Autimn in New York

Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting

Each fall tennis fans from far and near descend on the courts unable to resist a chance to watch Maria, Roger, Novak, Serena ; the super stars of tennis compete for the coveted US Open title.Image

Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill first-nighting

Opening night at the US Open brings top name entertainment and the thrill of Broadway to Arthur Ashe Stadium.Image

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
in canyons of steel

Fans and celebs crowd the Billie Jean King Tennis Center to cheer on their favorites.  They pack into the nosebleed seats in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch the best players in the world play some of the most exciting tennis on the circuit

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They’re making me feel – I’m home

The media gathers at this last grand slam like family coming home after a long year of traveling the globe following the tennis tour.

It’s autumn in New York
that brings the promise of new love

Will a new face emerge and take home the trophy?  Will the fans and press find a new love to cheer and write about?  Part of the excitement at the Open is the possibility of a new face, maybe a wild card knocking of a seed. Image

Autumn in New York
is often mingled with pain

The pain of loss is always part of the US Open.  Losing a close match on court 20 hurts as much as losing in five sets in the final.

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Dreamers with empty hands
They sigh for exotic lands

Players from Africa to China and everywhere in between come to the US Open hoping to make a name for them selves.  Get a good win, go on to travel the world with the tour.

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It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

“Autumn in New York” words and music by Vernon Duke

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Random Notes From Wimbledon

First Random Notes from Wimbledon

 The Flight; Making Lemonade out of Lemons

My good friend once said to me, “If anyone can make lemonade out of lemons it’s you”.  Well, I had the opportunity to do that on my flight to London.  All settled on my United flight I was happy to find that I was sharing my row with two nice girls.Image

We were already chatting and sharing stories like 3 girls having a friendly lunch.  I was looking forward to a pleasant relaxed flight,  maybe watching a couple of films that I would never dream of buying a ticket to see, but nonetheless might be entertaining enough for inflight viewing.   However fate had a different idea.  When I went to plug in my headset, I found that someone had broken off a connection inside the armrest and it was not usable.  OH NO .. 8 hours with no movies, and I didn’t bring a book! But wait!  I noticed on the far right of my screen a folder titled, “International Films” Alright!  It’s all good; I can watch a film with subtitles!  So a piece of bad luck turned out to be very good luck because I watched a wonderful Japanese film called Bread of Happiness. Image

I love this film! I’m going to try to get the DVD so I can see it at home again.  It’s a story about a couple who escapes the crowded stressful life in Tokyo and move to Lake Toya in Hokkaido Prefecture.  They start a bakery and Inn named Mani.   People come to the Inn to overnight or just for a meal, bringing their problems with them, but after enjoying the bread, food and beauty of the Lake; they leave worry free and happy.  It’s a simple story but beautifully told.  I realized that without the distraction of sound, I enjoyed the artistry of the Japanese art direction even more than I normally might have. I noticed the beauty of a plain white cup, placed on a plain white plate, on a worn, polished wooden table, the line of a white lace umbrella against blue sky.  It was the best inflight film experience I’ve had.  So lemonade out of a lemon… perfect.

Day one, beautiful sunny… is this really England?  No worries, by 4PM the clouds and rain came… yes, this is England.  Not too bad however, just light showers, no matches postponed.   It’s a nightmare if it rains a lot the first week and they get way behind, and then we have to worry all week if they will have play on our precious middle Sunday off.  We look forward to this like school children let out for the day. 

Following a pattern set at Roland Garros, the Americans didn’t do so well in the first round. Venus, Isner, Donald Young, James Blake, Vania King and Melanie Oudin are all packing their bags. Ryan Harrison and Jamie Hampton were the only US player to survive this opening day at the Big W.  Hampton, currently ranked 100 on the WTA ranking list, actually had a big win, defeating 27th seed Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets.

On a lighter note, Nola had a little fun with his sponsor who has provided him with a new bag that stands up like a golf bag.  Getting ready to begin his first round match, he pulled a child sized golf club out of the bag.  Fans got a laugh and shouted out that this was not a golf course, DJ, always the joker had a laugh and went on to destroy Juan Carlos Ferraro, who wasn’t laughing.Image

 

Day two.  Eye Candy day!  Nadal, Bellucci, Lopez, Haas…Nice!  Life is good.  Note that three out of the four are Latin… and Haas with his dark good looks could definitely pass for Spanish I’m just saying.Something about those Latinos.ImageImageImageImage

 It’s  looking up for the stars and stripes,  Serena, Brian Baker, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey all posted wins, and Andy was up a set and a break when his match was called for … what else RAIN.. yes, this is Wimbledon!  The big news on day two is… of course… Mighty Andy Murray’s devastation of Nikolay Davydenko closing out the first set in just 26 minutes.  Will coach Llendl be able to finally give the Brits a Wimbledon winner?  If so, the Czech two times Wimbledon finalist will be as celebrated as the champion who holds the gold trophy over his head on day 14. 

Okay, that’s it for now, its 11:30 PM… Don’t know where the day goes, but I’m heading back to get some much needed Z’s

Paris Scrapbook

Okay, here goes, finally finishing up my random wrap up notes from Paris.

It feels good to be in Paris again, the delish aroma of pastry and baguette as I pass the corner patisserie, narrow cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes, tiny specialty shops, and tree-lined Boulevard Saint Germaine; even the noise from motorbikes is familiar and welcoming. 

Play starts on Sunday at Roland Garros .. are they kidding?  FIFTEEN days of clay court tennis?  This could really drive me over the edge.  I make the executive decision and get there on Monday. Do I really need pix of people who loose in the first round?  Well, I could have used images of Andy, but who thought he’d go out so soon? 

The American players haven’t done well here since the Agassi, Chang, Courier area and this year is no exception.  Andy Roddick, Ryan Harrison, Donald Young, James Blake and Sam Querrey, along with Serena Williams all packed their bags after the first round.

 The red clay of Roland Garros always has a few surprises in store, but who would have thought that 19 year old Sloan Stevens and 26-year-old Varvara Lepchenko would have been the only Americans making it into the 4th round? Neither of these women had ever made it even to the third round of a slam. The good news is they are both very nice players who you love to see win and it’s great to see some new faces.

I’m never able to get a lot of sleep in Paris.  I like to get up early, walk along the river, I cross the Pont Saint Michele, constructed during Napoleons regime in 1857, and walk to a small park in the middle of the river.  If you turn your head you can see a smiley face giving you a “bonjour” in the morning.

After eating Pain Chocolate on one of the benches looking out onto the river, I head to the metro for the 20 minute ride out to the site.

I’m shooting Sharapova and wondering why Nike doesn’t give her black shoes.  The whites with pink trim look terrible with the little black cocktail type dress she is sporting  Or maybe gold.. yes, gold would be excellent.  After all this is Paris, a fashion capitol.  Come on Nike get with the program.

As for the fans, gotta love the fashionable French… no baseball caps in the good seats on court Phillipe Chartrier… white straw Panama hats are the head-gear of choice.  And how about this woman. Her red hair, freckles and tortoise-shell glasses seem perfect against the back drop of the deep orange clay court. 

Have to hand it to the French for making it possible to get around, the Metro is terrific, fast and efficient , but if you don’t want to go underground, rental bikes and electric cars that you can pick up and use for an hour or a day with just a swipe of your credit make life a lot easier, especially when no cabs are to be found. Roller blades are another option; even the police use them to outdistance law breakers.

Women’s semi-final day is always devoted to the ladies, the tournament has done the red clay of court one up in pink.  Who but the French would think of this, would go to this trouble? 

I never really put my camera’s away in this French capital.  So many images to capture.  A woman turning cart wheels in the courtyard of the Louvre, the amazing IM Pei Pyramid, the music of a Cellist framed by classic columns, padlocks on the fence along the Pont des Artes, locking in young love.

As for pix of at RG… what I really like to do are the more unique images, the ones that show you something or a feeling that you haven’t seen or noticed before, Maria’s back, the net used to rake the court, the hands of a ball girl. 

And of course we have to talk about the rain!  OMWord. I did a lot of rain photos, but one of my favorites is this view from my desk of a journalist calmly eating lunch under the umbrellas on the press dining room patio.  Rain?  What of it?  He’s enjoying his lunch and a little precipitation is not going to stop him. New Father’s Mike Bryan and Gustavo Kuerten show of their gorgeous daughters.

On Saturday, Maria Sharapova ended her French Open journey by lifing the trophy overhead and joining an elete group including Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, completeing a career Grand Slam.

Sunday.  The men are final.  Could have gladly done something unspeakable to Nadal for losing the third set, and depriving me of my Monday day off in Paris.  After sitting in drizzling rain for the better part of THREE hours all I wanted was to be done with this final, but that was not to be the case.

Monday. Rafa is up 5-4 in the fourth.. OMG maybe we are finally going to get out of here…and once more the showers start.  DJ wants to stop, but the Spaniard isn’t hearing of it .. there is a discussion with the tournament referee, and they decide not to leave the court but sit under umbrellas until it stops..about 10 to 15 minutes. I sit under my umbrella that my good friend Diana has brought to me from Brazil.  The sunny scenes from Ipanema beach are incongruous here.

Finally a weak sun breaks through e clouds and the King of Clay wins 7-5.  With this win he surpasses Borg’s record of six French Open titles and becomes the most crowned player in Open Era history at Roland Garros.  This win also deprives the Serb number one in his bid to become the first player since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand slams simultaneously.

Everyone in the photo pit was hoping for and expecting a huge celebration from the Majorcan at match point, but after Nola double faulted at 30-40, Nadal simply sunk to the court then raised his arms in victory, in a show if real gentlemanly sportsmanship. After all, how can you celebrate your opponent’s double fault on this important point?  Well done Rafa, this is why we love you.

Oh yes,  what about that biting of the trophy thing ..in an interview for Time Magazine, Rafa told Kylynn Fontaine, “ I started doing it one day when I won my first tournament.  I continued. I don’t know, I just prefer that to kissing the trophies. It’s one of my trademarks.”

 

ITF World Champions Dinner

Wow, the ITF has done it again; Barbara Travers and her wonderful staff along with the Federation Francaise de Tennis, have created another spectacular World Champions Dinner. Each year you think, “nothing can top this” and each year they come up with another wonderful evening.

The Pavillon d’Armenonville, a Belle-Époque style 18th century hunting lodge is the perfect setting, located in the lush Bois de Boulogne, overlooking beautiful gardens and fountains.

Photographers gather at the entrance waiting for the glitterati of the tennis world to arrive in the official Peugeot cars. Like a Hollywood premiere, photographer’s strobes flash as the who’s who of tennis step out of the cars.

The guests move into a reception room where they are greeted by waiters offering Moet & Chandon champagne. The room is a buzz with conversation and networking. Open bars serving whatever you’d like, and beautiful Hors d’oeuvres start the evenings festivities.

The dining room is decorated in red and white, with a rose theme. White chairs with red velvet seat cushions, tables with crisp white linen, red napkins with a rose brocade pattern, white china, gorgeous red rose centerpieces, the whole effect is  breathtaking.

The menu, food and wine, were of course, wonderful. Starting with the delish Black Pepper Crab in a Radish Ravioli, a main course Duet of Val served with Asparagus and Risotto Fregola, and ending with a fabulous Milk Chocolate Crater with Apricots, Macadamia nuts and Caramel ice cream, each served with the appropriate wine, this was a dinner to please the most discriminating palate.

Last but not least, were the awards. First was Novak Djokovic, the World Champion men’s singles winner. With no time to change Nola in white warm ups, came straight from his five set victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Along with the warm ups Dj wore a huge smile having saved four match by the Frenchman and finally getting the win.

On the women’s side, it was Petra Kvitova looking smashing in a black and gold cocktail dress. With her long blond hair loose, and makeup highlighting bigblue eyes, you would never recognize her as the tough on court competitor you normally see on court.

In the doubles category, the Bryan brothers claimed another trophy, but the real star of their evening was Bob and Michelle’s new daughter Micaela. This beauty already has a page full of stamps in her passport, and knows how to conduct herself at a formal dinner. She behaved like a trooper during the dinner, and posed without complaint for photographers.

The women’s doubles team of Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik arrived late, also in warm ups after a tough three set loss in the quarter-final. Too bad, as this was to be their big night, but they were gracious and smiling and proud of their 2011 accomplishments.

Additional honorees included, boys and girls singles, Jiri Vesely, and Irina Khromacheva, wheelchair winners, Esther Vergeer and Maikel Scheffers.

Lorne Main was given the first ever award for outstanding achievement in seniors tennis, and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, in a long white satin gown, was the Philippe Chatrier Award recipient.

The invitations states “Carriages At Midnight”. I love this old fashioned way of stating that they will transport you back to your hotel at the witching hour.

So ends one more great evening in Paris, tomorrow it’s back to work and I won’t be having Moet Chandon before dinner.

O’dourve table ITF World Champions Dinner

Table setting ITF World Champions Dinner

Novak Djokovic

Petra Kvitova

Bob, Micaela Mike Bryan ITF World Champions Dinner

Bob, Micaela, Michelle, Bryan ITF World Champions Dinner

Francisco Ricci Bitti, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario

The Good Life in Paris

Yes, life is good in Paris.  Yesterday the specialty in the media dining room was chocolate fondue, complete with two chocolate fountains, fruit, and cake.  Then at 7 PM there was a wine tasting .. Actually more like a wine drinking.. We all did more than “taste” along with wonderful French cheese, cold meats and bread.

Today.. Are you ready.. The chef is doing Mexican fare and I have the photos to prove it! I’m probably going to have to try this just so I can give a proper review.

Okay… Just tested the French Mexican Burrito.  Actually, it was quite good, and this is coming from a girl who lives in Southern CA.  Carne Asada, black beans, corn, lettuce and a slice of tomato rolled in a large tortilla that looked a lot like a crepe, topped with cheese sauce, and small portions of salsa and guacamole on the side.  It certainly wasn’t the Mexican you get in the US, but the French do well by most dishes and this was no exception.

If it seems like I’m talking a lot about eating and drinking, face it… eating and drinking are a major component of entertainment in France.  Aside from sitting down to a meal, and in France lunch and dinner are long with wine and conversation, there is the shopping, preparation, and endless talk about ingredients, best chef, best restaurant, best market, best wine, and on and on.

No fast food outlets at Roland Garros… oh no, that would never do.  Yes there is something they call “Quick Eats”. At L’Epicerie you can get a ham and cheese baguette, hamburgers, French fries, salads or of all things sushi.  However, this is for the tourists and the “grand Public”, the people with grounds passes.  The people with reserved and box seats eat at Les Jardins de Roland Garros, or at Les Terrasses.

Les Jardins decorated in French Country style, has a beautiful salad bar and serves a selection of terrines, which is really a fancy name for meatloaf served at room temperature.  Yes, they do use a much wider range of meat, herbs and often vegetables and it does take a longer preparation, but bottom line it is fancy meat loaf. Along with the terrines, there is a selection of grilled meat and fish, joints of ham and of course the wonderful desserts.

Les Terrasses is a lovely garden setting and where people linger over pasta, salads, and a variety of other lunchtime treats prepared by chefs at several serving stations.

Then at the top of the ladder, for the crème de la crème is the Grand Chelem.  This is a group of temporary tented rooms that are catered by Lenotre.  This is where corporate guests can be entertained in style with lunch and tennis going for 700 Euros a head…With the current exchange rate we are talking about $870.00.  For those bucks it had better be good.

To tell the truth, the reason I’m spending so much time sitting at my desk writing about food, is it is a cold dark, windy day and I really don’t want to go out and shoot matches.  I did venture over to Philippe Chatrier to catch the end of Tsong/Wawrinka.  They had to stop because of darkness last night, with Tsonga up 4-2 in the fifth. Thank god this isn’t the US Open where they could have played until the wee hours.  Jo-Wilfried pulled out a win and gave the French fans something to cheer about and as usual, he made great photos so it was worth it.

Tsonga and Gasquet are currently carrying the flag for the French but Gasquet has to get past Murray this afternoon, and Tsonga meets Djokovic in the quarters, so the celebration may be short lived.

And for the USA… Lepchenko and the Bryans are the only ones standing.  Lepchenko meets 4th seed Kvitova today so we’ll see if her winning streak will keep us in the singles mix.  Crazy that this girl from Uzbekistan is now the only American left in the singles draw.

This could be interesting.  Kvitova has a lot more weapons to close out a match, but Lepchenko is on a roll, the fans love her come from nowhere wins, and she seems calm and focused.  She told reporters, “I just worked hard and tried to believe in myself. I’m a fighter … in real life and on the tennis court.”

She was granted political asylum more than a decade ago, and moved with her father and sister to Florida. Her mother was unable to join the family for four years. At one point she said they didn’t have enough money for an apartment, and were just going from place to place, until a woman who arranges housing for players offered her a place to stay.  She is now established, earning enough for an apartment and even with a ranking of 63,  doing better than she ever could have hoped for if she had stayed in Uzbekistan.

I don’t want to get political here but I think this is a great American story.  It’s about our country opening its arms to people in need, people with no opportunity in their native land, and those people making us proud and enriching our culture.

Let’s remember the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift of friendship from the people of France, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

After years of struggle Lepchenko could represent the United States in the Olympic games, proof that the American dream can come true.

Notes From Paris

OH MY WORD! I can’t believe I’ve been here a week and am just starting this blog. Time is going way too fast. Paris as always is wonderful. The weather has been excellent., Mainly sunny and warm. I love my little apartment right behind the magnificent Église Saint-Sulpice. This Roman Catholic Church was completed in 1732 and is known for its spectacular architecture. Large arched windows fill the interior with beautiful soft natural light, this would be a wonderful place to shoot portraits.

As for the tennis, well the crowds have been amazing. The site is so crowded that I can barely make it from one court to another, and considering that the average French person is slender, this amounts to a lot of people. I would hate to think what it would be like if the average American were filling the walkways and plaza. We all know that Americans are not famous for low body fat.

I do have to wonder how the French do it, eating rich wonderful cheese, great chewy baguette , croissant crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside, often with chocolate filling… crepes, wine, but somehow they manage to stay svelte.

The press dining room here is the best. The décor is that of an upscale restaurant, with a beautiful patio garden where you dine under large orange market umbrellas. In addition to the regular offerings in the cafeteria, there is a chef, complete with toque, cooking up a specialty. One day it will be Crepes with Salmon, another barbeque with salad and pommes frite, and of course lunch is always accompanied by wonderful complimentary wine. It is often hard to get any work done here.

The French players are doing well. Names that you never hear past the first or second round at other Grand Slams, are winning matches that normally you would pay no attention.

Who would care about a match between tenth seed John Isner and wildcard entrant Paul-Henri Mathieu? Why would you bother to even go.. The money was on Isner to blow this guy away in three short sets. Wrong! The American marathon man lost in 5 hours and 41 minutes, the second longest match in French Open history and the fourth longest in Grand Slam history. Sitting at my desk editing, I noticed that the score was 9 all in the fifth, grabbed a camera and ran to the court. I needn’t have bothered. Isner lost 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 3-6, 18-16. He looked terrible. Barely able to run, hitting long on ground strokes, the only thing saving him was his serve.

Mathieu on the other hand looked good, which was a big surprise as he is just coming back after a 15 month recuperation after a serious knee surgery.

So what’s up with Isner and these Frenchy’s? The famous Wimbledon match was against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. Mathieu admitted to asking Mahut for tips on playing Big John and apparently the advise was good.

So this ends the run for the American men. Out of the eight entrants, Isner was the last man standing. The women are fairing a bit better. Nineteen year old Sloan Stevens took out Maathilde Johansson in straight sets.

Stevens, who I’ve shot and met at junior events in Los Angeles, could be the next big American hope. With a strong game, a good head, and a terrific sparkling personality she may be just the shot in the arm that American tennis needs. Her big prize to herself for making into the fourth round? She’s bumping herself up to first class for the flight home, which hopefully won’t be soon.

The other surprise is Varvara Lepchenko. Who is Varvara Lechenko? Well, she defeated 19th seed Jelena Jankovic in a tough 3 hour match and at this moment, has split sets with former French Open Champion Francisca Schiavone. The 26-year-old native of Uzbekistan now living in Allentown PA became a US citizen last September and is ranked 63 and is playing in her 15 major tournament.

Alright, that’s got to be it for today. I have to go take photos, but I’ll be on the blog regularly from now on, so check in with me. Comments are welcome along with questions.

OH Yeah, one more note .. tournament highlight.. ran into one of my all time favorite people.. Alex Corretja.. still gorgeous, still nice ..love the kisses on both cheeks, my not wash my face for a couple of days!

 

 

 

Don’t Rain on My Parade

Imagine Barbara Streisand belting out ” Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade”, that’s how we’re feeling  out here at Flushing Meadow.
They’ve just made the announcement that all play will be canceled for today.  I need to go out and get some “rain” photos.  Trying to juggle an umbrella and focus my camera while the wind is blowing and rain is pelting my legs is a very good trick.  Most fans have already fled, but a few of the hard-core who have travelled out to Queens are making the best of the weather, huddling at the Heineken bar and watching people running for cover.  
I also notice a couple of fans under an umbrella up in the stands..someone needs to tell them there will be no play.. or are they just sitting there because they’ve paid big dollars for seats on Ashe stadium and are going to use them rain or shine.
Wimbledon has always had the number one ranking for bad weather, but it looks like the US Open could be competing for the title. With Tuesdays matches all canceled and rain forecast for much of Wednesday, we could be looking at a Monday final for the fourth year in a row.
Fifty four matches including half of the men’s fourth round singles, two women’s quarterfinal singles, plus doubles and juniors were all canceled today.
The full schedule has just come out for tomorrow, 61 matches.  . If play goes a scheduled, anyone planning to be here as a fan or worker had better get to bed early and have a good breakfast.  It’ll be great  if they get then in but no one is optimistic.  If the weather does clear, anyone holding Wednesday tickets will have a day they won’t forget.  Four fourth round mens matches and two mens quarter finals, plus four womens quarters will make this a huge tennis day.   Starting at 11 AM Nadal and Muller will be on Ashe, Ferrer and Roddick on Armstrong, and Young vs. Murray on Grandstand.
This is going to be a nightmare..three huge matches on at the same time, plus the fact that Grandstand only has seating for 12 photographers and all the Americans and Brits are going to want to be on that match.  This means if you want to shoot this match you will have to go at the beginning to get a seat, and if you leave to go one of the other matches you will never get a place again for match point.  You may think you want me job..well it can be a lot more difficult than it looks,
And speaking of difficulty, this could definitely affect the outcome of the tournament.  The winner of  Nadal/ Muller, Roddick/ Ferrer, Murray/Young and Isner/ Simon, will have to play four best-of-five matches in 5 days to get to the final.  Djokovic and Federer are already through to the quarters so they will have the advantage, plus DJ is in incredible condition and would be hard to beat even if you were well rested.
So that’s the bad news.  The good news is, most of the press has left so there is no line at the USTA’s complementary happy hour, and I’m going to get out of here early and have a great dinner in NYC instead of grabbing something at the press dining room and eating at my desk.