Smells like team spirit

Photo by Beth Wilson

Photo by Beth Wilson

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.

32 Responses

  1. Courtney says:

    Aww, what a lovely story (well, except for the crazy Czech bitch) :) Happy birthday, Miri! Thanks so much for sharing your photos and memories, and for this website in general!!!

  2. Rafangel says:

    Happy birthday Miri! Thanks for the blogs and pics :-)

    What is an asshat?

    Rafa’s back: don’t kick off, ya bastard.

    Hooray for Spain!! Can’t wait to see some images of the celebrations.

  3. sunset says:

    “That’s when I remember I had an Armada scarf on. ” Poor, poor miri.

    Well you know what this means, right? —Rafa has to revenge on behalf of miri for the poor treatment she’s got and win tomorrow’s match in straight sets, ‘without losing more than 4 games per set’ (as PistolPete(?) put it).

    (Just when I am feeling sorry for Czech for three straight losses despite their tremendous effort, someone gives a reason for lessoning that nearly guilty feeling…:P)

  4. mary says:

    Thanks again for such an indepth, interesting & funny exposé of your experiences. To get a fans perspective in a country where it isn’t of your native tongue is amazing.
    Spain has won the cup, but still 2 dead rubbers will be played & as much as I want to see Rafa play, it wouldn’t be in his best interest to play in pain & possibly injuring himself further.
    Your experience with that “crazy lady” sounds hilarious. Thank god she wasn’t carrying any deadly weapons. ‘lol’. I could just imagine you sitting there with you armada scarf wrapped around you, pissing her off to the max & you not understanding why. I’m laughing at the picture of this in my head.
    The question is will you finally get the right bus?
    I can’t wait to see the replay of the doubles match. Also maybe Rafa was told to stay low after his scary exhibition of cheering the night before. ;-)
    I didn’t get to see the match btw, I was sleeping. Watching tennis in the middle of the night is exhausting!!!

    • miri says:

      Hey! I’ve been on the right bus 2 out of the 4 times. I can’t help it if people keep pointing me to the wrong bus! Basically, I’m the only non-Spaniard and non-Czech around, so I think they don’t know wtf to do with me.

      • mary says:

        I guess 50/50 isn’t bad odds. Especially when you don’t know what the fuck they are saying. The importante’ thing is you made it to the arena & back again. Just in case you get the wrong bus again maybe you need a tiny Czech flag for protection against ‘crazy’ persons. ;-)

  5. sunset says:

    And of course Happy Birthday, miri! This is truly a superb birthday gift that the brilliant Spanish Armada gave you, which you deserve.

    If Rafa does have a problem with his back, I do like to see him quit playing tomorrow’s match. Just want to be sure he will be in top form physically for AO.

  6. xta says:

    happy birthday, miri…hope it’s a great new year for you…
    and thank you for inspiring me to spend my birthday at the AO…

  7. cookie says:

    Also wishing you a very Happy Birthday, Miri! Thank you SO for sharing your natal day tennis party with the Davis Cup(cake)! May all the years ahead increase in happiness for you, and thank you for all you do! :D

  8. Ch F says:

    Happy birthday miri and thanks for all the reports!!! Like I said in another post, you deserve to be there and see Rafa play great and Spain win the DC. Hopefully no back problems, please tennis gods let him find his form this time and spare him anything bad!!! He didn’t seem bothered by it yesterday, but then again he never seems bothered by anything when he’s playing great ;-)

  9. teejustice says:

    Great report! What a fantastic experience. Happy Birthday!

  10. tiemyshoe says:

    “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.”

    EXACTLY! I so loved that no one had to lose. Part of the fun of Davis Cup are the “heroes,” but in fact I really wanted each of them to get their due. It’s certainly not easy to start things off, and Rafa was amazing yesterday. DC means so much to him. I am grinning thinking of how happy he must be right now.

  11. Ness says:

    Happy Birthday! You’ve been doing us so much favor about Rafa. You deserve the best as well! :)

  12. Atch2 says:

    Hey Birthday Girl! Glad to hear you got the Armada scarf on site.

    Goof for you for shouting Ferrer’s name during the practice session. He deserves it too.

    I was really looking forward to seeing Rafa the fierce Cheerleader during the doubles match but he was rather subdued. At one point I did see him turnaround and poke his tongue at someone. I was hoping it was you that he was teasing.

    When I saw that Step and Berdy were playing the doubles tie I was rather disappointed for the other 2 Czech guys that were suppose to play. It’s understandable bec they did need this match win to have a chance to win the DC, but realistically if they did win the doubles would Berdy and Step have the energy to beat Ferrer and Rafa in the singles? Esp Step who just played 4+hrs with Ferrer and 2+hrs in doubles and will meet Mr Energetic-Rafa?

    The doubles was exciting. So happy Feli and Nando held serve comfortably for most of the match. Thought we almost lost the 1st set tie-breaker, but we pull it our way again.

    Thanks for your posts Miri. I enjoy them heaps. I read and re-read them.

  13. CC says:

    Urm…will they actually be playing today? Seeing as they must be PRETTY hungover. I really can’t see Rafa having stuck to orange juice last night… Or Ferrer…? And Stepanek/Berdych probably drenched their sorrows in Czech absinth. Guess it could be fun to see them all have sick bags on court… ;)

    OMG, WHY wasn’t I in Barcelona?! Must have been the party of the year last night!

    • An says:

      So much to celebrate yesterday!! Ouch….. my poor head now;)

      They do play CC, we’ll have to wait and see who plays who i guess but they are playing. We will see how much celebration went on yesterday, maybe they kept it low because off the playing today and will celebrate BIG tonight?
      Huh, if we leave now, we still could join in, No?

      • dutchgirl says:

        That’s right An, wasn’t it your BF’s birthday yesterday as well? Lots of celebrating indeed!
        I have to thank Sinterklaas for the present he gave me, although I would have loved if he’d taken me to Spain, LOL

        • An says:

          Yes, Sinterklaas, BF’s birthday and Spain winning the DC!
          I’m having a major hangover now):

        • natch says:

          Dammit! I missed Sinterklaas, miri’s birthday and An’s bf’s birthday (and surely the *celebration* that followed, am I right, An?) *cries*

          Well, belated Happy Birthday, DC, and Sinterklaas day(?)to everyone!

          • An says:

            Hah Natch…. the *celebration* that followed had to wait a little after all the celebration we did that day… You know what they say about drunk men, No? And i probably do not have to tell you that its true….
            But well, of course he got his birthday pressent;)

    • Carol says:

      Oh man- to have been at that party… imagination works overtime!!

      Hope Tommy and some of the other Spanish guys turned up too!

      I reckon Feli & Fer are probably the most hardened party-ers: a night out with those two must be a real hoot! They are Madrilenos of course… ;-)

      Then there’ll be Rafa doing his crazy dancing – someone slip the guy a tequila…

  14. CC says:

    Oh, and I forgot…happy belated (?) birthday, miri! Decent way to celebrate a birthday, no?

  15. aRafaelite says:

    Happy Birthday!! And a big thank you for all your wonderful work on the site! What a great celebration you must have had last night!

  16. EJL says:

    without flatter loved greatly reading all this stuff and had feelings as if i was reading an excerpt from “Catcher in the Rye”
    “Poor little Daveeed only had one person shout out his name, though. I almost did just to help even the score a bit! –this place really impressed.. happy birthday to you dear and wish you never to have run out of such amusing experiences… MIS FELICITACIONES!!

  17. miri says:

    There’s an interesting bit in this NYTimes article about how Rafa and other unmentioned teammates create a loophole in the rules in order to offer encouragement to Ferrer during his epic match:

    According to the Spanish newspaper El País, when Ferrer returned to the locker room after losing the first two sets, he technically was permitted, by Davis Cup rules, to speak only with Costa. But Nadal and some other members of the team did their best to find a loophole: shouting plenty of encouragement in the locker room but doing so with their backs to Ferrer: facing mirrors or pretending to comb their hair.

    I’d wondered about that when I saw Rafa run off after David. I didn’t think he’d be allowed to talk to him.

  18. EJL says:

    I’ve watched on you tube” Un animador llamado Rafa Nadal” Rafa nearly gets out of his skin to cheer up David, and this footage shows his getting into the locker with fierced and quite determined expression

  19. faeaki7 says:

    Yeah Rafa was fiercley fired up for this and maybe let his heart rule his head, he was so out there cheering for David compare to the rest, he’s veins were bursting through his skin almost, anyway, even if Ferrer had! lost I am sure this wouldn’t have made a difference, feli and Verdasco’s performance was great and Rafa wouldn’t have let Stepanek beat him in the dead rubber had he had to face him!