiar golden trophy on Centre Court (though I was pulling more for Nadal today). One has to feel for Federer: after he weathered the fourth-set tiebreak and seemed to find the range on his shots, I really thought he would prevail in the fifth. It looked as though he was about to do just that not long before the end, as he pressed on Nadal's serve, coming within two points of an incredible sixth consecutive title. But I think Rafa is in his head, especially after the demolition Federer suffered in the Roland Garros final. At some level, Roger had to be worried the Spaniard was just not going to go away as he did on this day each of the past two years. Nadal's success on the clay and his improved showing on Melbourne and through the spring U.S. hard court swing had built his confidence (as had his improved backhand and serve) toward the moment of victory here.

For Nadal, this result represents a tremendous achievement: proof that he can bag a major somewhere other than Paris. It also seems to represent a changing of the guard. Nadal has two Slam crowns in 2008 compared to Federer's none (both lost in the semis Down Under in January). Roger has but two victories in minor events to show for his season thus far while Nadal has a pile of Masters Series wins. (And remember Djokovic, who was close to unseating Nadal as #2 just weeks ago? His second-round loss at Wimbledon now has dropped him off the radar!) No matter what the computer says, there's little doubt Nadal is the best player in the world right now.

Federer will need to do some serious soul searching tomorrow morning. His greatest rival has beaten him in his own home: the greensward of the All-England Club. Will this turn of events spook the Swiss like McEnroe's dethroning of Bjorn Borg in 1981 resulted in Borg's packing up his racquets for good? Or will Federer bounce back to win Olympic gold and emerge with yet another U.S. Open trophy? I'd surely love to see another Rafa/Roger showdown on the last Sunday of Flushing Meadows.

July 7, 2008

Further Thoughts On A Masterful Match

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I am still ruminating over yesterday's dramatic and awe-inspiring men's singles final at Wimbledon. I watched amidst a crowd of teenagers in a common room in the student union here at Stanford; it was a noisily partisan crowd--divided roughly equally between Federer and Nadal supporters (I was sitting next to a Spaniard!). The boisterous room turned out to be a fun place to watch this showdown as it climbed to dizzying heights of competitiveness. And throughout the last three sets, I was texting back and forth with a pair of former Choate Tennis captains: we shared our amazement at the events unfolding before us.

On West Coast time, I actually missed the first two sets and most of the third. When I woke up (after a late night out in the city and still dragging from the time change) I assumed the match was ended. But the rain delay gave me a chance to settle in for the drama still ahead. As play resumed, it looked like Rafa would win in three sets. Then Federer forced a fourth. Nadal pulled ahead in the tiebreak only to tighten up while serving at 5-2. But he still fought his way to match points, which Federer fearlessly erased. I was convinced at that point the Swiss would carry the day in the fifth set if it finished before darkness. He got close. But Nadal was not to be denied.

And the two combatants were class acts all the way, both during the battle and in its aftermath. Rafa was wonderfully self-effacing and deferential to Roger in his post-match interviews. Federer, while clearly devastated, was equally sporting.

One question now emerges: can Roger Federer really be considered the greatest of all time when he may not be the greatest in his own era? His time on the stage is hardly over, but it's difficult to imagine he can recapture the aura of invincibility he has had for over four years now.

July 9, 2008

Aquanauts

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Stanford has been a training ground for some of the world's best athletes (e.g., Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, et al.) So it's not surprising that this week Michael Phelps and the rest of the U.S. swimming team about to compete in the Beijing Olympics are here on campus for training sessions before they head off to the Far East.

Competitive swimming was something I was seriously involved with for about 5-6 years in my youth. I got to be reasonably accomplished in the sport, too.

I don't know if the Olympic team's practice session will be at all open to the public, but if they are, I hope to catch a glimpse.

It's Been A While . . .

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. . . since Sports Illustrated featured tennis on its cover. In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, it was pretty much expected after Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and occasionally the French. So it's gratifying to see both Nadal and Federer gracing this week's cover of the magazine.

July 10, 2008

Eating Crow

ESPN.com columnist had the misfortunes to write a piece trashing professional tennis before a weekend featuring the spectacular Williams/Williams and Federer/Nadal classics. In his latest podcast, he now acknowledges it was "maybe the dumbest column I've ever written."

July 12, 2008

The Tennis Players Arrive

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Right here on the Stanford campus, a stone's throw from where my history seminar meets, they are gearing up for a professional tennis tournament to be staged next week. The Bank Of The West Classic, a WTA Tour event, is the first event in the U.S. Open Series and features Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport, among others. It will be nice to have quality tennis within walking distance of where I am staying all week!

July 13, 2008

The Championships, One Week Later

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Seven days after the monumental men's singles final at Wimbledon, I am still relishing that match. It substantially changed the landscape of the men's game in 2008. Consider that Roger Federer made the semifinal round at the Australian Open and then the finals at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon--for most mortal players, a spectacular campaign--but according to his lofty standards, the year has turned into into a "disaster." He'll enter the second half of the season with a some pressure to win the remaining big events: the U.S. Open, in particular, but the Olympics and ATP Masters Cup too. Theoretically, Nadal can only improve in what has been his least impressive time on tour the last few years. Can he cement his status as the world's best player by walking away with the trophy at Flushing Meadows?

July 20, 2008

Tracktown, U.S.A.

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I just finished watching Without Limits, one of two biopics about running legend Steve Prefontaine, in the new home of Scott and Dawn Mattoon out here in Eugene, Oregon--a fitting place to see this film, as it was where Pre rose to prominence as an athlete (and where he was tragically killed at the age of 24 in an auto accident). Got to see the University of Oregon campus, including Hayward Field (which just hosed the Olympic Track & Field Trials a few weeks back).

July 21, 2008

Showdown In Toronto?

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The top male tennis players in the world are converging on the Canadian Open--er, sorry, officially it's "the Rogers Cup"--this week. As it's a Masters Series event, the highest ranked guys are all required to compete. The tourney is much earlier on the summer circuit this year than normal, as the pro schedule was shuffled around due to the Olympics.

Defending champ Novak Djokovic will no doubt be eager to bounce back after his disappointing Wimbledon outing. Last year's finalist and 2006 winner Roger Federer will also be looking to re-establish himself after his own disappointments in those two majors (albeit these "disappointments" entailed losing in the finals, not early exits like Djokovic suffered!). And a certain newly-minted Wimbledon champion from Spain, Rafael Nadal, who won this event in 2005 incidentally, expects to be in the mix as well.

Federer can derive a bit of comfort from the fact that #3 seed Djokovic is in Nadal's half of the draw. Could be an interesting week of tennis!

July 22, 2008

Troubling Times For The ATP?

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This week the New York Times has been running daily articles in the Sports section covering the antitrust lawsuit waged by the German Tennis Federation against the ATP, the governing body of men's professional tennis. Seasoned observers are suggesting that if the ATP loses, the entire men's professional circuit could be blown up, to be replaced by who knows what!

July 24, 2008

Slump?

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Now that Roger Federer has lost his first match on the North American hard court summer circuit, can we say he's officially in a slump? He dropped a three-setter in Toronto to France's Gilles Simon, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Hard to remember Federer losing back-to-back matches.

The Swiss player has a lot of points to defend in the second half of the year and his primary challenger, Rafael Nadal, can earn a lot more points if he simply plays better than he did last summer. Given what must be sky-high confidence on the part of the new Wimbledon champ, it's hard to imagine that won't happen. There may be a new #1 in the rankings sooner rather than later!

Squandering An Opportunity

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With Roger Federer out of his quarter of the draw early, Andy Roddick had a good chance to advance to the finals. No more. He was was upset by 44th-ranked Marin Cilic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Doesn't look like Roddick having a very good 2008.

July 25, 2008

Another Casualty In Canada

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Just after Time released its list of the "100 Olympic Athletes to Watch," the only tennis player featured, Novak Djokovic, loses for the first time to Andy Murray at the Masters event in Toronto. The early departures 2007 winner Djokovic and 2007 finalist Federer are shifting a lot of ranking points the way of Rafa Nadal (who beat Richard Gasquet handily after dropping an epic first-set tiebreak in today's quarterfinal) this week.

July 31, 2008

Unimpressive

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Roger Federer was somewhat lucky to get through his first match in the Cincinnati Masters tournament the other day, as Robbie Ginepri served for the match in the second set before letting the #1-ranked player off the hook. Today, however, Ivo Karlovic prevented another escape, as his huge serves enabled him to hold on to a third set tiebreak and pull off the upset of Federer. The on-court temperature was above 110º, and this clearly had a debilitating effect on the 6'10" Karlovic, but he wisely realized all the had to do was to keep banging in his serves in the third set to get to a tiebreak, and then take his chances there; in fact, Karlovic hardly contested Federer's service games. This stratagem paid off, as three unforced errors from the backcourt from the Swiss player's racket gave the #16 seed the win.

Watching the match, it was clear Roger is still lacking in confidence. He didn't play badly, but when things got tight at the end of the third set, he gave away points ordinarily you'd expect him to find a way to win.

It now appears that the #1 ranking in the men's game will change hands sooner rather than later, particularly if Rafael Nadal wins this week's Masters event, in which case he will appear atop the ATP rankings next Monday. Otherwise, at some point in the coming weeks, we can expect to see a changing of the guard.

August 1, 2008

It's Official: Rafa Rises To #1

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With his win over Nicolas Lapentti tonight, Rafael Nadal has made it a certainty that he will take over the top ranking in men's tennis before the U.S. Open. As the ATP press release details:

The timing . . . depends on his results in Cincinnati:

- If Nadal wins the title, he will become No. 1 this Monday.
- If Nadal loses in the final he will become No. 1 on August 11
- If Nadal loses in the semifinals he will become No. 1 on August 18

This makes an already enticing semifinal matchup against Novak Djokovic tomorrow all the more interesting.

August 3, 2008

Big Win For The Serb

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As if to remind us all that he still intends to be included in the equation with all the recent focus on Nadal and Federer, Novak Djokovic made a statement in upending a fairly worn-out Rafa Nadal in Cincinnati tonight. This will delay Nadal's ascension to the top ranking a couple of weeks. It also re-establishes Djokovic as a threat in the upcoming U.S. Open. He is clearly at his best on hard court, winning in Melbourne and Indian Wells this year and advancing to the finals at Flushing Meadow last September. And should he prevail at the Open next month, he would own two of the 2008 majors, as would Nadal. Would that drop Federer to #3? It certainly would make the Olympics gold medal and the Masters Cup title more important in sorting out these three contenders.

Big Win For The Scot

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Andy Murray earned his biggest tournament victory ever, beating Novak Djokovic in two tiebreaks with a controlled performance in the final of the Cincinnati Masters this afternoon. This was Murray's second win over the Serb in as many weeks.

Murray served for the match at 5-4 in the second and squandered four match points. It looked like the Djoker might be able to carry the day if he could get to a third set, but a brilliant exchange at 4-all in the tiebreak, punctuated by a Murray crosscourt backhand winner, provided the critical edge.

Based on current form, these two 21-year-olds are the most capable challengers to the Nadal/Federer stranglehold on the game's top spots.

August 10, 2008

One Down, Seven To Go

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Michael Phelps blew away the field in the 400 IM final for his first gold medal of the Beijing Games. It looks as if he is swimming unbelievably well.

August 12, 2008

Magic Touch

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As a former competitive swimmer, I was thrilled to watch the U.S. men come from behind in the final lap to edge France in the 400-meter freestyle relay today. Even though I knew the result before seeing the evening replay on Eurosport, it was palpably exciting to see the race unfold.

August 13, 2008

Another Olympiad

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I am reading an excellent account of the 1960 Olympics in Rome by Washington Post veteran David Maraniss. This excellent overview of this particular Games touches on the politics, the emerging commercialism, the human interest stories, and the sheer drama of sport that the Olympic Games typically encompass, and does so in an engaging narrtive style. It's a treat to read this while keeping up with current developments in Beijing.

August 14, 2008

Real Tennis

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Merton College has its own real tennis court--what American call "court tennis" (the "real" is a corruption of "royal" as the origins of the game are associated with Henry VIII's court at Hampden Court Palace. Had a nice chat with the pro here and got to watch some play.

Bravo, James Blake

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Roger Federer's 2008 woes continued as he was upset today by American James Blake in the Olympic competition. This was a terrific win for Blake, who previously had taken but one set from Federer in eight matches. This result advances Blake to the semifinals, meaning he's one of four players vying for three medals. Should he win against Chile's Francisco Gonzalez, he'll be assured at least the silver. In the other half of the draw, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet. Can we assume right now these two are the best two players in the world, at least based on current form?

August 15, 2008

Nadal Going For Gold

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The about-to-be-#1 player in the world Rafael Nadal prevailed in three sets in the Olympic Games semi over Novak Djokovic to earn a gold medal showdown against Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who beat American James Blake after saving match points in the third set.

August 16, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?

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The touch that was worth $1 million, I guess. By just .01 seconds, Michael Phelps won his seventh gold medal of the Beijing Games, earning a hefty bonus from Speedo for tying Mark Spitz's record (and Phelps could add to his haul with another relay victory tomorrow in his last race of these Olympics). It REALLY doesn't get any closer than that.

Roger Gets A Gold Medal After All

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Congrats to Roger Federer for winning the Olympic doubles crown with Stanislas Wawrinka. Though it's not the event he preferred to medal in, I'm sure, this has to be a pretty sweet consolation. And it might be just the thing to stoke Federer's confidence heading into the U.S. Open.

August 17, 2008

8 Is A Super Lucky Number In China

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The Beijing Games started on 8/8/08 and Michael Phelps has run the table to win 8 gold medals in 8 attempts. Hard to argue he's not the greatest Olympian ever (what with another 6 golds from 2004 already in hand and a good shot at more shiny hardware in London in 2012).

Americans Get A Share Of Tennis Olympic Gold

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The Williams sisters won their second gold medals in doubles (after winning in Sydney in 2000), winning the Olympic competition fairly decisively. Congrats!

Golden Boy

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I just finished watching the gold medal match in my hotel here in Venice. Rafa Nadal was impressive in dismissing Chile's Fernando Gonzalez to win the tournament and claim a medal for an otherwise lackluster Spanish effort in Beijing. The coverage of the match was on a Spanish channel--there were other events for the sampling on Italian and German networks--which meant some very excited announcers, of course. Nadal is clearly on top of his game heading into the final major of the year in just another week. Let's hope he recovers for the Open after a very taxing summer.

August 18, 2008

Changing Of The Guard

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It's official: there's a new #1 in men's tennis today, and that is Olympic gold medalist Rafael Nadal.

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Meanwhile, 19-year-old Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina has won four consecutive tournaments on the tour and is sneaking into dangerous dark horse territory in next week's U.S. Open.

August 24, 2008

Open Season

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The U.S. Open begins in less than 24 hours. A handful of compelling storylines are at play in the final major of the 2008 tennis season. The event will be competing for attention with the Democratic and Republican conventions. I am heading in to the Open this Tuesday. Should be fun!

August 25, 2008

A Whole New World

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I am watching Rafael Nadal's first-round match at the U.S. Open--his inaugural outing as the world's #1 player. It doesn't look like he is playing particularly well, I have to say. Bill Macatee made an interesting point, though: in May, Nadal was just a match away from dropping to #3 in the rankings. He has certainly put together an incredible summer of tennis since then. It would be a shame if fatigue catches up to Nadal such that he doesn't go deep into the second week of this year's Open. Obviously there would be tremendous interest in another Federer/Nadal showdown.

August 26, 2008

The Open

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Spent most of today at the U.S. Open, primarily prowling around the outer courts, taking in bits of matches here and there. I've been going to the tournament since it was played at Forest Hills, and I'm convinced the first few days of the best time to attend, since you can see lots of main draw action around the grounds and get a feel for the entire event. On the other hand, it's far better to see the big showdowns in the quarters, semis, and finals on television, which enables you to be more intimately connected to the drama unfolding.

September 1, 2008

Labor Day Once More

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September 1 is Labor Day this year, and here in southern New England we were treated to a spectacular late summer day, with a clear blue sky, comfortable temperatures, and just a hint of autumn in the air. For the 12th straight year, Choate Cross Country competed in the New Haven Road Race, an event which marks the start of our fall campaign. 22 boys from our team laced up their shoes in a field of some 5000 runners and acquitted themselves quite well. The results are a harbinger of a promising season ahead.

September 2, 2008

Federer Shows Some Intestinal Fortitude

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Since watching the tennis in Queens a week ago today, I have seen precious little of the action at this year's U.S. Open, since the opening of school has filled up most of my free time. I did get to see the fifth set of Roger Federer's fourth-round match today against Igor Andreev, in which the #2-ranked Swiss player held tough under pressure. On the one hand, it's troubling that Federer is being taken to five sets by a player he owned in the past. But with an upset on the horizon, he showed he was able to steel himself to advance to the quarterfinals. I think Roger has a decent shot at fifth straight title in Flushing Meadow, even with Djokovic as a potential semifinal opponent and the prospect of nemesis Nadal as a likely opponent in the final.

September 5, 2008

Bryan Brothers Win The Dubs At The Open

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Congrats to Bob and Mike Bryan for winning the U.S. Open title without dropping a set. Can these guys really be 30 already? I remember seeing them at coaches conventions when they were like 15.

September 7, 2008

Great Scot!

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Andy Murray advanced to the U.S. Open men's singles final with a dramatic win against #1 player Rafael Nadal over two days. Though the British player held a 2-0 advantage in sets when play was suspended on Saturday, Nadal was up a break in the third. It looked like the Spaniard would set up another Grand Slam final against Roger Federer when he took that third set and appeared comfortably ahead in the fourth. But Murray found a way to do what no one else yet has: he ran Nadal ragged around the court. Rafa actually looked tired (!) after the penultimate point of the match and, with a half-hearted drop shot that he barely tried to cover, surrendered the final point looking pretty spent near the end of an incredible breakthrough season. So now Murray will face The Fed--who has been my tournament pick since before the event started--for the U.S. Open title.

Has It Really Been Six Years Since This Last Happened?

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Congrats to Serena Williams for her stirring win in the women's final at the U.S. Open tonight. Hard to believe it's been so long since she dominated the game, at one point holding all four major titles at once. Jelena Jankovic played well, and this final was as good a match on the women's side as we've seen in years. And seeing the sheer delight so evident on Serena's face upon victory was pretty cool.

September 21, 2008

The All-Ireland Championship

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I spent much of this morning at the Irish-American Community Center down in East Haven watching a satellite feed of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship between Kerry and Tyrone. GAA football is sort of a cross between soccer and rugby, a fast-paced game that is fun to watch. A full Irish breakfast was served, which was quite a treat. And Tyrone stopped the three-peat by Kerry, winning by just one point.

Split Decision

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Today the U.S. beat Europe to win the biennial Ryder Cup golf competition, which has been dominated by the Europeans in the past decade. On the other hand, the American Davis Cup fell to Spain 4-1 in a semifinal tie on a slow clay court in Madrid. Win one, lose one, I guess!

Thanks For The Memories

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Tonight marked the final game in The House That Ruth Built. I've seen quite a few games in Yankee Stadium since I was a boy, so it's tough to see this landmark of sport fall under the wrecking ball.

October 4, 2008

Night Game

It's amazing to me how a game played under portable lights can generate so much enthusiasm on our campus--especially if there's a dramatic win in the closing minutes of play. For only the second time ever, Choate hosted a night football game and filled the stands with kids, teachers, and parents. After a sluggish start--going down 0-14 in the opening stages of the game--the Wild Boars came to life as the sun went down, defeating Andover, 33-29.

October 13, 2008

I Have Been Immortalized

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My words now appear on the back of Choate Cross Country sweatshirts all over campus. Not my idea, I promise. And I couldn't order one of these for myself lest I be considered a megalomaniac.

October 18, 2008

In Which The Top Two Seeds Fail To Reach The Final

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Interesting tennis developments in what is usually the least interesting part of the season: the circuit's fall indoor European swing. Rafa Nadal wrapped up the year-end #1 ranking for 2008 today, even though he fell in the Madrid Masters semis to Gilles Simon, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6), in what was reportedly one of the best matches of the year. In the other half of the draw, Andy Murray avenged his loss in the U.S. Open final by upending Roger Federer in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

November 2, 2008

Another Championship Season

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As a coach, it's pretty satisfying to see one's team rise to the big occasion. In a season that included a few frustrating close losses--due perhaps more to illness and injuries than anything else--it was a treat to see Choate Cross Country summon winning performances in the JV (thirteenth straight win in this meet) and varsity (ninth of last twelve) races in the League championship.

November 3, 2008

Tomorrow's Game Plan

1. Get up.
2. Breakfast at Abbott's
3. Vote.
4. Community lunch.
5. Teach PS550 classes.
6. Athletics staff meeting.
7. Cross country coaching.
8. Meet with girls' squash captain and co-coach.
9. AVOID ALL INTERNET SITES ABOUT THE ELECTION, ESPECIALLY THOSE WITH LEAKED EXIT POLLS.
10. Eat dinner.
11. Go to Goodyears for Election Night Party.
12. Await good news.

November 9, 2008

Squash Scoring

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At the meeting of the New England Interscholastic Squash Association earlier this afternoon, the boys' and girls' team coaches agreed to change our scoring system to point-a-rally games to 11 points to reflect the coming change in World Squash Federation and U.S. Squash tournament formats. We'll be a little ahead of the curve in the New England prep schools, but that has been typical of our Association, which also led the way in the shift from hardball to softball play.

November 15, 2008

A Hazardous Profession?

So I've made the move to the girls' side of the squash program this winter, coaching the varsity squad. No doubt the players are talented and hard-hitting, though I've noticed the girls take MUCH bigger swings to generate their pace. While drilling on court this afternoon, I got clocked in the face by a backswing. Fortunately, the goggles caught then brunt of the impact--good thing I was wearing them!--but it did shake me up a bit. I'll be a little more wary of these big swings in the future.

November 19, 2008

A Strange Kind Of Wednesday

Most Wednesdays during the school year are game days, with a lot of activity getting teams on buses and welcoming visiting squads and officials and such. Not today. We are ending a week of winter sport try-outs/practices now and though the Athletic Center is busy with training sessions, the facility schedule is spread out such that it seems eerily quiet for a Wednesday afternoon.

November 23, 2008

J - E - T - S

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Watched the Jets take down the heretofore undefeated Titans this afternoon and the Favre-led team looked most impressive.

November 27, 2008

Tennis In 1977

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Tonight I am enjoying a classic match between Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors on Tennis Channel, from the Pepsi Grand Slam Challenge--a special four-player event staged in Florida in the late 1970s. The network is replaying matches from this ebent all week; this is the 1977 final. I may well have seen this when it originally aired on CBS; I'd have been in 7th grade at the time. Usually matches played with the older racquet technology look like slow motion nowadays, but this one holds up pretty well; you still get a good sense of Connors' pace and Borg's athleticism. This is fun to watch.

November 30, 2008

Sitting Pretty In The Garden

I am at Madison Square Garden right now with Christophe Lirola, watching the Rangers play from pretty sweet seats in the second row right behind the goal. Here is the iPhone view from this vantage point:
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December 6, 2008

On The Road Again

First match of the squash season in my new role as head coach of the girls' varsity squad. We had a 4:30 match at Exeter, with nearly a three-hour trip each way, so this constituted a long day on the road. Happily, we won the match to start the season off right.

December 13, 2008

Drama In The Rink

Choate's boys' varsity hockey team just ended a dramatic showdown against arch-rival Deerfield in a packed Remsen Arena, breaking a 3-3 deadlock with an overtime goal. Sweet!

December 27, 2008

Tennis Anyone?

Had the chance to shake off my slothful holiday habits by hitting some tennis balls and playing a few tiebreakers with Christophe (I squandered a match point in the decisive one, dammit!) on the fast indoor courts of the Johnson Athletic Center this afternoon. This was my first time on the tennis courts in a couple months now, and whenever I'm away from the game, as soon as I start hitting I'm reminded of the sheer kinesthetic pleasure of striking the ball, especially when I am making contact in the sweet spot.

December 30, 2008

New Look For ATP.com

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The website for men's pro tennis has a new look to go along with the organization's re-branding as "ATP World Tour."

January 3, 2009

A New Look For Rafa

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Guess who is wearing sleeves now? And those Capri pants appear to be a thing of the past, too. These photos are from the exhibition being played in Abu Dhabi this week. (Nadal advanced to the final, where he'll face Andy Murray, who knocked off Roger Federer 7-6 in the third in the other semi.)

January 5, 2009

A New Stick For Squash

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Thanks to my friends of HEAD, I will be playing with a new racquet at practice today: the Microgel Extreme. It's light (but not too light) and has a nice feel to it on touch shots.

January 7, 2009

A Nice Surprise

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I got a call this afternoon informing me that I have been named High School Coach Of The Year for the New England Division of the United States Professional Tennis Association, the premier organization of coaches and teaching pros in the country. Not sure how my name got on the Association's radar, so this was an unexpected honor. I'll now be expected to attend the awards luncheon in New Hampshire next weekend--and will have to juggle my schedule a bit to do so. It will be a good chance to catch up with some USPTA folks I haven't seen in quite a while.

January 10, 2009

One Of The Best Days Of The Year

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Today is the day most of Choate's winter sports teams play their counterparts from Andover--the only day this season when we do this sort of school-to-school match-up. It's especially nice to host it in odd-numbered years (especially given the snowy weather today) and spend the afternoon and early evening moving between the squash courts, the hockey rink, the basketball courts, the pool, and the wrestling mat.

January 11, 2009

No Super Bowl Repeat in 2009

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The season just came to an end for the New York Giants. After such a thrilling run a year ago, it seems like this team had the potential to go all the way again, but was simply outplayed by the Eagles this afternoon.

January 17, 2009

Coach Of The Year

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So I have a cool plaque for my office, or maybe for the Hunt Tennis Center. Not sure who nominated me for this, but I had a nice time at the Convention up in New Hampshire today. Saw a couple of presentations: one by the Yale women's coach on running a team practice, and another by former world top ten player Tim Mayotte. I also reconnected with a few folks in the tennis world I haven't seen in some time.

On the way home, I stopped at Phillips Exeter to see Choate's boys' basketball teams, who were arriving for their games. I then drove straight back to the Remsen arena for crowd control duties during the Choate/Taft boys' varsity hockey game. I got around to dinner about 9:30 at night.

January 18, 2009

Grand Slammin'

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I am much less interested in today's football playoffs than I am in the start of the 2009 Australian Open, the first major tournament of the tennis year. Coverage of Monday's play starts this evening here on the east coast of North America, and I am watching Andy Roddick's opening match on the blue tones of Rod Laver Arena's court surface on the high def flavor of ESPN2. I have fond memories of Day 1 of this event, as I was in attendance Down Under in 1998 and 2007. Watching this event always makes me wish I was in Melbourne again, especially since it should be about 60-70 degrees warmer right now!

January 19, 2009

Waking Up To Tennis

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One of the cool aspects of the disparate time zones between New England and Down Under is that the evening sessions at the Australian Open tend to be winding down as dawn breaks here. So I arise to the sights and sounds of Roger Federer's first-round match in Rod Laver Arena.

Another Nifty Stick

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My friends at HEAD Squash sent me one of their newest racquets to play with: the 115ct. Though it's lighter than I usually prefer, it has a very nice feel, with a good mix of power and touch.

January 25, 2009

The Escape Artist

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Roger Federer bounced back from an 0-2 deficit in sets to defeat Thomas Berdych and keep his dreams of a 14th major title alive heading into the second week of the Aussie Open.

January 26, 2009

A Favorite Falls

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A lot of observers in the game were picking Andy Murray to break through and win his first major at this year's Aussie Open, but the Scot went down in five sets to an on-form Fernando Verdasco. This should make it easier for Rafael Nadal--who has been thrashing opponents in Melbourne--to get through to the final, since Murray was in his half of the draw.

January 27, 2009

Andy Survives The Heat

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I went to sleep last night after the first set of the Djokovic/Roddick quarterfinal match, after the Serb had taken the first-set tiebreak with a barrage of penetrating forehands. Apparently, I gave up on Roddick too soon, for he won the next two set before Djokovic retired down 1-2 in the fourth. The heat was apparently brutal, with on-court temperatures clocking in at 136°F! So the good news is that the top American unseated the defending champion for a place in the semis; the bad news is that he'll next have to face nemesis Roger Federer, who waxed Juan Martin del Potro in another quarterfinal, dropping only three games in the process. Federer steamrolled Roddick in the Melbourne semis two years ago, so we'll see if things turn out differently this time around.

January 28, 2009

Rafa Below The Radar?

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Rafael Nadal advanced to the Aussie Open semifinals for the second straight year. The Spaniard has been sort of a stealth presence in the draw, getting less attention than the (over?) hyped Andy Murray, the resurgent Roger Federer, or the much-improved Fernando Verdasco. But Nadal is the world's #1-ranked player and he may well be playing the best tennis among the male contenders right now. Should be an interesting weekend . . .

January 30, 2009

Rivalry Renewed Down Under

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I awoke about 4:45 this morning without the benefit of an alarm and flipped on the bedroom television to ESPN2 and caught the tail end of the first set of the men's semifinal match between Rafael Nadal and his countryman Fernando Verdasco in the Australian Open. Over the next few hours, I was mesmerized by some stunning tennis: physically brutal baseline rallies punctuated by spectacular shot-making. Every time Verdasco looked like he had run out of gas, he rallied back to keep Nadal on the ropes. The world #1 prevailed, 6-4 in the fifth, after five hours of play (well past 1 a.m. local time) when his opponent double faulted after saving two match points.

Now we will be treated to the first hard court showdown in a major final between the world's top two players, Nadal and Roger Federer. They played four times in 2008, with the Spaniard sweeping the series, taking three clay-court finals in Monte Carlo, Hamburg, and Roland Garros, as well as the stellar championship match at Wimbledon. That memorable title bout on the greensward was the last time the two have played each other, as Federer lost early in the Beijing Olympics won by Nadal and Nadal in turn surrendered in the semis of the U.S. Open before he could meet his Swiss rival in the final. So Sunday's match represents a much-anticipated renewal of one of the best rivalries in sport right now. Looking forward to it!

January 31, 2009

Serena Powers Through

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Serena Williams bagged her tenth major title, bulldozing Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 in the Australian Open final. Serena also paired with sister Venus to win the women's doubles crown.

It's been a good weekend for U.S. players Down Under, as the men's doubles was won by American siblings as well: the Bryan twins posted their third victory in Melbourne in the past four attempts and reclaimed the top team ranking in the process.

February 1, 2009

Another One For The Ages

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I suppose I can smugly point out that Rafa was my pick to win the Aussie Open all along, even when it was fashionable to tip Murray or Federer in the build-up to the tournament. Even after Nadal's semifinal marathon with Verdasco the other night, I thought the title was his to lose. I've been convinced since last spring's clay court season that Nadal holds a virtually impregnable mental edge over Federer now: quite simply, he's in Roger's head. The best chance for a 14th Slam title for the world #2 entailed Verdasco or someone else eliminating Nadal before the final. Once a match gets into a critical stage against Nadal, I think deep down inside Roger just doesn't believe he can win. He knows his nemesis won't go away and unless he can summon near-perfect tennis to blow him off the court, eventually the Spaniard will prevail in a war of attrition.

A few more thoughts:

  • Nadal's defense has never looked better than it did these last two matches. He scrambled for balls no one else would have been able to touch and got them back in play--and in some cases did a lot more than that, conjuring spectacularly angled winners.
  • Rafa's serve is also better than it was a year ago, especially when he cracked one down the center "T" in the ad court.
  • The #1 ranking is certainly well deserved at this point: Nadal holds three of the four major crowns plus an Olympic gold medal and a share of the 2008 Davis Cup (though he missed the final tie in the latter competition). Murray and Djokovic are less credible challengers to the top duo than they were two weeks ago.
  • Pete Sampras may be sleeping a little better. Now that Federer has lost to his rival in Slam finals on grass and hard courts--in addition to being annihilated at Roland Garros last June--the math of Roger bagging 14th and 15th majors gets a lot more problematic looking ahead.
  • I don't want to be perceived as a Federer basher, for I think there's a lot to admire and like about The Mighty Fed, but isn't the case for him being considered the Greatest Of All Time significantly tarnished by his inability to consistently beat a player in his own time? Nadal has won 13 of the 19 showdowns between the two now, including the last five straight and five of seven Slam finals. Hard to imagine Federer ever holding that French Open trophy aloft now, something that has been viewed as the missing line in his resumé!
  • Is it appropriate to start talking about the odds of a singles Grand Slam in men's tennis in 2009? We now have seen Nadal take the big prizes on grass and hard courts and he is a prohibitive favorite for a fifth Roland Garros win. I wouldn't bet on a Slam, but certainly no one else has a shot at it at this point!
  • The awards ceremony Down Under was touching. Hard not to feel for Roger Federer. He may be realizing that his dream of 14 or more singles titles in the majors is becoming increasingly elusive, as is a return to the top ranking. He's 27 now and Nadal is only 22! I think Federer was genuinely touched by the warm reaction of the Melbourne fans. After he choked up, Nadal was there to console him. Have we seen two classier sportsmen atop the men's side of the game in the Open Era?
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February 3, 2009

U.K. Tour IV

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Looks like I'll be in England in March. The stars have just aligned for a fourth Choate Squash tour of U.K. schools for a week at the end of the winter term. Now I've got to get to work on all the logistics involved.

February 13, 2009

Tournament Time

This weekend, Choate is hosting a sanctioned junior squash tournament involving players from our own teams and those of other nearby prep schools, as well as dozens of young players from club programs all over the Northeast. I ran this event more or less single-handedly for many years, but recently turned over most of the heavy lifting to colleagues, which will allow me to enjoy the actual squash a lot more than I used to.

Meanwhile, I am gearing up to run three different New England championship tourneys for boys' squash (Classes A, B, and C) while hosting the girls' Class A event. That will be a very busy weekend on the heels of an intense week of preparation.

February 15, 2009

New Kicks On Their Way

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I've been working with adidas on a new tennis shoe design, built on the Barricade 5 last. Pictured above is the 2009 Ned Gallagher edition, which I'll have for the spring season. This is sort of the inverse color scheme of the Barricade 3 model I developed in London with the adidas shoe gurus during Wimbledon a few years back:

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February 17, 2009

Could Be A Coldplay Song

Here is my squash racquet:
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And here are my squash shoes:
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Put these together with the last two pictures I posted--of my scooter and the tennis shoes I just designed--and I think the theme will be clear. Maybe I have a case of jaundice?

February 24, 2009

Tournament Prep

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Much of my time this week is focused on getting ready for the New England Interscholastic Squash Championships. I am tournament director of the boys' events: Classes A, B, and C at three different prep school venues. I am also host coach for the girls' Class A event with my own team. So I'll spend much of Friday and Saturday on the road before returning to Choate to concentrate on coaching duties.

February 28, 2009

A Strange Brush With Fame

Kind of weird my name is being used to show off Deerfield Academy's new squash facility in this local news story. (Thanks, Max Mullen, for catching this.)

March 2, 2009

BJK in MSG

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I caught a little bit of the ceremonies honoring Billie Jean King in Madison Square Garden tonight; HBO covered the event live. Former president Bill Clinton showed he still has a silver tongue, as he articulately delivered very warm words about the tennis and women's rights pioneer.

March 5, 2009

Winchester College

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After a very copacetic flight (lots of empty seats = ability to stretch out) and a cumbersome process of sorting out our vehicle rental, the four Choate Squash boys and I got on the road and visited Stonehenge before heading to Winchester for our third visit to the Wykehamists (who also came to Choate on a squash tour once). Winchester is the oldest--and some would say academically most prestigious--of the English "public schools." I joined members of both teams for pizza in town in the evening, where we celebrated Geoff Van's 17th birthday.

March 6, 2009

Charterhouse School

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Our touring party left Winchester in the morning and headed down to Portsmouth for a visit to the Royal Navy dockyards and a tour of H.M.S. Victory, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. After some shopping in the outlet stores and a sumptuous lunch of Indian food, we made our way to Godalming and Charterhouse School, where we prevailed in a very competitive match. I enjoyed a dinner in town with my counterpart at a restaurant called Bel and The Dragon, which is situated in a converted church, making for a beautiful dining venue.

March 10, 2009

Last Night In Britain

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After a trip all the way back to our WImbledon hotel to retrieve a left watch, the boys and I visited Windsor this morning (but did not tour the Castle this time around) and spent most of the day with our hosts at Eton College. I forgot how big this school is: 1300 or so boys, nearly three times Choate's male enrollment. No wonder Eton can field (literally) 24 soccer teams! We had a nice tour of the College Chapel and ate lunch and dinner in the main dining hall before splitting up to sleep in two of the houses. We have an early departure time tomorrow in order to make it to Heathrow--fortunately pretty close by--for an 8:30 flight home.

March 9, 2009

Cheltenham College

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Another great day in England. I sent the boys to the Roman Baths first thing this morning while I finished filing my adviser reports in the hotel, then we made our way to Cheltenham College for lunch, some time downtown, and then a good match with the hosts (which happened to fall our way). The master-in-charge of squash is having me stay overnight at his home but I was treated to a splendid dinner "in College" in a private dining room with the adults associated with the squash program

March 15, 2009

Living In Style In Florida

For bringing 13 boys down to train at Saddlebrook, the resort puts me up in style in my own condo. It was over 80 degrees when I arrived here this afternoon. I am looking forward to a week of warmth and scraping the rust off my tennis game.

March 16, 2009

Where Is The Live Tennis Coverage?

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Tennis Channel offered coverage of the Indian Wells tournament--one of the most important stops on the men's and women's tours--over the weekend, so I got to see some matches at home on Saturday and down here in Florida yesterday. But as of today, the televised play switched over to Fox Sports Network, which we DON'T get here at Saddlebrook. Ugh! I miss the old ESPN wall-to-wall coverage of the Master Series events (yeah I know, they don't call them that anymore), but the folks in Bristol have trimmed tennis coverage back to just the Slams. So I guess I'll be able to see the final (Nadal vs. Federer, anyone?) at home Sunday afternoon. But nothing until then. Bummer.

My bigger concern is that there seems to be renewed interest in the sport of pro tennis among the general public--mostly due to a couple of spectacular showdowns between the top two men in major finals recently--but it's disappointing that coverage of tour events like Indian Wells and Key Biscayne (as well as Davis Cup ties) has been relegated to second-tier cable networks with more limited market penetration. (The phenomenon of "narrowcasting" continues.) Hopefully the new leadership at the ATP can address this.

March 17, 2009

Feeling The Burn

I spent three hours on the tennis court this morning, drilling pretty intensely on clay. It's the hardest I've worked in a while. It felt great to get my strokes grooved again, but I am paying the price now, feeling pretty stiff and sore. Time to hit the jacuzzi!

March 19, 2009

Spring Training

It's absolutely rejuvenating to spend a week in warmer climes at the end of winter, exercising pretty hard for a few hours each day and enjoying plenty of unstructured time to read, watch DVDs, sunbathe, or do not much of anything! This is restorative for the soul.

March 21, 2009

Matching Luggage

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I am realizing now, sitting here in the Tampa Airport Marriott, that all of my bags on this trip match. Nice to get free gear!

March 22, 2009

An Old-Fashioned Thrashing

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Rafael Nadal tore Andy Murray apart, 6-2, 6-1, in the final of the Indian Wells event today. The Spaniard continues to improve. He has now won the two biggest events of the year thus far and extended his dominance to hard courts--traditionally his weakest surface. Moreover he defeated--convincingly is an understatement--the one top player he had not yet bested this year. Should Rafa win the next major tournament in Miami two weeks from now and then cruise through the European clay court season and Wimbledon like he did in 2008, he will likely have the year's #1 ranking sewn up in the first six months of the season!

March 20, 2009

Back In The Groove

Just finished another three-hour training session this morning, with lots of drilling and a bit of playing as well. It was pretty intense; I was dripping in sweat in the Florida heat before an enjoyable plunge in the pool afterward. Wish I could keep this schedule up all spring!

March 25, 2009

My Published Masterpiece

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I created a photo book to commemorate the Choate Squash 2009 U.K. Tour using iPhoto. It was a breeze to layout the 20-page book using my digital photos, edit an accompanying map of our trip, and add some relevant text. The book, which arrived just over a week after I ordered it (which was almost as simple as pressing a button within iPhoto), came out looking pretty professional. The quality of the pictures in this format is stunning.

March 29, 2009

Another Comeback For Tiger

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Hard not to be impressed by another display of 18th-hole heroics from Mr. Tiger Woods in his return to golf after major surgery kept him off the tour for the last months of the 2008 season and the beginning of 2009. Sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole is the sort of thing we come to expect from the sport's best player, I guess. It sure was a thrill to watch.

March 31, 2009

Miami Would Be Nice About Now

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Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the pro tour schedule had the major tennis event in Key Biscayne, just off Miami, coinciding with spring break at school. So whenever our team was training in Florida--in Delray Beach or even as far away as the Tampa area--I could look forward to heading down to Miami for a day at this ATP/WTA combined event (which was called just "the Lipton" in its early history, after its title sponsor). No more. I miss the chance to see some great tennis in a great locale.

April 3, 2009

Springtime In Paris

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After years of threatening to do so, this May I actually will be going to Paris to see the middle weekend of the French Open. I cashed in some more points from my credit card--I have a huge backlog I've accumulated over many years--and I hope to spend an enjoyable three days in the City of Lights.

April 7, 2009

Trying Out Some New Sticks

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I got to play-test some of the racquets HEAD will be releasing in the next few months: the update to the Radical line and the new Speed frames. The Speed Pro, with a thinner beam, had a particularly nice feel from all around the court.

April 9, 2009

Sweet Piece Of Luggage

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My friends at HEAD hooked me up with this spiffy backpack, which is great for lugging around my MacBook, a couple of books, and various and sundry other things. It's very useful now that the weather is allowing me to zip around town on the scooter more and more.

April 10, 2009

Tennis On The Dirt

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I booked three days worth of tickets at Roland Garros (that's French Open tennis) for the last weekend in May: Friday I'll be in the second stadium, Court Suzanne Lenglen, and I have grounds passes for Saturday and Sunday, but I think I'll track down a show court ticket for at least one of those days either online or from the scalpers.

April 13, 2009

Monte Carlo

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My favorite pro tennis tournament that I have never been to (yet) is underway in Monte Carlo this week. I had the chance to spend a weekend there a year ago during the school's spring long weekend break and never got my act together to make it happen. Maybe next year . . . ?

April 16, 2009

Federer's Woes Continue

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After playing in the final (and losing to Nadal each time) at Monte Carlo the last few years, Roger Federer was ushered out of the tournament in the third round by his compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka. Newlywed Roger took a wild card to compete just last week and it doesn't look like he'll be the force on clay he's been in recent seasons. It's amazing that this five-time Wimbledon champ has also been the second-best player in the world on clay, too, and surely would have won a couple of Roland Garros crowns if Rafa Nadal had not been around. I wonder if he'll get his mojo back in Rome or Hamburg in the weeks ahead.

April 17, 2009

Breakfast In Monte Carlo

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Well, metaphorically, anyway . . . Tennis Channel is offering live coverage of the Monte Carlo tournament which comes on early in the morning here on the East Coast of North America. I watched Novak Djokovic assemble a three-set win over Fernando Verdasco this morning.

April 18, 2009

Tough Semifinal

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Rafa Nadal led Andy Murray 6-2, 5-2, before the Scot dialed in his game and started crafting points and drilling winners to force a second-set tiebreak. But Nadal showed why he hasn't lost a set in this event since 2006, summoning a flurry of winners himself in the critical tiebreak. Murray has to feel good about his best-ever clay court showing this week and about pushing the king of clay so hard. Nadal next faces world #3 Novak Djokovic in the final tomorrow.

April 19, 2009

Five Straight

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Earlier today, Rafael Nadal held off Novak Djokovic to claim his fifth consecutive crown at the Monte Carlo ATP event. Though the Serb won the second set with some impressive play--the first set Nadal dropped here since the 2006 final--the world #1 showed why he sits atop the game in the final set: given the slightest opening in the early going, he was able to convert a quick break and go on to steamroll Djokovic 6-1.

April 21, 2009

This Will Hold A Lot Of Racquets!

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Got a shipment of new gear from HEAD today, including the Tour Team Monstercombi bag, which is HUUUGE. Since it has backpack straps, this will be good for toting around my tennis gear while riding the Zuma.

April 22, 2009

Greatest Match Ever?

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Just got my latest fix from Amazon today: the newly released A Terrible Splendor, an account of the 1937 Davis Cup semifinal showdown between American Don Budge and German Gottfried von Cramm, played on Wimbledon's Centre Court and set against the backdrop of rising Nazi power. Looks like a good read about a match billed by the author as "the greatest ever." Next week, I'll be getting another new book, Strokes Of Genius by Sports Illustrated scribe L. Jon Wertheim, in which he unwinds the 2008 Gentlemen's Singles Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as "the greatest ever." I'll be interested to see which book makes the more compelling case.

Indoor Tennis

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For the second day in a row, the boys' varsity tennis team played an interscholastic match indoors on the three fast courts of the Johnson Athletic Center. While it's very helpful to get these matches in on the scheduled date--as opposed to finding a make-up date in an already very busy May--these indoor affairs tend to take a long time. Yesterday's tilt went the better part of five hours and today's, a fairly one-sided affair, was pushing four.

The photo above we thought was funny, with the player's last names on the back of the warm-ups suggesting what could pass for a law firm as easily as a tennis team!

April 26, 2009

The Mystery Logo

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Today I am wearing one of my favorite shirts, pictured above. I figured it was an appropriate Scandanavian sort of logo for this part of the world. It's amazing to me that most people are puzzled by the symbol. It's actually the logo associated with Bjorn Borg at the height of his career and adorned his Fila clothing line and Bancroft racquets (which he used only in North America before his Donnay contract was extended worldwide around 1980.

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Shocker: Nadal Wins On Clay

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At only 22 years of age, Rafa Nadal is already in the position of winning five consecutive times in some of the major European tournaments on clay: Monte Carlo last week and Barcelona this week. He doesn't have the same streak in Rome--the next stop on the tour--where he was upset a year ago, though he did win there in 2005, 2006, and 2007. And of course Nadal will be gunning for a fifth straight French Open title a month from now.

April 27, 2009

Waking Up In Rome

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No, my flight from Iceland didn't deposit me in Italy last night. But this morning, and every morning this week, Tennis Channel is featuring live coverage from Il Foro Italico of the Rome Masters event (what used to be called the Italian Open). Now if only Comcast would add the HD version of Tennis Channel, I'd REALLY be happy.

April 29, 2009

Another Greatest Match Ever?

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For the second time in a week, a book arrived in my mail promising to dissect "the greatest tennis match ever," this time focusing on 2008's Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal. This relatively slim volume, by Sports Illustrated scribe L. Jon Wertheim, looks like a quick but promising read.

April 30, 2009

My Paris Adventure Awaits

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Four weeks from tonight I'll be on a flight to Paris for three days at the French Open--a surgical strike of a getaway before returning to Connecticut for the last week of school! Since Tennis Channel offers wall-to-wall coverage of the European clay court circuit each spring, the last week or two I've been able to catch a fair amount of action. Consequently my appetite to see some tennis on the terre battue in person at the end of May has been whetted.

May 2, 2009

Heading Into Battle

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The Wild Boars tennis players are now gearing up for a big match against their arch-rivals from the Emerald City this afternoon.

Showdown At Il Foro Italico

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Rafael Nadal just dispatched Fernando Gonzalez to advance to the final of the Rome Masters 1000 event, where he'll face defending champion and world #3 Novak Djkokovic, who upended Roger Federer in a three-set semifinal earlier in the day. Nadal and Djokovic played in the Monte Carlo final two weeks ago; the Serb is the only player to get a set--though that's all he got--on clay this year from the man atop the rankings list. Could be an entertaining final tomorrow.

May 3, 2009

The Making Of A Champion

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Rafael Nadal posted a straight-set win over Novak Djokovic for his fourth Italian Open title in the past five years.

I've been reading Strokes Of Genius over the weekend and was struck by this passage describing Nadal's relationship with his coach, his paternal uncle Toni:

Toni was happy to tutor his nephew but immediately established a few ground rules:
  1. "If you ever throw a racket, we're finished. They're expensive, and when you throw a racket you don't just disrespect the sport, you disrespect all the people who can't afford equipment."
  2. "Losing is part of competing. You will lose. And when you lose, it's not going to be my fault or the fault of your racket or the balls or the courts or the weather. It's your fault, and you will accept it. Too many people in this world make excuses for their problems. You take responsibility and try and do better next time. That's all."
  3. "Have fun. When you stop enjoying this, it's no good. You'll find something else that gives you pleasure."

Wow. Pretty brilliant stuff from Uncle Toni. It cuts to the heart of understanding why Rafa Nadal is not only a great champion, but also a pretty grounded human being, too!

May 9, 2009

A Clutch Win

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I spent this afternoon with the Choate team at another one of my old stomping grounds: the Phillips Academy campus, where I taught and coached in the first year of my career. Our tennis matches with Andover are usually hard-fought affairs, and we managed to eke out a 4-3 victory in dramatic fashion, with our team captain closing out his #4 singles match 6-4 in the third set.

This was an especially gratifying win for the squad, as it represents a breakthrough this season: until today, we struggled to win the doubles point against better opponents and we had yet to assemble a team victory in a contest against a truly competitive rival. Things fell together for us against a very solid team, enabling us to climb to a 7-4 season record and secure our place in the New England playoffs next weekend. We'll hope to use this momentum in our remaining dual matches and in the tournament.

May 7, 2009

It's Supposed To Be APRIL Showers!

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Another tennis practice this spring cut short by rain! We've been hit pretty hard by precipitation this spring here in Connecticut. We've played a number of our matches indoors and had a couple of practice sessions canceled outright because of this seemingly incessant rain. I am hoping the rest of May will bring us better weather!

May 12, 2009

The Magic Box

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A new combined men's and women's event on the pro tennis circuit is being played in Madrid as the final major tune-up before the French Open. The centerpiece of the new facility is a complex of three courts with a retractable roof called "the Magic Box," which is striking in its sleekly modern looks. Apparently outdoor tennis can become indoor tennis in about fifteen minutes should rain appear.

May 14, 2009

Impressive On The Dirt

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Andy Roddick is quietly putting together some nice results on red clay over in Spain this week. He's just earned a quarterfinal showdown with fellow newlywed Roger Federer tomorrow.

May 17, 2009

The Return Of The King?

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Though it may not end up being any more meaningful than his win over Nadal in the Munich final two years ago, Roger Federer's 6-4, 6-4 victory over his Spanish rival had to be satisfying for a guy who hasn't won an event yet in 2009 and who has been owned by Nadal in their recent encounters. That said, Rafa made no secret this week of the difficulties he's been having controlling the ball in the Madrid altitude. He certainly looked flat in today's final. There was a moment when Federer served for the match at 5-4 in the second, went down 15-40, and it looked like one of those dramatic shifts Nadal has been able to summon in their past showdowns; the crowd seemed to be collectively waiting for Federer to collapse in a moment of slef-doubt once things got tight. But the Swiss player was tough when he needed to be. Yet I'll be very surprised if Federer is the one hoisting the Roland Garros trophy a few weeks from now.

May 22, 2009

The Draw Gods Have Spoken

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The French Open starts on Sunday and the singles draws have been determined. Fans of Roger Federer hoping for a repeat of last week's win in Madrid (with a rare victory over Nadal on clay) are probably unhappy to see Novak Djokovic looming as a prospective semifinal opponent. My guess is Federer's best chance at hoisting the Roland Garros trophy involved having his two biggest rivals on the same side of the draw to beat each other up before the final. No such luck.

May 24, 2009

Players Ready?

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Action is underway at the 2009 French Open. Looking forward to being there in person in a few days for the first time!

May 29, 2009

Roland Garros

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I have finally made it to the French Open, the only one of the four majors I have not attended (before today). I've been to the Aussie Open twice and Wimbledon a half-dozen or so times, and made countless trips to the U.S. Open over the years. I have a ticket to Court Suzanne Lenglen today--the second show court--and grounds passes the next two days, but will be angling for a Court Chatrier ticket, depending on the order of play. Today, Novak Djokovic completed his victory and Venus Williams got drummed out of the singles. Up later is #3 Andy Murray.

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Here's the view from my seat on Court Suzanne Lenglen: Venus Williams about to serve. Note the rust red color of the court with shades of green all around it--a pleasant tableau!

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May 30, 2009

La Terre Battue

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The red clay is a great surface on which to watch professional tennis players compete. Even a big server like Andy Roddick (pictured above) whose match I watched today had to construct points carefully and patiently. A-Rod advanced to the fourth round of the French Open for the first time ever, and did so with thoughtful change-ups, entailing short backhand slices to elicit errors from his opponent.

May 31, 2009

Last Day At Roland Garros

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One of the nice features of Grand Slam tournaments is the ability to watch the junior competitions, which are far off the radar of most spectators. For example, this afternoon I was one of just a few dozen on Court 3 watching Bernard Tomic (above), a 16-year-old Australian seeded second in the boys' singles and already tapped to be a top player in the world in the years ahead.

By the way, here are some photos I took of another 16-year-old phenom at the All-England Club in 2003:

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He is currently ranked #1 in the world, incidentally.

June 5, 2009

Federer Fights On

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Not satisfied with reaching at least the semis in twenty consecutive Slam tournaments, Roger Federer fought his way to another Roland Garros final for the fourth straight year, winning a tough five-set final. He is poised to win the one major that has eluded his grasp and, in the process, tie Sampras' mark of 14 Slam singles titles.

June 7, 2009

At Last!

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While strolling the grounds of Roland Garros with my two companions last Saturday, I said that as much as I like Nadal, I wouldn't mind seeing Roger Federer finally hoist the French Open singles trophy. The Swiss player finally broke through in Paris today, with a straight-set win the championship match, ending years of frustration at this event. It was pretty thrilling to see Federer rise to the occasion the past two weeks, coming back from perilous positions in a few of his matches, to claim this prize. I have to say it's probably not quite the same storyline it would have been had he beaten Nadal for the Roland Garros crown, but certainly Wimbledon will be a lot more interesting (assuming Nadal's knee holds up such that he can mount a defense of his title).

June 10, 2009

Cover Boy

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It's not often the French Open champ earns a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (For that matter, in recent years, Wimbledon and U.S. Open champs have been scarce there too, when once it was pretty routine.) So it's nice to see Roger Federer gracing the front of this week's issue.

True Colors

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Strange to see photos from this year's Queen's Club tournament--the Wimbledon tune-up in West London--wherein the court is adorned in electric blue, as in the shot above. Apparently a change in the title sponsor--the brewers at Artois having dropped out of this role--is responsible for the shift in hues. For decades, aside from the green of the courts themselves, the predominant color at Queen's has been bright red, as in this pic I snapped when I was at the tournament two years ago this week:

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June 15, 2009

Everyone Gets Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

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Apparently there were some ruffled feathers that this corner of cyberspace never mentioned two Class of '08 Choaties whom I met in Paris at the end of last month and who spent a day with me at the French Open. They did treat me to dinner (and I did treat them to breakfast when they had run out of money a couple days later) but I should note that they did foul my hotel bathroom, too. At any rate, Christophe and Tucker now can enjoy a small moment of recognition.

Two Left Feet?

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No, but look carefully at the photo above and you will see two left shoes! A certain former Choate Tennis captain--who will remain nameless--showed up for a tournament match at the Hunt Tennis Center courts today with two perfectly matched adidas Barricades--perfectly matched for his left foot, that is! Fortunately I was there and I happened to have a whole pile of size 11 adidas Barricades nearby for the loaning.

June 17, 2009

Look Who Is Training On Grass!

Spotted on the practice courts of the All-England Club yesterday and today:
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It's the Club's most recent honorary member (i.e., the 2008 gentlemen's singles champion).

Here's hoping Rafa is healthy enough to defend his crown next week. Traditionally the defending champion opens play on Centre Court on the opening day of the tournament.

Recommended Read For Tennis Fans

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This coming Sunday's New York Times is running a good piece on Rafael Nadal in the magazine section. Check it out here. I'm increasingly worried his knees might not be healthy enough to allow him to play at Wimbledon next week. For all the good press Federer's Roland Garros victory has earned, the sport is a lot less compelling without Nadal in the mix.

June 19, 2009

Bury My Heart Because Of The Wounded Knees

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So it's official: Rafael Nadal will not be able to defend his Wimbledon crown. I suspected this was coming when he lost in straight sets in yesterday's exhibition against Lleyton Hewitt, reporting he was "a step slow."

The real losers here are the tournament and the sport of men's tennis itself.

The beneficiaries will be Andy Murray, the highest remaining seed, and two-time finalist Andy Roddick--both in what would have been Nadal's half of the draw. And of course Roger Federer is more of a favorite than ever: his greatest nemesis in the quest to set the record for Slam singles titles is now out of the picture, just as the Swiss star is on the brink of eclipsing the mark of 14 set by Pete Sampras. But after last year's tremendous showdown between Federer and Nadal--which many are calling the greatest tennis match ever--this has to be a bittersweet development. Even if Roger prevails, taking the title this year without Nadal in the draw would have to be at least a little unsatisfying. What made John McEnroe's first Wimbledon win so sweet was the fact that he vanquished five-time defending champion Bjorn Borg in the championship match a year after their legendary five-set 1980 final. In fact, the Swede's subsequent retirement left McEnroe feeling cheated, according to his autobiography: the rival who forced him to summon his best suddenly disappeared and McEnroe then struggled through much of 1982 and 1983 before redeeming himself in a tremendous 1984 campaign. I can't help but think that Federer--through no fault of his own--is going be dogged by questions about Nadal's absence throughout the fortnight. And should he secure his fifteenth major two weeks from now, there will always those quick to point out he didn't have to go through Nadal to win in Paris or London this year, and thus his accomplishment is not what it might have been.

You know what would be the best thing for tennis? A healthy Nadal beating Federer to win his first U.S. Open title this September. Two players thus achieve "career Grand Slams" within a few months of each other. These guys will have competing arguments for being #1, each claiming two major titles in 2009. The irony of Federer being deemed the Greatest Of All Time would be further complicated by his repeated inability to beat another player in his own time on the big stage. And the golden age of the sport's greatest rivalry will be resumed.

A Dynasty Continues

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Congrats to my alma mater: Williams College clinched its eleventh consecutive Division III Directors' Cup, the annual trophy conferred by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics in recognition of the college with the strongest overall performance in intercollegiate competition nationally. Williams finished ahead of Middlebury (2nd) and Amherst (3rd).

June 22, 2009

Nice New iPhone App

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For tennis fans, the Wimbledon iPhone app is indispensable during tournament time. I'll be able to keep track of what's going on in SW19 while I am sitting in class at Yale, or for that matter while I am teaching here at Choate when summer school is underway during week 2 of The Championships.

June 20, 2009

A Fortuitous Wrong Turn

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Driving down the interstate, I missed the exit that I wanted to take into Richmond, but it turned out to be a good thing, because driving down Monument Avenue I stumbled across this statue of Arthur Ashe, one of the city's famous sons. The statue shows the late tennis champion holding books slightly higher than his racquet and surrounded by children. A nice testament to a great man.

June 22, 2009

Day One At The Championships

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The third Grand Slam tournament of the year is now underway. I started watching at 7 a.m.--which helped me procrastinate, since I have a paper on Macbeth I needed to finish this morning. Men's singles favorite Roger Federer is already through the first round, looking pretty sharp.

Is Liberace Working For Nike Now?

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I'm not sure I'd agree to wear this particular ensemble were I Roger Federer.

July 3, 2009

Working For The Weekend

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Congrats to Andy Roddick for his huge semifinal win over Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Props to coach Larry Stefanki, who clearly has his charge playing his best-ever tennis. Will it be good enough to derail Roger Federer on Sunday? There's a chance, though it'd be hard to see the Swiss as anything other than the favorite.

June 29, 2009

Night Play At The All-England Club

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Andy Murray played a spectacular five-set match on Centre Court under the closed roof today, fending off the other Swiss player, Stan Wawrinka. Because lights were installed with the new roof, this facilitated play well past darkness; the match finished at nearly 10:40 p.m local time. (Of course, at the U.S. Open, some show court matches aren't even started until after that!)

June 27, 2009

Theoretically Useful, I Guess

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Having spent Lord knows how many millions of pounds to put a retractable roof over Centre Court, it's ironic that Wimbledon is experiencing one of the driest tournaments on record! No need to close the roof in the first six days of The Championships.

July 4, 2009

Slam #11 For Serena

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How can Serena Williams hold three of the four Grand Slam crowns and not be ranked #1 in the world? The WTA Tour better get its act together!

July 5, 2009

What A Match!

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In a well-played battle that was capped by a 16-14 marathon fifth set in today's Wimbledon final, Roger Federer endured everything Andy Roddick could throw at him to claim his record fifteenth Slam singles crown. I have never seen the American play better, repeatedly serving his way out of trouble and using his improved backhand to craft improbable winners. I was pulling for Andy; he has worked hard to raise his game to a new level and surely deserves to have more than one major to his credit at this point in his career--and no doubt would have a handful at least, but for the fact that Federer and Nadal play in the same era.

It looked like Andy was crushed after the match. It's understandable: he served with a 5-2 lead in the second-set tiebreak and choked on a sitter backhand volley at 6-5 in the same 'breaker to allow Federer back into the match. And yet, Roddick dug deep, never losing serve, and breaking the Swiss star to take the fourth set. Federer erased two break points early in the fifth before the war of attrition unfolded past the six-all mark. In the clutch, Roger served superbly, firing aces seemingly at will in the late going. I could see Andy starting to struggle a bit, missing first serves and getting pushed to deuce games. You give a player like Federer enough chances and he will capitalize.

Though I was disappointed Roddick lost, it was pretty cool to see Roger extend his very impressive record of consistency in the majors. And having Borg, Laver, and Sampras there to greet him back in the clubhouse after the trophy presentation was a truly awesome sight.

I thought with Nadal out of action this year, this tournament would be a lot less interesting. Rafa was missed, but there was no shortage of excitement, especially in today's final.

Breakfast At Wimbledon

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I've been watching the Wimbledon men's final--sorry, that's the Gentlemen's Singles championship--telecasts on NBC since the late 1970s. The match used to be played on a Saturday and the network started to broadcast it live in 1979. That's when my clear memories of seeing these matches begin. I'm pretty sure I saw some of the Connors/Borg battles before that, but the Tanner match--in which Borg on his fourth straight--is very clear in my mind. The men moved to Sunday play and the women's final subsequently got the "Breakfast At Wimbledon" live treatment on Saturdays.

I can remember seeing specific matches in particular places over the years: the graceful Bjorn Borg battling John McEnroe on a small black-and-white television at my cousin's house in East Hampton, CT; watching in the residence of a senior member of the English Department at St. Paul's School when Becker won his first title as a 17-year-old; the Cash/Lendl final in my apartment at Phillips Academy; seeing Agassi's breakthrough 1992 win on my tiny portable TV in Billings, Montana; and finding a common room on the Stanford campus with a television and a crowd to enjoy last year's epic Nadal victory.

It's a great tradition.

July 6, 2009

Waiting For A Court

I went to the Hunt Tennis Center to hit some balls at 6:30 tonight and found that all 14 courts there were occupied. So for the first time in years, I actually had to wait to get on a tennis court. This sort of thing happened all the time when I was a kid, when the number of players regularly exceeded the available courts. Now I could have pulled rank over the townspeople tonight on my home courts in my capacity as (a) a Choate faculty member; (b) the long-time head tennis coach here; or (c) the school's Director of Athletics, but I didn't want to be that guy. So I was patient and before too long enjoyed a pleasant hit and then a set of doubles, finishing just as darkness descended on a beautiful summer night.

July 14, 2009

Care Package For The Courts

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The HEAD folks were nice enough to hook me up with the new Speed Pro frame today after I took to this stick when I hit with it in early April. Look forward to seeing what I can do with it on the courts.

July 22, 2009

Great Night For A Ball Game!

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I got to see the (relatively) new Nationals Park tonight as the local NL franchise hosted the Mets. It was a beautiful night for a game and I enjoyed the company of a quartet or recent Choate alums: an two '05s, an '06, and an '08--all cross country and Mem House vets.

August 14, 2009

Showdown In Montreal

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The top eight men's tennis players in the world have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Master's Series event in Montreal this week. Should be some interesting matches the next few days. The event's major storyline is Rafa Nadal's return to the tour after his first-ever loss at Roland Garros and a missed Wimbledon. Also how new father Roger Federer performs will be fascinating to watch. And the rest of the cast potentially has its share of spoilers: Murray, Djokovic, Roddick, and Del Potro among them.

August 30, 2009

Double Publicity For Doubles

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Not only did the Bryan brothers land a feature spread in The New York Times Magazine today, but they are subjects of a lengthy article in the latest issue of The New Yorker as well.

August 31, 2009

Open Season

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The tennis world shifts its focus to Queens as the final major of the year, the U.S. Open, is about to get underway!

Out Of The Frying Pan . . .

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The good news was that 18-year-old Devin Britton earned a wild card berth in the U.S. Open field by virtue of winning the NCAA singles championship in May. The bad news is he drew #1 seed Roger Federer in the first round!

September 2, 2009

The Old Days

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With the U.S. Open underway, I was calculating it's been 35 years (!) since I first went to to the event, then played at Forest Hills. I was probably too young to appreciate it. I have a few distinct memories of the day: fighting to find a parking space on the leafy streets of this Queens neighborhood, wondering why there were letters painted on the racquet strings of the players, and being thirsty and bugging my dad to get me something to drink frequently throughout the day. The 1974 Open titles were won by Jimmy Connors (hist first of five) and Billie Jean King (for whom the new USTA facility is named).

September 3, 2009

Courtside At The Open

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I enjoyed a great day at the U.S. Open today as the guest of a Choate player and his dad. I've long thought Arthur Ashe Stadium was built much too big, but of course sitting courtside is a great vantage point from which to watch world-class tennis in any setting!

The day session on Ashe was a bit unusual. We watched a pair of women's matches that ran quite long, nearly three hours apiece--17-year-old Melanie Oudin upset #4 Elena Dementieva and then #5 Jelena Jankovic also was upset--and then the beginning of James Blake's match (I had to leave New York by 6:00 since I am on duty in Memorial House with the captains who arrived on campus tonight).

I got to see some of the top male players in action as well. When I arrived at the National Tennis Center, I went straight to the practice courts and was treated to Federer, Nadal, and Tsonga--among others--working out.

The weather was great, the company was enjoyable, and the tennis was terrific--a great day at the Open!

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September 14, 2009

A Surprise Outcome

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The emergence of Juan Martín del Potro as 2009 U.S. Open men's singles champ was an unexpected, though not unwelcome, development. Delpo played absolutely lights out ball in dispatching a less-than-100% Rafael Nadal yesterday in the semifinal. And just when you thought Roger Federer looked set to assert himself and nail down another major title, the Argentine dug deep and blasted winners from an amazing forehand to claim his first Slam crown. May not be his last big win, I suspect!

September 7, 2009

Off To The Races

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The Choate Cross Country season is officially underway with this morning's running of the New Haven Road Race. Twenty-four Wild Boars plus one of their coaches completed the 5K race and our lead group was the strongest we've seen since 2001's New England Championship-winning squad.

September 12, 2009

Serena Flips Out

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Things got tense inside Arthur Ashe Stadium tonight as Serena Williams lost control after having a foot fault called on a second serve to give Kim Clijsters a match point. Serena's obscenity-laced tirade directed at the lineswoman resulted in a point penalty, which gave the win to Clijsters. It was a tough situation, and probably a bad call, but Serena's conduct was inexcusable in this case.

September 13, 2009

Jack Kramer

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Sad to hear that tennis legend Jack Kramer passed away this weekend at the age of 88. I met the man once in the Last 8 Club enclosure at Wimbledon a decade ago. But my strongest connection with him was using the Jack Kramer Autograph tennis racquet from Wilson--a ubiquitous frame (wood, of course) when I was growing up. The Kramer Autograph was my first "adult" racquet--the one I used while learning the ins and outs of the game. Any touch I have now comes from having learned the sport before the shift to oversize racquet heads and composite materials.

I picked up a couple of the Kramer frames on eBay a few years back and take them out from time to time to hit "old school" style. Man, you have to WORK to hit the ball with any kind of serious pace!

September 6, 2009

Team Bonding

Choate Cross Country got two workouts in today, our first full day of pre-season. We also made a trip to the Elm City to register for tomorrow morning's New Haven Road Race. And--best of all--we had our annual go-kart and mini-golf outings. I dominated the competition in the former; in the latter . . . well even Tiger Woods is having a rough 2009, so I can't be too disappointed by my poor putting!

September 19, 2009

Off And Running

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Choate hosted its annual Cross Country Invitational this afternoon: an informal affair without team scoring or required uniforms. The day is a great first outing of the fall season for our runners with a half-dozen other teams joining us in two races on our home course. Even though we had 36 team members out of action today, the Wild Boars had a pretty strong showing from veterans and newcomers alike. So the season is underway!

September 22, 2009

Justine Returns

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Not exactly an earth-shattering surprise that former #1 tennis player Justine Henin announced today she is returning to the professional game. In light of her countrywoman Kim Clijsters' success in the U.S. Open, there's no reason to think Henin--she of the gorgeous backhand--won't find a way back into the winner's circle too.

September 25, 2009

Night Game

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Choate hosted Kent in its football season opener under the lights tonight. As is often the case with first games of the season, both sides struggled to mount effective offense, which made most of the contest less-than-entertaining. In the fourth quarter, Choate did run an interception back for a touchdown, but missed the extra point--which turned out to be costly, as the Lions put seven points on the board in the closing minutes of the game to secure the one-point win. This was the first time we lost a night football game since we started playing under the lights in 2007.

October 2, 2009

A South American Olympics

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So the 2016 Olympics are heading to Rio de Janiero. It's fitting, I guess, that Brazil will host, as the Games have not yet been to South America. As an American, I am confident that Chicago would have been a terrific choice, too. I've spent time in all four cities that were the final candidates (Madrid and Tokyo being the other two) and the IOC could not have made a bad choice with this bunch.

September 30, 2009

D'Oh!

I brought my camera bag with a variety of lenses to Kent School today, prepared to shoot lots of photos of Choate Cross Country in a scenic early fall setting. The conditions were perfect: mild weather, no harsh sunlight. When I was ready to start I realized that while I had been diligent in recharging the camera battery the night before, I had forgotten to take with me the CF memory card; it was still next to my iMac. So, in effect, I "had no film" to shoot with. A lost opportunity.

October 7, 2009

Yankees Time Machine

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The Bronx Bombers are playing like the New York teams from a decade ago. The 7-2 win over the Twins in the first round of the playoffs tonight was emphatic: this club is aiming for another World Series crown. I was at my parents' house tonight and had to watch the game while listening to my dad complain how "unfair" it was that the Yankees bought all their talent. I did not know he was a communist.

October 8, 2009

Look Who's Back In Action

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Rafael Nadal is playing the China Open in Beijing this week and won a tough match over James Blake today. Apparently he's healthier than he's been in months, which is great for men's tennis.

October 10, 2009

Trekkin' To The Commonwealth

Already a long day up here in Massachusetts. Choate teams left Wallingford at 1:30 after SAT testing, hit a snarl of traffic on the Mass Pike, and my team didn't start its race until 5:45. We finished in darkness! A pair of close losses was frustrating, especially since we have yet to race with a complete and healthy squad. And now we are boarding the bus for the two-hour-plus trip home.

October 11, 2009

Court Date

Finally got to hit some tennis balls this afternoon--this was my first Sunday at home in weeks--and realized once more how much I miss not being able get some regular tennis into my routine this time of year.

October 14, 2009

Busy Week In The Admissions Office

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As a three-season varsity head coach, I have certain demands I must meet in the school's admissions office--primarily meeting candidates with an interest in the sports I coach. Seems like most of them are coming through Archbold this week!

October 19, 2009

No SuperBowl For Me In 2010

For the past few years, my parents have spent their winters in Florida and I have headed south during the school's winter long weekend break to visit and get a taste of warm weather in the middle of the cold season up here in New England. Because this year's SuperBowl is being played in Miami, it's proven to be very difficult to line up an affordable flight back north on the day following the game--our last day of the break. So I have booked a ticket to fly back to Connecticut during the game time, which will save me about $800!

October 24, 2009

If It's Parents Weekend, It Must Be Raining

Choate Cross Country enjoyed a very successful outing in the rain, though the wet course produced slower times than the boys deserved, given the hard work they've been investing of late.

October 29, 2009

The Agassi Revelations

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This week's Sports Illustrated provides excerpts from the forthcoming Andre Agassi autobiography. The sports pages and blog sites have been abuzz with the news of the tennis player's use of crystal meth a dozen years ago. Surprising that Agassi, whose image upon retirement was that of the game's beloved elder statesmen, would have offered these unflattering revelations. It certainly should sell a lot of books, but I can't imagine he needs the money!

November 1, 2009

Yanks Pull Ahead

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After a slow start in this World Series, the Yanks have impressed the last two games to lead the Phillies 2-1. This third game could turn out to be the turning point, I think.

November 5, 2009

Yanks In Six!

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I'm not always right, but I did predict the Bronx Bombers would win their 27th World Series crown in six games. Nice to see the Yankees win in front of a New York crowd!

November 2, 2009

In My Steven Spielberg Mode Once Again

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I've been shooting video of the Choate cross country team the past couple weeks with the athletic department's new Canon GL2 camera (we had to replace one that mysteriously disappeared in 2008). About five to six years ago, I was producing 45-minute films documenting the season, which took a lot of work. I may not be able to generate something that ambitious again, but I have enough footage now to create something worthwhile, I think!

November 8, 2009

The Djoker Wins In Roger's Back Yard

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Novak Djokovic ended Roger Federer's three-year reign as champion of his hometown ATP event. The Serb won the Basel final in three sets earlier today, raising his 2009 record against the world #1 to 3-2.

November 14, 2009

The Fall Season Wraps Up

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It was a cold, wet day up in Massachusetts. The proximity of the cross country New Englands at Northfield Mt. Hermon School and the rest of the Choate teams at Deerfield meant I could spend time on both campuses. Happily, Choate dominated its rival in the Emerald City, winning all but one of the varsity contests and we had a good day in the season-ending cross country meet as well.

November 16, 2009

Squash Season Begins

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Two days ago was the last cross country meet of the regular season. Today, winter sports begin at school. So it's now officially squash season!

November 24, 2009

On Top For 2009

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By winning his second round-robin match this week at the ATP Finals--combined with Rafael Nadal's dropping a round-robin match to nemesis Robin Soderling--Roger Federer has clinched the #1 ranking in men's tennis for the year. Nadal had a chance to eclipse the Swiss player in this final event of the year, but now will finish as #2. Federer earned this honor with an impressive win over Andy Murray today.

November 25, 2009

Heading To Jamaica In March

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I nailed down my airfare this week for the 2010 Choate Tennis spring break training trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. As I recall from my last trip to the island many years back, I will need to pack some sunscreen!

November 27, 2009

The Old Stomping Grounds

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"Starting from fish-shape Paumanok" began one of Walt Whitman's poems, referring to the Native American name for Long Island. I spent the first eighteen years of my life on the Island, returning regularly until my parents moved to Connecticut a few years back. I am heading back there overnight since the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Meet will be staged at Sunken Meadow State Park--my high school course!--since Van Cortlandt is undergoing construction.

November 28, 2009

Foot Locker 2009

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Two of the Choate boys competed in this year's Northeast Regional meet and it was WINDY, with gusts of over 30 miles per hour on the Sunken Meadow course. It was pretty cool to be back at Sunken Meadow. Not only did I run here countless times as a high school runner, but the 2002 Choate team won an invitational meet here in fine fashion.

Snake And Cardiac Await

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Cross country in Sunken Meadow State Park this morning: just like old times!

November 29, 2009

Getting To #1 The Hard Way

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Congrats to Bob and Mike Bryan, who cemented the year-end #1 ranking in men's doubles by winning their last match of the season today. This was an improbable result, as the twins entered the ATP Finals event with a huge deficit in ranking points and then promptly lost the first of their round-robin matches. The pair won four in a row, though, and threaded the needle by assembling just what they needed to win the tournament and recapture the top ranking.

Not What We Expected

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Nikolay Davydenko ended up hoisting the singles trophy at this year's ATP Finals. Facing a semifinal matchup against Roger Federer--against whom he was 0-12 before this week--it is unlikely he could have foreseen this outcome. Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic didn't even make it out of the round-robin stage. And U.S. Open champ Del Potro was just outplayed by Davydenko in today's final.

So the 2009 season ends with a few big questions looming as the 2010 Aussie Open awaits on the other side of the New Year:


  • Have we seen Roger Federer at his peak, and will he succumb to a gradual slide from the top perch in the men's game or will his greatness continue?

  • Can Rafael Nadal bounce back from a rough 2009 (or at least the last nine months of it) to rule the roost as he did in 2008?

  • Will the next generation--Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro--become consistent enough to challenge for the crown?

  • Were Andy Roddick's best chances for a second Slam title dashed on the lawns of WImbledon last July?


Time will tell.

December 7, 2009

My First Celebrity Facebook Friend

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Very nice!

December 12, 2009

Conventioneering

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Made it into Dallas last night and took a shuttle to the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center, a mammoth complex right near the airport. I am attending my fourth National Athletic Directors Conference in the past four years (the others were in Anaheim and Nashville). Since I'm only here until first thing Monday morning, and I'll be engaged in a trio of four-hour mini-courses as well as other sessions in that time, plus I don't have a car, it's unlikely I will get out of this place to see anything else in Dallas. So I could well be anywhere in the country right now; the city itself doesn't register in my plans. Of course, there is a slew of restaurants and other diversions here in the convention/hotel complex, so I'll be living in the convention bubble this weekend, I guess.

December 9, 2009

Season Opener

I took the varsity girls' squash team to Taft today for our first match of the winter and we got pretty soundly beat. We did not have one of our top players, but even at full strength we probably could not have won this one. Happily, we returned to the Choate campus in time to see our varsity boys' basketball squad craft an exciting overtime win over Taft!

December 13, 2009

TV Nirvana

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The sports-themed restaurant here in the hotel complex has about 30 big flat screen monitors spread all over and a 52-foot-wide megascreen on which you can watch nine broadcasts at once. A football lover's paradise on a Sunday afternoon!

December 18, 2009

Choate Girls' Hockey Prevails

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Congrats to the varsity girls' hockey team for winning all four games to take the title at the Taft School holiday tournament!

December 20, 2009

Choate Boys' Hockey Prevails

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Not to be outdone by their female counterparts, the boys' varsity hockey players also won their holiday tournament down in New Jersey at The Lawrenceville School this afternoon. Bravo!

December 19, 2009

Mr. Mandela And Friends

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Saw Invictus at the Wallingford movie palace, expecting there to be a blizzard well underway by the time I got out. Turned out the snow was delayed, but the film was very entertaining: a mix of politics and sport that was right up my alley. I found myself getting choked up a bit in some key places. The film is about inspiration, when you cut to the heart of it. I enjoyed seeing the sights of Cape Town, Pretoria, and Jo'burg I came to know a bit during my time there in 2006.

December 22, 2009

Interesting Brand Mash Up

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A curious intersection of sneakers and space opera!

Newly Clad In Three Stripes

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adidas is losing Novak Djokovic to Sergio Tacchini and the Bryan Brothers and Sam Querry to K-Swiss, but is pinning its sponsorship hopes on the British hope Andy Murray, who will be decked out in three stripes from head to toe starting in January.

January 2, 2010

Back In The Winner's Circle

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Okay, so it may not be a major title--heck, it's actually only an exhibition!--but it has to warm the hearts of Rafael Nadal fans to see him win the Abu Dhabi event this weekend, especially by beating nemesis Robin Soderling 7-6 (3), 7-5 in today's final. It was Soderling who ended Nadal's perfect streak at Roland Garros in May, which really changed the storyline in men's tennis for 2009. To add insult to injury, Soderling spanked Rafa again in the ATP Finals in London in November. (And allegedly there is no love lost between these two players.) The Swede beat Roger Federer to advance to the Abu Dhabi final but Rafa seems to be in the sort of health and playing form that saw him take three of the four major crowns plus Olympic gold in 2008 and early 2009. I'll be interested to see how his bid to defend his Australian Open crown goes later this month.

January 9, 2010

Successful Road Trip

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Good day for Choate Squash up at Andover: the girls' varsity and JV and the boys' JV lost just one match total in their three contests. If the boys' varsity squad wins as expected, it will constitute a nice sweep for the program. This day is always one of the best of the athletic year, when most Choate teams face off against their Phillips Academy counterparts. It's dependably good competition and in even years, I get to visit my old stomping grounds for a little while.

January 16, 2010

Summer Down Under

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It's the height of the Australian summer right now and the world's best tennis players are converging on Melbourne for the first Grand Slam tournament of 2010, the Australian Open, which gets underway Monday (Sunday night in Eastern Standard Time). Looking forward to see what unfolds in this event!

January 17, 2010

A Racquet Sports Day

Went down to Yale this morning to see some Choate alums competing in squash matches in the Payne Whitney Gym. Upon returning to campus this afternoon, I met with a couple of guys from the tennis team for a hit on the indoor courts--my first tennis in a few months. It still feels pretty nice to connect in the racquet's sweet spot!

January 23, 2010

Road Trip

Long day for the girls' varsity squash team today. After SAT testing finished (some twenty minutes late, unfortunately) we made the three-hour trek to Concord, NH, for a showdown with our St. Paul's School counterparts. We had some good competition, particularly at the top of the ladder, and prevailed 5-2 (and got matches for the five extra competitors who made the trip, all of whom won). The down side of the excursion was getting home just before 10:00 at night. Unlike our trip to Andover two weeks before, which was in a comfortable double-decker motor coach, i was behind the wheel of a mid-bus for all of the driving. So I am ready to crash now!

January 26, 2010

Two Titans Fall

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal retired with a knee injury in the third set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Andy Murray. In fairness to the Scot, Nadal was being consistently outplayed in this match before he called it quits. Andy Roddick also went down in five sets to Martin Cilic, who is clearly one of the hottest players on tour in recent weeks.

January 31, 2010

Number 16

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I set the DVR to record the men's final in Melbourne and caught the tail end of the Federer victory when I woke up. Hard to imagine a year ago it looked like the era of Roger as the man to beat had ended; here he is today with three of the Slam titles under his belt (and he probably should have won the fourth) and none of his rivals looks up to the challenge right now.

January 30, 2010

Serena Off To A Great Start

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I woke up to find out that Serena Williams prevailed in a three-set final over Justine Henin to cement her position as the WTA's top player. If she can dial in her game consistently this year, there is no reason to think Serena can't be a dominant force. The landscape of the women's game is certainly more attractive now that the two Belgians, Clijsters and Henin, are back in the picture.

The Bryans Win Down Under

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For the fourth time in five years, the Bryan brothers won the men's doubles title in the Australian Open. While American players have not been in the winner's circle in Grand Slam singles events since the 2003 U.S. Open (Andy Roddick), the Bryans have assembled a very strong record in the majors over the past decade.

January 29, 2010

A Good Looking Team!

The official team photo for this year's varsity and JV girls' squash team:
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January 30, 2010

Just A Couple Of Guys At The Game

Spotted at the Georgetown/Duke game in D.C.:
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February 7, 2010

Meanwhile, Back Home . . .

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The Johnson Athletic Center is hosting squash matches as part of the U.S. National High School Team Championships. Choate co-hosts this event every year with Yale University. In addition to running our own junior tournament in mid-February, the school will also host men's and women's intercollegiate national championships this month as well.

Saints Come Marchin'

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Congrats to the city of New Orleans! In light of the Katrina disaster, it was hard not to root for this team.

February 13, 2010

Big Day In The WJAC

Lots going on in the Worthington Johnson Athletic Center today: Choate is hosting the Class "A" League Wrestling Championships as well as the Choate Junior Squash Championships. Looks like both tournaments are running smoothly. As busy as the facility is this weekend, these "event" days are always fun.

February 17, 2010

Haven't Seen A Minute Of The Games

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We're nearly a week into the 2010 Winter Olympics and I haven't yet watched even a snippet of the television coverage from Vancover. I actually know a few of the competitors and haven't even tuned in to see them. Now that I am part of the HD world, I guess I'll try to see some of the action this weekend.

February 19, 2010

Collegiate Squash Comes To Choate

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Once every three years, Choate co-hosts (with Yale University) the Men's Intercollegiate National Squash Championships. We are lucky to be able to see a handful of the top-ranked college teams in action right here in the Johnson Athletic Center. I got to see #1 Trinity extend its domination of the CSA in a quarterfinal win over Western Ontario as well as an entertaining showdown between Ivy powers Princeton and Harvard.

It's especially gratifying to see so many Choate alums competing in this tournament. By my count there are 12 Wild Boars in the event (a few of whom never played on squash teams here at school!).

February 23, 2010

Nifty New Headgear

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The fashionable accessory of choice made its debut today: Choate Squash knit hats, which the girls' and boys' teams ordered. They have arrived just in time for the last match of the season tomorrow against Deerfield.

February 24, 2010

Tournament Prep

I am up to my eyeballs this week in getting draws up and running for this weekend's New England Squash Championships. The Tournament Committee had its seeding meeting last night, so the real work of getting everything set to go at three different venues is mostly on my plate at this point. Hard to believe this is the 24th time I'll be running this event!

February 25, 2010

Media Spotlight

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Busy week here dealing with the media. Because three members of the U.S. Women's Ice Hockey Team are Choate graduates, the school has been getting a lot of coverage in the local papers on the airwaves. I've talked to a bunch of journalists and facilitated camera crews and reporters coming to campus to shoot some footage and interview Choate coaches and athletes. Tonight, I am hosting our girls' varsity ice hockey team for a pizza dinner while the gold medal game in women's hockey is contested between the U.S. and Canadian squads. We'll have visitors from the Hartford Courant, NBC Connecticut, and public radio on hand. After tonight, all of this attention should subside, no matter what happens in the game!

February 28, 2010

Another Squash Season Put To Bed

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This weekend brought the close of the squash New England tournaments (which cap what is always my most frenetic week of the year, I think), the end of squash season, and the last gasps of the winter term here at school. After a weekend with a lot of time behind the wheel and some intense matches to coach through, I am sure ready to crash right now!

March 3, 2010

Playoff Time

Choate hosted two ice hockey games today as part of the New England playoffs: the girls' varsity is the top seed in the Division I tournament and beat Pomfret 3-2, while the boys' squad--#2 in the large schools bracket--bested Andover, 4-0. Nice to be able to stay at home and see both teams compete. (I did miss the chance to see boys' hoops play in the Western New England Championships quarterfinal today, though; the Wild Boars lost that one to Suffield.)

March 6, 2010

Facebook Fan Pages

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While procrastinating the last batch of end-of-term reports for my students, I created some Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages for the teams I coach. Amazing how productive one can be when there is something else pressing to finish! So you can become a Facebook fan of Choate Cross Country, Choate Squash, and Choate Tennis!

March 15, 2010

Tennis In The Desert

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The Indian Wells tournament is up and running this week; I watched some night match action (Federer and Roddick player their first matches of the event) on the ESPN satellite feed last night. I have very fond memories of Indian Wells; I spent part of March out at the tournament for quite a few years, when the Choate boys' team were guests of the tournament, and also a couple of times on my own. The desert setting is spectacular, with dry heat in the daytime and cool nights. And the tennis is wonderful, with most of the top men and women in the world gathered together for some great competition in one of the most important stops on the circuit.

Nadal And Ancic

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The international ESPN channel we get via satellite here in Jamaica is carrying live coverage of Rafael Nadal's match vs. Mario Ancic. I saw these two play on an outer court at Wimbledon in 2003--the first time I saw Rafa in action--and snapped the photo above. I think Nadal was 16 at the time.

March 16, 2010

Short Stay In The Desert

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Roger Federer was back in action in Indian Wells this week--his first tournament outing since winning the Australian Open in January. He squandered match points in tonight's meeting with Marcos Baghdatis and got beat in the third-set tiebreak. Too bad: it would have been nice to see how the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray would have stacked up against the current #1. Maybe in Miami?

March 20, 2010

Not A Total Disappointment In Indian Wells

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Although he lost his singles semifinal to Ivan Ljubicic in the third-set tiebreak this afternoon, Rafael Nadal paired with fellow Spaniard to beat the world's top doubles pair in the doubles final out in Indian Wells tonight. A rare doubles title for Rafa!

April 10, 2010

A Spring Day In Exeter

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The Choate boys' tennis team is spending much of today in the Granite State. The Wild Boars just dispatched their Phillips Exeter Academy counterparts in a closer-than-expected 4-3 win and is heading over to Hampton Beach for a dip in the North Atlantic and a sampling of the local delicacy: fried dough!

I ran the summer tennis camps here at Phillips Exeter for a half-dozen or so years in the early 1990s, so I guess this campus qualifies as another of my old "stomping grounds." Good to be back in seacoast New Hampshire on a glorious (if windy) spring afternoon.

April 7, 2010

Summer In April?

It's close to 90°F here in Wallingford as the tennis team gears up to play its home opener. This gives new meaning to the expression "unseasonably warm."

March 27, 2010

Tennis Season Underway Once More

I spent most of today in West Hartford, watching Choate players compete in an early-season tournament at Kingswood-Oxford School. Much of the play was indoors, but some of competitors had to brave the cooler conditions outside. The boys played reasonably well today and it's nice that the tennis season is here once more.

April 4, 2010

Roddick Comes Through

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Congrats to Andy Roddick for winning the Key Biscayne tourney this weekend. Roddick was in fine form beating Rafael Nadal with some aggressive net rushing in Friday's semifinal and cruised to the title today beating Tomas Berdych with some gritty backcourt play. Such versatility sure paid off for the American!

April 12, 2010

Visions Of Monaco

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The men's tennis circuit returns to Monte Carlo this weekend. This is one of two tournaments (Rome being the other) I have not been to in person that I would love to see first hand. I am lucky to be able to watch the action this week unfold on Tennis Channel.

March 31, 2010

I Hope This Is Not A Preview Of April Showers

Lots of rain today resulted in the cancellation of the boys' varsity tennis scrimmage against Hopkins School. I am hopeful that April will bring a lot more sunshine.

March 28, 2010

Wiped

After spending two full days coaching this weekend, I am pretty exhausted. I won't have much of a break next weekend either, even though there is no tennis match scheduled for my team. I am slated to drive a few kids from my English to class to Washington to see two Shakespeare plays. We will leave first thing Saturday morning, stay overnight, and drive back on Easter Sunday. So I will be behind the wheel at least twelve hours.

March 26, 2010

Field Of Dreams

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Construction is now underway on the school's new complex of synthetic turf fields. The "double wide" design will accommodate side-by-side field hockey and lacrosse fields and can be configured the other way for soccer or football games under the lights. Just finished a project planning meeting and this is pretty exciting! We expect to have the fields ready to go when school resumes in September.

April 15, 2010

Getting Down To Business

The boys' varsity tennis team clinched its third win in a row today after dropping the first match of 2010. Nice to nail down a quick 7-0 victory rather than suffer through another unexpected nail-biter, which the last two matches turned out to be. Hopefully we are back on track as a team.

April 16, 2010

In The Hunt Again

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Hard to believe Rafael Nadal has not won a title on tour in nearly a year now. But it's the European clay court season once more and the Spaniard is playing in Monaco, where he has won the past five (!) years running at the Monte Carlo Country Club. If he can't find his mojo there, who knows if he'll ever be the same as he was before his injury woes in 2009.

April 18, 2010

A Tidy Half-Dozen

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Rafael Nadal ended an 11-month title drought with an emphatic 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the Monte Carlo Masters final. This win was an unprecedented sixth straight triumph in the principality; fair to say the Majorca native owns this court! (By the way, no other player in the open era has won a major title six consecutive times.)

Rafa certainly was in peak form today, bludgeoning the ball from the baseline and moving around the court extraordinarily well. Several times he turned a defensive shot from far out of position into a stunning winner. If he continues to play like this, no reason why Nadal shouldn't dominate the European clay court season, reclaim his Roland Garros crown, and get back his #1 ranking.

April 26, 2010

Tennis In The Eternal City

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The men's tour arrives in Rome this week, where Il Foro Italico has constructed a brand new arena for its primary show court. Next year this tournament will have the men and women playing simultaneously, continuing a trend established by the Indian Wells and Key Biscayne events.

Fortunately Tennis Channel is broadcasting wall to wall coverage of play this week.

May 1, 2010

Nadal Extended In Rome

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Rafa Nadal kept his unblemished 2010 clay court streak intact with a gritty three-set semifinal win over Latvian Ernests Gulbis--the man who upended Roger Federer earlier this week in Rome. Even when playing less than his best, Nadal is incredibly hard to beat on the slow surface. He will be gunning for his fifth title in six years in the Italian Open tomorrow.

May 2, 2010

Getting Close To The Record

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The Bryan brothers prevailed in the men's doubles final at Il Foro Italico today, and are now within one tournament win of tying the Open Era record for most championships claimed by a doubles pair. This record should fall soon. Who says American players can't play on clay?

King Of The Dirt

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A Roman holiday for Rafael Nadal, as he defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 to win the Rome Masters crown. At the age of 23, Nadal already has equalled Andre Agassi's record of 17 titles in the Masters 1000 tournaments (the top level events below the four Grand Slam events).

If he decides to play in the Masters event in Madrid a week from now--and this is where his 2009 troubles started, as he lost the final to Federer after being stretched to the limit by Djokovic in the semifinal a day before--he could bag another. But Nadal was vocal a year ago complaining about this event's place in the schedule, so close to Roland Garros, and his difficulty adapting to the conditions there.

June 1, 2010

A Mighty Streak Comes To An End

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For the first time in 24 consecutive attempts, Roger Federer has failed to reach the semifinal round at one of the game's four major tournaments. This run should stand as one of the truly amazing records in all of sport: a testament to the consistency and determination (and health) of the Swiss player. His loss at the hands of Robin Soderling today in the French Open quarters opens up the possibility that Rafael Nadal could reclaim the #1 ranking in men's tennis this weekend should he win his fifth title on the red clay in Paris. Of course, he may well have to get by Soderling in the final to do that--something Nadal failed to do the last two times they played, including a showdown at Roland Garros twelve months ago (his only loss in the French).

June 2, 2010

No Singles Grand Slam In 2010!

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With Federer's loss yesterday and Serena Williams getting edged in her semifinal showdown today in Paris, the reigning Aussie champs had any hopes of a Grand Slam (winning all four major titles in a calendar year) dashed. Hard to believe Serena actually squandered a match point in her battle with Australia's Samantha Stosur before losing 6-8 in the final set.

Surprises In Paris Continue

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#3 seed Novak Djokovic blew a lead of two sets and a break before succumbing to Austrian Jergen Meltzer in the quarters today, presumably giving Rafael Nadal an easier path to a fifth French Open final.

June 4, 2010

Tennis In An Alternate World

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This promo clip from 30 Rock is just too funny. Check it out right here.

Intergalactic World Cup

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Pretty interesting celebrity-filled mash-up of adidas and Star Wars posted here.

June 5, 2010

Red Clay Surprise

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I guarantee you Francesca Shiavone appeared on no one's short list of Roland Garros contenders this year. She played inspired tennis in assembling an upset of top-ten-ranked Sam Stosur in today's women's final. Schiavone WON this match, playing bold, fearless tennis is the second-set tiebreak. It was heart-warming to watch this nearly 30-year-old player achieve her life's dream on the terre battue.

June 6, 2010

Order Is Restored To The Tennis World

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With the threat of heavy weather, commencement exercises at Choate this morning started fifteen minutes early, which meant I got home to change out of my academic regalia just in time to watch the final point of the Soderling/Nadal French Open final. The Spaniard exacted a measure of revenge in beating the Swede--the only man ever to beat Rafa at Roland Garros--in straight sets.

It's great for the sport to see Nadal back in Slam-winning form, with his physical health and his confidence apparently restored to pre-injury levels after a sub-par 2009.

It will be very interesting to see what happens at Wimbledon next month, as Roger Federer and Nadal will be returning to the All-England Club, each having won the title in the last match he played there.

June 7, 2010

Look Who's #1 Again This Morning

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The new ATP World Tour rankings today have Rafael Nadal back at #1 in the world. Since he missed last year's Wimbledon and much of the summer circuit, his lead in the points standing will increase with every match he wins the next few months, even if Roger Federer successfully defends his All-England Club crown.

May 23, 2010

The Second Slam Of The Season

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Time for tennis once more: the French Open begins today in Paris. ESPN 2, Tennis Channel, and NBC are offering wall-to-wall coverage of the event, thankfully (unlike the old days when we were lucky to see tape-delayed presentations of the final and maybe a few pearls from the middle weekend).

May 8, 2010

The State Of Red Sox Nation

Great piece on Red Sox fandom in today's New York Times. Might Boston baseball loyalists be turning into--heaven forfend!--the type of entitled fans we are used to seeing in the Big Apple? An excerpt:

To veteran Red Sox fans, winning has never been the order of things. No one would ever call Fenway Park the Home of Champions. There is no such thing as "RedSoxography." Even had someone improbably composed a song called "Boston, Boston," the team would not have a swaggering Sinatra belting it out five seconds after every last out. We all know Yankee fans feel entitled: how dare you lose? How dare you do this to me? Red Sox fans, by contrast, often expect the worst, and when it comes, we revel in saying, "I knew it!"

But as the current cyber-stonings on the Red Sox message boards attest, creeping Yankeeosis has spread to Red Sox Nation. There is the same petulance, the same arrogance, the same intolerance for imperfection, the same obnoxious impatience. This year's sorry team will not only miss the wild card, the posters warn, but finish in fourth place!

Read the whole piece here.

June 7, 2010

Quick Change

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Win a Slam title on red clay. Next morning, shoot a few pics at Disneyland Paris, hop on the Eurostar to London, and have a hit on grass at Queens Club. Pretty jarring transition, it seems to me. Yet Nadal will play doubles tomorrow and singles on Wednesday on the lawn.

June 3, 2010

Summer Training Shirts 3.0

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For the third year, I created summer training shirts for the boys' cross country team. 2008's was gray, last year's was light blue, and this summer's is gold. (In 2011, we'll go with navy before beginning the cycle once more the following year.)

The Latin quote on the back of the shirt is from Ovid. Roughly translated it means, "Be patient and put up with it; one day this pain will pay dividends." (The sources of the quotations seem to swing between high and low culture from year to year: 2008's was from Robert Frost, while 2009's was from a Van Halen song!)

June 11, 2010

World Cup Soccer

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Nearly showtime for the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa. My earliest memory of this event is watching the 1982 final at a friend's house (Italy defeated Germany--then West Germany, of course). And since the 1994 event I always seem to be traveling in Europe during the tournament and it's a much bigger deal over there. I'll be abroad again next week and expect to be swept away by "football" fever once more.

June 13, 2010

Soccer Is All The Buzz

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Not surprisingly, a lot of chatter around London today about yesterday's draw between England and the U.S. in World Cup soccer. This result was evidently a huge disappointment on this side of the Atlantic. Just had a good-natured exchange about the match with a quartet of locals in a restaurant here at Heathrow, who were bummed about the outcome but conceded the Yanks played well.

June 14, 2010

Italy vs. Paraguay

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Great excitement about Italy's World Cup game against Paraguay here in Florence, of course. I watched it in my hotel and when Italy scored to level things at 1-1, the cheers from all directions outside the building seemed to shake the city!

June 20, 2010

Grand Slam Coaches Conference

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I am attending the pre-Wimbledon coaches gathering hosted by the LTA that I have been to twice before. I've also attended the USTA's version of this conference, held on the eve of the U.S. Open, many times over the years (though that conference used to be a lot bigger than its British equivalent). And I even made it to a similar such conference in Melbourne before the 1998 Australian Open. I usually pick up a few good ideas at these workshops and meet some interesting folks as well.

June 18, 2010

The Championships Loom

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Seeding and draws for next week's Wimbledon tournament have been released. Though ranked #2, Roger Federer is the top seed in the men's singles event. Seeded #2 is Rafael Nadal. Both men have seven-match winning streaks at The Championships to defend! The Spaniard appears to have a tougher road to the final, though he appears fresh and confident after his successful European clay court spring. Andy Roddick is in the same half as Federer, so we won't see a rematch of the classic 2009 final. A rematch of the 2006/2007/2008 showdown might still be in the cards however!

On the women's side, the big question is: can anyone derail the Williams sisters? Venus and Serena seem to own the All-England Club.

June 21, 2010

Off To SW19 Today

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It's the summer solstice: the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. No better way to spend the day than taking in The Championships at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club.

Then I fly home tonight!

June 20, 2010

DFW On RF

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On the eve of another Wimbledon, may I suggest an absolutely brilliant piece of prose: the late David Foster Wallace's "Federer As Religious Experience" essay from the New York Times in 2006. The author of Infinite Jest is able to capture--better than any writer I've seen--the magic of tennis in the hands of the world's most talented practitioners.

Ready For The All-England Club

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Picked up my credential for Wimbledon today, which means I won't have to go through the hassles of sorting out tickets tomorrow morning--which usually entails queueing for hours!

June 21, 2010

Federer The Escape Artist

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Spent a glorious day at the All-England Club. Watched the men's defending champion dodge the upset bullet: by all rights Roger Federer should have lost, as he was being thoroughly outplayed by Alejandro Falla. But the Colombian couldn't pull the trigger while serving for the match in the fourth set. Once that set ended, I had to head back into London to retrieve my stuff and head to the airport. But I knew Federer would survive, and sure enough he won the final set at love.

June 23, 2010

Going The Distance At Wimbledon

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In the wake of the World Cup excitement earlier in the day, another intriguing sports storyline developed abroad, as John Isner and Nicolas Mahut battled into the gloaming in a five-set first round men's singles match at Wimbledon. Before play was halted due to darkness at 59-all in the fifth, this final set alone was longer than the previous record for longest match played at the professional level. And it will continue tomorrow. Wow!

U.S. Soccer Advances

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Caught the thrilling conclusion to the USA's final round robin game in the World Cup tournament, in which a 91st minute goal from Landon Donovan elevated the team's prospects from elimination to first place in the group. This was like watching Lance Armstrong sew up the Tour de France climbing up Alpe d'Huez or Nadal edge Federer in the Wimbledon final two years ago--a can't miss sporting event that leaves you with a lump in your throat. What a great moment!

June 24, 2010

The End At Last

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After another hour of play, picking up from where they left off at 59-all last night, John Isner managed to break Nicolas Mahut for a 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 win! Total time on court for this one match? Eleven hours.

June 28, 2010

The Division

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Fourth round gets played at Wimbledon. That's ALL of the fourth round singles: 32 men and 32 women will face off and half will be heading home before the end of the day. All-star line-ups on Centre Court, Court No. 1 and even the outer courts. Some featured showdowns: Djokovic vs. Hewitt, Serena Williams vs. Sharapova, Murray vs. Querrey, Henin vs. Clijsters. Good stuff!

Mr. Lu, One Week Later

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When I spent the day at the All-England Club last Monday, I spent some time cruising around the outer courts, looking for a good match between (relative) unknowns to digest for a while. Away from the show courts, one can take in the action at court level, very close to the players, and thus appreciate the nuances of pace and spin and athleticism that get lost on television or up in the stands. I settled in at Court #11, where Argentina's Horacio Zeballos was battling Taiwan's Yen-Hsun Lu. The latter prevailed in straight sets.

Fast forward to today and Lu found the spotlight with a five-set upset of fifth seed and 2009 finalist Andy Roddick on Court #2. He advances--improbably--to the quarterfinals.

July 1, 2010

Serena On Track

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Though the Ladies' Singles field has been marked by the early departures of past champions and other supposed contenders--Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, and Kim Clijsters have all been put out--Serena Williams appears to be the overwhelming favorite to claim her 13th major title this weekend, having advanced to the final today. NBC must be thanking its lucky stars she is still around to lend some star power to the closing stages of the women's event.

June 30, 2010

Changing Of The Guard At Wimbledon?

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Hard to think that Roger Federer's loss in the Wimbledon quarterfinals today doesn't constitute the end of an era. The man played in seven straight finals at The All-England Club (winning six of them). And this result follows a defeat in the same round of the French Open. The Swiss star will drop to #3 in the world for the first time since 2003. He has won only one event in 2010--admittedly a big prize, the Australian Open--and has been hit off the court on big occasions by the likes of Nadal, Del Potro, Soderling, and Berdych--the next generation, if you will. Federer has been written off before, notably in early 2009; can he bounce back once more?

July 2, 2010

Berdman Tops The Djoker

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DIdn't see much of this match at all, but it's disappointing that Novak Djokovic once more was flat on a big occasion. His Australian Open win a couple years back aside, the Serb's career has been marked by letdowns when opportunities have arisen. Djokovic was quietly working his way through the draw, playing awfully good tennis, and in a position to perhaps win a second major title this weekend (especially after Federer was knocked out of the event). No doubt an in-form Tomas Berdych had a lot to do with the result today. But this has to be seen as another huge setback for Nole.

Spaniard Serves Up Stunning Semi

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Andy Murray played very well in his Wimbledon semifinal today. But it wasn't good enough to overcome an increasingly impressive Rafael Nadal. The Mallorca native moved incredibly well, blasted forehands all over the court, carved vicious underspin backhands, and countered everything the Scot could throw his way. When on his game, Nadal is a far better player than he was even two years ago: he serves bigger, is more comfortable and effective at net, and has much better tactical variety in his game.

It would have been exciting to see a Brit contend for the title on Sunday, but it now looks likely Rafa will bag an eighth major crown this weekend.

July 3, 2010

On Top Of The Game

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No one came close to beating Serena Williams at Wimbledon this fortnight. In winning her 13th major title, she showed the enormity of the gap between herself and the rest of the women's field. No reason to think Serena can't continue winning majors the next few years.

July 4, 2010

The Return Of The King

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It wasn't a great final round match. But it was an emphatic statement of Rafael Nadal's position of dominance in the men's game right now. It's as if after his 2009 Australian Open win he disappeared for a year and then picked up right where he left off, owning the European clay court season and then winning titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon--an amazing feat to with the biggest crowns on red clay and then grass in the space of just a few weeks!

Nadal pretty much has locked up the #1 ranking for the rest of the year with a lead that will only increase if he has a strong summer on the North American hard court circuit. And Rafa really seems keyed in on winning a first U.S. Open title--the only major accomplishment in the game yet to elude him.

Wimbledon Wrap-Up

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The final weekend was anticlimactic, I suppose, mostly because this year's Wimbledon Championships was an absolutely wild ride, with plenty of upsets, near upsets, and terrific showdowns. A few quick thoughts:


  • For all the millions of pounds the All-England Club spent on the retractable roof on Centre Court, the tournament did not experience one rain delay in 2010.

  • Who would have expected the Williams sisters and the Bryan brothers to lose the way they did in doubles?

  • We may have seen the last Wimbledon in which Roger Federer entered as a favorite.

  • And the Isner/Mahut marathon is surely one for the ages.

  • Ditto Venus Williams.

  • Though the men's final couldn't hold a candle to the five-set duals of the preceding three years, it was pretty cool seeing how Rafael Nadal dominated by improving his game.

  • Same with Serena Williams and her serving.

Time to decompress now.

July 6, 2010

Serena Scores S.I. Cover This Week

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Very nice!

July 5, 2010

Post-Slam Letdown

I always find the first day or two after one of the major tennis tournaments finishes up, there is a void in my daily routine--no need to check the scores or tune in to see televised action. I had gotten used to thinking about the daily match schedule and checking tennis-related blogs and reportage. Now that's all done--at least until the U.S. Open rolls around. I guess it's a mild form of some kind of postpartum-like experience!

August 2, 2010

Priceless Rant

I am a Mary Carillo fan--I once ran a clinic for Special Olympians with her when I worked for the ATP event in New Haven years ago and discovered she is basically a good egg all the way around--and I stumbled across a clip of Mary in rare form during NBC's 2004 Olympic coverage. Enjoy:

July 29, 2010

Branding

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I've been meaning to do this for some time now, but we finally got our act together and had a "Choate Squash" logo with the boar's head silhouette painted on the tins of all ten of our squash courts. Since we host so many national-level events in our facility in addition to a full slate of scholastic matches and tournaments, it seems an appropriate way to promote our program a bit.

July 11, 2010

¡Viva España!

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Nice to see Spain win its first World Cup title today. The game certainly was dramatic, if it wasn't pretty.

July 12, 2010

I Predict Another Crash . . .

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. . . in American interest in the Tour de France now that Lance Armstrong's chances of contending have effectively disintegrated. Too bad that U.S. fans are so fickle when it comes to cycling's showcase event, but without the American star gunning for another win, I don't see the casual sports fan getting too engaged with this race.

July 23, 2010

A Brilliant Tennis Documentary

I was never aware of this film until I watched a whole bunch of excerpts from it on YouTube today: a documentary about the 1981 French Open tennis championships with remarkable behind-the-scenes access married to well-shot coverage of on-court action. The clips are riveting. Wish I could find the film on DVD so I could watch it in its entirety. It captures so much of what I remember as the atmophere of the sport some thirty years ago now.

August 2, 2010

The Wonder Of The Jet Age

I suppose I am a more experienced traveler than most, but it still boggles my mind that I can have breakfast in London in the morning and enjoy lunch and work in my office here in Wallingford by early afternoon!

August 6, 2010

An Interesting Doubles Pair

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As I am getting ready to fly to Toronto tonight, two others heading there--Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, currently ranked #1 and #2 in the world in singles--have announced they are teaming up in the doubles event at the Toronto Masters tourney. This is the first time in thirty-five years the top two players in the rankings have constituted a doubles team on the tour. (The last such tandem was Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors--strange bedfellows indeed, given that Connors had sued Ashe and the ATP a year or two before!)

August 8, 2010

Seen In The Toronto Subway