Sunday 24 January – A Roller Coaster
What a day! Okay, let me start by saying that I was unable to get a ticket to Rod Laver Arena to see Rafa’s match today. Grrrr. I can’t even remember which women’s matches were scheduled for HiSense this morning but I decided to skip them in favour of a lie in and sorting out photos, returning emails and trying to find out what was going on with cyclone number 2 that was closing in on Cairns. Insane. Again The Windy has died down a bit, but haven’t had an update on Maria & Tommy’s next yet and whether it’s survived the gales.
When Murray’s match looked like it was almost over I hopped on a tram to Rod Laver Arena to try and catch Rafa’s match on a big screen. Not as easy as it sounds. The one everyone kept trying to tell me about I simply couldn’t find, and I also couldn’t find a map of the grounds anywhere (seriously, I haven’t seen one at all) so I ended up in the Grand Slam oval until people’s cigarettes and band practice (no, I’m not joking) drove me away. I was getting quite frantic. Apparently there’s supposed to be a big screen near HiSense, but I couldn’t find that either, so I ducked inside the arena and found a perfect spot, in the aircon, on the floor under a reasonably sized TV and watched the third set there quite contentedly. When I was satisfied (with colm) that he was going to win the match, I took my seat in HiSense for the Cilic v Del Potro match. So, I completely failed in my duty as a Rafanatic today (apart from wearing Spanish colours with a big flag draped around me) and hang my head in complete shame.
Nearly 3:30pm HiSense – Cilic v Del Potro
But what a match Cilic v Del Potro was. 4 hours and I can’t remember how many minutes. Ridiculous. Until he started beating up on Rafa, I really quite liked Del Potro, and I enjoyed watching him play. The Tower of Tandil didn’t appear quite so ridiculously tall in real life, but maybe that’s because he wasn’t playing such aggressive tennis as usual. I also hadn’t fully appreciated how well he moves. He’s surprisingly agile for such a big guy. It was a tight match. Cilic was really going for it, and he had some vocal supporters, but as the match progressed the rest of the spectators increasingly got behind Del Po. There was really great shot-making from both of them, but an extraordinarily high number of unforced errors as well. And not the good ones. Cilic really wanted it. I wonder if he’s going to be this years Soderling? There was clearly something not quite right with Del Po, his body language quite early on in the match was quite defeated.
One of the things you notice when you’re sitting 5 rows behind the court, that you don’t always notice on TV, is how focused the players are within themselves. Some look up often at the crowd – like Feña & Carla. Others hardly ever – like Nole & Del Po. I don’t know if players are consistent in these habits, but it interests me. And surprises me – especially with Nole who can be so easily distracted. I’m beginning to think that the ones who play more tightly within themselves are the ones who fall apart more easily, and those that work with, and use the crowd, cope better with the emotional rollercoaster. It’s just a theory, and probably be wrong, but I might pay more attention to it over the next few days, see if I can discern a pattern. I find the whole psychology of tennis fascinating. Haven’t we’ve all been struggling with that in relation to Rafa’s performance lately? We took his colm for granted, and once shattered, he’s not yet quite been able to regain it. Maybe he won’t, but maybe that isn’t all bad? I feel like he’s been developing a stronger relationship with his fans lately e.g. through Facebook (does he honestly reads people’s comments?! Scary thought!) – but perhaps the outpouring of affection for him after Roland Garros actually did help him through those difficult months? He didn’t need us to make him feel strong before, perhaps he needs it a little bit more now? Maybe not. But just in case I will be supporting my heart out for him in the Quarter Final against Murray on Tuesday. If you think I went all out for Feña today, believe me, I’ll triple it for Rafa!
In case there’s any doubt about my fan style, I’m a noisy emotional fan – like Rafa supporting Ferrer in the DC Finals – not a self-contained, save-it-for-the-big-moments kind of supporter like Fer! I didn’t full realise this until I got the smile from Feña and so many glances from Carla, but courtside, visibly showing your support can be really appreciated. So, my advice, if you don’t mind people laughing at you, go all out to support your man/woman! But there are lines you shouldn’t cross (see notes on etiquette that follow).
There was a mass exodus from HiSense at a changeover just before 7pm… probably people like me with tickets for the night session on Rod Laver Arena – Henin v Wickmayer followed by Feña v Roddick. I decided to stay with the Del Po match (absolutely the right decision seeing as it was damn good). It was a superb match 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 to Cilic, and I was sorry to see Del Po drop out of the tourney. Bit torn about this… I would have liked to see him through to the quarter finals, and then see Rafa take him out in the semis and finally knock that demon on the head, but on the other hand, this definitely increases Rafa’s chances of winning the tourney :D I got some great pictures of this match. I hope Rafa’s QF is during the day so I can get some good shots, it’s focusing in the night lighting my camera can’t handle.
I had to duck out of the match for a while around 6pm when the schedule for Monday came up on screen. I saw Verdasco was down for the second match of the day on Rod Laver, and I have day tickets for HiSense. On my way out, I met a couple with exactly the opposite problem. Tickets for Rod Laver but desperate to see Djokovic on HiSense. We couldn’t swap though, because there were two of them and only one of me, and although she was happy to dump her boyfriend temporarily for Nole, he obviously wasn’t so keen! So we headed to the box office together, and luckily all got we wanted. Unfortunately I probably won’t get a refund for my HiSense ticket (will try again tomorrow) but I was $50 up from last night anyway, and more than happy to pay the $60 difference to watch FeVer take on Davy and Sam Stosur take on Serena [I’m glad I did it right away, because by the end of the day the session was sold out].
8:45pm Rod Laver Arena – Feña v A-Rod
I missed the first two sets of the Henin v Wickmayer match, but still managed to catch the final set and wave a little Belgian flag. Henin won.
And then came the match I’d been looking forward to all day – Feña v Roddick. Did I mention that I love Feña? And the crazy Chilean fans? Well, I had some face paints\ crayons with me that I hadn’t tried out yet, so decided to go all out and paint a Chilean flag on my face (try drawing a star on your face with a crayon, hemmed into a row of people, holding a tiny little mirror in one hand, while drawing with the other)! The ladies on one side of me were quite helpful. The lads on the other side not so much. They were Roddick fans, so they didn’t appreciate me chanting “Chi Chi Chi, Le Le Le, Chile Chile!” (I think it’s supposed to end with I Love Chile! but I haven’t been there so Chile Chile! worked for me) with the other Feña fans, and told me to make sure not to wave my flag too close to them. They complained about Feña fans clapping when Roddick hit a ball into the net (and by the way I didn’t) yet applauded loudly whenever Gonzalez did the same. I clapped Roddick when he made a really great shot, but it didn’t work the other way. They also talked through many of the points as did the people behind me at both the Del Po match and the Feña / Roddick match. This seriously pisses me off. When play starts, talk stops. If you want to gossip, go outside and do it, and let those of us who actually want to watch tennis, do so without having to listen to you driveling on. It’s so disrespectful to the players, and I can’t believe how many people do this.
It was a wonderful match. Really tight the whole way through. There was some spectacular shot-making from both players. Roddick served loads of aces. Feña made some Nadal-like returns (how do you even get your racket on that, let alone produce a winner?) and the crowd was split about 50/50. What an amazing atmosphere! at times, you could have cut the tension with a knife (I would have quite liked a wall between me and the guys next to me, probably they felt the same)! Feña supporters were louder at first, but towards the end, Roddick fans stepped up their shouting. Unfortunately on too many occasions fans didn’t quieten down when the players were ready, and Feña (who I’ve noticed serves when he’s ready, whether or not everyone has shut up yet) faulted a couple of time when fans called out for him or Andy at the last minute, when he’d already started his service motion. This is seriously not on people. Chant, wave, chat, do whatever you like between points, but shut the hell up when play starts. Sorry for the rant, but the line was crossed too many times today.
I’ve said this before, and yes I know this isn’t The Gonzalez Appreciation Society, but Fernando’s forehand really is a thing of unbelievable power and beauty. Roddick’s grown on me a lot in the last year, and I’ll certainly be behind him in the quarter final, but he’s not an elegant player, he’s always remind me an overgrown teenager that hasn’t quite grown into all his limbs yet. His service motion seems cramped and strange to me, and I find no beauty in the way he moves on court – in his shots, yes – but not in how he produces them. Perhaps I will change my mind about this as I start to play more often, and learn a bit more about technique myself. But Fernando, aye aye aye! That forehand of his just blows me away. His backhand slice is very nice too and he used it very effectively today. But every now and then he pulled a Verdasco, got a bit cocky, over (and occasionally under) cooked things and that’s probably what lost him the match. He lost the 4th set with a challenge that went in Roddick’s favour which prompted a genuinely pointless (rather than amusing) tantrum, at another point smashed his racket and got a warning (fans asked for it so he tossed it into the crowd), and in the end, lost the 5th set and the match on a double fault, which really sucked. It was a great match: 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to Roddick. They played some incredible tennis. Certainly the first 3 sets were all about the winners and not the errors. I feel incredibly lucky to have been there for two unforgettable matches today.
I chatted to some women on the tram on the way back who were said something about HiSense tickets tomorrow. Do you want one? I asked. No, three of the four replied, we’ve got HiSense tickets, we want Rod Laver tickets! What woman in her right mind wouldn’t want Rod Laver tickets with Verdasco playing tomorrow? I joked. Her! they said, pointing at their friend and laughing uncontrollably – she’s definitely not in her right mind! Ten minutes later they were still laughing about it, and I felt compelled to point out the badly drawn Chilean flag on my face and comment that I clearly wasn’t in my right mind either. There’s going to be a lot of screaming women in the crowd tomorrow, myself included! Unfortunately I’m sitting behind the players so I’m going to miss the shirt changes :( come on, Fer, make it to the quarter finals, I’ll have a much better view then)!
The Gonzalez match didn’t finish until past 1am, and it was 1:30 when I got back to the hostel, and to my delight I found the cleaning lady in the kitchen and was able to make a cup of (decaff! tea to warm myself up. It was another freezing cold night out there – apparently only 13C – but at least tonight I was prepared. Unlike the people around me. Perhaps that’s why they were so pissy.
What a day! And tomorrow I get to see Fer take on Davy, followed by Sam Stosur v Serena Williams, with Federer taking on Hewitt to start the night session. What an atmosphere that should be! I still have a HiSense ticket too, so maybe I could duck back and catch Nole or Tsonga v Almagro…?! What I really need now is that time-turning thing Hermione had in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And some sleep.
So much great tennis, so little time. I look forward to reading what you all had to say about Rafa’s match today seeing as I wasted so much time trying to find anywhere decent to watch it! But right now, it’s 3am and time to go to bed. Perchance to dream about catching a FeVer tomorrow. Sadly, in this weather, I’m much more likely to catch a chill!
And now, some photos: