22 June 2007

Eastbourne Report 2007

Wednesday 20th June 2007

This was my first ever time of going to Eastbourne - I started out from my home in London at 07:30am and arrived at the sunshine coast of Eastbourne at 10:15am. Eastbourne seems like a lovely place, the beach and sea looked beautiful, the sound of the seagulls, the lovely old traditional architecture in this area - so it was the perfect setting for the tennis.

After buying my ticket I went straight through to see a bit of Nadia Petrova on the practise courts, then I had a look around the little stands, then headed over to Court 1 to see my first match of the day - Sybille Bammer vs. Lucie Safarova. This was a bit of a scrappy match from both players with Bammer taking the early lead and the first set. During the match I could see Elena Dementieva walking towards the players restaurant and Tax Garbin walking to the practise courts. From this court you have a great view over the whole grounds and an especially good view of Court 2 and the match of Sharhar Peer vs. Nakamura. My friend came and joined us and we continued to watch more of the Bammer vs Safarova match, Lucie played much better in the second set, her shots were staying in within the lines, her serve improved and she took the second set. The weather was now very hot, so I decided to go for a walk around the grounds, I went over to the first practise courts. Groenefeld was on there starting a session with the usual stretches and laughing with her friend. Also practising Bethany Mattek, in a much more conventional outfit than usual! hahahhaha ;) I then went over to the second practise courts where I saw Elena Dementia being coached by her Mum, Maria Kirilenko hitting with fellow Russian Elena Likhovtseva, and at the far end of the courts Tathiana Garbin and her coach. On the court behind me was Renee Stubbs and Kveta Peschke warming up for their doubles match later in the day. They do quiet a long practise session here, about 45 minutes-60 minutes, which is the same time as Roland Garros. (At Wimbledon they only get about a 30 minute session as there isn't enough practise courts for them to train longer) I watched them practise for a while and chatted to a few friends, then watched the crazy scrum of people all trying to get Elena Dementieva's autograph. (Eastbourne is a great place to get close to the players and to get autographs, sadly it also attracts many of the awful professional autograph sellers who usually are incredibly ignorant and rude to the players and demand that the players sign multiple photos - they are the worst side of this tournament)

I then went for another walk around - saw Ai Sugiyama and her family getting asked for autographs from a huge group of teenagers. Then went over to Court 2 to watch a bit of doubles, Leizal Huber/Cara Black vs. two British girls. Just the other side of the court was British player Elena Baltacha being interviewed by a TV crew on the picnic lawn. Then I went back over to the first practise courts again - saw Lisa Raymond hitting with Smantha Stosur, Aga Radwanska listening to her ipod, Jill Craybas with a male hitting partner. Then over on the second practise courts watched some sessions of Tsvetana Pironkova hitting ground strokes and serves, in the far distance was Nicole Vaidisova having some serious treatment/stretches with a physio. (She seemed to be having a few problems with her lower back) Tathiana Garbin finished her session, then signed some autographs and gave me a beautiful smile as she left the court. I then went for an ice cream and continued to watch the practises, Vera Dushevina was hitting with another Russian girl, and now Nicole Vaidisova was jogging up and down, warming up and started a long practise session full which seemed to be many focused mainly on volleys and net work. At one point Nicole hit a very wild shot that flew in the air and landed in the middle of someone's picnic at the Pimms bar hahahhaha After the initial embarrassment Nicole was calling over to them saying sorry, but the people seemed to find the funny side in it, so it was alright! ;)

After I then went over towards Court 2 again, saw Nathalie Dechy being interviewed on the picnic lawn, Amelie Mauresmo running towards the locker rooms, also saw Sybille Bammer coming back from the players restaurant eating an apple and trying to sign some photos. Justine Henin was walking around chatting on her mobile phone. Then sat in the shade for a while and watched the doubles match of Maria Kirilenko and Elena Likhovtseva.

As the day draws to an end I then back to the place I started - back to Court 1 to watch cake-loving Marion Bartoli vs. British girl Melanie South. Bartoli took the first set easily 6/1, the second was a bit more tricky for her, South was playing better and Bartoli's serve became a bit of a mess. Bartoli finally won but looked to be exhausted, she really needs to do something about her fitness level if she wants to be more successful at the Slams! After I moved down to the front row for the last match of the day - doubles of Tatiana Garbin/Sharhar Peer vs. Renee Stubbs/Kveta Peschke. This was a continued match from the day before, Tax and Sharhar really tried so hard but they just couldn't compete with the superior doubles skills of Stubbs/Peschke. Though the match was very short, it was fun as the crowd really wanted to see Garbin/Peer win a few games. At the end Garbin signed a load of autographs and seemed to be a huge favourite with the Eastbourne crowd. Before we left the grounds we met up with our friends and spent the next hour chatting and drinking a well deserved jug of Pimm's in the bar overlooking the groundsmen preparing the courts for the following day.

I really had the most fantastic time at my first Eastbourne, I loved the fact that you had great access to the practise courts, there was a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere here very laid back, the weather was was hot sunny with a beautiful sea breeze and seems to be a place that the players really enjoy to visit too - I definitely will be going back again next year!

Next report......Wimbledon!

Update 2 July 2007


19 June 2007

Roland Garros 2007 Report

Friday -
My journey started as always on a cold morning at London's Heathrow Airport. After catching the 06:30am flight I arrived in Paris to make my way to my rented apartment...then onto the hallowed courts of Roland Garros.

Everytime I step foot into the grounds my heart skips a beat when I see the magnificent terracotta coloured courts laid out in front of me - it is a truly beautiful sight. First thing I did was to have a look around the practise courts, then I headed to the courts near the locker room entrance. On court 11 Justine Henin was practising, looked to be very relaxed and was laughing and joking quite a lot with Carlos (her coach). After I then made my way back to the far end of the grounds again to Court 13 and saw another practise session, this time with Katarina Srebotnik and Daniela Hantuchova. Then went to court 15 where there was a qualifying match being watched by quite a few players including Barbara Rittner (Wow, she has a beautiful voice!) Kveta Peschke, Jasmin Woehr and Daniel Merkert (German coach to Eleni Daniilidou). I then heard a rumour that Rafa nadal was practising on court 12, so I rushed over there to watch Rafa - he is very well liked by so many people Roland Garros...and especially by the teenage girls!! hahaha) Just as he was finishing his session - the sky went black, the lighting and thunder started then the torrential rain started. By this time it was about 17:30pm, so I decided to make my way back to the apartment to get some rest for the next day.

Saturday -
Though this was another qualifying day, it is also the jewel of Roland Garros - Journee Benny Berthet Charity Day! This is the day that the whole ground is opened to the public for the first time, and can have access to all courts...and even to the corporate boxes on court Phillip Chartrier, which is always a fantastic bonus! First of all, I went to have a look around the practise courts, then I made my way to Court 1 - the amazing 'Bullring' which is one of my favorite courts here. I got myself a front row seat, then I watched the first exhibition match - Martina Muller vs. Katarina Srebotnik, then the match after was the lovely Italian Tathiana Garbin's exhibition match which she won easily!

Then after I visited all of the promotional stands - Dunlop, French Tennis Magazine, Yonex, Prince, Wilson etc... then on to the practise courts. After I meet up with some French friends of mine, then saw a practise session of Andy Roddick on court 13, he was there with is coach (and former player) Jimmy Connors. There seems to be a great friendship between these two men, they were chatting and laughing a lot during the session. After I met up with another friend of mine for a drink and chat. Later in the day as I was walking in the tunnel under court Philip Chartier I bumped into a friend of mine, Eurosport commentator Manuel Poyan. It's always so much fun to chat to Manuel, he is a great man!!! While we were talking, I got introduced to the main tennis reporter for El Pais newspaper and also met Spanish player Ivan Navarro Pastor. After a long chat with Manuel, I then went for a final walk around the grounds before heading home for a well deserved rest.

Sunday -
This was the first real day of the tournament - and the weather forcast for today was terrible....and sadly, they were right! Just as I got through the main gates, the rain started....and didn't stop for the next 5 hours! Not much to say about my time in the rain delay, everyone seemed to spent the time doing the rounds of the food and drink stands, eating everything from potato chips to Belgian waffles with cream and chocolate. When play finally got started I saw the match on Court 1 of Dinara Safina vs Yuliana Fedak. I think Dinara wanted to get offcourt and out of the cold - she wrapped up the match in ultra quick time (around an hour) after playing a very aggressive match. The organisers decided to not play any more matches on that day, so I managed to get myself onto Court Philip Chartier to see the end of the Justine Henin match. Not much else to say about that day, it was pretty disappointing due to the weather..but then again I should be used to that after all my years at rainy Wimbledon!! hahaha

Monday -
Today started pretty much how Sunday had started....with lots of rain. This time I did manage to find my friends, so we spent the rain delay having a very funny and entertaining chat, so it didn't seem as bad as the day before. When the rain finally cleared we went for lunch, then after I went to court 2 to see the match of Italian Potito Starace, then made my way through the grounds to court 7 to see one of my favorites play...Tathiana Garbin vs. Akiko Morigami. Both players had a huge amount of support from the crowd - Garbin had the loudest supporters though! At first Tax wasn't really playing her best and Morigami with all of her experience took advantage of this and took the early lead. Morigami's serve was solid and seemed to return everything that was thrown at her - she really is a fighter. Garbin picked her game up, her shots were on target, her drop shots worked, her improved and with the help of the crowd, she managed to get into the lead and win the match. She seemed very relieved when she won and immediately went over to thank her supporters, throwing her towel into the crowd and celebrating, even though the rain had started to fall again. As I left the courts I saw the parents of Eleni Daniilidou walking towards the Players lounge area and really, that was about all for today because the rain didn't stop all night - so in some ways it was another slightly disappointing day.

Tuesday -
My last day at the tournament, so I was hoping that I would be more lucky with the weather. After getting through the security checks on the gates I made my way to court 6 for Mara Santangelo vs. Aga Radwanska. Mara took control from the start and didn't really give radwanska a chance to get into the game. I think Radwanska was pretty nervous and certainly didn't show any of the talent that she is often credited with. After that I went over to court 12 (this is a very bad court to watch because it's usually only used for practise but because of the rain, they decided to use it for matches) watched a little of the Nuria Llagosera Vives match, but couldn't see much so I went over to court 9 to get some photos of Ruban Ramirez Hidalgo. Today the courts were so busy, it was impossible to get onto some of the courts.

I then went back to court 7 to see Italian Francesca Schiavone's match. Not a very eventful match, Francesca had no problems and raced through without dropping many points. After the match she spent a lot of time chatting to her supporters and signing autographs which is always nice to see from the players. I then headed over to practise court 13 and got some photos of Iveta Benesova, then I got a text message from my friend Manuel Poyan and he offered to show me around the Eurosport commentry booths at the top of court Philip Chartrier. The media area is like a little hidden world - we first went in to the seating area where John Lloyd was watching the matches on the screens, we then went up the stairs to a gallery of 40 or so commentry booths. Each booth was quite small, only room for two people with three tv screens but with the most amazing view of the court Philip Chartier!!!!! I was introduced to Manuel's fellow Eurosport commentator Fernando. We then walked past all of the other commentry booths - ESPN, ESPN Espanol, German Eurosport, Japanese WowWow TV etc... then out to see the view from the terrace which is often used by the photographers. We then went up to the next gallery up stairs where the other commentry booths are including the guest channels France 2/3/4. Manuel showed me the old commentry booths (which are still in use) and we went to the far terrace to see France 2/3/4 outside studio which over looks the whole court. On our way back out, we passed Australian former player Mark Woodforde and British ex-player Jo Dury. It was so fantastic to be able to see the commentry area, it was very different to how I had imaged it to be, much better and with far better facilities.

After leaving Manuel, I then went over to court 5 to see some of Jonas Bjorkman's match, then onto courts 2 and 3. I finished my day watching James Blake getting beaten by a very tall Ivo Karlovic. I then went for one last walk around the grounds before heading to the Metro and back to the apartment for my last night.

Though my visit was plagued with rain delays, I still had a great time as always! I hope you enjoyed reading my report.

Next report..........Eastbourne!