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     http://www.itftennis.com/juniors/tournaments/tournament/info.aspx?tournamentid=1100033502

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.

http://www.resultina.com

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.

Cheating

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.

https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A5Gf693ZGkp5VI

Off to Wichita Falls tomorrow morning

September 26, 2014

We are off to Wichita Fall tomorrow morning after a loss to Ryan Storrie. We’ve had some good practice time here, both drills and competitive play. We will continue that in Wichita Falls since Sasha is not playing doubles there either. We also decided to go to Osaka Japan after Tulsa for the Grade A. We are looking for our first solid performances in 1s and an A.

Worth noting that next week represents one year since we started playing ITFs. At Wichita Falls last year, Sasha needed a Wild Card to get into qualifying and due to an administrative error–he actually got a wild card into the main draw. He drew the #1 seed and lost 4 & 2. Fast forward one year he is inside the top 225, has won a grade 4, gotten to the finals of several other events and has a LOT more playing experience. He is a very different player than he was a year ago. Now we need to develop the confidence to use the weapons he has to play the top players at top events. He has come close recently, but still has to walk onto the court knowing that he represents a solid threat to anyone in Junior ITFs. Our planned schedule through the end of the year is:

Wichita Falls, TX ITF Grade 4
Tulsa, OK ITF Grade B1
Osaka, Japan ITF Grade A
Mexico City, Mexico ITF Grade A
Yucatan Cup, Merida, MX ITF Grade 1
Eddie Herr, Bradenton, Fl ITF Grade 1
Orange Bowl, Plantation, FL ITF Grade A

ok, I don’t write here I get ten emails saying where is the info :)

September 24, 2014

We are in Waco Texas for yet another ITF Junior event. We have a great hotel (Spring Hill Suites)–really good room, actually two, a bedroom and sitting/work area, great breakfast, and a nice gym. Found a good market so we have eaten after a disaster of a meal on the first night.

Sasha is the #1 Seed here, so the pressure is on. We’ve been practicing and warming up with Alexandre Rotsaert. Good practice on Sunday after we arrived and good warmups each day.

Sasha won his first match yesterday 6-3, 6-3. He played ok–not great, but ok. We have a good schedule here since he isn’t playing doubles. We were back in the hotel yesterday by noon. That was good, we had been up since 5am since he played at 8am. Sasha did a lot of school. He is way ahead in school. So we went to bed quite early to get a good nights sleep for a “not before 10am” start today. Well, he followed a girls match that went 3 long sets so didn’t get on the court until just before noon. Today, Sasha played better. Not as well as he will have to, but much better. Good thing, he needed to. He won 6-3, 6-2. So it was a bit later by the time we got back to the hotel. We had lunch and dinner here–more school and now to bed early again for a 9am match tomorrow.

IMG_2249

ITF World Ranking Event – Montreal

September 8, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Sasha is in Montreal after a great week of practice at Notre Dame. He is there on his own (with some guidance from my friend Andrea a coach from Toronto). Below is the draw and order of play for the tournament.

The draw is here:
http://www.tenniscanada.com/files/uploads/files/PDFs/events/2014/junior/itf/mtl/GSMD.pdf

The order of play is here:

http://www.tenniscanada.com/files/uploads/files/PDFs/events/2014/junior/itf/mtl/OOP.pdf

It’s a little weird for Sasha and I to be talking on the phone about the match instead of getting ready for it together, but, we did talk tonight by phone and will before the match as well.

He is playing doubles with Eli Ogilvy. The doubles draw will be out tomorrow around noon and there will be doubles play tomorrow afternoon. This tournament is a 32 draw being played in the 5 day format.

I will update you tomorrow!

Labor Day update

September 4, 2014

Time for a Blog update. After the Canadian Open, Sasha and I headed to our respective homes on opposite coasts for a bit of time off. More time for me than for him though. He is in South Bend at Notre Dame now practicing with his future teammates. His parents are visiting Notre Dame this weekend then he heads off to Montreal again for the Grade 2 ITF World Ranking event. He will be doing that tournament without me. I had a previous engagement that I could not change. Sasha will play doubles with Eli Oglevy from Canada and his coach Andrea will tend to anything Sasha might need. Thanks Andrea!!

This week I’ll post an update about the past year and the year to come.

Another close match against a top 100 Player

August 25, 2014

Somewhat a repeat of last week, Sasha lost a close match against Benjamin Hannestead of Denmark. 6-3, 2-6, 6-3
Sasha and I have discussed many times over the last year and a half the fact that you must remain focused, you must capitalize on all the opportunities, and you cannot change a winning strategy or keep going with a loosing strategy. In matches against lesser players Sasha is talented enough to win more than his share of matches, but when you are playing against top players, focus, capitalizing on opportunities, not letting players back in, being brave and going for your shot are all mandatory. Matches wins against top 200 players are more routine now. Sasha has the skills and will win against the top 100 players, but it will take some absolute focus and no distractions along with believing that he is a top hundred player and thinking like one.

Doubles soon!!