Well, it was another odd but fun one today. Got up early for the tour of Palau Sant Jordi that came with my package. After picking up a group at another hotel, we meet up with more groups at the stadium. The tour is in Spanish (of course), so I don’t understand a thing, but I’m still very glad I went.
We went into the stadium via the players’ entrance – not glamorous at all. In fact, it looked like a warehouse door! We walked past a lot of rooms with signs like “Access Control” (where people go to get their passes), “Doping Control” (where people go to pee) and other things. We then get to where the players walk onto court and I’m hoping we are going to get to see a practice. Some of us are sent up into the stands, but then the rest of us are taken back the way we came (via a depressing courtyard – looked like a prison work-out courtyard) and end up back outside. There, someone talks fairly long about what, I don’t know, but I assume it’s about the stadium, when and why it was built, etc.
Next up, we go back inside via a sponsor tent and there’s all these programs lying about…so we all nab one. Yay! We go inside and see the swank restaurant – I guess it’s the one for VIPs and players. There were huge pictures of the players all over the place…but more of Rafa than anyone else. :) Then they take us into the press room (boring!) and, uh, I can’t remember next.
But the big news is that we eventually end up back by the court and are allowed to sit at the end where all the “special” guests sit during the match. The chairs all had names stickied onto them an a pot-holder looking thing on the seat (I guess VIP’s butts are too sensitive to sit in stupid plastic chairs). On the court? Feli and Nando practicing. Yay! I didn’t notice any tape on Feli’s back and thought that was odd because it was taped the day before when he was just a spectator. We got to stay and watch them for a good bit even though we did have to move partway through because they needed to put different names on the seats for today’s match.
We were told to be “silencio” and “professional” during the session. And we were until Nando and Feli left the court….then a round of applause and quite a few “Vamos”es were let out. Nando at first looked confused, but then looked up, smiled and waved. The Czech players were already out and getting ready for their practice when Lukas Dlouhy randomly hit a ball to someone. Well, that made a bunch of people in my group jump up and down and ask for some too. At first, he couldn’t find any more, but he finally found a big box of practice balls and started firing them from the other side of the court. They were bouncing off handrails, heads, etc. It was hilarious. One didn’t come my way, but I wouldn‘t have caught it if it did! Anyway, I thought it was real nice of him to do that.
On our way out, Roig walked past us. He was talking on a cell phone and headed to the scary courtyard. We went back outside and our tour was over. So, I walked around the grounds for awhile taking pictures of the big yellow posts and the Telephonic (?) tower. I *heart* that thing and could have taken pictures forever, but the doors were now open and I thought…wonder if anyone is practicing on the main court? And you know what?
I got to watch the end of Daveed and Rafa’s practice session. I still can’t get over how rude fans are in calling out the names of players when they are practicing. Poor little Daveeed only had one person shout out his name, though. I almost did just to help even the score a bit! At least the person shouted out “Campeon, Daveeed!” They must have been practicing a while already, because Rafa was really smacking the heck out of the ball…and making faces when the shots missed. After practicing overheads, they both took a break, but Rafa was holding on to his back on the way to the chair. A trainer came over like he was going to look at it, but I couldn’t see if anything was done. He then went on to practice serves, so it must not be horrible. The crew came out to start setting up for the doubles match and they shooed Daveed and Rafa off the court.
I’m going to interrupt the time-line to tell you what happened after the match – I don’t want to spoil the mood of the ending. As I’m leaving, I ask a lady holding a sign for my tour group what bus I should get on. She asks for my hotel name and, when I tell her, points to the bus she’s standing by. I get on and this one lady gives me a hateful stare and then scurries off the bus. I wonder what I did to piss her off (other than being fat and sweaty) and find out when she comes back with the crazy lady who does the narration on the bus. She asks me something in Czech and I say I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. She replies that this isn’t my bus, I need to get off now and this is a Czech tour. I tell her that the lady with a sign for my tour told me to get on this bus and so I did. One of the guys near me asks what hotel I am going to and I tell him. He shrugs and says, “same place we are, why not stay?” The lady goes on and on about how this is not my bus and I’m not meant to be here. I just sit there; my ass isn’t moving. The guys right near me are all, “don’t worry, she crazy” while that other lady keeps staring daggers at me. Finally, the crazy lady gives up and goes to the front of the bus. That’s when I remember I had an Armada scarf on. Oops! I guess that explains the daggers. I take it off and put it in my bag. The guys continue to tell me not to worry. We make it to the hotel and I get off the bus. I need to know when tomorrow’s bus is, but none of the nice ladies are there, just the crazy one. So, I go inside.
And now, back to our story…
Next up? Doubles! For some reason, they reintroduced both teams in their entirety. Again, Rafa got a huge cheer. Daveed got a pretty good one to as everyone seemed to want to say thank you for the match he played. Then everyone but the day’s players left the court (Rafa and Daveeed ran off like they had an urgent task at hand).
When I’d seen that Stepanek and Berdych had replaced the expected team, I was a bit worried. They have an excellent DC record and we all know how much DC means to Stepanek after that semi-final tie. Once again, the Spanish teams laughs at my worry lines and kicks some ass. It was a tight match until the third set when things just started going Spain’s way more and more. I honestly wasn’t sure who was going to win that first set tie-break. It really could have gone either way. The same could be said for the second set. Really tight and close. I didn’t sense super-strong nerves from either Nando or Feli. They both kept their heads out there even when Stepanek did some of his crazy shot-making mumbo jumbo. (I really wished he wasn’t such an asshat, because his tennis is quite fun to watch.) Oh sure, Nando double-faulted at the wrong time, but nothing unusual about that, no? ;)
Rafa was fairly subdued on the bench at first. Daveeed was returning the favor given him last night by cheering pretty fiercely himself. He’s no Rafa level cheerer, but he’d do in a pinch. I also saw Rafa grab his back at least once while on the sidelines. I do wonder if he’s going to play tomorrow?
The joy from Nando and Feli at match point was amazing. The joy of the whole team was beyond that and more. I think I might have 100 almost identical photos of the bouncing ball of happy Spanish boys that worked its way from the sidelines to mid-court. I just left my finger on the shutter and kept firing. So much hugging, high-fiving and yelling. As much as I wanted Rafa to be the one to finish things off, this way might be better. I mean, how perfect that each team member contributed to winning a point? It suits their personality as a team because they are actually a team – not like some DC squads. In fact, they are a damn fine team.
Thanks guys for giving me the best birthday present ever.