Sometimes as nicely as you'd like to put things it is hard to maintain a professional, calm and reserved style when communicating about it. When Reds announcers and many others described Shea stadium as "a dump" when it was limping in the direction of euthanasia, I knew what they meant but didn't agree that it was that terrible.
As the tournament progresses, it challenges us to keep up with the evolving storylines — the sudden defeat of major players and the quiet emergence of those who have escaped notice, the silent assassins.
My day started on Court 3, a make-up match between the ninth seed Na LI (CHN), the first Grand Slam winner from China, and qualifier Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who, on the morning of this match, was celebrating her 24th birthday and in her debut here in Cincinnati.
Li has been in the spotlight, with two Slam finals last year, but at 30 years old, one has to wonder if she has peaked too late. She is six years older than her opponent, but today, it is best to focus on experience rather than age because she displays a potent blend of wisdom and execution as she forces her younger foe to work harder and harder for the points she wins on her serve, while Li cruises through her own service games. She breaks Larsson twice with surgically precise shot placement, moving Larsson around at will. When Li captures the first set 6-2, it is plain that she is firmly in command and using the match as practice because thanks to the suspension of play from the previous night, the winner here will end up playing again tonight.
Another holdover from the rain delay is the battle between Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS), which was called with Pavlyuchenkova already up a set (6-4) on the number six seed and former number one player in the world.
By the time I settled into the stands, Wozniacki was down 4-3 in the second and Pavlyuchenkova held to take a 5-3 lead. The Russian woman looked like a pounding brawler, but a couple of points dispelled that misconception. Pavlyuchenkova tempered her obvious strength with well-placed balls that unerringly found line and corners of the court just beyond Wozniacki’s reach. A hold from the higher seed set up an opportunity for Pavlyuchenkova to serve out the match, much to the chagrin of the vocal fans on the Grandstand who possibly hoped to be able to catch a glimpse of Rory McIlroy later in the evening. Alas, it was not to be. Pavlyuchenkova slammed that book shut, earning a spot opposite Petra Kvitova to compete for a coveted semifinal match, where maybe the fans might join her cause.
Next up on the Grandstand, Venus Williams and the three-seed Samantha Stosur (AUS), the reigning US Open champion. Venus has had to exert a great deal of effort along the way and would probably appreciate an easier match here, but with the formidability of Stosur and her compact, punchy power that’s highly unlikely.
It is apparent though that Venus wants to be the aggressor, as she stands on top of the baseline for Stosur’s first serve and a foot inside on the second. This allows her to get the jump and force Stosur off-balance. An early break and a tough hold for Venus, followed by a quick hold and a break for Stosur, and any hope for a quick two-setter are completely out the window. Even though Venus breaks right back on her opponent’s next two service games and ends up taking the first set 6-2, something in the way Stosur carries herself says, this isn’t close to being over.
On Center Court, Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic (CRO) have already completed a set, which Djokovic took 6-3. Djokovic has had a fairly easy path thus far, especially his previous match, which ended when Davydenko retired after losing the first set 6-0, before last night’s rain. Today, he is a cat toying with his well-contained prey. Cilic is definitely in a tight corner with his back to the wall because before fans can blink, Djokovic is serving for the match with a 5-2 lead and just like that, it’s over. The cat has gobbled his prey up.
Stosur forced Venus to go back and forth with her on their way to a second set tiebreak, which she seized 7-2, but then Venus immediately broke her in the first game of the third set. As Venus reaches 3-1, most thoughts start to drift to a possible fantasy match-up of the Williams sisters in the final. Serena is set to start on Center Court and has dominated her court appearances thus far.
Television coverage of the end of the Venus-Stosur match means that Serena and Angelique Kerber (GER) are forced to wait.
A gritty battle for the final set goes to Venus (6-4) and we are tantalizingly closer to the dream.
Joe Morgan handles the coin toss to determine who serves to start the Serena-Kerber match. Serena serves and promptly gets broken, although she does seem too bothered. Her shots were either just a bit long or subject to the fickle fate of bounces off the net cord, which she will certainly adjust to as the match progresses.
Kerber, a much shorter player with reasonable power, works on moving Serena around and capitalizing on her error-prone play. There are flashes of Serena’s gifts – games where her serve, one of the best in the women’s game, cannot be touched – but those moments are fleeting. Instead, we see a Serena who has trouble timing her shots, sending swinging volleys into the net that should have been clear and rousing winners. She ends points staring off at either where the winner should have fallen or confused by the absurdity of this predicament she found herself in.
She seemed to be wondering where the real Serena Williams was, and she wasn’t alone. The only person not asking that question was Kerber, who took the match from whoever happened to be standing there in Serena’s lime-accented attire.
Final score: 6-4, 6-4.
After successful MidPoint Music Festival and the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, there is no question that Cincinnati is a music town. Our vibrant local scene thrives on a huge range of innovative and talented bands and artists, as well as on a diverse and supportive collection of venues. Cincinnati now needs a place for musicians online ... (drum roll, please).
We are pleased to present MusicTown, a new forum for Cincinnati musicians and music lovers.
Dean Family Farms is seeking financing to keep growing their business. If you've been to locavore events like the Farm Fair in Covington, you've met Beth and Bill Dean. If not, there's a great story here.
The Deans' heritage Red Wattle Pigs, beloved by chefs like Todd Kelly of the Palm Court and Julie Francis at Nectar, are an endangered breed, and at this point, their farm is also endangered by lack of finances. Bill has a Kickstarter project going to help them raise money to match a federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program grant to improve their barns.
If you still want to find that particular item that is unique but is maybe from a local or up-and-coming designer and is of high quality, Cincinnati has quite a few options for you to peruse. If you so choose, use the following as a guide to help you along your way!
Cincinnati heats up, but it does little to slow down the fans eager to follow their favorites all over the grounds of the Open. Another day of racing between matches to catch the highlights as a scattered flurry of notable pairings dot the landscape.
Jumping right in, I head over to Court 9 for a look at two players I caught on Day 1. American wild card Sloane Stephens against fellow wild card Italian Camila Giorgi who took out Francesca Schiavone with relative ease. Both women seemed sharp and ready in the opening round and this match promised more of the same.
Thanks to early double faults, Stephens breaks Giorgi for a 2-1 lead. Both players are striking the ball exceptionally hard. After a Stephens hold, Giorgi loses her concentration for a moment – a swinging volley on a shot that was going to drop long – and that leads to another break and a request to talk things over with her coach.
Stephens keeps her head down and gets to 5-1, before Giorgi is able to hold again, but it matters little once Stephens holds at love for a 6-2 first set.
Another outer court beckons me. Shuai Peng of China battles Italian Roberta Vinci on Court 7. Peng displayed great discipline in taking out last year’s finalist Jelena Jankovic in a marathon match Monday night, but she had no worries today. By the time I arrived, she had just broken to take a 5-3 lead. A quick hold gave her the first set.
Once again, I found myself seated near her coach on the bleachers.
Peng breaks quickly in the second set for a 2-1 lead and then just handles business to capture the match at 6-4. The only weak link in her game seems to be an inability to secure net volleys. This may haunt her as she moves further into the tournament.
Back on Court 9, Stephens is up 5-1. As with her first match, she’s clicking and looks extremely poised on the court. While Peng has a slight crack in her armor, Stephens appears to be a bit more fortified and ready for another round or two here.
Both women have strong and vocal fan bases as well who are excited to go on with them.
The second round of matches for the morning feature our first glimpses at the top seeds of the tournament.
Questions have dominated the discussion about the number two seed Novak Djokovic, facing off against Italy’s Andreas Seppi, with many seeking to compare his standing this year to where he was a year ago. Last August, he suffered just his second loss up to that point here against Andy Murray in the final. It was a run for the ages and his win at the US Open capped off a three-out-of-four Grand Slams and a world number one ranking.
Of course, now we see how the wear and tear of a long tennis season along with the constant media scrutiny can chip away at the resolve of even the best players. This year, Djokovic has seemed far more mortal, while still having an enviable record – he earned another Australian Open and looks poised to defend his US Open title.
During his first match here, fans got to observe how a top player works himself into a match and a tournament. For a comparable sports analogy might be fitting to look to boxing and the early rounds where the boxers are getting their bearings, moving and punching, but not for points or power yet, more to settle their nerves before establishing their game plans.
Djokovic was loose and a bit free-swinging initially, but he found his range on serve and then focused on picking the right opportunity to pounce on Seppi, who gamely fought through a few tough service games, but held his own. By the first set tiebreak though, Djokovic scored the min-break he needed to win 7-4 and the inevitability began to creep in for Seppi.
Over on the Grandstand, the number four seed Petra Kvitova (CZE) ran into a strong challenge from Mona Barthel of Germany who wisely decided early on to play a safe return game because Kvitova started off quite error-prone. Down 5-1, Kvitova looked listless and luckless as shot after shot either sailed out or flew of the net cord or the side of her racket. She kept at it though and picked her way back into the set before finally falling 6-4, but the last couple of games showed that if she found her hard-hitting form, she might be able to punch her way back into the match.
Djokovic found the next gear quickly and jumped up to a 5-1 lead in the second set, but Seppi dug in for a hold to make it 5-2, forcing Djokovic to serve it out. The final point of the match came on a soft volley into the open court and with a gentle smile for the fans, Djokovic, the winner last weekend in Toronto, was ready to move on.
Kvitova apparently was ready to prove my assumption correct. She pounded shots at Barthel, hard and heavy body blows and knocked her down in the second set 6-2. The match really was looking like a pair of boxers, one using finesse, the other a power puncher, somehow going toe-to-toe.
On Center Court, Sam Querrey, the American wild card, was preparing to face off against the number three seed from Great Britain, Andy Murray, last year’s winner and thanks to his runner-up spot at Wimbledon and then his Olympic Gold against Roger Federer (a replay of the Wimbledon final), a man on a mission to shatter the glass ceiling keeping him from the rare air of the top three ranking in the world and Grand Slam glory.
As I mentioned while covering Querrey’s previous match, he’s got skill and form to spare but he hasn’t found the intangible that will take him to the next level consistently. While watching the first set of his match against Murray, I found myself comparing him to one of the competing interns on that season of the medical drama House, when Dr. House was trying to pick a new diagnostic team. A host of talent and knowledgeable doctors and specialist raced and clawed their way through challenges to land a spot and Querrey’s one of those in the hunt in tennis, but Murray, well, he’s a bit like Foreman (Omar Epps), a former team player who hangs around, but everyone knows he’s just not quite ready to take over for House (ever). Of course, he can out-diagnose any pesky intern, any day of the week.
And like a classic episode of House, it’s only a matter of time before the intern falls.
Kvitova has to grind it out in the third set because Barthel has the nerve to stand in the center of the ring and trade punches with her. They go back and forth and there’s something surprising about Barthel’s tenacity, her pesky spirit that gains depth as the match goes on.
But she slips up on her way to a possible tiebreak, losing the third set 7-5, and sadly the match. Has Kvitova gotten herself on track though?
Unforced errors kill Querrey (6-2, 6-4). All that time I spent coming up with the House analogy, Querrey was guessing and guessing wrong. If there really had been a patient on the table, they would have died repeatedly and their next of kin would have earned millions in medical malpractice.
Il Volo — the popular Italian Opera trio from Sicily — features three teens with tenor voices so strong, they got America’s attention after one of the best guest performances in the history of American Idol, singing "O Sole Mio" last year. They formed in 2009 and were received very well in their native country, performing with some of the biggest international superstars in their short history. The group consists of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble. They are now set for their second U.S. tour which comes through Cincinnati tomorrow (Friday) night.
Il Volo is produced by long time industry veteran Tony Renis, who discovered the boys two years ago along with Grammy-winning producer Humberto Gatica (Michael Bublé, Josh Groban and Celine Dion).
CityBeat caught up with Gianluca Ginoble this week by phone to discuss his love of touring and how much he enjoys getting to do what he loves every day. He is just learning English but was able to provide a little insight into to the band’s grueling tour schedule. Check out Il Volo at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion on Friday.
CityBeat: I know you were introduced to opera from family members growing up in Italy. How important is family tradition to you?
Gianluca Ginoble: My family is the most important thing because my Grandpa is my inspiration. It was him that introduced me to this kind of music. But I love others as well, like Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. I love Opera, but I also I love other kinds of music too. To me family is the most important thing.
CB: You guys are going to start a long tour being away from home. Is it hard being on the road being away from friends and family or what is the hardest part for you?
GG: When I am home, I can’t wait to do another tour because this is now my life. For me, it is like funny work because this is my passion. I am doing what I love to do, but when I am on tour I can’t wait to come back to my house and my home because I miss the family, my Grandpa. My Grandma died six months ago and for me it was an amazing pain. He was very important for me.
CB: I am sorry to hear that. Are there any places on the tour in the United States that you are specifically looking forward to playing, the location or the venue?
GG: Yes, yes, yes. My favorite city is Los Angeles. New York as well, but Los Angeles is the city of the dreams and the star, the Walk of Fame, the Oscars. For me it is the best city.
CB: What has been your rehearsal process for the tour? What has that been like for you?
GG: We have prepared with eight or nine hour rehearsals daily.
CB: Every day?
GG: Yes, because this is our first concert and we are preparing. When we have the soundcheck before the concert it is just 20 minutes or 30 minute,s so we have major rehearsals to get ready.
CB: How do you take care of your voices?
GG: Yes always, our voices are the most important thing.
CB: Do you ever see the band crossing over to pop music or do you think you will stay with Opera?
GG: I don’t know. We are open to many things. We did an American tour and it was wonderful, amazing because there were teenagers everywhere and in the U.S., in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and this is beautiful because it was our goal and this is a dream come true.
CB: Where do you see yourself or the band in 10 more years?
GG: I don’t know. I hope all this can continue in this way but life is unpredictable.
CB: What is your favorite song to sing and perform?
GG: "Smile," a Charlie Chaplin song.
CB: What can the fans look forward to in Cincinnati at the show?
GG: It is going to be a very beautiful show with more surprises. We have changed some things and I think it is going to be amazing. We have three new songs, which are a surprise.
CB: How do stay connected to your fans with Facebook or Twitter?
GG: Always, always. I update my fans, our fans. I am always doing “Greetings from …" I upload the pictures.
CB: What are you looking forward to the most on the tour?
GG: The most beautiful thing is to meet the fans. When I look at the people and they are happy and when they listen to our singing and we can make them happy, it is just beautiful.
Philosopher-farmers Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson and Gene Logsdon discuss the future of agriculture, the environment and changing our ideas about growth and progress. Recorded live at Xavier University on April 11. Special thanks to Xavier University's Ethics/Religion and Society Department.
Read CityBeat's related Green Issue here.
(408): hey, what are you doing? my roommates are gone for the night... you should come over ;)
(650): nah, i'm gonna grab some food