Davis Cup

Davis Cup Champion Cliff Richey Releases New Book On Depression “Your Playbook For Beating Depression”

NEW YORK – New Chapter Press announced the release of the book “Your Playbook For Beating Depression: Essential Strategies for Managing and Living with Depression” written by former American tennis great Cliff Richey and licensed clinical social worker Mary Garrison.

The book is designed as a tool to immediately educate and guide people who have or suspect they may be suffering from depression and have thoughts of hopelessness and suicide. Richey, also a mental health advocate who has lived his entire life with depression, and Garrison help readers understand, manage, and live with depression, offering a tool on the path to recovery. Combining Garrison’s clinical expertise and Richey’s personal experience, “Your Playbook for Beating Depression” will make readers better understand their condition as they learn about depression as a medical issue and provide insights into proven and effective treatments.

“I want to help those fighting clinical depression to know there is hope,” said Richey. “People have to know that they can come out of the darkness and achieve victory and lead a fulfilling and happy life. That is what this book is all about.”

Said Garrison, “I am hopeful that this book will be invaluable to those experiencing symptoms of depression. Getting past the stigma of mental illness and seeking treatment is so, so important. There is life beyond depression and recovery CAN happen.”

Richey was the top American tennis player in the United States in 1970, and won 45 pro singles titles in his career. He was a two-time member of the championship-winning U.S. Davis Cup team and was a semifinalist at both the U.S. and French Opens. Richey, from San Angelo, Texas, is also the author of the book “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” and is a mental health advocate and speaker who uses his influence to raise mental health awareness around the world.

Garrison is currently in her 12th year of teaching full time at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., and has had extensive experience in the social work field, with over fifteen years of practice in mental health services, policy, and advocacy. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and an immediate past board member for the Illinois Chapter. She is a past recipient of the NASW Illinois Social Worker of the Year Award, the Cesar Chavez Social Justice Award, and the first ever recipient of the Macon County Continuum of Care Advocate of the Year Award.

“Your Playbook For Beating Depression” is available for sale and download where ever books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559688/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_dUq4ybV1ZQXJB

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” by Rick Macci with Jim Martz, “How To Permanently Erase Negative Self Talk So You Can Be Extraordinary” by Emily Filloramo, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins,  “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “The Days of Roger Federer” by Randy Walker, “Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion: The Full Extraordinary Story” by Mark Hodgkinson, “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “Court Confidential: Inside The World Of Tennis” by Neil Harman, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated, But It Doesn’t Have To Be” by Laura Schreffler, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “Bone Appetit: Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Suzan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin among others.

Andy Murray Set For Olympic Gold Rematch In Davis Cup Semifinal

Will Andy Murray be able to overcome his U.S. Open disappointment and lead Great Britain to the Davis Cup final?
He will get his chance at redemption when Great Britain faces Argentina in the Davis Cup semifinal this weekend against Argentina in Glasgow indoors on a hard court at the Emirates Arena.

After suffering through a frustrating loss to Kei Nishikori of Japan in the U.S. Open quarterfinals – only his second loss since the French Open – Murray will surely be bursting with motivation to make up for his failure in New York to lead Britain back into the Davis Cup final and try to win the title for a second straight year.

Murray has a strong supporting cast in the effort against Argentina. The No. 2 singles spot will be either No. 55-ranked Kyle Edmund or No. 53-ranked Dan Evans, both of whom have hot hands after salient efforts at the U.S. Open. Edmund reached the fourth round at a major for the first time in his career, upsetting U.S. No. 1 John Isner before falling to Novak Djokovic. Dan Evans reached the third round and had a match point on eventual champion Stan Wawrinka.

Argentina will be led by Juan Martin del Potro, who Murray beat in the Olympic final and who is fresh off a strong quarterfinal showing in New York that moved his ranking from No. 141 to 64. A rematch of the Olympic gold medal match will be on the schedule for the opening day’s singles when Murray and del Potro reprise their battle from Rio, won by Murray 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on an outdoor hard court.

Anything can happen in Davis Cup and surprises are common in this unique 116-year-old competition and Argentina’s other singles competitor – either No. 41 Federico Delbonis or No. 49 Guido Pella – could rise to the occasion on foreign soil. However Murray’s teammate, Davis Cup doubles partner – and brother – Jamie Murray comes to Glasgow on a high after winning the doubles title at the U.S. Open with his Brazilian partner Bruno Soares. His presence makes Britain a favorite in all five rubbers in the fast indoor conditions.

In the other semifinal, the deep French team will face a slightly-sputtering Croatia on an indoor court in Zadar, Croatia. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has withdrawn from the French team due to his knee injury that caused him to exit the U.S. Open. He will be replaced with Lucas Pouille, the No. 18-ranked rising French star who upset Rafa Nadal en route to the quarterfinals in New York. After a perplexing effort in the U.S. Open semifinal against Djokovic, Gael Monfils will play singles alongside Pouille against the Croatians, led by 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and No. 41 Borna Coric. After winning the title in Cincinnati in August, Cilic lost in the third round in New York meekly to American Jack Sock. Coric lost in the first round of the U.S. Open and is only 5-5 since he won the fifth and decisive match against Sock of the USA in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in July.

France’s doubles team of Nicola Mahut and Pierre-Hughes Herbert, the No. 1 team in the world, should provide the different for the French to see them to the Davis Cup final for an 18th time.

Three South American Davis Cuppers Highlight Field For Mardy Fish Tennis In Vero Beach, Florida

Three South American tennis players who play Davis Cup for their countries highlight entries into the 2016 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships to be played April 22 to May 1 at The Boulevard Tennis Club in Vero Beach, Florida.

Juan Carlos Saez of Chile, Federico Zeballos of Bolivia and Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador – all who are current members of their nation’s Davis Cup team – are among the 18 direct entries into the $10,000 U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Pro Circuit “Futures” event that has been played in Vero Beach consecutively since 1995.

Seven of the 18 direct entries into the Vero Beach field, in fact, are from South America, also including 2014 Wimbledon junior boys doubles champion Marcelo Zormann from Brazil, Federico Coria from Argentina, the younger brother of 2004 French Open singles finalist Guillermo Coria, and Alejandro Gomez of Colombia, one of the fastest servers in tennis history. Gomez hit the 41st-fastest recorded serve in tennis history last year in the ATP Tour event in Claro, Colombia when he hit a serve 141 miles per hour.

Among the leading European entries are 2009 French Open junior runner-up Gianni Mina of France, nick-named “Baby Monfils” as a comparison to his massively-talented and entertaining fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils. Mina has the distinction of having had the opportunity of playing “The King of Clay” Rafael Nadal in the first round of the 2010 French Open, losing 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Other Europeans in the field include the top-ranked player entered Robin Stanek, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic, ranked a career-high No. 267, Peter Heller and Nico Matic of Germany and Pedro Martinez Portero, an 18-year-old from Valencia, Spain.

Four Americans received direct entries into the field, highlighted by former three-time All-American from the University of Michigan Evan King of Chicago as the leading U.S. entry. King is joined by Deiton Baughman, 19, of Carson, California, a U.S. Open main draw doubles participant in 2015, Evan Song of Henderson, Nevada, and former University of Illinois All-American Dennis Nevolo of Gurnee, Illinois.

The youngest entry is 16-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who won the U.S. Open junior doubles title last year and also led Canada to victory in the 2015 Junior Davis Cup competition.

Tickets for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation ($10 for qualifying rounds, $20 for the main draw, free for children age 18 and under, $100 for a tournament pass) are for sale now at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com and at the front gate at the event. All proceeds from the event benefit the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the non-profit tennis foundation benefiting children, named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, a former top 10 tennis star, U.S. Davis Cup hero and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games. Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) currently supports over 2,100 children in 15 elementary schools and six middle schools in Indian River County, Florida by providing after-school exercise, nutritional and enrichment programs in a safe environment to prepare them for healthy, productive and successful lives. The Foundation introduced the “Six Healthy Habits” in 2012 which are Get Sleep; Drink Water; Exercise Daily, Eat Healthy; Brush and Floss; Make Friends.” Mardy Fish recently completed his ATP professional tennis career at the 2015 U.S. Open, highlighted by a career-high ranking of No. 7, six ATP singles titles, eight ATP doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal in singles at the 2004 Olympics. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and was a mainstay on the U.S. Davis Cup team from 2002 to 2012.

Some of the past competitors in Vero Beach have gone on to succeed at the highest levels of professional tennis, winning major singles and doubles titles, Olympic medals and Davis Cup championships and earning No. 1 world rankings. Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion who attained the world No. 1 ranking and helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 2007 competed in Vero Beach in 1999. Thomas Johansson of Sweden, who reached the second round of the Vero Beach Futures in 1995, won the Australian Open seven years later in 2002. Nicolas Massu, the 1998 singles runner-up in Vero Beach, won the singles and doubles gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, beating Fish in the gold medal singles match. Kyle Edmund, the 2013 champion in Vero Beach, helped Great Britain to the Davis Cup title in 2015. Other notable former competitors in Vero Beach include former world No. 2 Magnus Norman, former world No. 4 Tim Henman, 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Milos Raonic among others. Former Vero Beach competitors have combined to win 19 titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. Six former Vero Beach players have gone on to play Davis Cup for the United States – Roddick, Fish, Taylor Dent, Jared Palmer, Donald Young and Ryan Harrison.

The qualifying rounds of the event will be held April 22 – April 25 while the main draw of singles and doubles will be held April 26 – May 1. Fans can follow news and developments on the tournament on Facebook and on Twitter at @VeroFutures and by going to the website www.TennisVeroBeach.com

John Isner Makes Tennis History Again With Fastest Official Serve – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • John Isner hit the fastest official serve in tennis history with a 157 mph serve late in the third set of his singles match on Sunday against Bernard Tomic. In the match, Isner hit 49 aces and zero double faults. The 49 aces is the second most in a Davis Cup world group match, as well as any four-set match. The most aces hit in a Davis Cup World Group match was by Ivo Karlovic in 2009 when he hit 78 aces, and the most aces hit in a four-set match was by Joachim Johansson who hit 51 aces in the 2005 Australian Open. Sam Groth hit a 163 mph serve in a Challenger in South Korea in 2012, but not recognized by the ATP as an official record due to the inconsistent nature of the type of radar used on the Challenger level. Isner also made tennis history winning the longest match ever played, 11 hours, 5 minutes against Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set.
  • Marcos Baghdatis surpassed Bjorn Borg for the record of longest Davis Cup win streak. Baghdatis has now won 36 singles rubbers in a row with his most recent loss coming to Irakli Labadze in 2003.
  • Jarrko Nieminen of Finland and Emilio Gomez of Ecuador won their Davis Cup singles rubbers on Friday by a score of 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. It was the first time in history that there were two triple bagels in the same day for Davis Cup.
  • Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski won the first set and first match in the World Group in Poland’s Davis Cup history, defeating Carlos Berlocq and Renzo Olivo of Argentina in the doubles rubber.
  • The Czech Republic improved to 15-0 when Tomas Berdych wins a singles rubber on the first day and the doubles rubber with Radek Stepanek as they defeated Germany, 3-2.
  • Chile has now won five straight ties 5-0 since 2014. They have swept Paraguay, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia consecutively.
  • Andrey Rublev won a challenger in Quimper, France this week. The title is the 10th for teenagers on the challenger circuit since the start of 2015 after Taylor Fritz and Hyeon Chung each won three, while Alex Zverev, Jared Donaldson, Borna Coric, and now Rublev have one each.

Andy Murray Leads Britain To First Davis Cup Title Since 1936

by Kevin Craig

 

Andy Murray won the Davis Cup title for Great Britain on Sunday in Ghent, Belgium as he defeated David Goffin, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to clinch the 3-1 victory over the Belgians. The title is the first for Great Britain since 1936. Murray was able to lead his team to victory by going 11-0 in his Davis Cup matches this year.

Murray opened up the match confidently and controlled play with his serve, only losing seven points in the first set in his service games. The British No. 1 was also able to play a very steady game on the ground, only making six unforced errors and hitting 11 winners, leading five break chances total. On the other side of the court, Goffin was only able to earn one break point in the set, and was unsuccessful in converting. Combine that with a first serve percentage below 50 percent, and you have the recipe for an easy first set victory for Murray.

The second set was tighter, as the score line would suggest, as the only break came in the 11th game of the set. There were three other games in the set that went beyond deuce, including one that lasted 16 points. After being taken to deuce twice in his first service game of the set, Murray was able to hold at love three games in a row, and then only lose four points in his last two service games, allowing him to make his way to a comfortable two sets to love lead.

Goffin looked to have some life in the beginning of the third set, breaking Murray in his first service game. Unfortunately for the Belgian, though, Murray was able to break right back. The Brit went on to break twice later in the set, as well, leading to a comfortable third set victory. One of the breaks came at love, and the other came to close out the match for Murray. Match point was an amazing point between the two stars, and it ended with Murray turning some incredible defense into a backhand lob winner to give Great Britain the Davis Cup title.

This title for Great Britain is just another great achievement on the long list of Murray’s, going along with his Wimbledon and US Open titles, as well as his Olympic gold medal. Murray concludes his magical 2015 Davis Cup run after getting wins over John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, and Bernard Tomic along the way.

This win also sees each of the members of the Big Four having Davis Cup titles, as Roger Federer won in 2014, Novak Djokovic in 2010, and Rafael Nadal in 2004, 2009, and 2011. Now the highest ranked player without a Davis Cup title is Kei Nishikori at No. 8 in the world. The 2016 edition of Davis Cup begins on March 4th, and will hopefully see as much excitement as the 2015 edition.

Brothers Andy and Jamie Murray Put Britain On Davis Cup Brink

by Kevin Craig

Great Britain took a massive step towards securing their first Davis Cup title since 1936 by defeating Belgium in the doubles rubber on Saturday in Ghent. The British team of Andy and Jamie Murray were able to defeat the Belgian team of Steve Darcis and David Goffin in a tight four set match.

The Brits won the match by a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score line, fighting off a resilient performance from the home team. The first set was straightforward for the Murray brothers, only making four unforced errors and saving the only break point they faced. The Belgians kept it tight, though, as only three points separated the two sides in the first set.

Darcis and Goffin continued to play well into the second set, and were able to prolong the match by getting a break and winning the set. The Belgians controlled play with their serve, making 80 percent of their first serves and winning five out of the six points played on their second serve. This success on serve allowed them to apply pressure on the Great Britain service games, leading to three break point opportunities. Again, the set was very tight throughout, as this time only two points separated the teams.

The third set saw the momentum shift in the favor of the Brits as the overall quality of the match dropped. The third set saw five breaks total, but the advantage in that department went to the Murray brothers as they broke three times, compared to the Belgians’ two. Darcis and Goffin struggled on their first serve, only winning 29 percent of their first serve points, allowing the Brits to see four break chances. The Murray brothers didn’t perform at their highest level, either, but they were able to play the bigger points better, allowing them to take a two sets to one lead.

The fourth set was determined by which team was more efficient on break chances, and that was Great Britain. Belgium had a lot of opportunities, but succeeded on none of them, wasting seven break chances in the fourth set. On the other side of the net, the Murray brothers only had two break chances, but took advantage of both of them, allowing them to win the set, and the match, with a comfortable double break.

Many were surprised by the fact that Goffin was chosen to play the doubles over Ruben Bemelmans, a player with much more success in his doubles career. While Goffin may be a much better player all around, Bemelmans had been a successful part of Belgium’s doubles teams for the past few years. The decision to not play Bemelmans may not have ultimately changed the outcome of the match, but Great Britain is now able to head into Sunday knowing they only need one win to take home the Davis Cup title. With Murray playing the first match of the day, British tennis fans hope they will be celebrating early.

Andy Murray, David Goffin Draw Britain And Belgium Even In Davis Cup Final

by Kevin Craig

 

The Davis Cup final being played between Belgium and Great Britain saw exciting action on Friday, as David Goffin was able to come back from two sets to love down to beat Kyle Edmund, while Andy Murray was able to level the tie with a straight sets win over Ruben Bemelmans. While the tie is being played on clay in Belgium, the Brits had an advantage coming into the tie as they have the No. 2 player in the world on their side, as well as a dominant doubles pairing. This advantage was not lost with the results on Friday, but was actually almost given a boost as Edmund was a set away from pulling off a major upset.

Goffin was able to outlast a blistering start from Edmund in the first match of the day, winning 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, to give Belgium the early lead. The incredible start from Edmund was a shock to the tennis world, as it was his first Davis Cup match and that the match was being played in Belgium, on clay, against a Top 20 player. Edmund had been in great form recently as he had just won a challenger tournament on clay in Bueons Aires. Despite the good form, no one expected Edmund to shoot out to a two sets to love lead, including everyone on the Belgium sideline. Edmund was able to take advantage of Goffin’s poor first service percentage, 44 percent in the first set and 38 percent in the second set, to apply pressure on the Belgian’s serve. Combine that with 13 unforced errors in the first two sets, compared to Edmund’s four, and you have a two sets to love lead for the Brit. That hot start was unable to last, though, as Goffin was quickly able to turn things around, getting a break early in the third. This was the clear momentum shift in the match, as everything started going Belgium’s way from this point forward. Goffin only lost 17 points on serve in the last three sets and was able to begin dominating play as Edmund’s legs appeared to disappear from beneath him. Edmund started the match brilliantly given the situation, but it was disappointing to see him barely able to move around the court in the last few games of the match. While the win for Goffin gave them a much needed point in the Davis Cup final, Edmund and the Brits can take a positive out of the fact the match was not as much of a must-win for them as it was for the Belgians, as the Brits have Murray to rely on in three of the five rubbers.

Murray was able to take care of business in his match and pick up Edmund, beating Bemelmans 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. Murray was able to take control of the match early and never lose his grip, breaking Bemelmans six times total and making 18 less unforced errors than his opponent. Bemelmans made a lot of new fans around the world on Friday as he was able to put up a fight with the World No. 2 and showcase his exciting style of play, littering the stat sheet with 34 winners. Bemelmans efforts in this tie are far from over, despite the loss, as he could possibly feature again in the doubles rubber and a potential live fifth rubber. Murray, on the other hand, knows for sure that he will be playing two more ties, and will be able to take the Davis Cup tie into his own hands as he has the potential to win all three points for Great Britain.

The end results of the matches from Friday finished as expected, but the tennis world is still buzzing about the performance put on by Edmund in his Davis Cup debut. While he was unable to get a pivotal win for his side, he instilled fear into the Belgian team and let the world know that he will be a force in the future. Murray’s win set up a very interesting doubles rubber on Saturday that could be viewed as a must-win for the Belgians. In a Davis Cup final match-up that no one would have predicted initially, fans around the world are being treated to as much excitement as they would from any other match-up.

Davis Cup Final – Andy Murray, David Goffin and The Clay Court Issue

Great Britain and Belgium go head-to-head in the Final of the Davis Cup next month, in one of the most unlikely match ups in Davis Cup history – Britain last reached the Final in 1978 and haven’t actually won it since 1936, whilst Belgian haven’t made it since 1904!

The current world number two, Andy Murray, will be leading the charge for the Brits, having beaten Australia’s Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the semis. His main opponent will be David Goffin, who is currently ranked 16th, but who lost to Murray in their last meeting at Wimbledon in straight sets.

Can Andy Murray Handle The Clay Surface?

Belgium, the hosts, have the advantage of being able to choose the surface for the Final, and have opted for an indoors clay court at the 13,000-capacity Flanders Expo in Ghent. Whilst using clay doesn’t particularly suit the Belgians, they will have calculated that playing on the game’s slowest surface is their best chance of beating Murray, who says it is his least favorite surface.

Murray tweeted after the decision was announced: “So Ghent on the clay for the Davis Cup final – very pumped! Think clay is a good surface for us”. However, this could be a bit of a bluff: notice he says good surface “for us”, and not “for me”.

Murray has, in fact, had quite a good season on clay so far (for example, he managed to beat Rafael Nadal to win the Madrid Masters), so he might be more concerned about adjusting to the slower surface, right after playing a run of games on hard courts at the World Tour Finals. He said in an interview: “If you reach the final and play on the Sunday you also need to take time off – you can’t just play five matches against the best players in the world and then not take any days off.”

Will Murray sacrifice his spot in the World Tour Finals for the Great Britain team though? It would be a historic occasion for the nation. However, Chris Kermode, executive president of the ATP, has categorically ruled out Murray missing the final, which therefore puts his Davis Cup Final in doubt. Murray would have to forfeit £570,000 or so in bonus-pool payments for the 2015 season, in order to bolster his chances in Belgium – certainly not a decision to take lightly.

Will The Belgian Team Rise to The Occasion?

A lot of Belgian hope rests on the narrow shoulders of David Goffin. At 24-years-old, Goffin is light, agile and certainly a dangerous opponent for Murray. This year he won all four of his Davis Cup singles matches to help take Belgium into their first final in 111 years.

But despite his excellence, the Belgium team lacks strength in depth. Their second singles player is likely to be Steve Darcis, ranked 81st in the world, with Ruben Bemelmans (86) and Kimmer Coppejans (116) expected to complete the line-up. But on the other side, Andy Murray, Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot all make formidable options in the British doubles team.

Can the Belgian’s pull together for the occasion?

Davis Cup In Uzbekistan – Clean, Safe, Secure and Photos with Pretty Girls

by David Foster

(The following is written by David Foster, who heads up the U.S. Davis Cup Team’s cheer squad “The Netheads.” David was the one and only non-USTA delegation fan from the United States to travel to Tashkent, Uzbekistan for the recent USA vs. Uzbekistan Davis Cup series. To get involved with the Netheads, email David at [email protected] and mentioned “Nethead” in the subject line)

 

Going to Tashkent, Uzbekistan for the USA vs. Uzbekistan Davis Cup Playoff Round was an unbelievable trip! There were super friendly Uzbeks, super pretty girls (for some reason as I get older girls keep getting prettier), awesome American support from the Marines and the Embassy staff, a beautiful city and beautiful weather.

I arrived in Tashkent at 2:45AM on the Wednesday before the Friday start. The USTA provided a special envoy to get me to VIP customs and then a ride to hotel. That was a nice start.

After a few hours sleep, I headed for Amir Temur park to see the statue of this great Uzbek leader from the 1300s. Within half hour of my first walk in Tashkent, two pretty Uzbek girls (students) asked if they could ask me survey questions on video. Never being able to turn down a pretty girl in any country, I consented. They asked me to compare US (60 years for me) to Uzbekistan (30 minutes on street). All I could say is Tashkent is much cleaner than American cities. After videos were done, one for each girl, they asked me if I thought Uzbek girls were pretty. Geez, did they pick the right person to ask? But what was funny was that in one article I read about going to Uzbekistan it stated you should not comment on ladies’ looks. Well, I bypassed the article and stated, yes, Uzbek girls are pretty.

I then sat on bench in park to watch people. Watching moms with their kids showed me once more people are all the same in the world. I just wish governments could get along. I had two folks ask me for directions before I could say “Ingliz.” It happens everywhere I go.

Then I committed my first American error. I stopped at ATM to get some “som” (Uzbek currency). The ATM had English on the initial screen but after I entered my card, there was no English option. Being a smart American, I thought I know what it is asking (pin number first, then do I want withdrawal) even though it was in Uzbek. I finally got to screen that had 50, 100, 150, 200, 300, 400. So I assumed this is stating how much in US dollars to I want to be given in som. I hit 100 and low and behold a Ben Franklin $100 bill came out of the machine. I have never been anywhere where foreign ATM had an option for US dollars.

To tell you what prices are like in Uzbekistan, when I went to hotel exchange desk to convert my Ben Franklin, the lady questioned why I would want to convert the whole thing. She asked “are you sure you are going to spend all that?”

The draw was held in courtyard at the hotel, the Lotte Palace Hotel. After draw I went on long walk (4 miles each way) to visit the US Embassy. Unfortunately, I followed the Google map directions I had and I never found it. I asked several Uzbeks for help but they couldn’t even recognize the street names. After wandering around neighborhood for a while I just headed back to hotel. But I did get to see non-downtown section of city and see mucho people so all was not lost.

On Friday, I took a taxi to tennis facility and had driver who had lived in Pittsburgh for awhile. The road to the tennis went by government offices so he pointed out presidential building (president works there and lives elsewhere) and Uzbek version of Pentagon. The highway signs on this road not only showed the speed limit but also signs indicating no pictures/videos allowed, for security purposes. The Pittsburgh driver pointed out that road was in great shape until after road where president turns to go home. Then two lanes have been under construction for years, finally turning into dirt and gravel before we got to tennis courts.

In Uzbekistan, they have instant Uber. As my Pittsburgh driver told me, every car in Tashkent is a taxi. Folks stand on side of road. A potential driver stops, they discuss location and price, and if agreement, the passenger climbs in for ride. On my taxi ride back to hotel, my driver picked up two extras and dropped one off. No official name for process – may be they should call it Uzber.

The tennis facility was interesting with seats only on one side. The capacity was maybe 2,000. Admission was free. School kids, probably age 12 to 16, filled the stadium on Friday and Saturday. They were wearing school uniforms consisting of a white shirt and black pants or skirts. We had a couple of folks from the U.S. Embassy and three U.S. Marines joining me in our small U.S. cheer section

After first match between Steve Johnson and Denis Istomin finished (Istomin winning in five sets), the students all left – but not before 50 or more stopped by me to ask for a selfie. I went off to concession store and had my picture taken with ball kids and two very pretty girls who then asked if I could get them a picture with players (never understand why they are not satisfied with me). The second match went quickly for Jack Sock in front of probably less than 300 fans. It rained, a light shower, during the match but they kept going on the clay.

In addition to selfies, I had a gentleman hand me some pictures at the end of the first match. When I got back to hotel, I discovered in middle of pictures was a visa/immigration request. I showed this info to one of embassy folks and he just assumed the person was asking me to help with visa process. That was very Interesting.

On Friday night, the Marines picked me up at hotel and we went to the embassy annex for movie and hot dogs night with embassy folks and families. They couldn’t believe I got visa to come to Uzbekistan in seven days.

On Saturday, I took a taxi early to stadium and posed for another twenty to twenty-five pictures before match. Students were there again in uniform. One young lady sat down next to me and when I told her USA girls do not go to school on Saturday and do not have to wear uniforms, she was ready to head to America. Before the match, I was able to get large group of students to do the “USA” cheer. Randy Walker, press guy for USTA, got the USA cheering on video and posted it here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56KVDZGeREQ

Three Marines joined me for doubles and we won pretty easily in three sets. We had two good players (Johnson and Sam Querrey) against one good (Istomin) and one fair player (Farrukh Dustov). After the match, the Marines gave me a ride back to hotel. It’s nice to have those guys looking out for you.

On Sunday at breakfast, a Japanese lady decided I had interesting face and asked for obligatory picture. After I finished eating, I went upstairs and came back with Nethead on and she was really excited to take another picture. She asked for an autograph and was super excited when I signed “Robert Redford.”

At the match, there were more adults than students for a change. Besides the Marines, there were probably 25 embassy folks there, including the ambassador, who sat with the USTA folks. I did not get to meet her since she was gone after I had my last session of stadium selfies. It was a good match on Sunday with Sock trying to serve it out for tie and went back and forth several times with Istomin. It let our fans experience some tension before with Sock closed it out. I got a final ride back with the Marines and thanked them for their service for us.

After the matches on Sunday afternoon, I took another walk around Amir Temur Square. (A video of this area can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-mf7VtKO8E. I saw two pretty girls ahead of me taking pictures towards the statue and, as I got close, I got another request for pictures with each one. I figured it was pictures No. 99 and 100 for the trip.

Everybody in the USTA contingent left on Sunday night, leaving me alone on Monday. I took a personal tour with an English-speaking guide, who was a very knowledgeable guy. He explained that Independence Square was originally Red Square under the Russian Empire and Lenin’s square under Soviet rule. At the 1966 earthquake statue, he explained how Soviets came in to rebuild and add new housing after earthquake damage. I then saw the World War II memorial which had books of gold with names of 500,000 Uzbek men who never came home. I also saw Osman’s Koran which many believe is oldest Koran in existence. The Koran shows Osman’s blood stains where legend is he was stabbed while reading the Koran.

My tour guide explained there is freedom of religion in Uzbekistan but not freedom of where to practice it. Muslims cannot pray in public. Minarets at mosques are for looks only. One cannot issue any calls to prayer. The government does not want religion to be involved in government at all, trying to avoid the problems of other countries – a true separation of church and state. He also told me the building secured with guards with AK-47s I had jogged past for five days was the National Security building, the old KGB. I never saw any indication of street crime during my time in Tashkent. I felt safe wherever I went. My guide indicated Uzbekistan is considered in top five safest countries in the world. In discussion on security with one of embassy staff, she stated there is security in a police state.

I left the hotel at 5PM (Monday) EST time (2AM Tuesday Uzbek time) and got back to my condo in Atlanta at midnight EST Tuesday – 31 hours of travel. It was an uneventful trip except for a two-hour delay on my Paris to Atlanta flight. In Moscow, I saw the prettiest TSA person I’ve ever seen. It was the only time I’ve ever wanted to set off the buzzer and require a pat down! I told her she was prettier than agents in USA, but either she did not understand or she was just giving me the normal cold shoulder I usually get!

Roger Federer Continues To Chase Career Milestones

By Michael Lemort

 

Could Federer win the Davis Cup for the first time of his career and be No. 1 again by the end of the season?

After his success in Shanghai, his 23rd Masters 1000 title, with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal, Roger Federer became No. 2 at the race, overtaking Rafael Nadal. After a very solid year, even though he didnt win a major title, the Swiss player could manage to finish the year ranked No. 1 if he obtains better results than Djokovic in the last tournaments left this year. He is playing Basle, his home tournament (where he reached the final last year), then the Masters 1000 in Paris at Bercy and finally the Masters Cup in London – reaching the semifinals of both events last year. Novak Djokovic plans to play Paris and London, knowing that he won both titles last year, which means that he could lose lots of points if he loses early.

But being ATP No. 1 again is not a priority for Federer who already holds the record for weeks in that position. And on top of that, another challenge is coming in front of him as he’s gonna play the Davis Cup final for the first time of his career. With his partner Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 4 at the race, the Swiss team has never been so close to bring the trophy home, even though playing in France on clay against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet is not going to be an easy thing. But this is probably gonna be the priority for Federer since playing for his country has always been something important for him (especially during Olympic Games). None of the French players will qualify for the Masters Cup so they will have another extra week to practice and get used to the clay courts.

Because of that busy year-ending calendar and because switching from indoor to clay in few days time won’t be easy, Federer might have to make some choices, like not playing Bercy for example (like it already happened in the past), and giving up on the No. 1 position for now if he wants to focus on the Davis Cup.

On another hand, playing and winning matches brings confidence. Entering Basel, Federer has already played 71 matches this year (61 victories), 11 more than Djokovic, 19 more than Tsonga. And he won’t probably have those opportunities facing him every year as he will turn 34 next year. But he has to think about his body and he probably hasn’t forgotten about that back injury that ruined most of his 2013 season.

Federer is a symbol of longevity and efficiency and an example about how to manage his body and career. So no doubt that he will take the good decisions, break some new records and add some new lines to his already huge career.