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Theater Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin


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TENNIS

Now that the phenomenal Roger Federer has won his fifth Wimbledon title in a row, equaling the stellar accomplishment of the great Bjorn Borg, I can relax and enjoy tennis for the rest of the summer.

I cried so hard at the end of his championship match against Rafael Nadal that I needed to breathe into a bag, something I’ve never done before. (I wasn’t even sure which to use: paper or plastic!) I’m so relieved and overjoyed for Roger, as I think most tennis fans are. Heartfelt kudos to him.

Now we must move on to the U.S. Open Series, which is a chain of one-week tournaments that take place in different United States venues during the summer, leading up to the last of the year’s four Majors. Each one features only one gender and luckily for us (meaning me), Los Angeles gets the guys. Here’s the scoop:

COUNTRYWIDE CLASSIC

It’s the Countrywide Classic, which is celebrating its 81st year. There have been plenty of impressive Champions since the “Open Era” began in 1968, including that year’s winner Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and more recently, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. One of my favorite things about it is that it’s held at UCLA, which is always special to me because it’s one of the four colleges where I matriculated. But that’s another story. (More like ten thousand stories.)

I’ve been lucky enough to attend these tennis matches for the past several years, and although I wilt in heat and it’s often roasting out there, it’s the one event I work my summer schedule around.

For starters, there’s always a congenial atmosphere surrounding the whole tournament. On the grounds, there are numerous food vendors, some being the usual suspects (CPK), while others are unexpected (Organic To Go.) Several sponsor booths have activities to keep you occupied between matches. If tennis itself is all you care about, there’s a daily choice of action to watch and you can see the players up-close and personal as they walk the grounds.

A couple of summers back, my friend, Lila, and I noticed a plethora of female fans loitering outside one of the outer courts, and we realized they were watching the practice session of the stunning Australian player, Mark Philippoussis. We both loved him and joined the fray, trying to figure out which one of us he’d pick to date, if we did indeed get to meet him. (Sadly for Mark, I have a boyfriend, but it’s still fun to ponder girly stuff like that.)

Lila’s younger than I am, and we kept tossing around the question of if he’d go younger or older with his choice of girlfriend. Well, now he’s doing just that on the stupid reality show “Age of Love”--deciding between women of different ages! If only we had known! I think we should get a Finder’s Fee for coming up with the concept first, and making it about exactly the bachelor the show is using! (I wonder if one of those loitering ladies overheard us and “borrowed” our idea.)

Anyway, if you’re a girl, you’ll be happy to see several of the current hunky players on the tour, maybe even my favorite, Marat Safin from Russia. His beauty must be beheld in person, which you can be sure I’ll doing. Defending champ Tommy Haas gives him a run for his money in the hot guy category.

For actual tennis fans (as opposed to “man fans”), there’ll be plenty of talent out there. I’m pleased to report that there should be about seven contenders from the US, which is great news for national followers of the sport.

The most famous and popular in that group is James Blake, the second-ranked American player. And we’ll get to see local guy Sam Querrey on his way up the tennis ladder, which is always exciting. Maybe someday in the future we’ll all be sittin’ ‘round the ole cheese barrel, discussing the first time we saw him back in the day at UCLA.

In addition to men’s singles, the Countrywide Classic features doubles competition and the Bryan brothers will be back to defend their title, which they’ve already won three times, but never in a row. Hopefully, this will be the year. I’m twin-obsessed, and they’re especially fascinating to watch play because they’re different-handed from each other.

Making this event even more special for those of us in Southern California will be the presence of tournament honoree Stan Smith, a two-time Grand Slam champion, who’s a native of Pasadena. He’ll be formally honored during ceremonies on Saturday, July 21. I’ll be honored myself--just to be at the tournament all week.

Countrywide Classic July 16-22, 2007 UCLA 310-825-2101 or 877-LA-TENNIS www.countrywideclassic.com

WIMBLEDON

And lastly, there’s something I must get off my chest about the recent Wimbledon. I recognize that the Williams sisters are incredible tennis players. But, as an avid watcher (including every second of coverage of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open each year), I must observe that they’re two of the worst sports I’ve ever seen.

I’ve yet to see them give props to their opponents, (though Mr. X pointed out that Venus did say something half-heartedly favorable about Marion Bartoli, whom she had just beaten for the championship, but only after Marion complimented her), while they constantly laud themselves, which is beyond obnoxious. To hear them tell it, if they win, it’s because they played great; if they lose, it’s because they played poorly, never because the other lady was simply better.

But last week, a new low was reached by Serena, and this time it’s not entirely her fault. The officials enabled her. I think they’re so afraid that if they don’t bend over backwards for that family, they’ll be accused of racism, or something like that. But enough already.

When Serena went down with a leg cramp in her fourth round match against Daniela Hantuchova, the officials gave her at least ten to fifteen minutes for evaluation and diagnosis, without making her take a medical time-out.

While I don’t think there’s a set time for the evaluation period in the rule book, sportsmanship would dictate that it be done in a timely fashion. The rule states that you’re allowed three minutes for subsequent treatment. In Serena’s case, she would have had to forfeit the match because she could have never been ready to play in just three minutes.

But the officials let her be worked on for an extended period of time before calling for a medical time-out, which is patently unfair. If an opponent of either sister were to pull a stunt like that, you can be sure that the Williams’ would have complained heavily. And malign the other player along the way.

[BTW, by “stunt” I’m talking about the time used, not the injury itself; I could see she was genuinely in severe pain, especially having gone through the same thing myself--not from tennis, but from standing in my kitchen folding laundry--something I’ve never done again!!! Poor Mr. X.]

The sisters always act like it’s the two of them against the world. It probably is, but not because the world has treated them so badly; rather because they’ve alienated everyone else in it. And don’t get me started on their father.

 
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