Month: April 2019
Thiem, The Best of His Generation
It was about 2012. My wife and son were with me on the practice courts at Indian Wells. It was a pleasantly cool March afternoon. We had come to watch, the powerful Latvian, Ernsts Gulbis, practice. He was coached by the man who coached Boris Becker years ago, Gunter Bresnik. The coach was older now, walked a little more slowly and wore a protective brimmed hat.
Bresnik was also coaching a young adult player we had never seen, his fellow Austrian, Dominic Thiem. Thiem was doing some unusual, dynamic, on court, weight training.
This morning I watched as he convincingly defeated Rafa at the semis in Barcelona. Rafa, the beast, was overpowered. I couldn’t help but remember that dynamic resistance training years ago. Theim would flatten out accurate groundstrokes that Rafa couldn’t touch. Rafa’s extraordinary power was neutralized.
Mental strength you ask? With one set under his belt Dominic was serving for the match in the second set. Rafa went up 0-40 and had three break points. Rafa didn’t win another point as Theim surged to victory. Good match Rafa, but, bravo today to this rising, 25 year old member of his tennis generation.
Radishes? Are You Kidding?
I have eaten and enjoyed snails. The sliminess of the creature is neutralized in the French dish, escargot, by its being doused with garlic and butter. Actually these morsels are quite delicious.
I have certainly eaten all kinds of raw fish in the delicate genre that is sushi. I find the ugliest sea creature, the eel, can make a delightful dish raw with the ideal, sweet sauce and presentation.
I have never eaten the French dish which consists of a calf’s pancreas. But I have heard these so called sweetbreads are quite flavorful. They can be mixed with flour, butter and mushrooms.
This brings me down to the one food on earth I could never stand, radishes. They do have crunch and a pleasant appearance. They do have a bitter taste just as my beloved coffee. However, they basically have no flavor and are unpleasantly bitter on my palate. To me they destroy the beauty and the flavor of a good salad. What do you think of those strange roots that seem so popular?
John Havlicek, Our Recent Loss
It was the summer of 1962. I took two summer courses for high school students at Ohio State University to enhance my high school debating skills.
One mid-June day I visited fraternity row and heard the cheers in Jack Nicklaus’ old fraternity house as he captured his first major championship, the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. It was in Oakmont, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, that, Jack’s rivalry with Arnold Palmer commenced with his victory.
I had followed the careers of Ohio State athletes since attending a football game in Columbus with my late father ten years before that. One of my Ohio State heroes of those early 60s just died, John Havlicek.
He played for the 1960 Buckeye NCAA champions with two other excellent players who turned pro quite successfully, Jerry Lucas and Larry Siegfried. John again played with the late Larry Siegfried on several Boston Celtic championship teams. No less a Celtic great than Bill Russell called Havlicek, “…the best all around player I ever saw.” per John’s NYT obituary.
I share the loss with a host of Buckeye fans. The man could play.
H. Robert Rubin, M. D., best selling Amazon memoirist and author of two books available on Amazon, Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This?
A Sunset Over the Pacific
I just caught this one at low tide as the sun dipped yellowing the sky.
A Fortnight in the Land of My Forebears
Kristine and I spent two weeks in the Holy Land in April of 2019. As I expected the climate, plant-life and terrain were identical to our home in Southern CA. It too enjoyed abundant precipitation that prior winter.
The flowers were flourishing. The waters rushed through the creek beds. It was a wonderful time of year to first visit this treasured land.
Many of the commercial signs were in English as well as Hebrew. We never felt isolated and always felt the warmth of the Israelis. Additionally our tour group included old friends and new ones.
I was struck by the splendor of the country: the rolling green hills of the Golan Heights; the silver-blue color of the Sea of Galilee (below) and the character/richness of the old city of Jerusalem. Above all, we felt God’s presence and peace which one Hebrew word best describes, shalom (שלום).
H. Robert Rubin, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? and Please Save the Third Dance for Me, all available on Amazon
The Stylish, Italian, Tennis Veteran Surprises the King of Clay
Today, Rafa was gunning for his ticket to the final in Monte Carlo on clay. He had won 11 Monaco finals and was outwardly headed for the baker’s dozen. The tournament is played at a beautiful venue overlooking the Mediterranean. It is an absolutely stunning place not far from Rafa’s treasured Mallorca or Fabio Fognini’s native land, Italy.
Rafa’s family was poised in his box for the win as was Fabio’s in his spectator box. Fabio was one of the few players to have beaten Rafa twice on clay but the big ones had always eluded him. Fabio had never been to a Masters tennis final. These are tournaments just a small cut below the majors. Fognini had never even stood in the top 10 and was now ranked 18th in the world.
The first game lasted 12 minutes, a long, long time for one game and Fabio got the measure of Rafa. Down a break Nadal came roaring back to break back in the next game to even the match.
When all was said and done in the first set the Italian was victorious and brimming with confidence going into the second set. Victory there would assure Fabio a place in the final and the biggest victory of his career. It had been years since Rafa had lost on this court. He was/is after all the King of Clay.
The second set was played flawlessly by the dazzling Italian through a 5-0 lead. However with Fabio serving for the set, Rafa showed he might get down, but never on himself. He broke back to 5-1 and then firmed up the break at 5-2.
Fabio was again serving for the match. The numerous Italian fans were bubbling with enthusiasm. This time Fognini made it happen. The greatest victory of his life concluded and his smile was ear to ear. Many of us love to see the rare underdog shine. I am one of them.
He’s been called the beast though I remember him as a skinny kid playing doubles when he first appeared on the ATP circuit. His revolutions per minute when he hits a tennis ball exceed those of any other player. His passing shots as a result duck at the last minute as though they have Koufax-curve-like fallen off the end of a table.
As to mental strength, he may weaken at times but it never happens more than once even in a major match. Grit is his middle name.
Does he have a visible weakness relative to his great rival Roger Federer. Until a few years ago the answer was no. But in the last few years his high bouncing serve to the ad court has been neutralized by Roger’s larger racketed/more imposing backhand skill.
All that aside, there seems no greater threat, even with the continued, renewed rise of Djokovic and Federer, than the clay court skills of Raphael Nadal. Let us all enjoy this marvelous era and its extraordinary matches between the big three, who, however briefly, appear ageless.
Time is a word that can only be defined relatively. It appears to move quickly as one gets older. For instance when my wife was driving, I have never asked her on a road trip ” Are we there yet?”
Time doesn’t slog along anymore. It moves as though it were shot out of a cannon to a 73 year old like me.
Recently Kristine and I traveled to the Middle East and return via Los Angeles. I had some concern the one way plane trip of about 20 hours would begin to drag.
Unlike the plane trip home, the first trip lacked a USB connection for my cellphone. I was surprised and concerned. I watched several movies including one of my favorites, The Notebook. To my surprise the trip seemed over rather quickly. The same was true of the return journey. The flights were in essence objective tests of how life seems to get past you in the blink of an eye.
Our time in the Middle East itself was intended to stop and smell the roses. Frequently, time stood still, worshiping our God, and inspiring the overwhelming beauty of that Holy Place.