Hero’s welcome for Halep at home

Simona Halep returned to Romania to a hero’s welcome and a big reception at the Arena Națională in Bucharest Wednesday.

Imagine thousands of your countrymen and women chanting your name – just for winning a tennis tournament. It has to be truly heady stuff.

And it speaks to what her accomplishments mean to the people of a country with a population around 20 million.

Two of the foremost names in Romanian tennis – Ilie Nastase and billionaire Ion Tiriac, without whose financial support Halep might not even have had a career, were there to greet her at the airport.

Serena’s grass-bruising fine not unusual

The size of the fine Serena Williams incurred for hurting Wimbledon’s grass  – $10,000 – raised some eyebrows.

But Wimbledon takes its grass seriously – as it should. You can’t patch it overnight.

A Daily Mail photographer caught her in the act (the Tennis.Life pic above was taken a few minutes before). There was video. 

Serena knows. She even wrote an “apology note” – to no avail.

Williams got a similar fine during a win over Christina McHale in 2016 (hilariously, the “official highlights” forgot it).

Heather Watson and Fabio Fognini are among those similarly dinged  – but not before the tournament.

“Strawberry Man” outdoes himself

Chris Fava – the legend known as “Strawberry Man”  finds his own fine self a tough act to follow every year.

But for this year’s Manic Monday at Wimbledon, he put together a fine version of Centre Court – including Hawkeye.

(It’s worth noting that the other side of his … man purse? says “OUT”).

His “Strawberries and Creme” ensemble made it to the Wimbledon museum in 2016. And his “Trophy Man” getup got there a year ago.

Of course, the designer gets a ton of mileage out of this – even has his own website.

“Sir” Andy Murray finally official

Andy Murray has been “Sir Andy Murray” since he was named to the Queen’s “New Year Honours list” in 2016.

But he finally had his investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace Thursday, with the sword of Prince Charles laid on both his shoulders as he (sort of) knelt in humility.

The Prince, looking in splendid form, was in full regalia as the two chatted amiably.

The Royal Family announced this to its nearly four million Twitter followers Thursday.

The ceremony came the day after his 32nd birthday, as Sir Murray works to return from hip surgery.

Madrid tourism advice from the WTA

It’s a standard topic at every Tour stop.

But it remains amusing to see players try to come up with must-sees when they’re asked about a city.

In this case, the WTA asked players for Madrid tourism advice.

Eating food. Drinking coffee. Looking at … things. At least Jelena Ostapenko remembered that time she went to the amusement park.

It’s like everyone forgets it’s a work trip. Even walking the streets saps energy needed on court.

At least the city’s beat is perfect for tennis players – always looking for that late-late night resto.

Monday is Serena time at Met Gala

The tennis world is in Madrid.

But Serena Williams had a prior engagement: co-chair of the Met Gala in Manhattan.

Williams already made an appearance Sunday at a pre-gala party hosted by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

But the big night is Monday.

Maria Sharapova also is on hand.

The birth of the royal baby Monday was a reminder that while the WTA was in the Middle East, Williams also was in New York – hosting a lavish baby shower for friend Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

So far, Williams is still on for Rome next week.

Slam champs battle, to empty seats

The crowds in Madrid, despite its status as a Masters 1000/Premier Mandatory, have never been great save for a few notable men’s superstars.

The tickets are reasonably priced through Thursday. But the Spanish economy has been a challenge for years.

And the crowds for the women are especially sparse, which is a country-wide phenomenon as most WTA-only events have quickly bitten the dust.

But what a shame a great tussle between two Grand Slam champions, Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka on a beautiful Monday, had to be played before such a sparse crowd.

Wild card Muchova to Prague final

Karolina Muchova, under the radar as she made her way up through the ITF ranks, is into the Prague singles final.

(Tennis.Life spotted her at Wimbledon ’18).

It’s her first final, as it is for Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann.

With this and the Fed Cup debut, it’s been a great month at “home” for the 22-year-old Czech.

She might have made it anyway through the qualifying (with more wear and tear).

But Muchova got the wild card after veteran Lucie Safarova, in her home finale, gave hers up because she didn’t feel she had the level to play.

Nadal pays tribute to Ferrer

It seemed almost fitting that David Ferrer’s penultimate goodbye would take place against Rafael Nadal, on Pista Rafa Nadal, in Barcelona.

it was their 32nd meeting , going back to …2004.

Nadal was happy for the 6-3, 6-3, win, but said it was an emotional day.

“Very sad to say goodbye to a good friend, a friend that we shared all these things during all our career. A tough moment, but I really hope that he’s very happy with his decision, and he’s able to do whatever he wants,” Nadal said.

Ferrer’s “final” finale will be next week in Madrid.

Who’s Benjamin D’Hoe? He bets

In the ongoing battle to curb the scourge of match-fixing, the Tennis Integrity Unit has suspended one Benjamin D’Hoe.

In a universe where whistle-blower Marco Trungelliti is having a tough time, the TIU has given D’Hoe, a 22-year-old Belgian with no ATP ranking and an ITF ranking of 386, a six-month suspension and $3,000 fine for betting on tennis.

Most of it (all but a month and $500) could be suspended.

D’Hoe self-reported. He placed over 900 (!) “mostly low-value bets” on pro matches during a 27-day period in 2017. None of them were on his matches.

We all feel safer now, right?