If I Were A Betting Cat, I’d Be Broke

Furriends, we are wrapping up the clay court season, and that means the start of the French Open!

Image: lizabiggers.com

We are only two days in, and everything is already topsy turvy!

Here are some French Open wagers I would have lost!

I would have been all in for Dominic Thiem to win the whole tournament! But yesterday, in an inexplicable match, the second best clay court player right now, and my purrsonal favorite, lost in the first round to Pablo Andujar! Thiem took some time off earlier this season to get his mind and body right, so I guess he’s just not totally back yet.

Given his track record on clay, I would have bet a straight flush against Daniil Medvedev winning a single match at Roland Garros! But sure enough, this morning, he wins his first round match in straight sets. Now whose $$$ would be flushed?

I would have played the odds and gave Francis Tiafoe the upper edge against fellow aging American, Steve Johnson. Tiafoe is young and fierce, so I thought he had the upper hand in this first round match. I was wrong. Steve Johnson came back from two sets down, to win it in five.

I would have never made a blind bet that World #1, Naomi Osaka, would withdraw from the French Open because she doesn’t want to do the press conferences, stating mental health issues. She was fined $15,000 for skipping her press conference following her first round match. She, subsequently, withdrew from the tournament. I just think it’s a real shame it had to escalate to this.

Image:istockphoto.com

I would have won a small stack of change for this last bet: Roger Federer winning his first round match. He’s 39 years old, he’s been out with knee issues since before the pandemic, and clay is not his favorite surface. He looked good today, taking his opponent down in three sets. His next opponent is Marin Cilic, who, if I’m being purrfectly honest, is also in the twilight of his career, so this should be interesting.

The only wager that is safe to make at this point is the one you don’t make!

So in the wise words of the great American country singer, Kenny Rogers:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em,

Know when to fold ’em,

Know when to walk away,

Know when to run.

And I know when to just relax on the sofa and keep my money in my pockets!

The French Open – Something Old, Something New

Yesterday wrapped up the fortnight in Paris, the French Open. And with all things this year, it was full of storylines of tales past, as well as plenty of new news!

Something New:

The women’s champion, Iga Swiatek! The teenager who became the first player from Poland to win the French Open. “Welcome to the Jungle” was the anthem that kept her calm all week. Well, if Phillipe Chatrier (center court) is the jungle, then she is the Queen! She played a flawless match against Sofia Kenin, winning 6-4, 6-1.

Poland's Iga Swiatek celebrates winning the final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Sofia Kenin of the U.S. in two sets, 6-4, 6-1, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Image: Christopher Ena/Associated Press

Something Old:

Guess what kitty furriends? The King of Clay, himself! Rafael Nadal won his unprecedented 13th title on Sunday, winning the final against world number 1, Novak Djokovic. This was their 56th meeting, making that the record of most matches between two players. And the score line was equally as impressive as Swiatek’s. 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

Image: Yahoo news

It was lights out so fast for both of those finals! Speaking of lights…

Paris, the City of Lights, finally have lights at the French Open. I know, it’s hard to believe, but prior to this year, when the night sky descended on Paris, they would have to shut down and start play up the next day. Of course, the lights created unusual shadows, but it also allowed more matches to complete, which is always the goal.

Something New:
A roof on center court! The roof was a lifesaver, because, as every smart cat knows, you just can’t play tennis in the rain. The roof enabled play to continue, and that is always a purrfect time!

Something Old:
The drop shot! The drop shot was the real winner at this French Open. Due to new tennis balls, the ball was bouncing about three inches less than normal (or so meows one of the commentators) so players used the drop shot a LOT! Qualifier, Hugo Gaston, almost beat Dominic Thiem in the fourth round, playing the drop shot as often as I dose off into kitty dream heaven.

Image: Getty Images

Something New:

With this win, Rafa Nadal ties Roger Federer for the number of grand slam titles: 20! Roger is out this year, recovering from surgery, and he is 39 years old. There is no telling if he will be able to come back and win more majors. Rafa is 34 years old and plays like he’s 24. So I see him surpassing Roger’s record some time next year.

And that’s a wrap for the French Open. A little something for everyone. Hope you enjoyed the summary.

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Rain, Rain! Go Away!

Rain, you’re ruining my tennis vibes! Yesterday, it looked like you were going to cooperate. We had the beginning of what could have been a French Open classic! Roger Federer against Stan Wawrinka, two Swiss players who know each other well. One, coming back from injury, the other back to prove a point.

It was a close match. Both men are in their 30’s, but you would never know it by the powerful one-handed backhands they were smashing across the net. One is a graceful dancer, the other a bull in a china shop. The first set went to a tiebreak, with Fed coming out on top. Stan took the second set, 6-4. The third set was close…so many break opportunities from both, but Fed eventually won it. Then the dark, ominous clouds lurked in the distance of that fourth set, but they played on, tying the set at 4-4 before play was suspended due to rain. Once the players were back, it took Roger no time all to win the fourth set, 6-4. Sorry Stan, maybe another time.

And then, today….

Roland-Garros 2019 - bâche - pluieImage: ©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Completely rained out! Don’t they know my human cleared her calendar so she could watch the quarterfinal matches? Mother Nature doesn’t care. She had other plans.

Either way, my human and I will tune in tomorrow to see what happens. Will Sascha Zverev beat Novak Djokovic, improving on his grand slam purrformances? Not likely…Novak is playing very solid tennis. Will Dominic Theim continue his clay court dominance against Karen Khachanov? I hope so! I have him pegged to win!

We will have to wait and see.

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Drippin’ in Finesse

Furriends, we may have just witnessed the most stylish match of the French Open thus  far! Oui, oui!

It was a battle of the Frenchmen, the King of the Popped Collar, Benoit Paire, vs. the Prince of Doubles, Pierre Hugues Herbert! You can’t get more French than that!

This match was drippin’ in finesse! It had so much finesse, flair, flash and panache, Bruno Mars and Cardi B are jealous! Both players displayed elegant touch and technique on the red clay with sliced backhands, aces, speed, power, energy.  And that was just the tennis! They also showed heart, class, emotions, sportsmanship. Their embrace at the net after the end of the match said it all. Two friends who know each other well, appreciating the art and performance they just created for the world to see. Pure purrfection!

At the end of the day, Paire, won the match in a mind-gripping five set match, 6-2, 6-2, 5-7, 6-7, 11-9.

Pierre Hugues Herbert after winning a point.

Paire on facing fellow French Herbert: 'It will be an interesting match'

Benoit Paire after winning his match!

2019 French Open - Day Four : News Photo

This, my furriends, is what it’s about!

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I’ve Been Broken

I knew it was bound to happen, it was just a matter of time! My love for the game…the players, the drama, the fuzzy tennis ball, the red clay! It was just too much for me to deny. And today was the day I gave into my tennis fix!

For years, the Tennis Channel has been tempting their fans with a subscription to Tennis Channel Plus. Catch all of the tennis action, live or on demand. Full coverage of the French Open, every match every court. And every year I tell myself, Frazier, don’t be silly….you are fine with whatever the “featured” match they are showing with the regular TV channel.

Well, I couldn’t take it anymore! The temptation was too strong. One of my all time favorites, Janko Tipsarevic, was playing Grigor Dimitrov and the Tennis Channel was showing the Tsitsipas match. What??? Meooooowwwww…this could not be! Why would they show Tsitsipas when my beloved Janko was playing? Don’t they know his comeback story, after years of injuries and surgeries, is way more compelling than a first round Tsitsipas match? I love him. Just look at him! And he’s one of the few pros on tour that have a college degree!

        Image: hcfoo.com

So I broke down, paid the yearly subscription, and happily watched my guy play! He’s 34 years old now, so he’s no spring kitty, but he gave Grigor a good run for his money. The match went to five sets and was completely competitive. Dimitrov won the match at the end, but it was a real treat…not the kind of tasty treats my human gives me every time I go into the kitchen…but still a treat, all the same, to watch Janko Tipsarevic play tennis at such a high level. Glad to see you back, competing again, Janko!

You broke me, Tennis Channel, but I will purr-savere. It’s a tough life when you can’t live without full access to your favorite fix. You know exactly how to get to a tennis cat’s heart!

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The New Rivalry That Wasn’t

Borg/McEnroe. Sampras/Agassi. Federer/Nadal. I’ve been waiting for years for a new rival to pop up on the men’s tennis scene, and I thought we had one in the making. Zverev/Theim? But nope, not today Tennis Satan. Not today!

It was a quarterfinal match between Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev, two young players who are destined to become rivals. Zverev, whose history at the majors has been nothing but lackluster, has finally, after three 5-set matches in a row, made it to a quarterfinal at the French Open! Con-catulations to Sascha. Unfortunately, he met Dominic Thiem across the net from him. Thiem is the only person who has been able to beat Rafa on clay these last couple of years. So, he knows how to play on clay and he is eager to win his first major (paws crossed!!).

It was such a non-battle, it was disappointing. Sascha developed a hamstring injury from the get go, and Dominic was relentless. It was a quick three set match, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.

APTOPIX_France_Tennis_French_Open_64116.jpg                       Image: Associated Press

I’m sure we will see a lot more from these two players in the next couple of years, but it just wasn’t meant to be today.

We still have lots of tennis to be played in the French Open between now and Sunday, so stay tuned. Will it be a Nadal/Thiem final? We don’t know quite yet, but we can hope!

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Serena – Don’t Call It A Comeback

Guess what my furriends…Serena is BACK! To be honest, she never really left. Yes, she was out for a bit…becoming a mama to Alexis Olympia and wife to Alexis Ohanian, but was she really ever gone?

The rankings say yes. A short time ago, she was world #1! You couldn’t watch a grand slam tournament and not assume Serena was going to win. She is currently ranking #451 because she took time out to have a baby. Currently, the WTA doesn’t have anything in place for protecting the rankings for women who take time out for maternity leave. And of course, that’s a debate for a different time…

Her performance so far at the French Open says this is absolutely NOT a comeback. It’s just like LL Cool J sings…Mama gonna knock you out! And that is exactly what this mama did. In a fierce black, full-body catsuit, no less! Superhero cats unite! (me and you, Serena…we’ll talk later…)

Image: Twitter@serenawilliams

She confidently won her first round match against Kristyna Pliskova in two sets, and last night took Ash Barty to three sets, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Here is what Serena had to say about her second round performance: “I lost the first set, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to try harder. I’ve got to just try harder.’ And Serena came out,” Meow…words of a true champion! Mama gonna knock you out, indeed!!

We can’t know for sure how far she will make it at the French Open, but it will be fun to watch! Good luck, Mama!

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The Lucky Losers At The French Open

The French Open began yesterday and I’ve got some great news! The International Tennis Federation implemented a new rule that I think is going to change the landscape of Grand Slams moving forward.

If you recall last year, there was an uptake of injured players starting their opening round of a Grand Slam tournament and withdrawing shortly after the start of play…all to earn their first round prize money. By doing this, they cheated the other healthier players who could have had that chance to play. And they cheated the fans who bought tickets, just to see the match end early because of a retirement.

The ITF addressed this by changing the rule so that, if a player retires before the match starts, they still get 50% of the prize money for that match. This opens up a spot for an alternate player (the lucky loser) to play in their place, and that player earns half of the prize money for that round. Because of this rule change, the French Open has seen eight “lucky losers” able to play in the first round!

The feel good story of the lucky losers has to be Argentine, Marco Trungelliti who arrived back in Paris just this morning to play his first round match against Bernand Tomic. Trungelliti didn’t make the quallies, so he was back at home in Barcelona with his mom, grandma and brother when he got the news that Nick Kyrgios dropped out, giving his a chance to play! What did he do? He loaded up mom, grandma, and brother and drove 10 hours from Barcelona to Paris to play this morning, documenting the whole adventure on Twitter. That’s him in the front seat to the left.

View image on Twitter

And guess what…he won 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4! So now he is on to round two! Congrats to him and the whole family!!

There are other lucky losers making some noise at the French Open. As I am writing this, Simone Bolelli is playing Rafa Nadal and the score is currently 6-4, 0-2. Now, do I think Bolleli is going to beat Rafa in the first round of the French Open? No, not really. But how cool is it that Bolleli gets to play the best clay court player in the world on the most famous clay court in the world, and he is up 0-2 in the second set? This would have not been possible without this new rule. We would have seen an injured player walk out, play a few games, then retire, leaving the fans in the stand and the fans at home disappointed. This way is MUCH better!!

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What To Do About Rafa?

I can only imagine those were the thoughts of Stan Wawrinka as he stood across the net from the 9 time French Open champ, Rafa Nadal. Nadal…who has played an absolute flawless clay court season this year, who was going for a record breaking 10th French Open title today. Rafa already broke his own records this year by winning his 10th title in Monte Carlo and his 10th title in Barcelona. His record on clay goes on and on.

And it’s not like Stan Wawrinka is some snuffleupagus. Even though he is often considered the under cat, he has won three majors, one of those being the French Open in 2015. He’s built like a brick house and has the best one handed backhand on tour. But he had no answers against Rafa today. It wouldn’t have mattered who Rafa played today, he would have made them look like a wobbly slinky, stuck in the mud with no one to give him a push down the stairs.

Stan won a mere 6 games out of the entire match. Final score: 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. The only thing we can do now is look ahead…next week starts the grass court season. What….you don’t know about tennis on grass? Stay tuned for next Sunday’s Slice! I might even be moved to write more poetry!

Til then, kitties and friends…

Torn Between Two Lovers

Remember that song from the 70’s “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor? You know…

Torn between two lovers

Feeling like a fool

Loving you both

Is breaking all the rules

Well, that’s how I felt watching the Rafa Nadal/Dominic “Sweep the Leg” Thiem semi-final match today. You’ve got Rafa dominating this clay court season; clearly the favorite. Then you have Dominic Thiem, the underdog for sure. But he just beat the defending champ, Novak Djokovic, in the QF, and he’s the only player who has beaten Rafa this clay court season. So there is always a chance for an upset.

Alas my friends, it was not meant to be. As I settled in on the sofa next to my human, I was trying to be a dignified tennis cat. Sitting politely, grooming myself, paying attention, trying to enjoy the match. But next to me sat my human and all I could hear was a stream of “Oh noooo, Oh Lord, damn, Lordie be, oh for goodness sake.” And then it got quieter with a lot of non-verbals, murmurs of “uhhh”, some head shaking, and finally face palms.

And this is how my human sat and watched Dominic Thiem get slaughtered by the King of Clay, Rafa Nadal. 6-3, 6-4, 6-0

There is a song by Patty Griffin called “When It Don’t Come Easy.” This has got to be Thiem’s theme song when he plays Nadal.

When It Don’t Come Easy

Sorry Dominic, but today was just not your day, and even though I’m thrilled for Nadal, and I still really sad for you. See you on the grass courts…

Tennis Clinic by Dominic Thiem

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Don’t sneeze or snooze for a quick catnap or it will be over! I’m talking about the quarterfinal match today between Dominic “Sweep the Leg” Thiem and defending champ, Novak Djokovic.

Three sets is all it took for the Thiem to win. 7-6, 6-3, 6-0. And let me tell you, it was a tennis clinic if I ever saw one. Dominic had a strategy and executed it perfectly. This was  a rematch from just weeks before where Djokovic won in three sets. Dominic came out and attacked the ball early, hit heavy forehands and backhands across the court, ran for every drop shot at the net. It was really a thing of beauty. And with his fantastic hair blowing in the wind…well it was picture perfect!

Here’s a quick tip for the casual tennis observer. When you watch a match, it really just looks like two guys standing on opposite sides of the net, hitting the ball back and forth. Next time you watch, pay attention to where the player is standing in relation to the baseline (the line in the back of the court). If they are standing inside, is their opponent standing far back from their baseline? If so, this typically means they are being more aggressive…taking the ball earlier, forcing their opponent to scoot back to return the ball. Who wins that point? Likely the player playing more aggressively.

Well, furry friends, Dominic Thiem gets to play Rafa Nadal in the semis. I’m sorry Sweep the Leg, but that’s just the luck of the draw. But don’t be too discouraged….Thiem is the ONLY player to beat Nadal during this year’s clay court season. And besides, I’m calling Dominic as the French Open dark horse!

Two Sides of the Same Coin

The 2017 French Open has really been shaping up to be two sides of the same coin. Maybe a little Jeckle and Hyde? Week one was full of emotional drama – tons of personal interest stories. Week two is getting down to the business of tennis.

Week one drama:

  1. We marveled at the comeback of Petra Kvitova who was stabbed during an attack during a home invasion just months earlier. The damage to her hand was so severe, the doctor didn’t know if she would be able to hold a racquet again, much less compete. Remarkably, she made it to the second round before being knocked out by US qualifier, Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
  2. We cheered, wept and openly grieved with Stevie Johnson, as he returns to competition after losing his father just weeks before the French Open. Surprisingly, he made it all the way through to round three before meeting up with Dominic “Sweep the Leg” Thiem. After an emotional second round match, he was spent, so I was not surprised that he had nothing left during the third round match.
  3. David Goffin, the 10th seed in the men’s draw, sprained his ankle while sliding on the clay to get a ball, getting his leg caught up in the folded tarp at the back of the court. He had to be carried off court by two guys because he couldn’t put any weight on his leg. I don’t know how this injury will effect the rest of his year. Certainly, he won’t be at Wimbledon, but hopefully back by the US Open?

Week two business:

  1. Will Rafa Nadal win his 10th French Open title? His game has been practically purrfect!
  2. Or will adding Andre Agassi to Novak Djokovic‘s coaching box help him defend his title?
  3. Who will win the women’s title? Every player left has never one a grand slam title.
  4. My dark horse pick in the men’s draw is Dominic Thiem! He has been so solid on the clay this year, I think he has a shot for the title!! Sweep the leg, Dominic!!
  5. My dark horse pick in the women’s draw is Karolina Pliskova. She’s currently ranks around 3-5, but as I predicted earlier this year, I see her as a top seed! #1 for Pliskova, please.

Week two, here we go! Let’s see what happens!

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Happy Birthday, Rafa!

Rafa Nadal turns 31 years old today! Feliz cumpleaños, my friend!

Yes, his birthday always aligns with the French Open! Purrfectly fitting since he has won 9 French Open titles already and is currently on track to win his 10th next week!

And even with guns like that, it was amusing to see him struggle with opening a gift from the Tennis Channel. Let me set the scene…

Rafa graciously agrees to come in to the TC’s Lacoste lounge to do an interview (on his birthday, no less, smh). They chat with him about his dominance during this French Open when he humbly says “I don’t know if I’m the favorite or not.” Umm, OK Rafa, whatever. Then the President of the TC comes over and hands him a box wrapped in bright blue paper tied up with thin curly ribbon. You know the kind of ribbon…the kind where when you pull it to try and break it, it only gets thinner and tighter and so you eventually just reach for the scissors and cut it loose. I saw this and I thought for sure Rafa is going to be able to snap that apart in one swift pull. Nope, Rafa is human! He couldn’t break it and simply slid it aside without breaking a sweat. Inside, a fancy fishing reel! He proclaims “I’m going to catch a big one and send a picture.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAFA! Enjoy your day off and good cat wishes to you for the rest of the tournament!

I Get So Emotional Baby

Friends, I’m hear to tell you tennis can be an emotional sport, and there’s nothing I like better than having a good cry during a tennis match.

To explain myself a little better, lets rewind to the 1995 Australian Open quarterfinal match between Pete Sampras (my all-time favorite player) and Jim Courier. Earlier that day, Pete’s coach, Tim Gullikson, was flown back to the US after suffering a stroke, which was later diagnosed as brain cancer and would ultimately claim his life. It was a tight match, Courier winning the first two sets 6-7, 6-7. Pete claims the third and fourth sets 6-3, and 6-4. At the beginning of the fifth set, a fan in the stand yells “Do it for your coach, Pete.” At this point, Pete loses his composure and breaks down in tears. Through his tears, he pounds out a couple of aces, and eventually wins the fifth set 6-3 and clinches the match. A classic moment in tennis history. For a quick summary of that match, here’s a nice video:

Sampras/Courier QF Aussie Open 1995

Fast forward to today…Steve Johnson is playing his second round match against a youngster, 20 year old, Borna Coric. Just weeks before the start of the French Open, Steve’s dad passed away in his sleep. At the urging of his family, Steve agreed to play at the French. His mom, sister and fiance are here as support. He battled to win this five set match, and after the last point, he dropped to his knees and burst into tears. Happy tears, exhausted tears, sad tears. We’ve all been there before…or at least I have. And the loss of  a parent can be so raw, right below the surface, and you don’t know when or what will be the trigger that causes you to breakdown. Anyway, he continued to cry, even through the post-match interview. The first thing he said in the interview was “I miss my dad.” When asked how he is doing physically, after playing a long, exhausting five set match, he replied, “Physically, I’m OK. Emotionally, I’m a mess.”  And with that, they wrapped up the interview and he left the court.

Meanwhile on the other side of the net, young and immature Borna Coric lost the match, and instead of paying respect to Steve while he eventually makes his way to the net to shake hands, he throws a tantrum and bangs his racquet into the red clay until it breaks. Even as he is walking towards the net to meet Steve, he hits his racquet into the ground and then swirls it over to his chair. Incredibly inappropriate, and just plain stupid. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in sport. Have some class and don’t throw a fit! I hope his coach uses this as a learning opportunity and tells Coric to have a little class on the court…OK?

Here is a nice story from Yahoo Sports on Steve’s win today:

Steve Johnson Emotional Round 2 Victory

Unfortunately for Steve Johnson, his third round opponent is Dominic Theim who has been unstoppable on the red clay this season. To you Stevie…good luck. My heart will be with you.

The Beginning of the End

Well tennis fans, it’s here…Day 1 of the French Open. The beginning of the end of clay court season, 2017. And just as the unpredictability of the bounce of the tennis ball and slide of the players on a court made of dirt, so does Day 1 begin.

As I write this morning, the tournament is a mere few hours old and we have already seen inevitable victory and defeat.

Defeat: Top seeded Angelique Kerber out in the first round. And it was quick. Don’t close your eyes for one single cat nap or you would miss it. Kerber is defeated 6-2, 6-2 by Ekaterina Makarova.

Victory: A HUGE victory, at that! Petra Kvitova wins her first round match after returning from injury. Back in December, she was stabbed during a home invasion, injuring her left hand (her playing hand). It was doubtful that she would even be able to play tennis again, but five months later, here she is. She does not have full use of her hand yet, but managed to win her first round match!

Her team was wearing the best shirts: Courage, Belief, P♥dj! Podj, you ask? It means “come on” in Czech.!  So…..Podj, Petra, and welcome back!

As with every Grand Slam tournament, there are story lines to follow, and this 2017 French Open is no different.

  • Will Rafa Nadal clinch his 10th win and the French Open? (likely)
  • Will Andre Agassi help Novak Djokovic’s slump? (probably not)
  • Will Djokovic’s new sponsor, Lacoste, help his slump? (probably not)
  • With Serena Williams out due to her pregnancy, which woman will rise to the top? (Simona Halep, maybe)
  • Will I ever learn how to convert kph to mph? (nope…doubtful)

Stay tuned, furry friends! I will keep you all up to date on the latest at the French Open…all from the comfort of my little corner of the sofa!

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