Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tennis Week 2014, Part One

The weather was simply glorious for Tennis Week this year, thank heavens.  Mom and I have gone in years past where it's so hot, you just can't take it.  Well, we can't take it.  Of course, there are certain times of the day where we choose the matches we want to watch by how much shade is on the court.  Why sit in the pounding sun, even in mild temperatures, if you don't have to?

After packing all our snacks and water, Mom and I got to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center a little early on Tuesday, so we took the time to sit and eat our bagels and plan out our day.  First we wanted to look at some of the changes they've made on the grounds, then we watched a little bit of practicing (shirtless Gilles Simon is always nice).  Then we decided to start on Court 7 to see the American Alex Kuznetsov take on Taro Daniel from Japan.  There weren't any seats left in the stands that were shady, so we only made it through the first set.  I knew there was a match on Court 17 that I wanted to watch that started at 1pm, so to kill time, we watched a women's match on Court 10 for a bit.  Oh my.  This was not a good match.  Both ladies had trouble holding their serve and neither had much of a game plan.  So we won't mention any names here.  On to Court 17.

This is a new court, built within the last few years and it's very nice.  They could've put some kind of awning or something over it for shade, but oh well.  Mom and I wanted to watch the first match because it featured Somdev Devvarman from India - she and I had seen him practice with Andy Roddick a few years ago and were impressed with him.  He was playing an American teenager, Ernesto Escobedo.

Somdev has a nice game, no real superstrengths, but no real weaknesses either.  But today was not his day.  He just couldn't make anything happen and Escobedo had too much oomph and stick on his shots.  We were sorry Devvarman didn't win, but it was nice to watch a young American we weren't previously familiar with, and they did play a pretty competitive match.  Plus, Court 17 is great.  We would return there many times over the week.

After that match, we had a little snack at the food court, then went to watch some of the pros practicing in the Grandstand.  We watched Alize Cornet from France practice with (I think) Julia Goerges from Germany.  It wasn't a very exciting practice, and Cornet was doing some weird exercises with cones, but it was nice to be in the shade for a bit.  There was a match I wanted to catch on Court 8, though, so we headed in that direction.

At the Australian Open this year, two young Aussies took the event by storm.  One of them was playing in the qualifying - Thanasi Kokkinakis.  His opponent was Nikola Mektic from Croatia.  I have never heard of Mektic before, but Mom and I liked him.  He was quite good looking and very charming.  Unforunately, he was also very inconsistent.  We were rooting for him to win the match, not only because he was charming (we're shallow, but not that shallow!), but also because Kokkinakis was a bit of a pill.  He was using foul language through most of the match, and also hit the ball out of the stands when he got especially annoyed.  Mom and I didn't enjoy him.  But he came through with a win in the third set.  I'll have more to say about Kokkinakis in part two of my tennis series...

After that match, Mom and I went back to Court 17 to watch another young American, Chase Buchanan, take on the top seed in qualifying, Malek Jaziri from Tunisia.  This was another very good match, very competitive, and though we were rooting for Buchanan, Jaziri had a little too much experience and firepower and he overcame the American in three sets.  All in all, Mom and I were at the tennis center for over eight hours - more than enough time to see some good tennis, even though our preferred competitors didn't win.

Wednesday, we had to go to Kinko's to print off Mom's boarding pass for her Thursday morning flight (I don't have a printer at home at the moment), so we got to the tennis center a little later than usual.  We went right to the Grandstand to see who was practicing and were happy to see Andy Murray, former Wimbledon and US Open champ.  He was practicing (so I'm told) with Julien Benneteau from France.  It was a very lively practice - they played a set of competitive tennis, with both hitting full out.  It was very fun to watch.  After Murray and Benneteau, then Canadian Milos Raonic came to practice with his coach, former ATP player Ivan Lubijic.  This was also another interesting practice, watching Milos practice specific parts of his game with Lubijic as his hitting partner.  It looked to me as if Lubijic could go right back onto the tour, he was hitting that crisply.  After Raonic was finished, this year's Australian Open champ, Stan Wawrinka from Switzerland came in to practice with Czech Tomas Berdych.  Again, it was very fun to watch two pros go at it from so close.  They were hitting hard and fast, trying drop shots and passing shots, and didn't seem to be 'marking' at all.  Stan's one-handed backhand is quite gorgeous on tv and even more gorgeous in person.  We wandered into Armstrong Stadium for a moment to watch Richard Gasquet practice (he's one of Mom's favorites) but the sun was just too strong to stay in there for long.  I wanted to watch some qualifying matches, so we went to Court 17, where there would be three matches in a row that interested me.

The first was between two young Americans, Mitchell Frank and Stefan Kozlov.  I've been hearing about Kozlov recently - he's only sixteen but he's the #2 ranked junior in the world.  This was another competitive match that went three sets, but it was clear the Kozlov is a little bit better than young Frank.  He's just a little quicker, with a better forehand, and more juice on his shots.  He pulled the match out in three sets.  Kozlov seemed to have a good attitude out there, so I'll be keeping my eye on him.

The next match was between American Melanie Oudin, who made a splash at the Open in 2009 where she made the quarterfinals as a teenager.  Unfortunately, she hasn't done much since.  She's been frequently injured and she's just so slight on the court, with no real weapons, that every match seems to be a battle for her.  Today, her opponent was Sesil Karatantcheva from Kazhakstan.  Sesil also has a bit of a history - she's actually Bulgarian, but changed citizenships to play for Kazhakstan.  She also was banned for two years from the tour after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.  She denied the charge, but didn't appeal and served her ban.  She hasn't really been able to get to her previous levels of tennis since.

Anyway, tennis backstory.  Did you enjoy it?  Moving on.  This match wasn't scintillating, but we were happy that Oudin came through in straight sets.  She was the steadier of the two, with Sesil making way too many unforced errors.  At least the match didn't last forever, because we were really interested in the next match featuring another American teenager, Francis Tiafoe, against Tatsuma Ito from Japan.  I've also been hearing about Tiafoe lately, about how he's a great prospect and should be a shining star for American tennis in the future.  He's sixteen and still very gangly on court.  But he has a nice game and acquitted himself well, though he did lose in three tight sets.  He could've won, but got a little tight towards the end.  Also, he's more prone to errors than the very steady Ito.  The crowd was excited and it was fun to be there, definitely.  Tiafoe is another name to keep my eye on. 

That's it - first two days of Tennis Week on the books.  I'll put some photos below and chat about my two solo days at the qualifying tournament in another post...



Friday, August 29, 2014

Wretched Nuisances, Teeth...

Hi there!  I'm sure you've wondered where my tennis posts have been.  Or...maybe not.  Well, tennis posts are upcoming, but here's a brief diversion.  If you're squeamish about the dentist, perhaps you'd better skip this post.  Here's the short version of why I've been delayed in posting:  after having such a lovely vacation week, last Saturday I had a toothache, but I took some advil and it went away.  Sunday, the toothache returned and it wouldn't go away.  I started to get desperate because I was in a lot of pain and I hate my current dentist.  At around 4am, I called 1-800-DENTIST.  They gave me a referral of a gent near my office who specializes in working on people with phobias about the dentist (someday, maybe I'll do a post about all my phobias).  The dentist called me around 6:30am and told me to come on in.  I got to his office around 7:30am Monday morning - he took an x-ray of the area where I was in pain and told me that a root canal I had received about two years ago (from the dentist I hate) was completely botched and now it is infected.  Oh, great, I've been carrying that infection around for TWO YEARS!  He told me he'd have to remove the crown and stuff, clean it out, then redo the root canal and replace the crown.  Ugh.  So, after giving me two shots of numbing stuff, he started.  He could only do so much because it was still causing me agonizing pain, due to the infection.  He put a temporary filling in and told me to take some antibiotics and pain pills and to come back in two days.  I went to work but could only last a couple of hours, I was in so much pain.  My office mates couldn't quite deal with me.  I went home to cry until the pain pills finally kicked in.  That was Monday.

I can't smile and I'm hiding my grapefruit, but we had fun
Tuesday, my face swelled up to the size of a grapefruit.  Well, one side did.  I called the dentist and he said it was normal.  I stayed in bed most of the day.  Even though I felt like crap, I still went to the US Open to see some tennis with my friends.  I only lasted through the first match (yay, Roger! I'll blog about it more later), then went home.  Wednesday, I went back to the dentist.  He took another x-ray of the tooth and told me that the infection spread because when he went in to redo the root canal, it opened everything up, so the infection spread from my tooth bones to the tissues around it.  Yuck, right?  He also told me that he could go back in and do more cleaning and stuff, but the tooth was in pretty bad shape and might not even be salvagable, even with all the work.  He suggested that since I was already on the antibiotic, he should just extract the tooth.  I said ok.  In my naivete, I thought the pain would immediately disappear once the tooth was gone.  Ha ha.  Extracting the tooth was pretty painful - he actually had to drill it apart and take it out in three sections.  Then he gave me gauze and told me to bite down on it for 30 minutes.  I thought, ok, it takes about 30 minutes to get home on the subway, so I can just hang on until I get home.  Jesus H Christ, that was the longest subway ride of my life.  I thought I might die before I got home.  I so should've taken a cab home.  The pain was excruciating and people were staring at me and my grapefruit face.  I probably looked like a crazy person, fidgeting and crying, just trying to make it until I got home.  Thankfully, when I finally got home and removed the gauze, all was well, I seemed to be healing the way the care sheet explained, and I took another pain pill and took to my couch for another two days.  I started putting a wet washcloth in the freezer to put on my face to help with the swelling and the discomfort.  It seemed to work.  Though I kept right on crying, now because I was so tired.  Between the antibiotic and the pain pill, I was taking some sort of medicine every four hours.  Both of the pills have to be taken with food, so not much sleep can be had in four hour spurts.  Wah wah wah.

All I've been able to eat for a week
Thankfully, today I'm feeling a little better and made it into the office.  I got a bit of work done and later I'll do a couple of tennis auto-posts and hope to get back on schedule soon.  I see the dentist again after Labor Day - if anything crazy happens, I'll be sure to let you know.  Oh, and the title of this post?  It's a quote from the Hitchcock film Rebecca.  In case you were wondering...  :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pre-Tennis Week Adventures with Mom

My mom got here around this time last Sunday- we had a blast and she's already home.  Her visit went much too quickly.  I'll have to wait until I'm back in the office to blog about tennis since I can't get the pictures from my camera onto my tablet, but I only got cell phone pics when we were out and about last weekend, so pull up a seat...

Mom got here early enough that we could go to lunch before wandering around town.  I had a lot of possibilities for our agenda, but of course we didn't fit everything in.  We started at Panera Bread, since I still had some $ left on a gift card.  After a snack there, we decided to see the new Helen Mirren film, The Hundred-Foot Journey.  This is a lovely movie about food and family and overcoming the odds.  I did get a little annoyed at the cliche that a person can't be happy in the big city and must return home to the small village in order to find true fulfillment.  Sigh.  But the acting was great, the cinematography was gorgeous and I recognized one of the locations from my long-ago trip to Paris, which is amazing to me, since I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday but a restaurant I ate in fourteen years ago was familiar.

After the movie, we walked around Astoria for a bit to stretch our legs, then we went to the Museum of the Moving Image.  Mom and I had been there years ago, before their recent renovations, plus we wanted to see the current exhibit, What's Up, Doc: The Animation Art of Chuck Jones.  This exhibit was fantastic - full of fun, laughter, craft and nostalgia.  They were showing 23 of the animated films, plus had over 125 original drawings, sketches, storyboards, script pages, backgrounds and cels.  They were also showing snippets of various cartoons throughout, to point out examples of various aspects of Jones' work.  They were showing the genius What's Opera, Doc? and One Froggy Evening - it was fun to see them again.  They just don't make cartoons lime that anymore.  Where are the cartoons teaching kids about opera or American history?  Sigh.  I'm getting old...

I wish they would've allowed photos in that area, but I followed the rules and didn't take any.  You could take pictures in the permanent exhibit, Behind the Screen, though, so I took a lot.  There was so much great stuff, from 19th century kinescopes, props, costumes, wigs, interactive areas (I played in the background music area, changing around the score to Vertigo, which was cool).  Mom also enjoyed looking at old movies  in the World Comes to Queens exhibit, where they were showing clips from the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair films.  There were just lots of old-time equipment and just tons of interesting stuff about film/television.  I'll have lots of photos after the post.

It was really touching that Robin Williams was everywhere around the museum, with tons of photos, his makeup model and a costume from Mrs. Doubtfire, plus a costume from Mork & Mindy, and even an audio clip from Mrs. Doubtfire in the Chuck Jones exhibit, since there was a cartoon sequence in that film.  It's amazing how I can't shake my sadness about his death and how he permeated so much of my life in entertainment.  :(

Monday, Mom and I did more wandering.  We were going to check out the Kitchen Arts bookstore, but there was a huge line to get in, so we opted to skip it.  We walked over to Carl Schurz Park and had some quiet moments by the East River, then we took the crosstown bus to the other side of Manhattan.  One of my mom's (and my) favorite movies is You've Got Mail.  We can practically quote the entire movie - and do quote it to each other all the time.  For years, Mom has wanted to see the spot in Riverside Park where the movie ends.  Usually, the weather is too hot to wander outside when she's here, so I was glad we had a beautiful day to finally get there.  First, we actually went to the apartment building that was supposedly where Meg Ryan lived in the movie.  So we got some photos there, then went to the 91st Street Garden.  We had a seat, shared some noisier moments by the Hudson River, and just generally had a good time.  We were also BEAT.

Oh, a couple of unpleasant moments that made Mom frown: we went into Bloomingdale's at the start of our day to get some birthday gift ideas for my dad, then we went upstairs to check out the kids clothes for my cousin's birthday.  When we got off the escalator, two salesgirls checked us out, whispered, then followed us around.  I mean, do my mom and I look like shoplifters?!?!  My mom was so upset.  Then, when we got on the bus to head uptown, a woman yelled at my mom for not getting out of her way fast enough.  Ugh.  Sometimes, New Yorkers can be a pain in the patootie.  Good thing we had tennis coming up to put smiles back on our faces...