Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year, More Tennis!

Mali and I this weekend went to Hua Hin to watch us some professional tennis.  We went with some of Mali's tennis buddies, so I suppose we could actually count this as an educational trip.  More about that later. 
Hua Hin, where the Thai king has his summer palace is a couple of hours drive from Bangkok, and being close to the ocean it is noticeably cooler there than Bangkok.  Yes, it's January, but it's still in the mid-upper 80s during the day here in Bangkok, so the ocean breeze was very pleasant.  Folks from Bangkok head there for a break all the time, but this was the first time that Mali and I have gone there.

So as part of Hua Hin's centennial celebration they invited two former Number One female tennis players, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova to come play an exhibition match.  And after they played their guts out, they would team with Paradorn Srichaphan and Danai Udomchoke, Thailand's top male players for a single set of mixed doubles.  Pretty cool, isn't it?  Yes, indeed, it was.  I mean it's not every day that you get to see top-ranked players in what I would consider a pretty intimate setting--the venue only had about 4,000 seats.  We were on the second row from the top, but there was not a bad seat in the house.

I'm including pictures here for two reasons.  First is to make Mali's brother, John, jealous.  He's a huge tennis fan, and the fact that we got to see this match was pretty cool.  I uploaded a bunch more pictures to Facebook.  I love the new camera I bought Mali for Mother's Day last year, and the 200x zoom lens that came with it!

The second reason is to show the form the players use.  At dinner after the match I asked the ladies what they learned from watching the tennis, and they said, "The importance of following through on your swing."  Now, not to blow my own horn, but this is something I've told Mali several times.  But kudos to them for finally understanding what I meant when I've said that.  All three of them are determined to practice a little bit harder and improve their form, especially their serves.

And what did I learn?  It wasn't anything I actually learned, but more of a reaffirmation.  I realized the same thing that I've learned at every professional sporting event I've ever attended--professional athletes are professional athletes and I am not for a very good reason.  Sitting and watching sports on TV, in my opinion, does not do justice to the skill, speed, and grace at which the pros ply their trade, and it's sheer foolishness for the majority of us to sit on our couches and say, "ah, if Coach So-and-So back in high school had given me the chance, that would be me out there."  Uh, probably not.  I remember the first professional soccer match I saw live, and I was blown away with the speed of execution, because often it just doesn't look that fast on TV.  Same reaction I had with the first hockey game I attended, but extra props to those guys for doing their thing on skates, especially while someone else is whacking at them with a stick.  These ladies were smacking the ball with considerable pace and excellent placement.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a small sample of the pictures I took.  Enjoy!

Maria Sharapova

Venus Williams

 Paradorn Srichaphan and Venus Williams

Danai Udomchoke and Maria Sharapova

These two guys were sitting about five rows in front of us, and they were hilarious.  During changeovers the guy on the right would yell, "วีนัส ใจเย็นๆ"  Don't understand?  Neither did Venus, if she even heard it (by the way, it means, "Venus, stay calm.").  The crowd really responded to these guys, as did the Thai players when they came out and were warming up.  They also led the crowd in the wave between the singles and doubles match.  Pretty fun stuff.

The only downside of the entire day was that traffic getting back from Hua Hin was horrible--instead of the anticipated two hours, it took us four hours to get home.  Mali and I have to give a huge thanks to Andy for driving, and to Andy, Katie, and Michelle for such a fun, entertaining day.

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