Thursday, June 24, 2010

The match that never ends...

Were these the most evenly matched tennis players ever in the history of the sport?

After three days, the American, John Isner, finally managed to make it into round two of Wimbledon after outlasting the Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, in a...well, the term 'marathon' doesn't even cover it. There were just three breaks of serve in the entire match; the first set, second set and, finally, the fifth set.

Now I'm sure you're thinking 'you mentioned three days, does that mean the match was affected by the weather?' and you'd be right. They did stop play due to that pesky thing called 'nightfall'...nothing to do with rain. The final score read 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 having started at 6:18pm on June 22 before ending at 4:49pm June 24, local time.

Allow me to provide some of the stats on the official Wimbledon site from this battle of wills:
Aces - 215 (103 for Mahut, 112 for Isner)
Points won - 980 (502 for Mahut, 478 to Isner)
Unforced errors - 112 (60 and 62...that is hugely impressive over such a long time)
Games played - 183
Match duration - 665 minutes (yes, that is over 11 hours of just playing time!)

It's not every day you see a scoreboard reading that...and it wasn't even over yet!

The final set finished (eventually!) 70-68 having been deadlocked overnight at 59 games apiece. Along the way, the duo set numerous record including longest ever match (smashing the paltry 6 hours 40 hour and a half shorter than the fifth set alone!), most number of aces by a player (previous was 78) and most number of games played (it was 112).

There was a rather funny moment when the scoreboard died, IBM saying it only went up to 47 but this was soon rectified...they might have been worried about needing triple digits! Serena Williams and Roger Federer were asked about the match during their press conferences, both just saying that; oh yes, they'd be pretty silly if they didn't know what was going on.

When the match ended, the two players as well as the chair umpire received special awards for their participation in this historic match. Isner was in fact scheduled to play in the doubles yesterday but, obviously, that match got rescheduled.

"It stinks someone had to lose," Isner said after the match, "but to share this day with (Mahut) was an absolute honour." He added, to a few laughs, that he hopes to play Mahut in the future and hopefully that match won't go quite as long.

I loathe to say it since you never know, but I doubt we'll see a match going longer than this one in our lifetime. It truly was one for the ages...epic by any standard you want to throw at it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tez's Sonoma Weekend Report

**Ok, I won't be putting all my pictures up...this will be far too long as it is just with the ones I've picked**

Since Kristen nicked the race and qualifying titles, this shall have to suffice :P

I suppose that's as good a place to start really. For the second time in my life, I catch a plane to hook up with people I've only previously known online. Worked out just fine the first attempt, so I figured I'd approach it the same way in the hope that, unlike the song by Split Enz, history does repeat. And, lo and behold, from the instant Kristen laughed off my rant about the BART tunnels cutting my phone coverage at the critical moment, to the look she gave me that basically said "is that it? Where's the rest of your luggage?", I had a good feeling this weekend was going to be a classic (as I said at the time; if I can last two weeks out of that same backpack, five days is easy).

Being a morning person, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend who prefers to sleep until the crack of noon at the earliest, getting up at six on Friday didn't bother me much. After picking up RA6AN and dumping some of our stuff at the hotel, we ventured out for qualifying day. RA6AN and I were seated right alongside Victory Circle, so we had a pretty good view of the haulers and we were able to snap some shots of unsuspecting people (none as good as that shot of Chad though)...eventually, after we realised who the heck they were and got the cameras ready in time *rolls eyes*

Rick Hendrick being inducted.

The defending race winner.

The prerace favourite.

The Brew Crew going through their final checks before qualifying.

Clint must like getting his photo snapped...saw him a few times.

Who'd have picked Joey to be the highest finishing JGR driver?

Jeff giving tips to the rookie...maybe on the bump and run?

Yes, I was hoping Jeff turned to his left as well but he never did...the nearly shaved head next to him was Jan Magnussen by the way. And yes, that is our very own Kristen in the Blue Deuce shot. She claims she heard someone calling her name which is why she turned around...I say she saw Dale Jr and was wondering if anyone would notice if she bolted off after him ;)

We moved down towards the flag stand for qualifying which was rather strange for me since I assumed that, since he's from California, Jimmie 'Vader' Johnson (I'm sticking to the Yahoo! nicknames for them now) would have gotten cheered when he went to the top of the timesheets but the roar when Kasey knocked him off left me scratching my head before RA6AN said he's from the wrong part of California. It was around this time that my 'Team Kiwi Racing' shirt got recognised and we chatted to the people behind AmbroseChick's twitter (I think I'm still part of that group on actually) which was a very cool deal.

After deciding to go early again on Saturday - Kristen picking my weakness and stopping for coffee - I wandered, which soon became staggered, up the hill to turn two since I wanted to snap some pikkies of the cars coming through there at relatively slow speeds. We didn't stay for the West Series race in the end and managed to catch the last 20 odd laps of the Nationwide race from Road America once Jon got booked in.

Speed leads Truex and Hornish up the hill.

David and Jimmie heading to three.

Ambrose starting a hot lap.

An RCR and MWR truck minus the trailers.

Last shot was from the hotel on Friday night while the one before it is what I was hoping would happen Sunday afternoon (it was taken during Friday practice) *sigh*

The link (told you I'd find it, guys!) and photo below probably won't make a lot of sense since they both really were "you had to be there" moments we talked about on the way to dinner Saturday night.

The morning after Marcos announced he was heading over the Pacific.

Sunday dawned and, again, taking the offer of Starbucks in the morning, I arrived at the track with Kristen. After the hardest working non-payroll person in the Penske organisation went off to the garage, Jon and I went out onto pitlane, passing the time by chatting to a few of the many Aussies in attendence - it almost felt like a V8 Supercar race for me - before meeting up with RA6AN and Hoosier who managed to not get as sunburnt as us at Pebble Beach the day must be all those trees that litter the golf courses. Just before that, Kristen gave us a world class tour of Kurt's pit area which was highly impressive.

I'll confess to not taking many shots during the race since I figured that, between the four of us, we'd have enough photos over the course of the three days so I'll just put up two; my boxing kangaroo flag on the start/finish line during the prerace and the race winner taking the chequered flag.

It brought him luck for a while...and it got on 'Trackside'!

Jimmie ticking off a place he hadn't won at before.

Now, I want you to take a good look at that group photo that Kristen posted on her race day blog. See my smile and wonder if that's how I really felt? Well, the photo below I took in my hotel room (with the aid of the camera timer of course) after Jon and I had got back is a better reflection of my feelings I reckon...they say a picture is worth a thousand words but I'm pretty sure this has just one; bugger.

Marcos gave it his all, but came up empty in the end.

However, I've moved beyond it now. I am very proud that Marcos took the fight to Vader since it had all the makings of another Phoenix 2009 Autumn (hey, I still write 'tyre', you're not getting me to call it 'Fall') race until then.

The story doesn't end there for who should I run into at SFO but Mr M. Waltrip. Had a very brief chat with Mikey since our lines were moving in the opposite direction, he just gave me a rueful nod and a "thought we had it" before I wished his teams all the best for next week...even me with my limited knowledge on personalities could tell he was still crushed over the ending (heck, so am I!).

I'll close with this; I thoroughly enjoyed going to this race in 2006, no question about that. But the 2010 version was so much more special as I went with three amazing NASCAR fans that I have no issues at all adding to my met-in-real-life-so-they're-not-only-online-anymore friends list. Thank you Kristen, RA6AN and Jon for making a very cool weekend even better.

And that is why, despite my having a sore throat (remind me to never use the air conditioners in that place again), despite my legs feeling like lead and despite my boy fluffing the best chance he's had yet to win a Cup race, my smile in the group shot was 100% genuine.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Swapping more than paint

Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose.

One a bonafide NASCAR star, the other just getting into his stride having rebooted his career for the third time. Including Ambrose's V8 Supercar stats, they have racked up 110 wins and six championships in their careers between them.

So we're talking about two pretty handy racing drivers.

Last week at the Watkins Glen tyre test, Polaris met Southern Cross (for all you Astronomy buffs out there) as Gordon handed Ambrose the keys to his #24 Dupont Chevrolet while Ambrose did the same with his #47 Little Debbies Toyota...don't worry, they both cleared it with the manufacturers.

Jeff should be old hat at this since he did a similar thing around a decade ago with Montoya's F1 car at Indy but I don't think Marcos has experienced swapping cars - paint, words and ends, yes, but not cars - before, so I'm sure behind his cheshire cat grin there would have been a tiny pang of worry.

After climbing out, the Aussie had this to say: “There’s probably only a handful of people in the world that can say they drove Jeff Gordon’s race car. It was a real thrill for me. I will never forget it. He’s a pretty small guy, he’s not that tall and he’s got a narrow waist. I wasn’t that comfortable in the car, but I was squeezing in that bad boy no matter how hard I had to try.”

“It was remarkable how similar in feel they were. There were differences of course between the two. I’m glad I could help him if he needed it to get around that place. I’m no expert. I’m just out there driving a race car. Just to be asked in the first place was a massive thrill for me. I will never forget it.”

He did have one regret though; no one managed to take a photo of him in the #24.

As for Gordon, he reckoned he finally figured out Marcos' secret on road courses: “I learned two things there at the test. One is that when Marcos Ambrose goes really fast through the road courses, it’s not his race car. He’s just really fast. He got in my car and went really fast. I got in his car and went slow. It was just basically that Marcos is fast and that we’ve got really good power. That’s what I learned. Our Chevys haven't been as good as we felt like they needed to be so just gathering information plus I like Marcos. He's a good guy and a heck of a road course racer.”

Now, before we all get excited over this and rumours start circulating about Rick scoping out someone to replace Jeff when he finally chooses to hang up his helmet, I don't think this was anything more than two drivers just wanting a chance to do something a touch different and I'm sure the respect each have for the other probably went up a notch.

Besides, as Marcos said, there are very few people on the planet who can lay claim to have driven Jeff Gordon's race car...even if it was just for a handful of laps.