I hear Cincy will be undergoing some renovations in a few years. That makes me a little sad, because each year I’ve come here I’ve had a spectacularly good time, and I don’t want the tourney to lose any of its comfortable, low-key middle America mojo. I am happy to report that a few things seem to remain the same year after year: Blue Moons still cost an outrageous $7, souvenir t-shirts still appear to have been designed in MS Paint, “the air conditioned retail tent” continues to be advertised as just that (nothing more, nothing less) over the PA system, and Rafa still shows up every now and then when you don’t expect him. The other night I was standing at my window basking in the afterglow of the elevator, contemplating my exceedingly good luck, and low and behold, out Rafa strolled into the parking lot and toward his car. Benito, Feli, Maymo and girlie were in tow. As far as I can tell he’s never actually spent a moment alone.
You’ve all seen Maymo and girlfiend, right? Imagine the three of them in the back seat of a Toyota. Who do you expect would sit in the middle? If you guessed anyone besides the burly beefcake then you would be wrong.
As Benito drove them away, I decided to attempt to channel my good luck into the ultimate souvenir– I wanted a picture with Rafa. Mind you, I have never requested a picture from anyone ever before. But I’ve been watching people of all ages ask for pictures all week, and the players seem good-natured about it. And I really, really wanted one. So I gave it an hour and headed downstairs to find him. Once located, I managed to sputter out the request, he nodded ok, I shoved my camera into Benito’s hands (again, Benito to the rescue in my moment of need!) and tried to look at least slightly less crazy than I felt on the inside.
Then came the moment when I realized I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Are we going to strike some sort of prom pic pose? No, obviously, keep the hands to yourself, right? He’s being so nice to do this for me; he certainly shouldn’t get manhandled as a result. Stand politely next to him and try to be cool. On the other hand, I could pull a move like that girl in the Palma airport, you know the one, the girl who planted a big wet one on him as he kindly stopped for a picture. What does she care? She had nothing to lose and everything to gain in that moment, and she went for it. I say good on her. [I say not good – miri] I stood paralyzed until I felt an arm slip around my back. Oh. Ok. This is how this works. You ask for a picture, Rafa promptly puts his arm around you. This must be one of the most valuable pieces of information I have ever learned. Why have I never done this before? I can tell you now that this will not be the last photo I ever ask for with Rafa.
I put my arm around him and tried to live in the moment. My first thought was that his waist was really high, like the equivalent of putting my arm around the shoulders of a short person. My second thought was that he’s really slender around the middle. How is it possible I’ve spent so much time watching him run around a tennis court and I’m still surprised by his dimensions?
Click, and Rafa said “perfect,” and Team Rafa walked on. I looked back in the direction they had come from and saw the hotel door open and in streamed what seemed like dozens if not hundreds of familiar faces lead by Tommy R. My reserves of self-control were on empty and I thought I might not be able to contain myself so I turned and walked the other way.
And that was the end to a very, very good day in Cincy. I am concerned that my remaining reports will pale in comparison, as I can’t imagine I will be able to sustain this kind of pace. Fingers crossed that I will have further NadalNews to pass along.
P.S. Rafa, I always feel bad for you when I see people interrupting your private moments for autographs and pictures… so sorry for being a pest! But… I’m totally coming back for more:)