Halep asks Romanian fans to cool it

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Rogers Cup No. 2 seed Simona Halep obviously appreciates all the support she gets from the Romanian fans.

Everywhere she goes, there seems to be large, vocal group of supporters.

Even Canadian Bianca Andreescu, whose parents are Romanian, who who made her WTA Tour main-draw debut at the Citi Open last week, got the spillover. She said she couldn’t believe how much Romanian she heard spoken in the crowd during her matches.

But while appreciative, Halep asked the fans to tone it down a bit after her 6-1, 6-0 victory over Barbora Strycova Thursday in Toronto.

“I want to thank them. And I think I can say – is not a bad thing – but I think that they have to be a little bit more fair play with the opponent, because today was a little bit too much in my opinion,” she said.

Embed from Getty Images
 

(Photos above are from the 2015 Rogers Cup in Toronto).

The match took just under an hour. Strycova, a combustible sort anyway, was visibly bothered by the vocal support.

Even with Marija Čičak in the chair – and who in their right mind would defy the formidable Čičak? – it wasn’t the best situation. 

After the first game of the second set, Čičak had to ask the crowd to be fair to both players. There were very few fans left on the stadium court by that point, so they sounded even louder.

Great Sock towel heist ends well

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WIMBLEDON – It doesn’t take much for a video to spread like wildfire – especially if there’s a kid and some mean adults involved.

And so, one teenager immediately became social-media famous this week.

Video of American player Jack Sock’s first round match appeared to show a grown man aggressively fighting for a towel thrown by Sock in the kid’s direction.

The reality is not quite so clear-cut, of course.

Sock didn’t even look up as he threw the towel, and underthrew it if he was aiming at the kid.

So in fact, the kid reached over to where the man and his wife were comfortably ensconced in their front-row seats (in matching shirts and coordinated hats, no less) to get the towel.

Nevertheless, what grown man will tug-of-war so relentlessly to take a souvenir towel away from a kid? 

This man.

Meanwhile, the man’s wife just smirked, and never broke rhythm with the chewing gum.

Social media to the rescue

Sock got wind of it, and reached out on social media.

The 24-year-old American called the fellow an “elderly man”.

That probably hurt more than the towel burns he got in securing possession of the souvenir.

On Wednesday, a representative from Sock’s management agency, IMG, said the young fan had been found and that he was from Ireland.

“He is gone home now but Jack invited him to his matches and said he will send him a towel,” the spokesperson said.

But …. hold the phone.

It turned out the kid from Ireland was scamming. The real kid was an American kid from Philadelphia named Peter Woodville.

His mother Faiézé, who is on Twitter but had barely Tweeted until this week, had it brought to her attention, and responded.

The proof was in the cap. It’s from the boarding school Peter Woodville’s father attended – one of the most exclusive schools in the U.S.

The school, of course, jumped on the opportunity to recognize its alumnus. Even snooty prep schools are on Twitter!

Peter came back the next day – he and his family queued up for five hours to get back onto the grounds – and got his towel. And a photo.

“He was upset. He told me he was shocked more than anything. Because in the states at a lot of these sporting events, if adults catch a ball or something they go out of their way to give it to the youngsters. They don’t keep it for themselves. He was very disappointed and I think he was shocked,” mother Faézé told the British Associated Press.

That’s far from true. Old guys wrestle foul balls from young kids in the stands at baseball games all the time. But it’s always better to remember the good people.

Ready for his closeup

In the meantime, the 14-year-old did what a 14-year-old in this day and age does. He got on Twitter and started fielding media inquiries that pretty much sounded like this: “Hi, I’m a journalist. Can you follow me so I can DM you a few questions about the towel?”

As for the well-hatted couple, you hope they headed home and had some of their other grownup friends give them the what-for.

Certainly no one sitting around them did – Wimbledon fans are far too decorous.

Buss: The fans, from all over, the lifeblood of the BNP Paribas Open

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INDIAN WELLS – Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open, 36,361 patrons came through the gates and set an all-time session attendance record for the event.

Curious as to who these throngs were, I spent the better part of the day trying to meet some of them, to find out who exactly is out watching tennis in the desert.

Conversations about the BNP Paribas Open usually center around the stunning facilities, the top-shelf field, the gorgeous Coachella Valley and of course, Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison. But without the fans, this event doesn’t happen. What began 40 years ago as a small pro tournament played at a private club is now an internationally renowned mega-sporting event that is growing in stature year after year. And it’s all fuelled by fan demand.

As I walked the grounds observing clusters of fans, one of the first things I noticed was an immediate need for a translator. From Europe to Asia, to South America and beyond, you’ll hear foreign languages a-plenty around the grounds.

Indian Wells used to be quite provincial. As the tournament grew, the event morphed in to a destination for winter-weary North Americans. Throwing an elite tennis tournament in to the equation just sealed the deal. An international fan base has grown roots at this event and with American tennis exceptionalism in decline at the moment, that’s a trend likely to continue.

I asked a couple from Seattle what finally brought them to Indian Wells after all these years, “Roger Federer. I’ve never seen him play live. I figured I better do it now before its too late,” the gentleman replied.

When I casually mentioned Federer wouldn’t play his first match until Sunday, he said, “Oh, we know. We just want to watch him practice for a couple days. We have to go back Saturday night, so we’ll take whatever we can get !”

All the way from Seattle… to watch Fed practice.

When Federer takes to the practice court, every nook and cranny is jammed. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

West coast tennis fans used to have an array of events to choose from: Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, La Costa, Carson, San Jose to name a few. Now, the BNP Paribas Open is the one time all year the top men’s players travel west of the Mississippi. (the women also hit Stanford, Calif. in the summer).

In part, that speaks to a larger trend. To host a major event and attract the top stars, it now takes a world class facility. With the cost out on the West coast, and no available slots in the ATP Tour calendar, Indian Wells is it here for some time to come.

As a result, everyone comes: the reunion crowds who meet up here every year, the celebration crowds who mostly hang out at the bars, the parents and children with their giant autographed yellow tennis balls clamoring for the attention of their favorite players.

When Juan Martin del Potro takes the court, the blue and white comes out. (Barry Buss/Tennis.Life)

There also is no shortage of industry people here. And as always, the crowds are divided into the haves and have-nots. The Stadium 1 box seats and suites are a mix of corporate marketing and personal discretionary spending, with the increasingly steep prices giving even some of my well-heeled colleagues pause.

Of course, there is also Fan Zero, Larry Ellison. He’s such a big fan of the game – he bought the tournament. He has a private luxury box within the private luxury seats, so that you don’t forget that.

Above the bourgeoisie is the proletariat, that guy who just loves his tennis. I flagged one down early Saturday stalking the outer courts alone.

He said he was first through the gate and set up shop on the back courts and watch until there were no more matches to watch. “I just love it!” he said.

Tennis brings out the patriotism in every fan. (Barry Buss/Tennis.Life)

In the space next to him lay an enormous backpack bursting at the zipper– what he called his “Indian Wells survival pack”.

He had fluids, hats, a blanket, extra clothing, sunblock, chargers, homemade sandwiches to last all day. “I won’t pull my wallet out once the whole day. It makes me laugh hearing what people spend out here. I park at the hotel and take the free shuttle. They aren’t getting any of my money!” he said.

Walking further through the crowd, you feel how special this event is for those in attendance. So much athletic greatness, one rock star after another practicing and playing beside each other all day long. You can just feel the pride the fans feel for the favorites, but you can feel their pride in their countrymen and women even more.

When Federer is playing, out come the Swiss red and white flags. The Argentines never miss a moment to flash the blue and white when their native son Juan Martin del Potro is doing battle. And last night on center court, Vasek Pospisil had to feel like he almost was playing a Davis Cup tie in his Vancouver hometown, with the amount of maple-leaf love he was getting on Stadium 1. There’s no doubt it was a factor that helped catapult him to a career victory over world No. 1 Andy Murray.