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Mag By Craig Gabriel

TIME FOR THE HARD COURT SWING
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TIME FOR THE HARD COURT SWING

The grass court season is a memory now and the clay events are all but a memory for 2019. Hard courts, cement that has been painted, is at the forefront of tennis minds as the heat of North America’s summer sweeps across for one of the last extended swings of the tennis year.

It can be a gruelling time as the beating sun and high temperatures hit the artificial surface that absorbs the heat and sends the mercury soaring higher than what it probably is. Endurance is the name of the game at this time of the tennis season. Could it be a case of Charles Darwin’s views with “Survival of the Fittest” being the telling factor at this time of the year? We must wait to see.

The Hamburg Open was pretty much the last of the bigger clay events and Nikoloz Basilashvili reigned supreme for the second year in a row, this time beating the young and exciting Andrey Rublev who was in his first final; the Georgian also overcame the at times tempestuous but oh so talented German Alexander Zverev in the semis. And in beautiful Gstaad it was Albert Ramos Vinolas who hoisted the trophy on the dirt surface that is his speciality.

And on the women’s side the clay tour started drawing to a close with events in the lovely Latvian seaside city of Jurmala, and Palermo, Sicily, where once upon a time you might have been made “an offer too good to refuse” ;)

Atlanta has signalled the start of the hardcourts. A city that hosted a forgettable Olympic Games 21 years ago, headquarters for Coca Cola and the central home for CNN and where Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler captured attention while the city eventually burned in the big screen movie classic “Gone With The Wind”. Shame no tennis player has a name “Tara”, it could have been a great connection.

The first of the ATP 500 events is in Washington D.C. with its incredible attractions like the Congress, Smithsonian, the various monuments and the White House. Tennis is riddled with politics but here the real politics with its so-called fake news, intrigue and deception remains as fascinating and absorbing as a Daniel Silva novel. 

Neither defending champion is in Washington – Mr. Zverev clearly saying at Wimbledon that because there had been a change in administration (at the tournament not the White House) and that the new tournament director "doesn’t like me”, he won’t be going while Svetlana Kuznetsova frustratingly was not granted a visa in time. Not sure if the tournament or the tour pushed to get that rectified as was the case with the UAE a few years ago with Israeli players in Dubai.

The women also have the choice of going to Silicon Valley and the event in San Jose, where it would also be warm but probably not as oppressive as Washington is likely to be. I wonder if anyone asked “Do you know the way to San Jose …? Apologies to Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick.

In back-to-back weeks the ATP hosts the year’s last two Masters 1000’s for North America – Montreal and then Cincinnati. Montreal will be missing both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. For the women and the WTA, those weeks are what they call Premier 5 events, one down from their highest level. 

In Canada the women will be in Toronto this year (the venue is so far from anywhere) but will then join the men in Cincy which is across one of those ridiculously broad and fast-moving US highways, from a huge amusement park. Cincy in the Midwest can be mercilessly hot and then be hit with torrential rainstorms that can turn the surrounding area into a quagmire, but you are in America’s heartland.

And then apart from a couple of much smaller events it is time for the culmination of the North American road trip and there is no better place than in New York, New York, the city that never sleeps and the US Open. Arguably the biggest but with no argument the brashest tennis tournament in the world. Start spreading the news…