Martha Downing Blogs from Austria
Saturday. Sept. 14
We are wrapping up our 10 days in Klagenfurt with a victory in the Alice Marble Cup....4th year in a row. The tennis started at 10am and didn't end until late afternoon. The weather was sunny and dry today. #2 Kerry fought hard but lost to an excellent player in a 2 hour battle, 6-4, 7-5. Tina took on the #1 from Austria, and despite several service breaks by each player, Tina prevailed 6-3, 6-3. She hit winning service returns, attacked the net at every opportunity. That brought us to the deciding doubles and a very exciting match. Our USA Grand Slam champions and World Champions Tina and Mary took the court and promptly feel behind 5-1 The Austrians kept them off balance with numerous lobs and drives. Once Tina & Mary decided it was Ok to hit many, many overheads per point, they saved 3 set points and won 7-6 (2), 6-1. It is so hard to put away the ball on that red clay, but the USA used all their patience and skill to take control and frustrate the opponents. It has been a great week for the Alice Marble team. After the awards ceremony, the team celebrated with a special dinner at a nearby beautiful lake.
Friday, Sept. 13
It's on to the final now. We beat Great Britain today. Kerry started her match with a drop-shot winner and continued to out play her opponent, winning, 6-2, 6-1. Tina lost the first game at #1, but then cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 victory. Mary and Martha added the drama, though we had already won the match with the two singles victories. They won 7-6 (13-11 in the breaker, saving four set points), 6-3. We watched the other semis (Netherlands vs Austria) which went down to the deciding doubles. We will be ready for Austria tomorrow, knowing they will have a crowd and the home-court advantage.
Last night at the dinner, they all dressed in the traditional Austrian-Switzerland dresses ... so cute and attractive. Weather was chilly today, but the sun did come out ... so nice to know it is not supposed to rain anymore, and we will finish with an extra day for sightseeing.
Thursday, Sept 12
It was a beautiful day in Klagenfurt! Although we started cold (45 degrees!), it was dry. Kerry started us off against Germany with her 6-0, 6-0 win ... taking advantage of the wet clay by hitting many, many winning drop shots Her opponent was terribly frustrated. Tina followed up against a hard hitting #1 and defeated her 6-1, 6-2. Mary and Martha rounded out the victory with a 6-1, 6-1 win. Despite the 50% chance of rain, by then we were enjoying sunshine and hardly knew what to do. Tomorrow we take on Great Britain in the semi finals. They upset the Australians in their round robin play. Tonight we have our big dinner at a local hotel facility, where many of the teams come together for the ITF sponsored dinner. We don't know which teams will be there, since sometimes they bus in teams that are playing at other sites. We all dress up by wearing our USA scarves and the men wear their USA ties.
Wednesday, Sept 11
At 1:30pm the officials finally canceled the women's schedule for today. The rain had finally stopped enough to get 17 courts playable by 2:30, but the officials needed to play the Britannia Cup (men's 65's) who are sharing the facility with us, because the men have more teams involved and needed to try to stay on schedule.
We were able to practice indoors for 30 minutes, which gave us a little exercise, as well as gave us a chance to see how the indoor courts play, in case we are inside tomorrow. We started watching our men's 65 team play the Netherlands (a very tough team), but they were rained on after 1 game. So with umbrellas in tow, we got a ride downtown to explore some new places. Later we learned that our men did get back on the courts after their rain delay, but eventually had to finish the second set of their doubles indoors. They did win 2 matches to 1. We ended up with a delicious Austrian dinner at a restaurant that we found on our walk home. This cute little place had a bar and only 5-6 tables in a second room. Our waiter was very patient explaining the menu in his best English. We were not sure exactly what we were getting, but we ended up making perfect choices. Now we are back in our rooms hoping we can play outside tomorrow.
Tuesday, Sept. 10
We had another successful day ... no rain, and we beat Croatia ... all matches were 6-0, 6-0. We had a team practice when we were done, trying to stay sharp, as we know the matches will start getting harder. After the rain we have been having, the courts are harder (less sliding), so slices and drop shots can really die. The balls get dirty and fluffy. We try to finish before they become too fluffy, and we become too dirty. One of the customs that our tennis facility uses is taking your shoes off before you go in to the bathrooms. I admit that we leave red clay from our shoes everywhere we go, but this rule seems a little strange to me.
After the tennis we went to Portschock, a beautiful area on a huge lake, about 10-15 minutes away. Some of the other teams are playing there, but all the USA teams were already done by the time we were there, so we were forced to shop in the quaint little town! Mary is becoming the queen of shopping. I think she was able to fill the backpack that we were given by the ITF tournament organizers as a welcome gift (we also received a very nice tennis shirt). The scenic drive back went past many lovely homes with the traditional Austrian balconies and gorgeous hanging baskets full of flowers. I couldn't help but think of Julie Andrews, the Von Trapp family and the Sound of Music.
Rain is predicted tonight, but we will be ready for whatever the day brings.
Monday, Sept. 9 (evening update)
We finally got to play today against Poland, and thank goodness all the matches were quick. We started at 4:15 and finished 15 min before sunset. Kerry won 0 & 0, Tina won 1 & 1 and Mary & I won 0 & 1 in the doubles. We all played through sprinkles during part of the matches, and I think Mary and I played most of our match in the dark. Tomorrow we take on Croatia.
Monday, Sept. 9
We started our defense of our Alice Marble Cup today (we have won three years in a row) with a rain delay. I think it has been raining off and on since 1:30 a.m. We have now been told that we will play against Poland, starting in two hours at 4 p.m. Our #2 plays first, then #1, then the doubles. I think we may be skipping dinner! I just hope we get to finish the singles before dark, since there are no lights here.
Kerry, Mary, and I used the break in the rain to walk to the grocery store to buy our water. As many times as I have been to Europe on a Cup team, I am not used to paying almost 3 euros (about $4.25) for 12 oz. of water. At dinner, the beer is about the same price. The grocery store is a must because it is so much cheaper. While there we learned how to use a shopping cart by inserting a coin in the handle, and then having the coin pop out when we returned the cart to its storage position. Seems like a very efficient system for shopping cart control. We spent another break in the rain going to the nearby Tabak store, where we found our playing cards.
Although Klagenfurt has around 90,000 people, it still seems like a quaint little town. Maybe that is because the streets are narrow, the cars are small, and there are a lot of bicycles (which I can understand, since gas is over $8/gal.) We are right across the street from the university, though we wonder if school has started because we have not seen a lot of students. Our area has a lot of outside cafes, which is wonderful, since the Austrians still seem to be big smokers. There are several bakeries nearby, and we are happy that the Europeans like their bread. Now we if can just get them to want and need ice! We did see a McDonald's when we went to town on Saturday, but I am not going there, even for ice.
Time to get mentally ready for our match...
Sunday, Sept. 8
We had another gorgeous day (Sunday) here in Klagenfurt. By late afternoon, it started to be a bit cloudy, and it's sad to think that rain is predicted for the next five to six days! I'm just glad I am not the tournament director! Today our team looked at the indoor carpet courts and wondered if we would end up playing there. I'm already looking for bridge games.
We have a good breakfast buffet with our room fee...breads, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, juices, cereals, fruit, meats, and cheeses. And we discovered that our Australian friends even bring their own Vegimite! We figured out the recipe for coffee ... two shots of cappuccino and one shot of espresso.
We had another good morning practice. Mary lead us in good "down the line/cross court" drills. With two on one, the "one" was hitting 20 successful balls in a row, so I feel like the matches will be easier than our drills.
After our practice I returned to my room and started in on my laundry. Kerry arrived right on time and looked quite fresh after her flight from the U.S. Tina went to our Captain's meeting while the three of us went back to the courts for another practice. Tina was able to join us a bit later, and reported with our format (16 teams, so we have four groups of four in round robin) and our seeding (No. 1, since we have won three years in a row.) Tomorrow we start with Poland, whom we have never played before. It should be fun to meet new players and see what their games are like.
We were bussed to the opening ceremonies 15 minutes away. Well, most of us bussed ... we noticed the team from the Netherlands rode bikes. They told us later that it was a 40-minute ride! and another 40 minutes to return ... but we are not intimidated! It was wonderful to see some of our other teams who also came in from around the area. In these ceremonies each team marches in to center court so all the players are there while we have welcoming speeches, which fortunately were short, since it was still quite warm. We also saw a dance presentation by five Austrian boys ... great fun as they danced, stomped, and clapped in a traditional Austrian presentation. We finished the ceremony with champagne and orange juice.
Back in our neighborhood, we walked around the corner to enjoy another casual, outside dinner. At least four to five other teams were there also, all of whom are staying in the same hotel as us.
Back in the room, we are watching the men's doubles at the US Open ... not sure if we can stay awake long enough to watch the women's final, as it doesn't start here until 10:30 p.m. We have our warm-up tomorrow at 8:45, and we need to be ready.
Greetings from Klagenfurt. Three of our Alice Marble team arrived safely in Klagenfurt yesterday (Friday). Tina Karwasky and Martha having long days coming from the West Coast, and Mary Ginnard flying in from New York, where she and Tina had been for a few days receiving their Grand Slam awards at the USTA awards presentation. Our #2 player, Kerry Young, will be arriving Sunday. We were very happy that all of our tennis equipment and luggage arrived with us.
The ITF was quite organized for our 20-minute bus ride to our lodging, so we were able to check in, unpack and then hit the courts for some practice. The tennis facility is right across the street from our hotel, which is called the All You Need Hotel. What a name! My room is small, but it does have a nice balcony and view of a grassy area of the hotel. Mary and Tina got a view of the parking lot and motorcycles ... yes, it seems to be the Annual European Motorcycle week ... good thing, since their engines woke up Mary and Tina after they overslept this morning. The courts are red clay and the balls are hard, but we are adjusting and will be ready when the competition starts on Monday.
Our clay-court expert, Mary, gave us Californians a lesson on sliding, but I know I won't have it under control by Monday, but it sure does help when I can use it. We had a nice little dinner right next to the hotel. There are a lot of little cafes with outdoor seating in our area, and we want to take advantage of the beautiful weather (80 degrees) that we are currently having, because rain and 67 degrees are predicted for later in the week.
Today we had a good practice in the morning ... "borrowed" a Canadian player for some doubles. Later we walked to town, which is full of little shops on cobble streets, as well as the famous Klagenfurt dragon statue and some impressive churches. We also found a large, indoor mall, which looked a lot like the US malls, but with different stores. Prices are high by U.S. standards, but both Mary and Tina managed to find some good bargains.
Sunday is more practice and then opening ceremonies. We have already seen several players that we know from other countries, but tomorrow we will see and greet even more. I think we're ready!