aRafaelite’s Australian Open diary: day 2

Photo by WILLIAM WEST/ AFP/ Getty Images

Friday 22 January – On Another Planet

Oh. My. God. Where to start?!

Firstly, I’m in tennis heaven! Nobody thinks I’m strange and crazy. Okay, well a few people, but they weren’t supporting Rafa or Feña, so they don’t count ;)

Secondly, today is the day I saw Rafael Nadal play tennis for the first time LIVE.

Don’t expect anything coherent from me about the match, because I so wasn’t in that place. I’m not sure which planet I was on, but let me tell you I was feeling a whole lot of things, and my head wasn’t working very well at all. Which unfortunately seemed to be true of Rafa as well, so I worked very hard at being with colm for him. It didn’t seem to work very well for either of us, but we got through it ;) I saw Rafael Nadal win today!

Thirdly, it turns out that being a little bit crazy gets you targeted by the roving camera and you end up on TV around the world and even Rafa sees you (it also helps if you sit directly opposite his chair and wave a huge flag at him every time he looks up)! And Feña smiles at you!!!

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

11am on HiSense Arena – Jankovich v Bondarenko

Jelena is of my #2 Lady after Kimmy, so pretty happy about this being my first match…. except JJ’s very tight and loses her first service game and Bondarenko is on fire! JJ finally gets on the board, only to drop her next service game. The crowd is being very restrained but the arena is slowly filling up. What’s up with Jelena?! This is painful. Being totally outplayed by Bondarenko. Too many unforced errors, hardly any few winners. Serving hit and miss, mostly miss. Loses first set.

Phew! Holds serve to start 2nd set. I’m wondering why nobody else seems to be waving Serbian flags. Maybe people are afraid after incidents with Croatian supporters a few days ago? [Some Serbs explained to me later during Rafa’s match that Serbs aren’t afraid of anything, they just weren’t there for her match ;)?!] Anyway too late now, I’m waving it, so there. Wasn’t planning to make any fashion comments, but they’re both wearing great outfits. I especially like Jelena’s. But what is she doing? Down 1-4 in 2nd…. and it just went down hill from there.

Well, that was painful. I can’t believe she lost. Goodbye HiSense, I’m off in search of Gonzalez!!!

6:30pm – outside Rod Laver Arena

Waiting for Del Potro’s match to finish before Rafa’s can start. Am with colm, sort of. If colm means so full of nervous energy I’m having trouble holding my phone to type this in…

Had the time of my life earlier watching Gonzalez v Korolev. Chilean fans are so much fun! It was a real nail-biter. I missed the first set – Court 2 packed – had to wait in a long line – but I was lucky enough to be last person through the gate I was waiting at, at the end of the first set! Phew!

I need to tell you now that I love Gonzalez. Completely adore him. I was screaming and flag-waving and Mexican-waving alongside the (apparently thousands? of) Chilean fans! Unbelievable atmosphere. Electric. The match swung back and forth with each set, no way of knowing who was going to win.

To the delight of the fans, including me, Feña threw a few token tantrums, dropping his racket, jumping up and down to get fans to sit down, etc. He had a smile on his face most of the time. So did I! I can understand how this must drive his opponents crazy, but it also drives his fans crazy and gets everyone (well, most of us anyway) behind him. Smart cookie. And a great entertainer. He also applauded Korolev several times for some amazing shots. But the best moment for me was when he looked right up at my corner just when I happened to be the only person waving a Chilean flag, and he smiled at me. Yes, me. I know what you’re thinking, but the man sitting next to me thought he was smiling at me too! I was wearing a rather fetching white hat with a blue band and red feathers stuck in it, grinning at him, and waving a Chilean flag, so why wouldn’t he?! Sadly, I probably won’t be wearing that hat again, because it’s now covered in chocolate. Tip of the day: don’t shove white hats randomly into bags you have melting chocolate-covered cookies in. Boy, it was hot and humid out there… just like being back at home [good news – I still have a home, The Windy has wound down a bit]!

Let me just say that Feña’s forehand is a thing of great beauty, particularly when he’s hitting a superb passing shot into the corner when his opponent comes into the net. Wow, he hits that ball hard!

What a nail-biter of a match it was. Security were out in force near the big groups of Chileans, which seemed a bit too much to me, but then I’m biased. One fan got escorted out for catching a ball and not returning it. Duly noted. Remember to return Rafa’s balls ;) But Feña prevailed in the end, as it should be, possibly carried through by the amazing support of his fans. I really need to re-learn Spanish so I can become one with these crazy Chilean fans! Can’t wait to see him play again!!!

After Gonzalez, I returned to HiSense (via an ice-cream stand!) just in time to catch Murray taking the first set off Serra. I quite like Serra. But I won’t be able to support Murray against Rafa, so had to support Muzza here. It wasn’t a very long or exciting match. Murray was serving unusually well I thought. In pretty good form, very business-like, but he hits like a girl (compared to Feña, not Serena ;)! Not much more I can say. I really wish I liked him more, he’s growing on me as he matures. But he just isn’t Henman. Not his fault. I waved a Scottish flag around half-heartedly and was glad the match finished relatively quickly so I could have a bit of a break and get ready for Rafa’s match. Sat and had fish and chips (naturally!) with a couple of grey-haired older ladies, went to The Ladies for a quick freshen up, and then headed over to Rod Laver Arena…

And you all know what happened next!

2am back at my hostel, absolutely wide awake, adrenalin coursing through my veins

After the match, I headed to The Ladies, where I took a few moments to get myself back together. Let’s just say I was a little bit shaky, and couldn’t wipe the grin off my face, so I left it there! Started getting text messages from friends who saw me on TV! Got a free tram back to the hostel, except it stopped about half way, and I had to get off. I was so pumped I decided to walk. You know that ‘nothing can touch me’ half-swagger Rafa sometimes has when things are going well on court? Well, I imagine I looked something like that walking back! Got back to the hostel,and collapsed on the floor of my room like Rafa does when he wins tourneys. Then I got up and bounced up and down with some fist pumps. Sadly, kitchen closes at 11pm… useless for anyone with tickets to the night sessions. Starving hungry and all I’ve got access to is half-melted chocolate biscuits and a chocolate coated hat. Could be worse. But I’d kill for a cup of tea ;)

Here are some random things I remember about the match.

I was very disappointed in the crowd at first. They were very subdued. Where are all the Chileans when you need them?! Couldn’t see many Spanish flags being waved. Rafa didn’t seem to be doing a very good job of pumping himself up, lost his first service game, etc. Not many of us seemed to be helping, so I yelled Vamos! as loudly as I could and he won a point or two after that! The guy next to me joked “He must have heard you!” – ha ha, I think the whole stadium heard me! Given the apparent reticence of the crowd, I decided to go all out and wave and scream as much as possible, to the amusement of the relatively sympathetic people around me, who did helpful things like point out when the roving camera was trying to film me, and when Rafa was changing his shirt… (hang on… it’s coming ;). Eventually the crowd did get into it, but it took a surprisingly long time (by Chilean standards anyway)!

I had a GREAT seat. Directly opposite Rafa’s bench towards the back of the lower section. Perfect. I took advantage of it and waved my flag like hell every time he sat down. Relatively early on in the match, the guy sitting next to me very kindly informed me “Look! He saw you!”. So I kept doing it, even though my arm felt like it was going to fall off. The only disadvantage to sitting on the end of a row is that you either take out the people coming and going during changeovers, or it severely cramps your flag waving style. Oh, I need to tell you about my flag. It came all the way from Spain, courtesy of a former student of mine, who is the sweetest Spanish boy who’s ever lived (yes, even sweeter than Rafa if that’s possible!) and loves tennis. He told me I had to wave it really hard so he could see me on TV… muchas gracias amigo! It worked! I hope you were watching!

Other random things I remember: I love the sound of the ball off Rafa’s racket when it hits the sweet spot. Somehow hearing it live makes it sweeter. The same is true of his grunt. I never used to like the grunting. But I’m starting to associate it with him being in the moment. And I love that. So, now I love the grunt! I remember being surprised by his challenges, which are usually correct, but weren’t tonight. But I don’t remember any of things Rafa is so famous for. The bottle-aligning, the bananas (I know there was at least one banana because some tweeted about it), and I only remember seeing his hand move once to the back of his pants… in fact, I remember very few details of this match at all. I was too completely lost in the moment!

Kohlschreiber was playing well, I do remember that. He made some great shots. He really fought. Rafa didn’t seem to really get into it until the final set. For the most part (my impressions are hazy) he seemed to be forward of the Melbourne sign (good), and coming into the net more, but making a lot of errors. There were a few Verdasco-going-walkabout moments. But Jim Courier’s “good errors” comment also went through my head a few times. BTW, didn’t Courier look great on court in that suit? Missed having commentary to help me make more sense of the match, but I wouldn’t have heard a word of it through my alternating states of tension and euphoria anyway. Oh yeah, now I know what I do courtside when I can’t hide behind a cushion… I cover my face with my hands while hanging onto the flag for dear life. I’ve also caught Rafa’s leg-twitching-habit-during-changeovers, except that I’m doing it at every tense moment. Weird, ’cause it’s one of those quirks that’s always driven me mad over the years in other people, and suddenly now I’m doing it too?! Rafa, what have you done to me?! Am I going to be like this with Fer as well? Please no!

Talking of covering my face with my hands, halfway through the match I looked up and saw the scores of some of the other matches. Kimmy! Oh my dear Kimmy! Noooooooo! Anyone read her tweet afterwards? She’s right, it really sucks. With you, and Jelena, and Ana, and Maria José out, who do I support on the women’s side? Oh hang on, still obviously not thinking clearly. Stosur and Carla Suarez Navarro of course. Problem is… couldn’t help noticing that Carla v Serena is on at the same time as Fer plays [can’t remember, brain didn’t engage beyond seeing Fer’s name!] I better find out quick,* because I don’t want to miss Fer play, but would love to see Carla take out Serena! *Kobuk? Who? Is he any good? Should I defer on Fer and watch Carla? Tough choice. Pretty pissed about Monfils too. Was looking forward to seeing him, though at least I like Isner. Feli lost to Roddick, but that’s okay. A-Rod has grown on me, and I’m not that keen on Feli. But Tommy lost in doubles, not okay at all *big sulk*.

The scheduling fairy has abandoned me for tomorrow. Djokovic is on HiSense at night, when I’m on Rod Laver (Baggy v. Hewitt, should be loud!) Looks like I won’t get to see Monaco tomorrow and he’s up against Davydenko… now that you’re winning on Playstation, Pico, how about taking out Davy? I hope Tsonga gets past Haas. I like Hass, but I love Tsonga (BTW, did anyone else notice he’s also using the black strings?). And Gonzalez & Ljubicic are up against two Aussies in their doubles match… the atmosphere alone would make that worth watching! Why are all the matches I want to see tomorrow all on at around the same time?!

But enough about tomorrow…

Today I saw Rafael Nadal play live. It wasn’t a great match, to be honest (as a match) I enjoyed Feña’s a lot more. But it was Rafa. He was LIVE. And he won! And I was there, and I watched it, and now everyone I know who watches tennis has seen me watching it, and I will probably never hear the end of it… ;)

There was a point (okay, well more than one) in the match when Rafa wasn’t playing so well, when I tweeted that I wished one of the seagulls flying over head would crap on Kohlschreiber’s head. I didn’t really mean it. It’s supposed to be lucky, so it would have been better for one to crap on Rafa instead and then we might also have had an unscheduled shirt change! A win-win, really ;) And talking of shirt changes, most of you know that I lust over Fer rather than Rafa, but it was still a bit embarrassing that I didn’t even notice the first shirt change until the lady behind me kindly tapped me on the shoulder and said “Don’t you want to get a picture of that?!” Ladies, I can only apologize. The best way to do that would have been to offer you some of the gratuitous shirtless pictures I subsequently took so I could post them for you… but unfortunately my compact was struggling with the focus/exposure/indoor lighting/well just about everything! So maybe miri can find one for you instead…?

And on that note, I’m ready to go to bed… sweet dreams everyone!

8 Responses

  1. faeaki7 says:

    I so understand what you mean by the noise Rafa creates when he hits the ball, its so different isn’t it, people have said it but until you see him live you just can’t appreciate what they mean.
    I think when I first experienced watching Rafa just practising I almost felt that it didn’t seem real, “can I really be here, watching Rafa train and so close?” its hard to take in, and well watching him in a match is just amazing! his intensity absorbs you beyond belief! Great read! love reading your happenings, keep up the good work!

  2. karen says:

    Oh aRafaelite you really crack me up with your amazing view on things.I wish i could see the funny side when Rafa’s playing.I seem to be either berating him or getting over-excited when he pulls out a fab shot!Wish I could be ‘with colm’ Keep up the great work and enjoy.

    • karen says:

      Can’t believe faeaki7 just posted before me.We must be on the same wavelenght,I read her previous comment re post match.I had also just done school run and had branflakes for breakfast,but no banana.Think Rafa had mine.

  3. MJ says:

    Again, a brilliant, decriptive, colorful post!! Just rewatching the match, saw you a couple of times!! You have inspired me to make a plan to see him play live!! Keep up the great job!! Have lots of fun …

  4. sia says:

    Thanks again aRafaelite for your fun commentary … it takes a lot of concentration to tell your story and get it all down in words … thanks for the effort. Gonzalez’ matches have to be some of the most exciting!!
    So happy for you seeing (and hearing) Rafa play. Keep having a Blast!

  5. Atch2 says:

    Rafa looked straight at YOU! How cool is that?! You’re collecting such great memories of the whole AO, not just our Rafa. I luved watching Rafa as he stares at the big screen tv during the challenges.

    Hope you can cheer for Henin for me if you lack someone to cheer for on the womens side.

  6. Ch F says:

    Hey, someone’s having a great time down under! So happy for you aRafaelite. Thanks for your post.

    Yes seeing Rafa live is a true experience. You were seating right opposite him? Wow lucky you!

    Hope he has all the luck in the world for his match tomorrow. Cheer him as much as you can on behalf of all of us!

  7. nic says:

    Wonderful read aRafaelite!! I saw you on tv too, awesome!! At least someone was cheering Rafa on like a true fan :) Loved to read your experience. Sigh, seeing Rafa live, playing live, shirt change live, on-court interview live. It’s like heaven. And I loved your experience at Gonzalez’ match, haha sounds awesome. I love him too big time. Everytime I watch one of his matches I can’t help but LOL at some of the things he does. He’s so animated and funny. Have a great time tomorrow. Hope you have tix to see Rafa’s 4th round match and cheer him on against the crazy-serving tall dude.