A Postcard from New York

Dear Mum and Dad,

This is it. The final, electronic, grand-slam postcard of 2017. All the way from New York City! At least that’s where the photos were taken. As per tradition, I am writing this a few weeks after the event concluded (five, to be precise), which I’m going to argue is because I am in denial. How can the grand-slam tour be over already?


So I didn’t see Andy this time round ūüė¶ But I did see Jamie play ūüôā Twice! I even had an almost-conversation with Jamie’s bodyguard. It went something like this:

Bodyguard: “Ma’am, please put away your (amazingly beautiful Scottish) flag,”.
Cat Mac: “Oh. Yes… Sorry…” *shuffles awkwardly and removes flag from innocent position around neck*

The photo below depicts said bodyguard doing his bodyguard thing, moments after telling me my flag was an inappropriate accessory. Seriously, what do these grand-slam tournaments have against flags? Anyway, between my flag fiasco and me cheering “Well done Jamie!!!!’ a million times in my proudest Scottish accent, I think I achieved my goal of letting Jamie know that his fellow country-people had his back. I’ve also learned that when there’s a competition to get to court-side for signage opportunities, the cute, tiny children are always going to win. No worries, guys, I’ll just chill back here in the second row, grinning madly like the cool, 30-year old mahoosive fan that I am.

Tennis aside, I really enjoyed my brief stint in New York and for the first time in three visits, I felt like I was finally getting to grips with the city – a feeling I also had when I was in Paris. FYI the number 7 subway line in New York is the equivalent of the Victoria line in London; it’s the line that takes you everywhere you need to go. At one end, Flushing Meadows. At the other end, Times Square and Grand Central Station. And somewhere in between, our hotel for the first few days, and my Air BnB when I returned for the final day of the slam. Oh yes, I have this NYC thing all sussed out!

One particular novelty from this New York adventure was the rare reunion with Kenneth and Anna, aka both siblings, at the same time. Sure, we never meet in the UK but New York, you say? Yes, let’s have brunch!

We also wandered along the High Line, once a rail-track, now an elevated linear park, which towers above street level, allowing you to get away from the traffic and explore central New York from a raised perspective. It’s a very cool concept which offers a slice of relaxation in an otherwise hectic Manhattan.

Brunch was a common theme on this trip, as it is in most weekends in my life, and New York did not disappoint. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever paid quite so much for a brunch as I did when Anna and I went for brunch at Bluestone Lane beside Central Park (post-run, might I add). Oh America, with your crazy tax and tipping systems. This is where the girl hovered an iPad in front of me, but didn’t let go, so she could fully observe just how much I tipped. No pressure at all. Thankfully, the food was delicious and fortunately for my bank account, I do not live in New York.

Another highlight, later the same day, was going up the Rockefeller Center¬†which gives you sweeping views over Manhattan and, crucially, the Empire State Building (as opposed to being inside it). Whilst I may have bought my most expensive brunch of life earlier that day, at least this ultimate tourist experience was free, thanks to my pal Sara hooking me up with free tickets via her friend who works in the same building. A recurring theme of all of my blogs: having friends is the best. Fun fact: I stole photo inspiration for the pic below from a Lonely Planet blog post titled: ‘10 iconic NYC Instagram Spots‘. LP knows what it’s chatting about.

Though I’m a fan of Manhattan, I’m really glad we stayed across the water in Long Island City, and explored, albeit very briefly, a different part of New York. Before I headed to Flushing Meadows on that finals Sunday, I took the scenic and novel¬†$2.75¬†NYC Ferry from the end of my street (Hunters Point South) all the way down to Dumbo, a great starting-point to explore Brooklyn, and view the landmark Brooklyn Bridge. I didn’t really have any great purpose other than wandering about aimlessly but loved having the freedom and time to do just that, especially with the sun on my side.¬†

I came away from this final trip thinking, ‘I could do this again’. In fact, with the exception of the Australian Open, for obvious reasons, I’m half considering doing the rest of the grand-slam tour again next year. Is that crazy? At least, in my mind now, it seems pointless going to Paris or New York unless I’ve coordinated the dates with the respective grand-slam tournaments. If tennis can feature, why go there at any other time?!

However, for 2017, all that’s left for the era of catmacbirthdayslam is to focus my efforts on the rest of my parkrun challenge. Can you believe I’ve been running consistently for 10 months? Maybe next time I go to NYC, parkrun will be there, too! I can dream!

CatMac X

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Grand Slam Number 4

Four has always been my favourite number. I think, in part, this is because I had a t-shirt as a four year old which read ‘It’s fun being four’. Have I used this reference before? Anyway, the t-shirt was right; it was fun being four. It was probably also my favourite t-shirt until I acquired my catmacbirthdayslam fan shirt at the beginning of the year. 26 years later, having conquered the closer grand slams in Paris and London, it was time for fun four to strike again as I hit my fourth and final grand slam in New York City: the US Open.

Compared to the other slams, I was extremely disorganised when it came to buying tickets, and I only financially committed myself two weeks before my departure. Part of me was waiting to see if ticket prices would go down (they didn’t), and I was also nervously waiting and wondering if Andy would definitely be playing. His seeding in the tournament would determine which days of the tournament he’d be playing on. We decided to go on the Tuesday of the second week which, had Andy played and reached the quarter-finals, he would have featured on. I take some consolation from this fact!

I ended up paying between ¬£100-¬£150 for both my day session ticket on Louis Armstrong and my night session on Arthur Ashe; one of the more expensive days of my life. However, all of the matches that we watched were quarter-finals so maybe that’s just the price you pay? To be honest, I’m still not quite sure if I went about getting tickets the best way. Grounds-pass tickets only seemed to be available up until the Monday of the second week of the tournament and, as that was the day that Anna and I flew into New York, this wasn’t an option. However, top tip, which I wish we’d known in advance: the second Thursday of the tournament is completely free! Say what? I know. Also, it was possible to buy a grounds-pass for the finals on the last Saturday and Sunday of the tournament for $31.50 which I embraced, only purchasing online the day before. This is how I was able to watch Alfie Hewett in the final of the mens wheelchair singles.

So what did I make of the final grand slam of the year? Flushing Meadows is definitely the biggest tennis hub of the four slams. As a result, I never felt claustrophobic or stressed because of there being too many people, nor did I have to hunt down somewhere to sit like I do at Wimbledon – simply because there is just so much space. The down side of this is that less people end up in the stadiums watching the tennis, perhaps because it’s more sociable to stay out in the grounds. As I mentioned in my last post, it was really disappointing to see such empty stadiums for the doubles and wheelchair matches. On reflection, I feel like this isn’t the case at Wimbledon because there are fewer options for places to go: people either have the choice of being rammed on the hill or watching tennis on a court.

Arthur Ashe is an incredible stadium and despite what some people had told me in advance, you can see the match clearly, even from the highest-up section of the stadium. I almost think it’s better to sit up in this section anyway because then you get a greater sense of the size of the crowd and the atmosphere. However, I did find it odd that silence is not sought in the same way that it is at Wimbledon. On Centre Court of Wimbledon, people shhh you for whispering to your neighbour. Contrastingly, at the US Open, there is a low buzz of noise during the entire match with people coming and going from their seats constantly. I guess it’s hard to police such a big stadium, and maybe it seems pointless in the top sections which are so far away from the players; are they too far away to be a distraction? There’s also music played at every given opportunity which adds to the general sense that the focus of the US Open is entertainment; the tennis comes second.

Despite my misgivings, I thought Arthur Ashe was very impressive and I loved my uber-American experience watching Venus Williams play. On the other hand, the make-shift Louis Armstrong stadium, the second biggest/most important stadium at the US Open, was almost embarrassing. They are currently renovating or building the actual Louis-Armstrong stadium which will be ready for the 2018 tournament. In the meantime, an underwhelming, steel structure was propped together for 2017. I felt a bit ripped off that¬†I’d paid over ¬£100 to sit in this temporary replacement. I didn’t even have a proper seat, not that this actually mattered given how few people were watching the tennis. Thankfully this is where I saw Jamie and Martina win their quarter-final so I still have positive memories of the court, despite its questionable quality.

Ach, it was fine, but it’s no Arthur Ashe!


Despite my criticism, I feel like, apart from Wimbledon, which has an unfair advantage as I’ve been there so many times, I experienced a fuller US Open experience than I did for either the Australian Open or Roland Garros. The final of the Australian Open was epic – the best grand slam final of the year by far and worth every penny of that trip – but I do wish I’d seen earlier stages of the tournament as well. The earlier stages are, in a way, more what these tournaments are all about. Similarly with Roland-Garros, I rocked up for the semi-finals, which, don’t get me wrong, were again incredible, but by that time, there’s less tennis going on in the grounds and I wasn’t able to get a true sense of Roland-Garros as a tournament.

So in conclusion, I basically need to do the grand-slam tour again, but go to the entire two weeks of all four tournaments to fully appreciate them. How can this somehow be my job? Answers on a postcard, please!

A Postcard from London

Hello from London! The least exotic location of the four grand slams, but by far the most convenient. Interestingly, despite Wimbledon taking place on my doorstep, this is probably the most belated tennis postcard of them all. Still, who doesn’t want to remember Wimbledon one month later?

In my head, I was going to be at the Strawberries and Screen big screen at King’s Cross every day after work, cramming as much tennis action into two weeks as possible, whilst maintaining a full-time job. It was a wonderful vision. However, despite my location, and moving my weekly runs to be pre-work, rather than post-work (yes, before work!) I didn’t watch as much tennis as I had hoped; normal life seemed to get in the way. Maybe in future, I should just take the entire 2 weeks off work, temporarily move to a holiday home in Wimbledon, do all of my life admin pre-12pm and then set myself up in front of a TV/large screen/court on a daily basis as appropriate? Roll on retirement and this actually being my life!

However, despite not being able to watch all of the matches I wanted to watch, I found that I generally knew what was going on thanks to my good friends, the BBC. I wish they’d do ‘Today at Wimbledon’-esque nightly summaries for all of the grand slams. I’m sure Sue Barker would like the extra cash!

So, Wimbledon 2017, eh? Would you like a helpful recap?

(1) Eight singles players withdrew mid-match in the first round but still received the £35,000 losers prize for starting the match. Incroyable. This needs to be addressed РI would have been very angry had I been a fan who had paid to be there on those early days of the tournament.
(2) Stan the Man, the guy who beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals of Roland-Garros with yours truly as a witness went out in the first round. What on earth? Grass is clearly not his surface.
(3) Nadal and Muller played a fourth-round, 5-hour thriller on Court Number 1, with Muller eventually winning the tiebreak whilst I watched a Roger Federer masterclass on Centre Court and then toddled off home. I do kind of feel like I missed the match of the tournament. Fail.
(4) I saw Andy play (and win) not once, but twice in the space of four days. Amazing but a little bit stressful.
(5) After losing to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals, Andy famously corrected that idiot American journalist in the press conference that followed. No, Sam Querrey is not the first American to get to the semi-finals of a major since 2009. Have you heard of Venus and Serena Williams? Call yourself a journalist?
(5) SOW Venus Williams knocked out our girl Konta in the women’s semi-finals, after Jo’s impressive run on the grass. Boo. Refreshingly though, Venus did not go on to win Wimbledon, and was beaten in straight sets in the final by Spaniard Muguruza. Yay.
(6) Djokovic retired in his¬†quarter-final, an injury which we now know will prevent him from playing for the rest of the year. This means that there’s no chance of me watching him in this year of grand slams though I did watch him jog past the practice courts at Wimbledon. I must admit, I was quite excited. Anna, less so.
(7) Federer won Wimbledon for an incredible 8th time, defeating a determined, yet sadly injured Martin Cilic in straight sets. It wasn’t the best final because of Cilic’s injury but hats off to him for completing the match.
(8) Wimbledon ended on a high with a cracker of a mixed doubles final between defending champions Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen, and thee Martina Hingis and former number 1 doubles player in the world, Jamie Murray. A very entertaining match and ¬†Martina and Jamie prevailed much to my delight. I’m forever a Murray-for-the-win kind of girl!

So yes, that’s my summary – I’m sure you are thrilled to have read my post-Wimbledon analysis! When I looked back at my other ‘postcard’ posts, I realised I had written more about the cities I’d visited, rather than the ins and outs of the tennis. I guess this post is a reflection of what Wimbledon is all about for me: the tennis. Having said that though, I obviously did make a point of seeking out Wimbledon big-screenage when I was able to: after work with my colleagues near Kings Cross (I made it once!); with my flatmates at the top of One New Change beside St Paul’s; and then in Millennium Square in Bristol, as part of a reunion weekend with Megan and Viv. The UK knows how to cater for the avid tennis fan!

Remember in my last postcard post, I said that this year was unintentionally turning into a Nadal slam? Well don’t worry, Andy has swiftly overtaken in the rankings. Thanks to my double-whammy of Andy at Wimbledon, I have now seen him play in three matches this year, whilst I have watched both Nadal and Federer two times each over the three grand slams. Not bad considering they are three of ‘the big four’/some of the greatest tennis players of all time!

So we haven’t bought our tickets for the US Open yet as they are still pretty expensive and we’re convinced they will go down in price. Yes, Dad would be proud, I will be forever a bargain hunter! We’re also not sure if Andy is going to be playing? However, we’re definitely going to New York so here’s hoping Andy’s hip recovers, we miraculously choose tickets for a day that he’s playing, and then he wins a grand slam! Not much to ask for, right?

Roll on Flushing Meadows!

CatMac X

When Roland-Garros Is On ITV4

Somehow February turned into June and Roland-Garros, the second grand slam tournament of the tour, and finale of the clay season, is in full swing. Though it’s been a few months since the last grand slam took place in Australia, various tennis-themed headlines have distracted me from the grand slam drought:

(1) On 22 March, an hour long online queue led to me successfully acquiring tickets for the semi finals of Roland-Garros (was very late to work that day);
(2) A letter arrived through the post from Wimbledon¬†in mid-March to say I’d been successful in the ballot, on my first attempt (March was an exciting month);
(3) My friend Sara took me to the Wimbledon Tour and Museum for my birthday one sunny Saturday afternoon in April (such a joy when Andy Murray is the current champion);
(4) The Great British Tennis Weekend¬†in May saw me discover my local tennis club and start a beginners course (we weren’t taught tennis at school in Inverness, very deprived);
(5) Last week, I booked my flights to the US/Canada for my US Open tennis adventure in September (this birthday keeps on giving!);
(6) And of course there’s always my favourite Google search: Andy Murray. No jokes, my phone has decided, without prompt, to make this a favourite on my Safari homepage. It’s important to find out what the world is saying about my favourite player. Shingles? Oh no. Elbow injury? How unfortunate. 30?

Happy birthday, Andy!


It’s fair to say it’s not been the best season for Andy so far but it’s made me so happy to watch him fight through the opening rounds of Roland-Garros, and even more delighted that this viewing hasn’t been through refreshing an online newsfeed, as I had anticipated, but through live coverage, courtesy of ITV4. Who actually knew? Has this always been the case? Have I been depriving myself of the pinnacle of the clay season year after year? Thank goodness I discovered in time this year! In all seriousness, it’s like Christmas came early. Every day this week, I’ve been in work early, to leave early, to get home as soon as possible and dive my face in front of my laptop screen. I want to watch as much of this tournament as I can.

 


I’d originally considered visiting Paris twice during this tournament, to experience both the early rounds and the finals, and to ensure I actually saw Andy play (remember that time I went to Australia?…). However, work constraints meant this wasn’t possible, and with an American adventure still to finance, it was probably for the best. Instead, I focused my efforts on getting finals tickets and when tickets went on sale on 22 March, I successfully managed to get myself 7000th-odd in the RG online queue for tickets. Unfortunately, the final was sold out by the time the 7000 people in front of me had finished their online shopping, so instead I opted to get tickets for the two men’s semi-finals. Two matches for the price of one? Sounds like a good deal to me. Read more about my experiences of getting tickets for the grand slams¬†here.

Viv, a friend from Japan, is joining me for the Parisian adventure which will see us hit up Roland-Garros in the flesh on Friday, go for a cheeky Parkrun on the Saturday morning and then hopefully, if I haven’t made up that this exists, watch the final on a big screen by the Eiffel Tower on Sunday. Only two rounds stand between me and an Andy Murray semi final – fingers crossed he gets the memo this time round!