Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Swiss not named Roger

When you’re asked to name a champion from Switzerland who plays right-handed and swings that backhand with one arm, chances are your answer will be Roger Federer. And why not? With 17 major trophies that adorn his palatial home with wife Mirka and their two sets of twins (two girls and two boys), when you combine the words “Swiss” and “tennis,” it’s almost always two initials: RF.

Well, not last Sunday. Not when the Serbian world number one named Novak Djokovic was ready to be crowned champion but lost. Novak was on a 28-match winning streak. He hadn’t lost the entire clay court season, winning in Monte Carlo and Rome. In the quarterfinals of the French Open, he embarrassed the 9-time champion Rafael Nadal. Two afternoons later, he met Andy Murray and defeated the Scot in five sets. The only piece of shiny hardware missing from his collection was the one they don’t sell in Paris. Because you have to earn a Roland Garros trophy.

Facing Stanislas Wawrinka in the finals two days ago, Djokovic won the first set. He was 90 minutes and just two sets away from completing a career Grand Slam. Until Stan concocted a mix of powerful Federer-like winners that bewildered Novak. At day’s end, it was a lopsided display of power tennis: While Novak connected on 30 winners, Stan smothered 60.

This wasn’t the first time that Wawrinka was seeded 8th and expected to lose in the championship round. In January of last year, he was such a sure-to-be runner-up that Nadal fans already dreamt of their Spanish maestro winning the Australian Open. Stan stunned Rafa in four sets.

Last Sunday was a replica: he was No. 8 facing No. 1 with the top-seed an almost-undefeated player this 2015. The result? The same shocker: Stan stuns Novak in four.

I got to see the Swiss the other week. After his match against Dusan Lajovic, I entered the press room and was seated on the third row, about 15 feet away from the small stage arranged with one seat ready. Stan enters the room with no fuss. He’s no mega-star in Paris like a Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or a Gael Monfils. In fact, en route to winning seven matches to win Roland Garros, he had to endure beating two Frenchmen and was often derided and booed by the partisan Parisians who longed for their own to triumph.

During the press conference, Stan was relaxed. First, he took questions in English. With zero emotion, he spoke. I don’t even remember what he talked about. He next spoke in French. Samot! I couldn’t understand his fluent French as the mediamen peppered him with queries.

Midway through his interview, I pulled out my phone and snapped a shot. I was quickly approached by a coordinator and told that taking photos was disallowed. Ooops. I didn’t know. I was asked to delete the picture.

Moments after the non-dramatic Q & A, he stood up and walked out of the room — which wasn’t filled to capacity.

Then, as Stan exited, a different atmosphere ensued. The mediamen entered quickly and sat on every available chair. There was a high-strung mood. I soon found out why: like a movie star would enter a hushed room, Mr. Federer gallantly strides inside. There are no claps, obviously; this wasn’t a meet-and-greet with the Roger Federer Fans Club. These were unbiased ladies and gentlemen. But you can’t help the added buzz when he sits across you, face to face.

Ever the gentleman, Roger is polite and respectful. He takes much longer because of more questions.

This happened on Day 3 of the two-week long tournament. And, if you had a crystal ball and predicted that a Swiss would win the men’s title, it wouldn’t have been so surprising. Roger is acknowledged as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

Only this time, the Swiss isn’t Roger. It’s a Swiss who, last year in Paris, lost in the first round and who, entering the finals last Sunday, previously lost 17 of 20 to Novak.

Never mind him wearing the funniest pair of boxer-like shorts, it’s “Stan The Man.”

NBA Finals: A Preview

Ace sports journalist Jonas Panerio of CDN, legendary coach (and Provincial Board Member) Yayoy Alcoseba and businessman Mark Garcia provide commentary on the NBA Finals…

JONAS PANERIO. How would thee Warriors claim thy NBA title? Let me count the ways: While it’s true that the Warriors players lack NBA Finals experience, they have passed a battery of tests in the mighty Western Conference, which includes beating future MVP Anthony Davis, “outhustling” the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies before completing a “gentleman’s sweep” of the Houston Rockets. Along the way, the Warriors have laid taste to the who’s-who of the All-NBA First Team – Davis, Marc Gasol and James Harden. The Warriors have proven without a doubt that they can emerge victorious in whichever way possible – be it a slow-down, low-scoring affair, a fast-paced shootout and everything in between.

In comparison, Cleveland dispatched of a sub-500 Celtics squad, a Bulls team that forgot how to play basketball and a Hawks team that while willing, did not have the manpower needed to make Cleveland sweat.

Let’s get this out of the way: LeBron James is the best player drawing breath on the planet right now. But as Warriors forward Draymond Green so succinctly pointed out, “He is not god.” The Warriors will trust on their disciplined defense, not to mention their platoon of like-sized, long-limbed wings in Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston and of course, First Team All-Defense Green to keep the “King” at bay. If all else fails, there’s always NBA 2nd Team All-Defense member Andrew Bogut as the Warriors last line of defense.

In contrast, who will Cleveland assign to defend the reigning league MVP, Steph Curry? The choices don’t offer much in the way of answers. A less-than 100% Kyrie Irving defending the cat-quick Curry will prove to be disastrous. Okay, so place Iman Shumpert on Curry then. But where does that leave Irving? Against the larger Thompson and Barnes? Get the picture now?

And finally, the Warriors have a rocking, uber-loud arena to call home. It’s not fondly called the “Roaracle” for no reason at all. The Warriors are 7-1 at Oracle Arena in the Playoffs and the Cavs will soon find out how tough it is to come away with a victory there. Come to think of it, only three teams have won at Oracle this season. Three.

YAYOY ALCOSEBA. I tip my hat to LeBron James; going to the Finals five straight times is no easy task. I think Cleveland will take the championship. No disrespect to Golden State, who is equally up to to the task. But for me being a coach for the longest time, having experience will play a crucial role in winning the championship. I don’t have to explain the championship pedigree LeBron brings to table. The Xs and Os is there but at the end of the day it’s the team who wants it more. The team who controls the rebounds will win the championship. Every position in this type of game is crucial. More rebounds, more positions.

MARK GARCIA. This year’s Finals will have all the intrigue since it will be a matchup of the current MVP vs the 4-time MVP. It will be interesting to see how Curry performs in the biggest stage as well as how LeBron would respond especially after last year’s loss to the Spurs. Both teams are on a roll heading to the Finals. The Warriors would rely on their high-powered motion offense and lock down defense while the Cavs will rely on their much-improved playoff defense, LeBron’s post up game and passing ability.

It will be interesting who the Warriors would use to defend LeBron as well as who the Cavs will use to defend Curry and Thompson. Will the Warriors double LeBron in the post to force him to pass out to other guys for the open shot? Or would they play LeBron one on one and won’t mind letting him score 40 to 50 points as long as the other Cavs players aren’t involved in the game?

Will a jump-shooting team like the Warriors finally win a championship? Can the Cavs win it by isolating LeBron all game long? Will LeBron’s experience put the Cavs over the top?

In the end, I think that the Warriors motion offense, outside shooting, fast break game, bench play, and multiple LeBron defenders (Barnes, Iguodala, Green) would overwhelm the Cavs. I pick the Warriors to win it in 6 but I would never count out the Cavs just because they have LeBron who, together with Kobe and Curry, are my favorite NBA players to watch.

Sightseeing with Jana

PARIS — One item that I never fail to carry each time I travel is my pair of Asics Gel Kayano 19 shoes. Almost every morning during our European sojourn here, I get up earlier than the two girls; I lace my shoes, sip a cup of jolt-awakening coffee and I’m speeding out of the hotel door.

A few mornings ago was different. That’s because I was paired with a running buddy: my only child Jana. Jasmin was supposed to join our trio but she woke up feeling not too well. And so it was a father-and-daughter date along the romantic streets of this most romantic city.

Starting near the Opera district where we’re housed, we slow-walked to stretch our cold muscles until our steps turned into a relaxed jog.

Prior to our trip, we had planned to go sightseeing via running. And so Jana was fully-equipped: wearing her pink Nike shoes, she wore 2XU compression tights and snapped-on a Garmin 15 GPS watch to track our distance.

In many of the quaint side streets here, you’ll be stepping on cobblestones and brick-layered floor. Watching your steps for uneven bricks is part of the challenge. And while Paris is one of our planet’s most luxurious of cities, home to iconic art galleries and fashionable people, the streets are often littered with trash and cigarette butts. It was part of the maze, zigzagging to avoid the obstacles.

As Jana and I exited the narrow alleys, we soon arrived at a majestic building: The Louvre. Jogging beside this incredible structure — with 10 million visitors each year — was surreal.

The next stop was refreshing: the Seine River. It cuts across the heart of Paris and snakes through the city. We climbed the bridge to inhale the cold wind that cooled our heating bodies. It was 14C degrees. This is the beauty of running with this aircon-like temperature that envelopes this continent. You don’t tire easily. That’s why you’ll notice hundreds of slim-figured people doing the same forward-movement activity.

I brought along my phone and with the help of Google Maps (the most important App in any travel), we traversed through the Jardin des Tuileries. This historic open space built in 1667 is awash with gardens (“Jardin”), fountains, forest-like trees, picnic grounds. From the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, we sprinted a straight path on soft clay and pebbles.

We did not run nonstop. The intersections provided the mini-stops to relax. They forced us to look around 360 degrees each time we arrived, gazing at these monuments where Napoleon Bonaparte once walked.

Continuing our journey, we headed north-west to trek along possibly the most famous street anywhere: the Champs Elysees. It’s not flat but a steady incline. At 8:30 in the morning, the shops were still closed, including the seven-story flagship store of Louis Vuitton.

Thirsting for water, we found a store and bought a bottle for 2 Euro. That’s expensive. A tiny bottle for over P100. The price you pay in Champs Elysees.

At the top of the 1.9-km. avenue stood another stunning masterpiece. It’s the Arc de Triomphe. It stands erect at the center of a rotunda — imagine a giant-size Fuente Osmeña — with 12 outer roads that lead throughout the city. Pausing to recharge our legs after the climb, Jana and I stood in amazement.

We plotted our next move: We ran along Avenue George V. It was a welcome downhill drive, running past the Four Seasons Hotel and the Crazy Horse cabaret stop. We emerged back to La Seine and coasted along the riverside.

Then we heard sirens and police cars. Thinking that there was some operation on-going (maybe they were trying to catch a thief), we continued our hike. At the end of the bend, a policeman approached us and, upon closer inspection, said in classic French accent, “You are not a suz-pect!”

Whew! We were relieved. Only later did we realize the truth: There was a race going on and, not wearing race bibs, we were ushered into a different road.

Finally, as the Garmin watch showed 8.0 (kms.), Jana and I stopped. We high-fived, smiled, snapped a photo and looked up. Ahh, the Eiffel Tower.