June 24, 2017

Gracias, Bogota by Junior Williams


Gracias, Bogota


By Junior Williams
I had a lot on my mind as my flight from Miami touched down at Bogota,Colombia’s El Dorado Airport Wednesday afternoon. Most prominent was whether or not I would regret my maiden voyage to South America.
A number of my tennis fan friends chose to skip the Davis Cup World Group Play-off between the United States and Colombia, citing U.S. State Department travel warnings and Bogota’s reputation for crime which goes back to the drug wars of the late 20th century.

When a driver from my hotel picked me up and engaged me in conversation -being nice enough not to ridicule my lack of fluency in Spanish – it was definitely a sign of things to come: Bogota is one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited.

I decided to spend my six days and five nights in the La Candelaria section of central Bogota, full of 300-year old colonial buildings,university students and narrow streets. My room at the Hotel Ambala was only $42 a night in U.S. currency, and the staff at the hotel made me feel very much at home.
The trade-off: A very small room with a bathroom you have to squeeze into,and the pulsating beat of bars and nightclubs into the wee hours of the morning. A far cry from the upscale JW Marriott in northern Bogota where the U.S. Davis Cup team is staying, but I’ll take the charm of La Candelaria any day of the week. 



National Capital building at Plaza de Bolivar




My American friend and I have been walking all over Bogota, from the Plaza de Bolivar – home of the national capital building – to the Plaza de Toros la Santamaria, the bullring hosting the Davis Cup. In this city that’s more than 8,600 feet above sea level, I can understand why many cited altitude as a big challenge for the U.S. team. We did lots of huffing and puffing in the hilly parts of Bogota.



Transmilenio/Museo de Oro station



When we weren’t walking, we took the Trans Milenio — a rapid transit bus system masquerading as a subway. It’s a good way to see other parts of the city, with mountain tops looking down over the metropolis.

Bogota is also the home of cheap and tasty eats, where you can get breakfasts and lunches for as little as $2 to $5 US (1800 Colombian Pesos= $1United States). Empanadas, tamales in banana leaves, and sizzling meats are just the tip of the iceberg. Dinners are also inexpensive, but don’t wait too late to go out for a meal. Very few restaurants are open past8pm.
Carrera 7 was a pleasant surprise on Friday night . No cars allowed. It was like a street fair for several blocks.

As far as safety is concerned, there is a heavy police presence in Bogota.It’s not unusual to see officers with muzzled dogs patrolling the streets.

The homeless are very savvy. Expect one of them to come to you and ask for change right after you purchase something on the street.



View of Bogota from Monserrate peak



While dining in a restaurant, I met a retiree who left Chicago to live in Bogota. I asked him for the must-see spots in the city. He mentioned Monserrate, a mountain top where a white church overlooks the Colombian capital.

I took his advice, and the views were breathtaking.


Monserrate Sanctuary



Since we were dining, he also gave me some “tips” on tipping, which is not customary in Bogota (though some eating establishments have service charges). He said if you want to give a tip, give it directly to the waiter or waitress. If you leave it on the table, anyone can take the money.
He also said Colombians are some of the nicest and most generous people you’ll ever meet. “If you ask for one thing, they’ll give you two or three.”
He went on to say that Bogota’s reputation as the most dangerous capital city in the world is unjustified.

I couldn’t agree more. Even when I was walking down crowded streets wearing clothes that screamed out I am an American, I’d get smiles,welcoming gestures and strike up friendly conversations with Bogotanos. 



I didn’t get a chance to see all of the hot spots here, such as the Museo del Oro which I hear is wonderful, but I’ll have plenty of fond memories of Colombia, and not just because of the tennis.
Gracias, Bogota! 

Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He was in Bogota reporting for Global Village Tennis News covering the US vs Colombia Davis Cup tie.

Davis Cup: Fish Keeps U.S. in World Group By Junior Williams

Bogota Bonus: Some Observations on Davis Cup by Junior Williams

Switch to Fish Completes a Winning Dish by Junior Williams

“Uncle Sam is in Trouble” – USA and Colombia at 1-1 on Day One of the Davis Cup World Group Play-offs by Junior Williams




Rafael Nadal Photos From his visit to New York City’s NikeTown

September 14, 2010 – NikeTown – New York City – Niketown hosts a Q & A session for 2010 US Open Rafael Nadal with John McEnroe. Nadal fielded questions from McEnroe who also took fans questions for Nadal.


Jamaica’s Dustin Brown Continuing a Career season

Dustin Brown

(August 23, 2010) NEW HAVEN, Connecticut – Born to a Jamaican Father and  German mother in Celle Germany, the current world ranked No. 113 reached a career high 98 in singles in late July. He’s racked up some solid wins this season over very highly ranked players including Sam Querrey and Marco Chiudinelli.

Dustin Brown first played tennis at the age of five while living in Germany and moved to Jamaica at the age of 12. He grew up admiring  Marat Safin. The hard-hitting serve and volleying Jamaican is in New Haven playing the Pilot Pen tournament this week.

As of Sunday Brown reached the main draw by winning three qualifying matches in less than 24 hours. He’ll be playing Czech Jan Hajek in his first round match on Monday.

Global Village Tennis News briefly spoke to Brown to discuss his “career” year and what it took to move up the ATP World Tour rankings and about what are his current goals.

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To learn more about Dustin Brown please visit ATPWorldTour.com.


Fan Guide For the Cincinnati Western & Southern Financial Group Tournaments

Fan Guide: Cincinnati Western & Southern Financial Group tournaments

by Megan Fernandez

Dates: Aug. 13-21, 2011


Why go? Because Cincinnati is a cut-rate Grand Slam doppelganger–an elite field combined with the top men’s and women’s players in the world, in a venue that’s a lot less chaotic and overwhelming than the majors.


Tickets run $30 to $75 for main-draw sessions. A ticket includes a reserved seat in Center Court and general admission to all other courts. (Usually, there are matches on the other courts through the Friday day session.) Single-session tickets are sold only for the Center Court’s upper-level section (Terrace). For lower-level seats (Box and Loge), the best deals are on Craig’s List.


Center Court’s Terrace seats are decent. You can see the court well from the top row, but you may not be able to see players’ facial reactions. For a view from the top row of Terrace, click here: http://assets.usta.com/assets/663/15/TERRACE_3.pdf


Some notes on specific sections:

  • Boxes 501-504 and 719-724: not courtside, and covered and shaded all day.
  • Boxes 122-126 and Loge sections 224-227: uncovered yet shaded most of the day.
  • Boxes 122-125: behind players’ and umpire’ chair, which obstruct the view of part of the court.
  • Loge 225-226: behind players’ and umpire’ chair, which obstruct the view of part of the court.
  • Loge 208-217 and 221-232: the closest Loge seats to the court.
  • Loge 221-223: actually on the Terrace level.
  • Loge 324-327: as high as Terrace seats, but covered and shaded all day.
  • Terrace 312-314: covered by a canopy and shaded all day.


Avoid the traffic jam on I-71 coming from the south (the exit is shared by the tennis center and Kings Island amusement park) by taking an alternate route: I-75 to Tylersville Road (exit 22) to Fairway Drive. There will be signs to follow to Lot B and Lot C.


For the best parking, buy a Lot A pass online from a season-ticket holder. Lot A has a dedicated entrance.


Cincy is often 90+ degrees, and it feels hotter in the stands. Wear plenty of sunscreen and drink lots of water (you can bring in one closed bottle).


To cool off, check out the on-site museum. You’ll be surprised at how much history the tournament has: At more than 110 years in Cincy, it’s the oldest tournament in the U.S. held in the original location.


Score some shade in a covered box seat on the Grandstand court when there aren’t matches in session. Skip the table in the sun at the food court and eat there instead. This is also a great place to wait out a rain delay—everyone else will be packed inside the retail tent!


Kids can take watch an exhibition with pros, get player autographs, and more on Kids Day (Aug. 13, 2011). Tickets are half-price and include a seat for the matches.


When you arrive, first check the practice schedule posted on an electronic board near the player entrance, west of Center Court, and at the information desk. For the top players, stands fill up at least 30 minutes in advance of the practice time. On the day of the final, the players usually warm up separately on Center Court, starting a few hours before match time.


The best place for an autograph is in the breezeway connecting the main building to the player’s entrance.


Players often sign autographs and take photos after a practice session, at the fence by their chair.


Keep your eyes open for players walking near the south and west sides of Center Court. Does that tall guy in tennis gear walking alone look familiar? Could be Victor Hanescu or Mark Knowle. It’s okay to stop someone in a courteous manner. Often, players who aren’t in the spotlight like to be recognized and talk to fans.


To be on TV, get to the ESPN broadcast booth right after a semifinal or final. It’s set up outside of Center Court, on the southeast side. The commentators broadcast from there before and after each televised match, and fans are allowed to stand behind them. After a match, the winner is usually interviewed at the desk immediately. When the desk is not being used, fans are usually permitted to sit there for a photo op.


During matches on Center Court, coaches and entourages often sit in Box 130, in the northwest corner. They have also been spotted in Box 111, on the east side.


Spring for a room at the Marriott Northeast in Mason, the official tournament hotel. Stay there (or just go to dinner there), and you’re likely to see players and tennis insiders. For a good pool and restaurant, try this writer’s favorite hotel: Doubletree Guest Suites in Blue Ash, 7 miles from the site.


Gates open two hours before the day’s first match. Matches start earlier on qualifying days, which means the grounds opens earlier. If you arrive early, you might have a semi-private viewing session of a top player’s practice.


Eat the local cuisine in the food court: Graeter’s ice cream, Skyline Chili, and LaRosa Pizza from the food court.


Favorite souvenir: Stick-It-Wear?! t-shirts, featuring a stick-figure profile of top players past and present. They aren’t ID’d, but tennis fans would know Nadal’s high-knee fist pump anywhere. Look for them in the retail tent.


If you’re a roller-coaster junkie, make time to visit Kings Island amusement park, just across the interstate from the tennis center. (And keep an eye out for players.) It’s home to the longest, tallest and fastest wooden coasters in the world.


On Friday and Saturday nights, look east around 10 p.m. to see Kings Island’s fireworks show.


Megan Fernandez will be covering the Cincinnati tournament for Tennis Panorama News.  In addition to her online articles, she’ll be taking over our twitter account @GVTennisNews providing updates, commentary and photos during both tournaments.

Updated 8/10/2011


Meet The Wimbledon Poet – Matt Harvey

GVTN Approach Shots:

Meet The Wimbledon Poet – Matt Harvey
By Karen Pestaina

For the first time in its storied history, Wimbledon has hired an official poet to capture “the flavour and fervour of the world’s leading tennis tournament.”

A lifelong tennis fan, Matt Harvey is known by British audiences for his Radio 4 Saturday Live broadcasts. As “The Championships Poet” for 2010 he’ll be writing a poem-a-day on all things Wimbledon. Along with the daily poems he’ll have a daily audio podcast, a blog and will interact with fans via twitter (@WimbledonPoet ).

WimbledonPoet I caught up with the very busy Mr. Harvey to ask a few questions in regard to his new appointment:

Karen Pestaina: How did you get your start in writing poetry?

Matt Harvey: I’ve written poetry since I was a teenager, secretly to begin with. I began to perform in public in my twenties, self-publishing chapbooks which I sold at gigs. I went full-time as a ‘writer-performer’ in my late thirties. In my early forties I had my first ‘proper’ book (The Hole in the Sum of my Parts) published. Definitely a late developer.

KP: Which poets influenced you growing up and who are your favorites now?

MH: Growing up I loved Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Mervyn Peake – a little older the ‘Liverpool Poets’, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Adrian Henri.  Then it was into anthologies and reading e e cummings, Edna St Vincent Millay, Betjeman, Stevie Smith, Auden and Borges.

These days I love John Hegley, all the above, Roethke, only recently discovered Shel Silverstein, can you believe it?

KP: What was the process that led you to becoming the poet of “the Championships.”

MH: The All England Lawn Tennis Club had previously had Championship Artists –all painters of one kind or another – but this year they decided to try something different and invite a poet. To this end they consulted The Poetry Trust, active in the promotion of poetry in the UK, who recommended me. A seed was sown, then a few days later someone at Wimbledon heard me on BBC radio. A month or so after that I was invited to Wimbledon to talk about the form a poetry residency might take. And here I am.

KP: How difficult do you think it will be to write a poem a day? How will you approach it? Will you walk the grounds, stay in the media areas?

MH: How difficult? Somewhere between ‘quite’ and ‘very’, though some days I’m sure it’ll be ‘extremely’. People have asked if I ever suffer ‘writer’s block’ and the answer is no, but I frequently experience ‘good writer’s block’.

I’ll definitely walk the grounds rather than stay in the media areas. By the way, I should say, before anyone gets too jealous (mild jealousy is, however, appropriate) that I don’t have access to the show courts – Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2 – but otherwise can roam freely. A free range poet. I shall be writing about the place and the people as much if not more than the tennis. Poems about ball boys and girls, umpires, grass, strawberries, oohs and aahs, the queues, the roof, what proximity to people at the peak of physical fitness and beauty does to middle aged English people, well, men.

KP: Do you think other major championships (Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open) should employ a poet?

MH: I wouldn’t presume to know what such august institutions should do – but I’m all for the employment of poets in public places. From a poet’s perspective it’s an excellent idea.

KP: How do you think tennis fans will react to your poems?

MH: I have no idea. Well, I expect many to be indifferent, some maybe intrigued, irritated, amused, bored. Perhaps some, frustrated by my rank inability to evoke the essence of their beautiful game, may be inspired to write their own poetry. I’ve been taken aback by the interest generated by my appointment – when visual artists were invited there was a lot less fuss. Still, I’m not complaining – it’s nice to be sought after by the world media once in a while.

KP: Do you have any advice for future tennis poets?

Having barely begun my first ever tennis residency I’d hesitate to offer advice. In fact if there are any tennis poets out there with advice to offer me it’d be gratefully received. But I’m not sure there is such a thing as a ‘tennis poet’. There are just poets, and sometimes one of us gets lucky and is paid to write about tennis and associated phenomena. I’m thrilled just to be going there, getting to watch the world’s best players in such a splendid setting.

About Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live program and for two years wrote the Desktop Poetry slot in the Guardian. He is the creator of Empath Man on Radio 4, the contemporary superhero who fights crime through his advanced listening skills.

His latest book of poems The Hole in the Sum of my Parts – published by and available from The Poetry Trust – is in its 4th imprint. His next book Where Earwigs Dare will be published by Green Books in October 2010. He will present a new series, The Wondermentalist Cabaret, on BBC Radio 4 in early 2011.

Matt Harvey’s web site is www.mattharvey.co.uk.
Follow him on twitter at www.twitter.com/WimbledonPoet
Follow the Championships at www.Wimbledon.org
Read more about The Poetry Trust – www.thepoetrytrust.org

Grandest of Slams
By Matt Harvey

Excuse me. I’m sorry. I speak as an Englishman
For the game of lawn tennis there’s no better symbol than

The place where the game’s flame was sparked and then kindled in
Where so many spines have sat straight and then tingled in

Where strawberries and cream have traditionally been sampled in
Kids’ eyes have lit up and their cheeks have been dimpled in

Where tough tennis cookies have cracked and then crumbled in
Top seeds have stumbled, have tumbled, been humbled in

Where home-grown heroes’ hopes have swelled up and then dwindled in

The Grand Slams’ best of breed, it’s the whizz it’s the biz
The temple where physics expresses its fizz
There’s one word for tennis and that one word is

© Matt Harvey, The Championships Poet 2010

Related article:

Wimbledon appoints Championships Poet