It’s been an exciting couple of days for this lone Rafa fan. The downside of doing Cincy on your own is that there’s nobody to talk to and you eat a lot of meals alone, which weirds me out a little bit. The upside is that you are free to roam without the hindrances of travel companions who don’t share your priorities—which, if you are like me, means having as much interaction as possible with the tennis personalities you watch on TV the other 51ish weeks of the year. I’m technically here for the matches, but you can all read commentary on the on-court action elsewhere from people much more insightful than me, so I will keep this Cincy update to one fan’s experience of the juicy off-court stuff.
Yesterday I think the highlight of my day was my conversation with, and the tweet-off following my conversation with, Jon Wertheim. While hovering around the practice court Roger was scheduled to occupy, I saw Jon approaching. Incidentally, nobody bothers Jon as he moves through the grounds (except me, I guess). I asked for an autograph and he gave me a put-out look that anybody could clearly see right through—he loved it. He was sweet to make chit-chat with me and then commented on how strange this place was. I had obviously loved my experience so far, so asked what he meant. He started in about how everybody would rather wait for Rafa autographs and watch practice courts than sit in their seats for the women’s final. I get what he’s saying, but honestly I came for the men and the women were a bonus. Anyway, not 3 minutes after we parted ways did he tweet about this very issue. I tweeted back @ him. He took my example about Rog next to Blake and Djoker and tweeted about it to the masses. At first I felt proud to have contributed to the discussion, but as the afternoon wore on it kinda messed with my head. Am I a neglectful fan to have missed the first 5 games of the final watching practice sessions? In the end I decided that anyone who recognizes Jon Wertheim in a crowd and asks for an autograph can’t be all that bad of a fan.
I should mention that I’ve never twittered before this week, but I am now completely in favor of the whole thing.
So I didn’t expect to match the awesomeness of yesterday’s brush with Wertheim fame today, but I am happy to report that the day exceeded my expectations. I woke up early and went to the courts at 8 thanks to Justin Gimelstob’s tweet about practicing with Roger at that hour. Strange to sit in the front row of an empty center court and watch Rog slug it out for 90 minutes. Got an autograph, then on to the practice courts to see who was hitting around. Of course, Rafa was there along with a few hundred people like me pressed against the fence. I spent most of the time squatting at an opening in the windbreaker netting taking pictures. Rafa was clearly upset with himself, sulking around, throwing his head back, dropping his head down, and swinging his racquet around in frustration. His first serve of the day sailed several feet long. “BEAUTIFUL,” he shouted. Anxious laughter from the fans. He fiddled with his finger tape and had Maymo tape up his wrists. What’s that about, btw? On the bright side, he took his shirt off, then put it on again, then took it off again, just for good measure. It turns out I am a very very lucky girl and happened to have the best seat in the house for these wardrobe changes.
The afternoon was ridiculously hot, and I must say the thing that I enjoyed most about the Safin match tonight was that I only sweated through my undergarments. The past few sessions I have sweat through the entirety of my clothing before they even scan my ticket at the gate. I am currently sporting the type of sunburn that leads strangers to comment, and I typically end up arriving back at the hotel looking like a tourist who spent the day on a speedboat in the tropics—crazy hair, too much stuff to carry, shuffling in flip-flops, trying not to think about how my sweaty thighs have been rubbing together in this skirt all freaking day. This is the Catch-22 of the hotel: you always want to see Rafa… but you don’t always want Rafa to see you. In this respect, luck was not on my side. I arrived at the hotel to find Murray and Francisco Roig chatting it up in the front drive about how good Rafa’s been looking in doubles this season. Of course had to stop and pull out my phone like I had some important business to attend to, when in fact I just twittered about what I was watching. Gael and Stan came out and got in a car. Murray went inside and I followed. Murray was immediately swarmed with kids, so I headed to the elevator. And guess who is approaching the elevator at the same time. I realized I was wearing the RF hat I had purchased last summer in a moment of sympathy for Rog, what with the RG beat-down and the Wimby disaster. I quickly turned the hat around so “nobody” would notice it and mistake me for a Roger fan. I got on the elevator with Rafa, Benito and a guy I would later learn worked for Nike. Rafa was next to the buttons, so I said “4 please” but he didn’t respond. Benito said something in a chastising voice to him, smiled at me, and leaned over and pushed my button. Rafa smiled at me sheepishly, pushed his own button, then carried on the conversation in Spanish. When we stopped at his floor he looked at me and said “after you,” even thought if he had been listening before he would have known that wasn’t my floor. Who knows what the hell I said in response, but it was something along the lines of, this isn’t my floor. Benito, my hero, again said something in Spanish and smiled and shook his head at me. Oh Rafa, indeed. Will he ever learn? Rafa, realizing I wasn’t going anywhere, said sorry to me, then got off the elevator, saying goodnight to the guys. As we rode up, the Nike dude said something to Benito about Rafa’s shirt being cut too slim, and that it rides up when he swings. I couldn’t help but interject. “That’s fine. Really, no problem.” Both laughed. Benito got off at his floor. The Nike guy tried to explain that the bosses at Nike don’t want it to look like it doesn’t fit. I told him I thought the more Rafa clinginess, the better it would sell.
So much more to report, but it’s late and I’ve got a date with a practice court in the morning. I will try to update again soon. My mom joins me here tomorrow, then hubby and dad later in the week. Thanks for keeping me virtual company these past few days; you’ve all made it so much fun for me!