Ukraine

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.

https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A555Z2WMGSwVhi

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