2018-10-20 (Saturday)

Today, I learned that:

Continuing the post from 2018-09-29, here are two more interesting British facts from the world of Sports:

Wimbledon surrenders to John Isner

The American tennis player John Isner is, among other things, well known for having participated in the two longest fifth sets in the history of the Wimbledon tournament. In 2010, he beat the Frenchman Nicholas Mahut after winning the fifth set by 70-68, after three calendar days and 8 h 11 min of playing time. Then in this year’s tournament, in the semifinals, he lost to the South African player Kevin Anderson by 26-24 in the fifth set.

But that is the end of such marathon games, because as of 2019, Wimbledon has decided to introduce a tie-breaker at 12-12 in the fifth set.

See also references # 1 and 2 below.

Scotswoman breaks record for touring the world on a bicycle

In Britain, there are not only wonder women in golf. The Scottish cyclist Jenny Graham just arrived in Berlin after having gone on a tour around the world. You may remember that in the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty days, her compatriot Phileas Fogg made it, using trains and steamer ships on 80 days. Jenny did not totally get there, but nevertheless her record is an amazing 124  days! (Another Brit, Mark Beaumont, holds the male record, set in September 2017, with 78 days 14 h 14 min., thus beating Phileas Fogg.)

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham stops for a selfie while passing the Russian city of Pskov, close to the borders with Estonia and Latvia. Courtesy of Jenny Graham/The Adventure Syndicate/PA.

See also references # 3, 4, and 5 below.

Donkey steps

On various occasions, I have referenced material from Sveriges Radio (the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation), and here is yet another one:

Yesterday, their correspondent at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Andreas Liljeheden, published a chronicle about the particular construction of the stair case between the two main buildings of the European Parliament. The following photo shows exactly that view.

EU steps

The court yard in the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, highlighting the donkey steps between the two main buildings. Photo taken by Andreas Liljeheden on 2018-10-18.

As you can see, the vertical displacement from one step to another is small, but the horizontal one is much greater, exactly 1,16 m according to Andreas’ measurement. This makes walking up and down the stairs a complicated task. He investigated the origins of that crazy stair case, and found that in some countries of the European continent, such as Austria and Germany, there is a tradition of using deeper steps, whereas the Belgians and Dutch normally, due to the higher population density, have to settle with a different project, with a higher vertical-to-horizontal ratio. Sweden is, as always, “lagom”, i.e. mid-way.

Here are two more photos of donkey steps, the first one being a close-up of the EU Parliament steps, and the second one a typical scene of donkeys climbing the steps in Fira, the capital of the island of Santorini in the Greek Aegean Sea.


Two examples of donkey steps: To the left, a visitor to the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium (photo by Andreas Liljeheden, 2018-10-18). To the right, real donkeys in Fira, Santorini, Greece (photo by Liz Stark, 2016-04-06).

But why is Andreas emphasising this stair case? In no way, he implies that hard working politicians are donkeys, but he thinks it is a symbol for the difficulties encountered by the EU members. If you cannot have a unanimous decision on something by all its 28 member countries (soon to be 27?), then there has to be a compromise, such is life! Thanks Andreas for your valuable contribution!

See also reference #6 below.

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Longest tennis match records

2: Call It the John Isner Rule: Wimbledon Plans to Add a Final-Set Tiebreaker

3: Scottish cyclist smashes round-the world record

4: Around the World in Eighty Days

5: Around the world in 78 days: British cyclist completes record-breaking ride

6: Åsnetrappor typiskt för EU: Ekots Andreas Liljeheden, Bryssel

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-01-21 (Thursday)

Today, I learned once more that:

Tennis is probably the most exciting of all individual sports with a ball. Further to requiring that the players are well conditioned to withstand a match that can go on during various hours, they must still remember well the basic techniques and also keep their heads very cool.

When I grew up, my father was secretary of the local tennis club, Herrljunga TK, in a small town with 4.000 inhabitants. Thanks to talented players and dedicated leaders, it even arrived at the top position in Swedish team tennis, beating SALK from Stockholm in the final. And its star player, Jonte Sjögren, later advanced to higher levels, both as a player and leader, being the captain of the Swedish team that won the Davis Cup on various occasions, as well as coaching one of the best tennis players of all times, Björn Borg.

HTK 1957-58

Herrljunga Tennisklubb’s musketeers in Sporthallen, 1957-58. From left to right: Rolf Andersson, John-Anders Sjögren, Sixten Borgvall, and Bengt Lundell.

At that time, there were few types of materials used in the tennis courts. The standard material for outdoor courts was a sort of clay, called ‘en-tous-cas’. And of course there were grass courts, such as Wimbledon. To play on one type of court or another meant to dominate different styles of tennis. On clay courts, the ball bounces slower than on grass, so there is more time to get to the ball and plan on how and where to hit it. Of the four Grand Slam tournaments today, the French Open is still clay and Wimbledon, of course, continues with its famous grass lawns. The US Open tournament uses a hard court material, called Deco Turf, and the Australian Open is using another hard court material, Plexicushion, based on an acrylic compound, just like it US colleague. These hard court materials result in even higher ball speeds than the grass courts.

Of course, there are regulations about these materials, and speedwise they are classified into 5 different categories, where category 1, slow speed, includes clay courts. Wimbledon’s grass courts are in category 3, medium speed, whereas USA and Australia are both in category 4, medium-fast speed.

As a consequence of these speeds, a player that knows how to serve well can draw big benefits from the faster court materials, scoring many points on his/her serve and thus leading to shorter times to define the points. I think that this is a pity, because the real beauty of tennis are the long rallies when both players have to vary their shots to defeat the opponent. And now it almost happened again, yesterday!

During the ongoing Australian Open tournament, in the second round, the Czech player Kristyna Pliskova hit 31 aces, i.e. a serve so hard and/or well placed that the opponent cannot even touch the ball. This is a new record for a women’s tennis match at elite level. But even so, Pliskova lost the match to Mónica Puig from Puerto Rico, in spite of the 31 aces and 5 match balls in her favour. Luckily for tennis, Pliskova did not advance to the next round!

… That’s what I learned in school!


1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennis

2: https://www.perfect-tennis.com/tennis-court-surfaces-and-court-speeds/

3: http://www.itftennis.com/technical/courts/court-testing/overview.aspx

4: http://www.rippa.com/category/tennis/kristyna-pliskova-sets-new-aces-record-20160120-0006/

+: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VucczIg98Gw