Archive for January, 2015

Very good win, very good playing

January 27, 2015

Sasha played a great match last night.  Lots of things coming together.  Great court position, great serving, figuring out that this is not a normal court and that you have to play differently, great competing!!  All those things equal a very good win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 over a very talented Ukranian.  Interesting here that many of the players don’t have high ITF rankings, but they are very good, very talented.  They don’t travel a lot so they can’t build a good player record.  You have to take every player on the face of how they play, cause you don’t know too much about them.

I will blog some more later today since we have the day off (the advantage of a 7 day format at a 32 draw event.


January 26, 2015

Hi Everyone,

Sasha and I left our VERY comfortable wonderful apartment in Prague today (see pictures of apartment).  David (friend of the owner of the apartment who is Brittish and works as a chauffeur/apartment manager in Prague) drove us to the airport.  I have some sort of VIP program associated with my credit card that has a service at the Prague airport.  We were dropped off at a secure part of the airport and shown to our private lounge.  They took care of checking us in, getting our luggage checked, gave us munchies, had the Australian Open on TV for us, then they drove us to our plane and we got on.  VERY NICE.  (see pictures of lounge)  Nice short flight on Czech Airlines (A319).  We were met in Kiev by a very nice guy who lives in Kiev, Vadym, who drove us to Cherkasy.  Quite a long journey in the car actually (3 hours).  We got to the site and were warmly greeted by the tournament director (Olena) who speaks perfect English.  We signed in for the tournament.  The hotel and the courts are part of the same complex.  It is a summer place for sure on the banks of a river.  Rustic, but modern bathrooms, very good food, lots of clay courts (but of course those are covered with snow.  It has been snowing lightly since we arrived.  (See pictures of sight and of current winter scene)  We were shown to our Bungalow, which is very nice–quite large.  We went to dinner (Cabbage Salad, Kasha and Chicken)  Quite good.  We have hospitality here which means the tournament pays for our lodging and our food.  We got a practice court at 9:30pm for one hour and Sasha hit with Piers Foley from Brittain (they are playing doubles together at this event).  Weird practicing that late at night but when there are three courts you take what you can get.  So, when the order of play came out and indicated Sasha would play on Monday, we decided to take the opportunity to hit early morning as well.  So was not a long nights sleep, but a sound one–very comfortable.  Got up early to stretch and warmup for practice.  Had one full hour on court.  Sasha is getting used to the surface as much as one can get used to a surface with a couple of hours of hitting.

We knew before we came that there were only 3 indoor hard courts and they were very fast, so no surprise about three courts for a 32 boys, 32 girls ITF event.  But the speed is astounding.  The surface is akin to a gymnasium floor.  WOW!  Of course, since it is a 7 day, 32 draw event there are days off.  Sasha plays 6th match on (not before 3pm).  Will actually be more like 7 or 7:30.  So we made the best of it.  When we arrived in Kiev I got some of the local currency.  I went to the bankomat and selected the highest number of Hryvnia that is displayed (of course every machine lets you enter your own number) but I took the preselected one.  Well it ended up being only the equivalent of $35.  Hardly enough to pay tournament entry fee and for our driver from Kiev to Cherkasy.  haha   Well, there will be a bankomat at the hotel surely!  NOT    So everyone is very kind and helpful here.  The tournament director said no problem you pay me later (she actually thought there was one on the site herself).  So, after eating breakfast, stretching, taking a shower and checking out how the schedule was going to unfold (SLOWLY) we had the front desk call us a taxi to go to the bankomat in Cherkasy (we are a few km outside Cherkasy and the center of town is about 10 km).  I should point out at this point that Sasha’s Russian has been invaluable to us here.  Some of the younger people here speak some english (a few speak good english), but without his ability to converse, we could make do, but it would be a struggle.  In any case we got a very nice guy as our cab driver, Sasha told him we wanted to go to the bankomat and to a nice store where we could buy water, fruit, and a few other things to have in our room.  He and Sasha chatted.  He was very curious about what Sasha’s parents thought about the situation in Ukraine.  Everyone is interested in the propaganda from the US vs. Russia etc.  He took us to the bank, then right around the corner to a very nice store.   A Very VERY nice store.  Good stuff, we bought two huge bunches of Bananas, a huge bag of oranges, sushi (funny), Vorenikij (big dumplings–some with cabbage, some with potatoe, some with cheese (sirnichkij), a bottle of wine, a small bottle (like one drink) of Russian Vodka, 12 huge bottles of water, a loaf of wonderful baked bread, butter, soy milk, muesli for around $30.  The people in the store were so helpful.  Genuinely helpful.  It was a store where things were displayed very professionally.  It could have been in Manhattan.  We asked the cab driver if it was a very high end store.  He said it was middle priced but known for good quality and has a good business, so things are all fresh because there is a lot of turnover.

We came back and had our first lunch in the room (the sushi–ok it wasn’t great, but Sasha liked it–it had smoked salmon in it) and the Vorenikij, and a bit of bread (great dark bread with carrot in it).  It was a nice first lunch.  When a player is playing a match later in the day and especially when you don’t know when your going to go on, it’s important to balance eating, moving around resting, and yet be ready.  The balance today worked ok.  Since we were on the court late last night and up early this morning, Sasha took a nap in the afternoon.  Then we had the hospitality lunch which was a good salad and some soup.  ALL the matches before Sasha on Court 2 went three sets, so at 6:30pm he ate again.  We were waiting around in our Bungalow and the referee called to say they were moving Sasha’s match to court 3.  We had 30 minutes to get ready.   to be continued tomorrow

PS.  Happy Birthday Maverick–  We saw all the pictures from the celebrations (we thing he likes cake and trucks).

PSS.  We are watching storm unfold in New York.  Here we have had about 6 inches of fluffy snow since we arrived.

PSSS.  Congrats to the guys at Notre Dame—we enjoyed watching the matches.  Tough loss in the end, but can’t get much closer than that.

Here are the pictures referenced in the blog.

Well played match but lost today

January 24, 2015

This was one of those matches where you wish the result was different, but from a coaching perspective the match was well played and you have something to build on. Lost 4-6, 4-6.  Sasha played aggressively which we have been trying to get him to do in matches (play as you do in practice), but Peter played a little better on the big points. ery aggressively. I’m very pleased with how he has played in Czech.  Hopefully we can build on it and he will play well in Ukraine where it will matter from a ranking perspective.  We will leave for Ukraine tomorrow.

Into the Quarter Finals

January 23, 2015

Sasha won his match today against a talented guy from Romania.  6-4, 4-6, 6-1   Sasha competed well in the first two sets and played very smart in the third.  On to the Quarters tomorrow.

First Round win

January 21, 2015

Sasha won his first round today 6-0 6-0.  Played very well!!!

No doubles today.

Was an early match, so now watching a bit of Australian Open then Sasha will do school and I will go off to the store (maybe a bit of sightseeing).

Safina Cup Defense

January 20, 2015

Hi Everyone,

Sasha begins his Safina Cup defense tomorrow morning at 8:30.  You can follow here:

ITF site

or download Resultina to your IOS device and just put Alexander Lebedev in as one of your players.  It’s a good app anyway.  You can follow any player who is an ITF player And the guy who founded the company is from Czech.

Back in Prague

January 19, 2015

Prerov came to a dull end.  Dominick Starry, Sasha’s doubles partner got the dreaded flu and ultimately had to withdraw from doubles.  So we are heading back to Prague and will practice there and prepare for Safina Cup.

Now my rant for today.  I have been talking with ITF Board people about some of the problems that need to be addressed on the ITF Junior Tour.  Certainly this tournament in Prerov is emblematic of at least one of the problems that exists.  This is a Grade 1 tournament, one level below the Grand Slams and other similarly important tournaments.  And as is often the case, there are simulantaneous tournaments at the same level.  Certainly the ITF MUST enforce the basic standards at these events.  One cannot have one event in Costa Rica run at a high end club with plenty of practice courts, top facilities, great hospitality etc. and another run in Czech Republic on 3 courts (and one other that is a totally different surface) with no practice court time to speak of, cold awful facilities, the bottom of the barrel hospitality, etc.  The competition when viewed by ranking in Costa Rica (low), the competition in Czech (high).  The ITF has rules and standards and must enforce them.  The rules say all courts must be the same.  The rules say there must be an umpire on every court at a Grade 1.  There are guidelines for hospitality.  All these things must be enforced otherwise how are two tournaments of the same grade the same–bottom line, they are not.
We are back in Prague now and have an apartment for our stay here.  So I can cook, we can do laundry, plenty of room for stretching and it’s very nice in a nice section of the Old City.  We have practiced every day at least once (twice a couple of days) and tournament play begins on Wednesday for the Safina Cup.  Sasha should be seeded 5 or higher.

Onward–into the Quarters in doubles

January 14, 2015

We will be in this depressing little place which is clearly a throwback to the USSR.  Everyone here looks unhappy.  The architecture is as boring as could possibly be.  Everything looks the same.  The weather is dreary.  Everybody seems as though they are sick–like with a cold that lasts all winter.  The best thing about Prerov will be the train to here and I’m sure the train back will be good.  I must say the hotel food is not bad.  Nobody here speaks more than 10 words of english, but I guess it’s been long enough since the fall of the Soviet Union that the young people do not speak Russian either.  So your stuck with words that sound vaguely Polish but aren’t.  Hard to make known what you want without carrying google translate with you all the time.

For those who are considering this ITF tournament in the future.  It is played largely on three courts–there is a fourth that they use for practice sometimes and play when they have so many matches that play would go on well into the night if they didn’t.  The courts are very fast.  The lighting is ok.  The hotels are both five min from the courts.  Hotel Jana, much nicer than Hotel Fit.  The referee is very good at updating the online scores, so one knows what is going on.  If you are planning on lots of practice opportunity before your matches, don’t come here.  Fortunately, we stayed in Prague and practiced there before the tournament–that’s a pretty good option.

That’s the news from here today where it is freezing cold, gray sky, and looking like snow.


January 13, 2015

Well as I said in my last post, we are in Czech.  Sasha and I watched parts of many matches yesterday as we waited for him to go on.  He was last singles match of the day.  These matches, even though it is a Grade 1 (next to the highest level ITF Junior Event), early round matches are not chaired.  There are roving officials but their responsibilities include starting matches, reporting scores, calling trainer if necessary, getting new balls when matches split etc.  We saw much cheating–I mean deliberate cheating not missed calls because it’s close, but balls 6 inches in or out, and that only accounts for baseline or service line calls since we were sitting courtside, not behind the court where you can see the sidelines.  That’s quite different that western Europe or Scandinavia specifically where play is generally VERY fair.

So Sasha goes to play his match–he played a Russian player who we know and with whom we have practiced.  He’s a good player, and certainly does not need to cheat.  Almost every time the official left the court, there was a blatant bad call or two.  At least 7 people came over to me and said, what is going on there (the ball was way in).  But you know, many people often comment from off the court, and often they are wrong.  In this case, it was rather blatant.  And of course, the player never did it when the official was on the court.

For a while, one of the officials was on his break sitting by me.  The guy made a blatantly bad call, he said “oh oh” and terminated his break and went on court.  The tournament referee is quite nice here and is experienced (the event is quite efficiently run).  She came over and sat down beside me at the end of the match when I was waiting for Sasha.  She said “he has not played too much in this part of Europe right?”  I told her we played last year.  She said “well, he doesn’t seem to understand, when you are cheated like that so many times, you simply cheat back”.  The area where she sits is glassed so she can see the courts.  She said, I told the officials to stay on that court after I saw this happening, but they have other duties as well of course.  For those of you who don’t know the rules, the ITF regulations prohibit any official from making a call unless they are on the court in question.  So even if an official sees a problem happening, they have limited ability to correct the problem–if they can get to the court before the next point is played AND they saw the call was clearly wrong, they can call a let and replay the point, they can then remain on court and over rule a clear error.  That did happen on several courts during play yesterday.

Sasha had seen this happening, but he is very fair with his calls and trusts that the other player will be as well.  The calls didn’t directly change the outcome of the match.  They were not on game point or break point.  They were primarily at the begin of a game when the official probably felt it was “safe” to walk away.

I’ve always discouraged my players from cheating back.  It can turn into a vicious cycle.  But very frustrating to watch it happen time after time.

We are back online

January 13, 2015

We are in Czech Republic and starting 2015 after 10 days of practice in Copenhagen.  We spent New Years with my friends Jan and Aga in Copenhagen.  It’s all about fireworks there, so you will find some fireworks pictures along with food and tennis pictures.  Fireworks in Denmark are as big as they are on the 4th of July in the US.

We had good practices at B93, our European practice base.  Along with some of the club juniors and members, Sasha also practiced with Benji Hannestead before he left for Australia and with Andreas Boares who is from Denmark and was home for the holidays but plays college tennis at Illinois State University.

Unfortunately my friend Jan got sick with the cold/flu and spent a bunch of days in bed.  We left for Prague (via Norwegian Airline, our favorite in Europe) on Friday 9 January without getting sick (lots of echinacea and vitamin C) but it caught up with us in Prague.  We had a good practice in Prague with Daniel Velek.  After that, it was about, tea with honey, ibuprofen, echinacea, vitamin c, sleep, etc.  To be sure, we got a much milder version of the crud than Jan, my version my have been totally different in fact, more like a mild cold and Sasha’s young fit body fought it off bravely but it definitely impacted our preparation for the first event.  While on the ITF Jr. tour we have been very lucky to avoid getting sick or injured (knock on the wooden table I’m typing on).  But it’s inevitable.

Sasha played his first match yesterday and lost 6-1, 5-7, 3-6.  He actually played extremely well for 2/3’s of the match.  Very much the way we have practiced and tried to get him to play.  Then the flu took over.  So best to say the flu won.  Today he feels much better, but of course we are here in Prerov with not much in the way of practice courts available since the tournament is played on 4 courts and is both a girls and boys event.  Sasha will focus on school today and we will do some physical training and tomorrow practice and play doubles.  He is playing with Dominick Starry and they are the 5 seeds in this event.

Our schedule for the next month takes us back to Prague after this event to play the Safina Cup.  Sasha won that event last year and will attempt to defend that result.  The we move on to Ukraine (the safe part:)), the Switzerland, Copenhagen and Lithuania.

Here is the pointer to the pictures for this year.