Not only are my favorite players usually gone (with the exception, this week, of the sublime Andrea Petkovic) but so are my favorite announcers, as the coverage moves from the Tennis Channel to ESPN and the cool, wry apercus of Paul Annacone get replaced by the juvenile gushings of Brad Gilbert.
Yesterday on NPR Tom Ashbrook, host of On Point, announced that he would be talking to Fareed Zakaria, who would be defending the importance of a liberal arts education. "Is he right," Ashbrook asked, "or is he old-fashioned?"
A liberal arts graduate with a love of tradition, I thought to myself: Perhaps he's both.
It had been a few years since I'd attended the Miami Open as a paying spectator and not a member of the media, so I was surprised when the man at the ticket counter told me a simple grounds pass would cost me $81. The last time I stood at that counter I resisted when I was told I had to buy a stadium ticket - "All I want is a grounds pass," I argued - for $45.
I was also surprised by the long lines, before 11 am on a Saturday, waiting to gain entrance. (Though they helped explain the exorbitant tickets: higher prices equal bigger crowds.) With parking at $15, I had already spent nearly $100.
I watched Daria Gavrilova, the young Russian who beat Sharapova, hitting on a practice court, and then in the Grandstand saw Andrea Petkovic roll to victory over Kristina Mladenovic. After the match, the brainy Serbian-German happily signed autographs and posed for selfies.
The next full match I watched was Jerzy Janowicz vs. Roberto Bautista Agut. It was the first time I had seen the tall, eccentric Pole in person. He won the first set and then went away, as he tends to do, after being broken in the second. After losing one service game he walked to the net and asked a ball boy for the balls; he received three and proceeded to slam each one out of the court and over the nearby trees. Though I liked how he halted his serve at one point in honor of a passing V of low-flying pelicans. He took a medical timeout in the third set, apparently because of a foot problem; I stood up from my top row seat and, turning around, watched the women's doubles match on the adjacent court. At $81, I felt entitled to two matches at the same time.
In the same issue of The Spectator, Jeffrey Archer wrote a Diary from India, where he met with a former movie executive who told him that Hollywood villains are rarely Chinese or Russian anymore, because both countries are important importers of American movies. The new villain du jour is North Korean.
Arriving in Mumbai, Archer described an experience I remember: Sitting at a stoplight and seeing a small child approach with a stack of English paperbacks for sale. Archer rolled his window down and the little salesman asked him: "Would you like the latest Jeffrey Archer?" To which Archer replied: "I am the latest Jeffrey Archer."
I love a magazine that can make me see things differently - or at least from a new perspective. Like many people, I was outraged when I saw videos of Isis members smashing statues in the Mosul museum. They seemed, somehow, not quite human. Yet in the March 14th Spectator, Simon Jenkins remembers the Allied bombing of Dresden and notes: "We saw eliminating an enemy's heritage and culture as justifiable revenge..."