Federation Cup – USA vs. Germany – Day 1 – Feb 11, 2017

“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup and I’ve played Fed Cup for 13 years now… it is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” said Andrea Petkovic, who plays for Germany.

When I signed up to work as a volunteer during the Federation Cup match between USA and Germany in Maui this weekend, I had no idea I would be witnessing an inadvertent resurrection of history. And a historic blunder.

The tournament organizers mistakenly played the Nazi WW II stanza during the opening ceremonies instead of the current German national anthem.

Technically, I was not an eyewitness. I was actually in the tournament office picking up my credentials (badge) during the opening ceremonies when I heard a ruckus from the stadium. After the first match and my duty was over, this is what read in Maui News about the incident.

“In match (rubber) No. 1 Alison RISKE (USA) met  Andrea PETKOVIC (GER) at the Royal Lahaina Resort’s center court.

Unfortunately, during the opening ceremonies, a defunct stanza of Germany’s national anthem was played, which did not set a great atmosphere for the German contingent, or Petkovic. The stanza is reflective of a former (Nazi) regime during WWII.

“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup and I’ve played Fed Cup for 13 years now… it is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” she said.

Nevertheless, German fans with drums, bells and vuvuzela chanted “Petko, Petko” in support of Petkovic.”

It was actually a minor miracle that the first rubber of this Federation Cup was played and completed. USA won 7-6, 6-2 with two rain delays adding to a nearly 3-hour match. The forecast today was for 100% chance of rain in Kaanapali on West Maui where the tournament is being played. Another powerful southwestern surge is bringing strong winds and occasional heavy rain this weekend.

You can see on the top radar map the threat of rain 2 hours or so before the start of the match, and on the bottom one what it looked like an hour after it was over. A deluge!  Back home at the Rainbow Shower, where that photo was taken in the middle of the passing storm, I even heard thunder. Which is extremely rare in Hawaii.

Anyway, I did not wait to find out what happened with the second match. I left right after the first rain delay in the first set.  I knew what was coming. So I figured it makes no sense to get drenched for nothing.

On the way out, I noticed this cute food truck – EL TACO BORACHO or EL DRUNKEN TACO in English. The second match had just been suspended, so everybody was still in the stadium. Buy El Drunken Taco was doing roaring business during the intermission between the matches. 🙂
I should be back at my volunteer post again tomorrow, weather permitting, of course.

Till then… ALOHA!

 * * *

Federation Cup – USA vs Germany – Day 2 – Feb 12, 2017

CoCo Vandeweghe Seals Victory for USA in Comeback after Losing First Set

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday’s southwestern storm has now passed into the northeastern oblivion and bright sunshine illuminated the center court at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Center where this weekend’s match between USA and Germany is being held. At 80F, it felt actually hot in the sun.

The eventual winner of today’s first match – CoCo Vandeweghe – can attest to that. After losing the first set to Andrea Petkovic of Germany, CoCo took a medical time out in the second set to recover from heat exhaustion. When she came back,  she staged a heroic comeback that put the U.S. into the semifinals of the Federation Cup for the first time since 2010.

Here are some pictures from today’s event.

I took the rainbow shot at home this morning before heading out to the tournament venue. That’s how my day started today – with a heavenly smile spread across the western sky.

 * * *

Sports as a healing aid and character builder



I am sure that it may come as a surprise to some of my FB friends to see me involved in organized sports, like the Federation Cup this weekend. Because you know me as a writer, musician, shaman, filmmaker, war correspondent, business analyst, etc. And since I have said publicly that I despise organized gladiator sports like football, baseball etc., you might get the impression that I am against sports in general.

Nothing can be further from the truth. In my lifetime, I have actually played, at one time or another, just about every sport known to man – summer or winter. But never for money.

So let me fill in some blanks for you on the topic of Sports and Me.


In my youth, and by that I mean during my preteen years,  I used to be quite chubby and uncoordinated. Stank at gymnastics. And hated it, too.

My main extracurricular activities were music (piano) and soccer.  I was pretty good at the former, not so much at the latter. But when I got a REAL football from my elder cousin when I was 10, that made me instantly the most popular guy on my street.

Back then, in the post WW II years, we used to play soccer with “krpenjača” (rag ball) footballs. It was a ball made out of rags tied together with a string. Kind or like a roll of yarn. So having a REAL leather football that can actually bounce (!) was an utter delight for kids in a neighborhood like mine.


By the time I was in junior high, I started a tryout for a local youth soccer team. Once again, I was not very good at it. But I loved the sport. So the coach tolerated me.

Then one day an “older” man (who was actually in his mid 20s 🙂  – but that was “old” to me) approached me on the beach and said, “how would you like to try out for basketball?”

Basketball? I had never thought of it. By that stage, I was a freshman in high school and was beginning to realize that the most popular guys with the girls were not the pianists but the star athletes. So I set out to become one.

Lo and behold, by my senior year in high school, I was the captain of the varsity team. I even played basketball in college during my freshman year before a shoulder injury put me out of commission. Much to the dismay and shock of my teammates, I decided that academics was more important than sports and dropped out of basketball.

During my high school years, I also skied and skated in winter, and swam and did some high cliff diving in the summer.


It was not until 1970, two years after I had graduated from the university, that I picked a tennis racquet for the first time. It was a love at first sight. That’s how I also met my first wife – on a tennis court.

When she was gone (brain tumor, age 25), I would work 8 to 5 or 6 in a downtown corporate office (IBM), and then spend the rest of each evening on the court. And all weekends.


The reason I look like an emaciated stick insect in this picture is that I had been existing basically on one tuna can per day, trying to save money for our first apartment.


For a number of years that was my life basically – work and tennis. There was nothing else. My first wife had died after only 6 months of marriage. And I was not interested in dating or anything else besides tennis. So tennis became my tranquilizer. It helped me deal with grief and heal eventually.

For most of the rest of my life, my love affair with tennis continued. Maybe not as intensely as in the early years. But I continued playing it for 35 years. I finally hung up my racquets in 1995 because of recurring back injuries. I have played maybe once or twice since then, only with my nephew, the son of that cousin who gave me my first football when I was 10. But I have not played tournaments or been on tennis teams since 1995.

Still every chance I got, I would watch at least the majors – the Australian, French and US Open, and, of course, the Wimbledon, the granddaddy of all tennis events.


It was in May 1978 that Rothman’s, then the title sponsor of the Canadian Open, organized an exhibition match in downtown Toronto to promote the upcoming tournament. They had set up a makeshift tennis court in between the Royal Trust and the Toronto Dominion skyscrapers.

It was an ideal place for a promotional event. At lunchtime, that area teems with people – office workers trying to catch some sun rays.

Well, I was one of them back then, working for IBM, but longing to spread my wings and fly solo. But I had a 2-year old at home, and another on on the way. I also had a mortgage and only about $3,000 in savings. So I was scared to break out of the warmth of the IBM protective corporate shell.

When I took my lunch break on that warm and sunny May day, I never expected to see a tennis court in the middle of the downtown business district. But when I heard the announcer calling for volunteers to play in an exhibition doubles match against the two tennis stars who were on hand, I jumped at the chance.

Back then, it was so UNLIKE me to do something like that – act spontaneously and take risks. Which in this case meant taking my jacket off, tucking my tie into my shirt, before I picking up the racquet and stepping on the “court” wearing my business shoes.

I do not remember anymore who the two tennis stars were that I and another volunteer played during that lunch hour. All I know is that they were famous, like Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe at the time. Which is why the match attracted a big crowd. I had never played before any crowd of any size before. Especially not in the business attire. But that warm May day in 1978, that’s exactly what I did.

Want to know how I felt? I felt stark naked. Protective shell built up over years of inhibitions – shattered! In an instant.

I was so nervous and excited that I thought my heart would jump right out when my turn came to serve for the first time. But it was not hear; it was exhilaration that made me feel that way.

A few days later I quit IBM to start my own business. “Damn the torpedoes… full speed ahead”(famous order issued by Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay, 1864).


So that’s why I felt so much at home today at the Federation Cup matches in Monday. I was reminiscing about the years in the mid-1970s when I would plan my annual vacations around major tennis tournaments.

And then, as I was trying to find some photos for this story, I realized something pretty amazing: I do not have a single picture of me playing tennis, the sport I had been practicing almost daily for 35 years!

Guess that’s okay. It means playing was more important than posing.

 * * *




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