Serena and James

I’ve arrived at the beautiful campus of UCLA for the ATP Farmer’s Classic event. Novak Djokovic was supposed to join me here but he dropped out for personal reasons. That’s what you say when you change your mind about a lower level event. No medical condition required.

Luckily Andy Murray was looking to play and my home town event now has a bone fide top five player. This is Andy’s first trip to Los Angeles and he’s getting off easy. The highest projected temperature through Saturday is 81F/27C. I’m wearing thick black socks today and last night I considered throwing my thermal bean bag into the microwave to keep my toes toastie warm as I dropped off to sleep.

This is a 28 player event so Andy has a bye for the first round and won’t play until tomorrow. I have a few suggestions for the tourist. There’s the The Bunny Museum in Pasadena which has the largest (inanimate) bunny collection in the world and is open 365 day of the year as long as you call ahead since the museum is in a private home.

If that’s too tame Andy could always go to the Playboy Mansion and consort with live bunnies. Speaking of which, burlesque is making a comeback in a big way. The hottest burlesque star at the moment is Dita von Teese. You can see a classy G-rated tease for Perrier here According to my friend Deb, who is a rabid Dita fan, Dita lives in Los Angeles. I’m sure something could be arranged.

As for the tennis, I was hoping to see Mardy Fish this week because he’s reached the final in three of his last four events and won the last two, but he tweaked an ankle last week and dropped out. Fish apparently decided to clean up his act and stop eating pizza, fries, and cheeseburgers and generally pay close attention to when and what he eats. People don’t usually make such drastic changes for no reason and for Fish it was knee surgery last September.

Anyone my age can tell you extra weight is tough on knees, but the process catches up much faster to pro athletes. The pain we might experience in our fifties catches up to pro athletes towards the end of their careers which is the late twenties for most tennis players – Fish is 28. One piece of connective tissue stops sliding against another piece and stiffness and pain settle in. If you’d like it spelled out in cadaver-like detail, check out The Fuzz Speech by Gil Hedley courtesy of Lenny Parracino, tissue manipulator extraordinaire.

There’s another knee story this week. James Blake is playing Leonardo Mayer this afternoon and James had been slowly sliding off the ATP tour with knee pain. He’s currently ranked 117 after being in the top ten as recently as early last year.

While Fish seems to be grabbing onto tennis, James appeared to be letting go as recently as a month ago. After losing in the first round at Wimbledon this year, he mentioned retirement if his ailing knee didn’t improve. His advisors and doctors were telling him to take an anti-inflammatory but he’s always refused in the past because he thought it was bad for his health.

Maybe the specter of career mortality changed James’ mind because he finally agreed to dig into modern medicine and now his knee is healthy. He looked fast and mobile as he tore through Mayer 6-1, 6-4. The only exciting part was having Serena Williams in the house and, oh yes, that first set break when the speakers started blaring the Lou Reed song Walk on the Wild Side. Something about “he was a she” and “in the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’ but she never lost her head even when she was giving head…”

Do you think maybe the organizers forgot to tell the DJ that it’s Kids Day here at UCLA?

I remember James saying he doesn’t even take vitamins because he’s concerned about running afoul of the drug testing policy, so I asked him if he refused to take an anti-inflammatory for the same reason. No, it’s just the health nut thing. He’s also leery of taking painkillers because he wants to be able to feel his shoulder and his arm and his knee when he wrenches them.

That sound pretty intelligent to me but, hey, if the Veteran’s Administration now let’s its patients use medical marijuana, James should be able to dabble in drugs, right?

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