Top Ten Recent Posts on Minter Dialogue Blog

Taking a cue from one of my favourite blogs Being Peter Kim, I thought I would take a step back and write down which are the top ten posts read on this blog over the last month. As Peter says, “blog content can be both highly perishable and easy to miss.”

  1. Coffee Latte Face Art – New Level of Personalized Service (curiosity)
  2. Alain Delon on stage (not really worthwhile, sorry!)
  3. Perpetuum Jazzile Africa Slovenia Nature meets Music Storm (worth the visit)
  4. How to import Hotmail .csv into Apple Mac Mail (techy)
  5. Getting even with world’s tennis ranking systems (if you want to know your level)
  6. Wimbledon Tennis 2009 Winners – A fine vintage
  7. Tennis Wimbledon 2008 Winners
  8. Hopital Pitie Salpetriere à Paris – Du Chemin pour la Loi Bachelot (healthcare in France)
  9. Roland Garros 2009 — Recycling of tennis balls
  10. In case you didn’t know about the Woman with the Longest Nails in the World (curiosity)

What does this list tell me? I have an eclectic audience, reflecting in large part that majority of my readers are coming via Google Search. The top three posts are broadly speaking “cultural.” With 4 posts on tennis, maybe I should become a tennis writer? Anyway, tennis is probably a seasonal affair. There is only one French post in the top ten — which is close to fair representation (15% of the posts to-date on this blog have been in French).

Wimbledon Tennis 2009 Winners – A fine vintage

Wimbledon Tennis 2009 LogoAfter Roland Garros, the tennis world turned its attention to Wimbledon 2009. Perhaps to help us forget about the economic woes and, certainly, to usher in the summer, we were treated to another glorious green grass tournament. If the French had a bad tournament, the US contingent of tennis players did themselves proud on the grass courts and, on the men’s side, like the U.S. men’s football (soccer) team at the 2009 Confederation Cup, were proud losers in both of the hotly contended finals. On the women’s side, the Williams willed it all.

Roger Federer, Tennis at Wimbledon 2009Wimbledon 2009 Men’s Singles Winner: Roger Federer (world #2 but top seed at this year’s Wimbledon) outlasted a highly determined Andy Roddick (seeded #6) on a score of 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 in a 4H16 match that, with hindsight, turned in the second set tiebreak in which Roddick squandered four points to go up 2-0 sets. The historic men’s final, featuring the longest ever 5th set (1H35) in a final and the highest number of games (77), brought Federer to the summit of 15 Grand Slam titles, eclipsing in six years what the on-hand Pete Sampras (14 titles) achieved in 12 years. Little known fact: the man who has 12 titles whom Pete beat and who is now 3rd on the all-time list? Roy Emerson. In winning Wimbledon again, Federer reclaimed in the process the #1 world ranking. Roddick’s game, to his credit, was at its best and it was only in the 30th game of the 5th set that he was broken for the first time in the match, after having held 37 times consecutively. Surprisingly, in this match, Federer (27 years old) out-aced Roddick (26 years old) by a wide margin, as he hit a career high 50 aces to Roddick’s 27 — even if Roddick had a tournament high 187. Roddick has now lost three Wimbledon finals, all to Federer, his seeming nemesis. Final stat that I liked: since his first title in 2003, Federer has won 30 of 34 tie break sets at Wimbledon. Now that’s called clutch play.

Of note, in the men’s draw, one must also tip one’s hat to the great tournament by homegrown Andy Murray (#3), if only that he was stubbed out by Roddick in a quality semi-final Battle of the Andy’s match. I also would call attention to a stirring tournament by the unseeded Aussie, Lleyton Hewitt, who walloped Juan Martin Del Potro (5) in straight sets (6-3, 7-5, 7-5) and then came back from 0-2 down (for the sixth time in his career) to beat Radek Stepanek 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. The Hewitt-Roddick match was also another great match, where Roddick evened the career matchup 6-6 in a veritable 3H51 5-set slugfest 6-3, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4. The final good word goes to Tommy Haas (#24), the 31-year old ‘veteran’ whose form surged at Roland Garros and clearly extended into Wimbledon. His 3rd round 5-set triumph over Marin Cilic was only trumped by his 4-set dumping of the 22-year-old number 2 seed Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

Wimbledon 2009 Men’s Doubles Winners: The returning champions, Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonijic (#2) saw off the top seeded Bryan twin brothers (USA) in an exhilarating match which featured many “huge” points where literally all four men were exchanging multiple blows and volleys at the net. The four set thriller was settled with just one break in the second game of the fourth set. The final score: 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Wimbledon 2009 Women’s Singles Winner: After having battled through a 3-hour grind in the semi-final against Elena Dementieva (#4) and staved off a match point, Serena Williams (#2) took it to her sister Venus (#3) in straight sets, 7-6 (3), 6-2 to win her 3rd Wimbledon singles title and 11th Grand Slam, one less than Billy Jean King on the all-time leader board (still way back from the record 18 singles titles by Navratilova and Evert). Serena avenged her loss to Venus in 2008; moreover, each of Serena’s 3 Wimbledon titles has come at Venus’ expense. Serena now holds a 6-2 edge in Grand Slam finals against her sister. Great stat: This was the third time that Serena has won a Grand Slam having fought off match points in prior rounds.

Wimbledon 2009 Women’s Doubles Winners: Whereas the American Bryan brothers were not able to pull off the Men’s Title, the American Williams sisters stormed to victory 7-6 (4), 6-4 over the Australian duo, Samantha Stosur and Renée Stabbs. In so doing, the Williams siblings won their 4th Wimbledon doubles title and 9th Grand Slam doubles victory overall. For Serena, that meant that her Wimbledon winnings eclipsed GBP 1 million ($1.4 million) at GBP1.08 million. (I didn’t check to see if by any chance Serena also played in the mixed, but I doubt it).

Wimbledon 2009 Mixed Doubles Winners: Mark Knowles (Bahamas) and Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Germany) seeded 9th beat top-seeded Leander Paes (India) and Cara Black (Zim) 7-5, 6-3.

Roland Garros French Open 2009 Winners – A Career Grand Slam signed Federer

Roger Federer Winning Roland Garros 2009
Roger Federer pulls off the Career Grand Slam

French Open 2009 Men’s Title
Roger Federer (#2) rolled over Robin Soderling (#23) in 3 sets, 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-4, the ninth time in a row that Federer has beaten the surprising finalist. The young Swede had been the giant killer for four rounds in a row, but folded against history, horrid weather conditions and a hat-bearing intruder.

Roger Federer Winning Roland Garros French Open 2009Federer’s win is a triumph overdue in many respects, but the overwhelming tears as he dropped to his knees upon winning, showed the pent up emotion. In the six matches leading up to the Final, Federer had pulled off two five-set victories, battling back from being down 2 sets to 1 against the Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro (5th seed), in the semi-finals [3-6,7-6(2),2-6,6-1,6-4], and in the fourth round, from 2 sets to 0 down against the unseeded German, Tommy Haas. [6-7(4),5-7,6-4,6-0,6-2]. On top of that, Federer also had to see off two popular French players, Paul Matthieu (4 sets) in the third round and Gael Monfils (3 sets) in the semi-finals. With this win, Federer finally earns his record-tying 14th Grand Slam and closes out the last of Slam titles that hitherto had eluded him because of his Roland Garros nemesis, Rafa Nadal who had been eliminated by Soderling. In so doing, Federer becomes the sixth ever career Grand Slammer. Kudos. Proof that the title was a draining experience, he pulled out of the Wimbledon warm-up grass court tournament in Halle, Germany.

French Open 2009 Women’s Title
An all-Russian affair, Svetlana Kuznetsova (#7) outnerved Dinara Safina (#1), to claim her second ever Grand Slam title and first French Open title, 6-4, 6-2. It was an ugly game, loaded with unforced errors and not that much fun to watch. Kuznetsova has won two titles this year, and now has 11 overall. For Safina, it is the third Grand Slam final she has lost, victim of fragile nerves.

French Open 2009 Men’s Doubles: Lukas Dlouhy (Czech Republic) and Leander Paes (India) (seeded #3) fought back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over the unseeded Wesley Moodie (RSA) and Dick Norman (Belgian), who had themselves knocked off the Bryan Brothers coming back from losing the first set to 0, then winning the second set in a tie break.

French Open 2009 Women’s Doubles: Anabel Medina Garrigues-Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain defeated Victoria Azarenka (BLR) and Elena Vesnina (Rus) in a fairly one-sideed 6–1, 6–1.
French Open 2009 Mixed Doubles: Liezel Huber-Bob Bryan, both US, overcame Vania King (US) and Marcelo Melo (Brazil) in a gargantuan battle: 5–7, 7–6(5), 10–7.

Roland Garros 2009 — Recycling of tennis balls

Tennis BallThis year, Roland Garros and the French Federation of Tennis (FFT) have launched a programme (“Operation Balle Jaune“) to recycle the used tennis balls as part of a Sustainable Development program.  There are 14 million balls sold every year in France and, according to a 2007 survey by Science & Vie, tennis is the fifth most polluting sport.  I was unable to find that survey, but I would love to know the top 4.

In any event, the idea is to collect the used tennis balls, grind them up and create a sort of spongy material….  With 59 grams of felt and rubber per ball, it takes 40,000 balls to create a 100m2 rubberised flooring (similar to the surface of a tartan track), very useful for handicap sports among others.

On top of the 14 million balls sold in France annually, there are also some 3-4 million cans (or tube containers) in France alone.  If I were to make a rough calculation (based on the number of balls per pop) for Europe, Australia/NZ and North America where the bulk of the world’s tennis takes place, that would mean that there are around 300 million tennis balls inserted into our western world; noting that 90% of the balls are produced in Asia (not the heart of tennis land).  In terms of weight, those 300 million balls represent around 20 million tonnes of longlasting rubber and felt in our landfills (including the tubes). 

In the USA, there is a company called Rebounces, founded by Bill Dirst, which has figured out how to “recharge” an used tennis ball.  Rebounces got a good plug in Oprah in the June 2009 issue.  According to Wikipedia, since 2001, “[the 36,000 tennis] Balls from The Championships, Wimbledon are now recycled to provide field homes for the nationally threatened harvest mouse.”  You can read about the original news story here on the BBC.

Meanwhile, doing a little research on the web, I have found a few other fun ways to use the used tennis balls, beyond the feet of chairs, etc.  Herewith a selection for your pleasure and inspiration.

A wrist watch.
Recycled tennis ball watch
A tennis ball chair
Recycled tennis ball chair
A tennis ball bench (a forty-love seat?)
 Recycled tennis ball bench decoration

In any event, I think it is a good initiative that the French Federation of Tennis has taken on.  May the balls bounce on a little longer!

Tennis Wimbledon 2008 Winners

The grass may have slowed Wimbledon down, but the epics kept coming.

As with virtually any Wimbledon fortnight that I have known, there was a bit of rain to slow down the event. But, this year, the ‘new’ grass Wimbledon 2008which was introduced in 2001 just seemed to make the bounce rather too regular. According to this June 18, 2008, Time Magazine article (or Boschendal’s Wine Blog), the new grass is 100% perennial rye (rather than a mix of 70% perennial and 30% creeping red fescue). If English sense of humour is dry, then Wimbledon’s is rye. And the court’s speed means baseliners are ruling the day. Of course, it is true that a decade ago, at times, it felt like the serve-and-volley (Sampras, Ivanisevic…) was too expeditious.

Rafa Nadal wins Wimbledon 2008As slow and predictable as the grass may have been, the standout match — and another thrilling epic between the two men — was the amazing five-set men’s final between Roger Federer (#1) and Rafael Nadal (#2). Nadal jumped to a 2-0 set lead, which was erased by a combatant Federer to even up the match 2-2 with two consecutive serious tie-breaker sets. In the end, Nadal managed the momentum reversal, overcame 3 failed match point conversions in the fourth set, several rain delays, and eeked out a monumental 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 win. Nadal won 209 points to Federer’s 204. Each had 13 breakpoint opportunities, with Nadal capitalizing on 4 of them to Federer’s one. While sending out 25 aces, Federer also committed 52 unforced errors (to 27 for Nadal). Therein lies the rub. Thus endeth Nadal’s Wimbledon drought and Federer’s magnificent run of 65 straight victories and 5 consecutive titles.

One of the other highlight finals of Wimbledon 2008 will surely be the wonderful men’s doubles, won by the Canadian doubles veteran, Dan Nestor with his partner Nenad Zimonjic (2nd seeds), overcoming Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyet (8th seeds) 7-6,6-7,6-3,6-3 (who earlier had dispatched the #1 seeded Bryan brothers in the semi-finals in a tight-as-can-be 7-6,5-7,7-6,7-6 victory). Nestor and Zimonjic pulled off the first set 14-12 in the first tie-break.

Women’s Results

On the women’s side, the singles final came down, one more time, to the Williams sisters. [And, so too did the women’s doubles title.] Venus (#7) toppled her younger sister Serena (#6) 7-5, 6-4 to take her fifth singles title. Venus’ draw wasn’t particularly difficult, but to her credit she never dropped a set. It was the 7th time the sisters have met in a Grand Slam Final, with Serena having won the grand majority ever since Venus’ 2001 win at Wimbledon, including Serena’s two championship wins in the last two sisterly confrontations at Wimbledon. In the women’s doubles, the 11th seeded Williams’ beat 16th seeded Lisa Raymond USA and Samantha Stosur AUS 6-2,6-2.

And in the other final featuring sibling rivalry (the Byran brothers), Bob Bryan and Samantha Stosur (loser in the women’s doubles) upset top-seeded twin brother Mike Bryan and Slovakia’s Katarina Srebotnik in the mixed doubles in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.

All England’s Tournament was another fine fortnight of famous fights– despite the grass.

Double-handed backhand dominating if not dulling women’s tennis

The double-handed backhand: dominatrix of women’s tennis

I read with interest in USA Today, June 25, 2008, an article entitled, “Women’s one-handed backhand becomes mostly a dropped shot.” The article points out there are 7 women players in the top 100 that have a one-handed backhand and the highest ranked is Francesca Shiavone (20th). The ages of these seven players features one 19-year-old and the remainder are between 25 and 34. The precocious retirement of Justine Henin took out the only bona fide champion with a single hand backhand (and a beautiful one at that). A few women have a single-handed slice backhand (Ana Ivanovic, for example). However, the game, its style and creativity, seem to have run the single-handed backhand out of the system. Evidently, the Eastern European machine is fabricating top class double-handed backhanders (Serbia and Russia together own 7 of the top 10 slots). Kudos meanwhile to the Williams sisters for penetrating into that fold and dominating Wimbledon...again. Too bad Serena wasn’t named Mars though. How much more fun would it be to see Venus facing off against Mars? As we know, Mars never dominates Venus.

As much as the double-fisted Jimmy Connors was exciting to watch in the 1970s and 1980s, a double handed backhand in men’s tennis is common currency today–if not the norm as well (13 of the top 20 in the ATP men’s ranking today have a double-handed backhand). There are still many single-handed backhanders in men’s tennis, including Federer‘s; but, trailing Roger in the rankings are six straight double-handers. If it is a less common site in men’s tennis, a “beautiful” [single-handed] backhand has become an exceptional thing to see in women’s tennis.

As a single-handed backhander, I feel nostalgia for the era when single double-handed backhands and net games were common, since it was also when the game was far more varied in style and creativity. Is it possible that tennis, like music, needs some good old fashioned bases? For tennis’ sake, the game will need to find an edge to keep the larger public interested. The general elimination of net and finesse players is doing tennis a great disservice. The thumping 2001 Wimbledon men’s final between Goran Ivanisevic and Patrick Rafter (38 aces and lots of net action) seems to be in the distant past. I, for one, now watch much less professional tennis (would rather be playing, yes). Maybe the uncovering of the [oh so evident] doping among the top players (read: Nadal in particular) will help stem the tide of power. What else can be done? Change the rules? Make the balls lighter?

The Greatest Male Tennis Player Ever, Sampras v Federer

Who is the greatest male tennis player ever? Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden, Rod LaverGonzales, Perry, Borg, McEnroe

The argument rages eternal among tennis players and fans and, aside from cyber-imagination, there are no ways for us to level the playing field, turn back time and compare objectively. Part of the argument is obscured by the emotional attachments one develops having grown up with such and such a player. Perhaps the more interesting debate might be around the best rivalries. A great player without a top notch rival is a less exciting affair. In my time, watching the duels between Borg-McEnroe, Sampras-Agassi and, among the women, Navratilova-Evert, clearly make my judgment a little partial. It is all confused by massive changes in material (racquets, balls), training, tour organization, surfaces, not to mention the arrival of money into the equation.

Tennis fans have to love the fact that we can get closer to an answer, even with a five year hiatus and a ten-year age difference, when Sampras can play Federer. The two men have played three exhibition games over the last week in three different cities on three different courts. Ignoring a first, relatively easy 6-4, 6-3 victory for Federer in Seoul, the second game was exceedingly close 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) in Kuala Lumpur for Federer; and in the third match in Macau, Sampras managed an upset win, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. Aside from the marketing hoopla that goes with such a match-up, by all accounts, it looked like exciting good tennis. It is worth remembering that Federer beat Sampras in their only truly competitive match at Wimbledon in 2001. What’s in it for Pete in these exhibition matches (other than the money)? I suspect he has the motivation to promote his legendary brand name and PeteSampras website? In any event, even if Roger had little to gain and much to lose, it would seem that the closeness of the matches — despite Pete’s disadvantage of match rustiness and age/fitness — gives fuel to the fire that the greatest ever may not be Federer… perhaps the level of competition for Roger is just not enough to take him to the top of the heap? For a comprehensive statistical match-up, check out this site.

As for my own choice on the topic, due to my limited knowledge of the players prior to the 1970s, I am bound to select a modern era player. I think Federer will more than likely eclipse Sampras’ 14 major titles. Surely, he’ll pull out a win at Roland Garros at some point too — it is a surface that is better suited to Federer than Sampras, after all. But, these records are all there to be beaten… and taken out of context, will lead to some erroneous conclusions. In any event, my vote for all-time best goes to Bjorn Borg for the singular feat of winning Wimbledon five times in a row from the base line. He did had many other achievements. I salute his sense of competitiveness and levelheadedness. And even if his post-career life has been up and down, he did make for an amazing model. My all time favorite player is John McEnroe for bringing such spontaneity to the game; and you have to love Mac the commentator. The most elegant player may well be Federer — considering the frenetic world we live in, his aplomb is inspiring. The best crunch-time player I have to give to Sampras. The most combative spirit goes to Connors. And the best reinvention goes to Andre Agassi.

For further debate on the topic, scroll down on wiki’s entry of “greatest player ever” on tennis. One of the more enjoyable blog posts I have found on the topic is here with Tony Goodson. Here is Bud Collin’s spin on it: not yet Federer. And, I enjoyed this inventive piece from the Philippines’ Sun Star Cebu.

Now that’s tennis. Wimbledon 2007 Men’s Final.

Even though I don’t have Canal+ (cable station in France), I was able to read the score line via BBC Sports Live and watch the end on a miniature screen. What a match. Federer found the resources to overcome his clay nemesis to make it his 5th consecutive Wimbledon crown…in front of the phenomenal (and resuscitated) Borg. Federer managed to win 7-6 4-6 7-6 2-6 6-2, after a fortnight dominated by bad weather. Break out the Pimm’s. The rivalry between Rafa and Roger has just ratcheted up another notch. What I liked about this match was the evident emotion that Roger has curled up inside of this stoic Swiss man and how he managed to find the strength within…as opposed to deflated Roland Garros final. Proof that it is not just genius that has taken him to these heights.