Today was the first time I saw Rafa play, and unfortunately he lost. But anyone who follows Rafa will probably not have been surprised, although of course we are disappointed. This was playing The Sod (as I like to call him) on his favourite surface, and Rafa’s least favourite – hard and indoors. He’s only ever won one hard indoor tournament – Madrid in 2005.
The match all went in a complete blur, and in fact when I was on my way home at the end of the day (I got home at 2.15 am having left before the end of the Djokovic/Davydenko match in order to get my last train) I had to check the score to see what it was. I remembered the first set was 6-4 but didn’t have a clue about the second – I was just trying to drink in as much of Rafa being in front of me as I could.
The build up to the match is all very exciting, with a countdown on the big screens and introductions of each player. Then they shown them in the tunnel waiting to come out (Soderling waiting for Rafa LOL) and then walking out into the arena. Rafa got a huge cheer, there were loads of Spanish flags being waved and vamoses being shouted! Rafa went through his usual pre-match routine of the energy squeezy packet and the drinks and then jumping up and down at the net, won the toss and elected to receive (surprise!). Then we had the Rafarun to the baseline – wooh! Shame he wasn’t warming up at my end of the court though.
Then of course he was broken in his first service game. After that everything went so quickly. Rafa seemed pumped for the match. There were lots of vamoses from him, some fist pumps and a “si!”. I thought he played well – the ball was being hit flat, but Soderling with his hard hitting and on this fast service could get Rafa on the run, push him to the backhand side and then hit his forehand down the line leaving Rafa unable to retrieve one more time. I’ve got the match taped – usually I wouldn’t watch one that Rafa lost, but I need to see it so that I can remember where I was!
I’ve read Rafa’s blog saying he was sad for the loss but after they analysed it he has realised that it’s not the end of the world, which is the right attitude. We all knew this would be hard. It was just brilliant to actually see him play for the first time. Vamos Rafa!