Miami: Day three

I might have found my limit on live tennis: 3 days. I’m soooooo tired! Despite constant slatherings of sunscreen, my face, neck, arms, hands and left knee are sunburned. Oh, and my feet are twice the size as they are gathering up water weight that is needed to keep my pants from falling down.

Okay, whining over. Because really? Today I got to see some fun stuff and shouldn’t complain at all. But, I’m me…so there it is.

Started off running into Kate at breakfast again. We munched and then got on the tournament bus. While on the bus, I get a text just after 10am from a super-secret spy. The text says that Rafa has court 10 reserved for practice at 10:30am. I look at my watch and try to figure how long we’ve been driving and how long it usually takes me to walk from the bus stop to the courts. No way I’m going to make it, but I’m going to try, damn it! Bus stops and instead of doing my usual thing of getting off last, I get off as soon as I can and start walking as fast as I can. By the time I get to the gates, I’m a sweaty, exhausted, and gasping for air mess. But I keep going. It’s 10:30. Eeep! I round the corner and the court is empty. No one around. I pick a spot, tweet about the pending practice time and wait. A few minutes later I hear the squeals and shouts of “Rafa” that follow him wherever he goes. RafaPractice! And I have a spot on the fence.

Rafa does his warm-up: Maymo stretches Rafa’s legs (that’s an interesting site from my angle), ladder drill, tension cords, etc. I was having a very difficult time seeing most of this because people were leaning over the fence in front of me. But I couldn’t blame them; the view was nice. At one point, a very nice lady behind me says, “He needs to smile” and he did! I told her she had powers and should use them wisely and carefully.

I figured Rafa would start hitting on the far end (where he was warming up), but much to my surprise, he comes down to the end I’m on. Yay! He starts his slow, low-key warm-up hits (at this point, I have no idea who with since I can’t see the other end of the court) and slowly steps up the pace. He doesn’t look super happy and makes the standard “well, shit” faces at many shots, but he also doesn’t seem grumpy. Basically, he seems to be all business and very focused. I took this as a good sign. I finally see he’s hitting with Roig, but then a few minutes later hear someone say something about a doubles partner. I lean over the fence and look down and…it’s Marc! Yay! Marc! (BTW, Tomeu was there, but I guess without a foot-fault judge, Rafa didn’t want to hit with him.) At some point, a ball was hit into the crowd and Rafa asked for it back. He made a kind of “I know this is unpleasant for you, but it must be done, so thank you” face while holding out a hand. Heh.

I always wonder what Roig and Rafa talk about on the court. Today it seems the word Rafa said most to Roig was, “eh?” I don’t know if he wasn’t listening at first or what. Roig and Marc had some lengthy convos too. I think Roig is talky. Hell, the whole group seems talky.

After a bit, they switch ends and Marc! is down on my end. (Is it just me, or does that sound dirty?) When he did, Rafa wasn’t quite ready yet and so Marc! started hitting the ball to himself using the scoreboard as a hitting partner. Then he tried the same thing with the backdrop. He then started playing some tennis-footie and did that, “kick the ball up and catch it on the back of your neck” thing. This drew much applause and he looked at the crowd and smiled….and then did it again. I think the boy’s a ham. Bless him. Later, someone in the crowd was asking him questions in Spanish. Marc! looked at his racket and said, “Luxilon” – so I’m guessing the question had to do with strings. Man, am I smart.

After an hour of standing, leaning, bending over, and bumping people, the photography session, erm, practice was over. He signed autographs and then the squealing “Rafa”ing entourage receded off into the distance. Thanks so much, secret spy. I never would have caught this session without the text message. I figured he’d practice early on the stadium court since he’s done that before when he’s 2nd or 3rd on stadium.

I headed over to the court the Verdasco/Lopez doubles was about to start on. I watched a bit of that before leaving for the stadium and RafaTime. On the way there, kefuoe somehow manages to spot me and say, “Hi.” That’s 2 days in a row. On huge grounds and with oodles of other people around. It’s kind of freaky. Anyway, we chat a bit and then she goes off in one direction (she didn’t have stadium tickets) and I go in another, find my seats and get settled in.

I never get tired of “Olympic gold medalist, Rafael Nadal” – can that be part of his introduction for ever and ever? A lot of you got to see the match and probably know more about it than I do (although, I wasn’t taking as many pictures as I usually do since I’d been so spoiled already). That double fault in the tie-break almost killed me. All I could think of was, “nerves are going to do him in again – he’s stuck in a bad cycle and can’t get out of it.” Thank goodness I was wrong. Yes, he had some help from Nalbandian, but help from an opponent hasn’t always been enough lately. No, Rafa gutted this out and it was great to see – especially against a player that seems to undermine his confidence on a good day.

One thing I did notice: Team Nadal was very animated today, and Rafa was yelling, cursing and looking to them a lot. During the second set, Maymo kept yelling out “Vamos!” and “Rafa”, etc with increasing frequency. When Rafa went up on Nalbandian’s serve in that last game? Maymo leaned over and gave Tomeu or Marc! (I don’t remember which) a HUGE high five and then stood up and yelled at Rafa again. Rafa looked so relieved and happy to have won that match. I think beating Nalbandian will do great things for his confidence – even if Nalbandian wasn’t at his best.

He had to wait forever to do some TV interviews. I don’t know if the headsets weren’t working or if they just kept having to change them out for different interviews, but from all the hand-gesturing going on, I think there was a malfunction. When he was finally giving the interviews, he was talking with his hands and shrugging like usual.

After that, I watched the end of Ferrer/Karlovic. Ferrer won and guess who he plays next? (I got a little obsessed with Ferrer’s tongue while taking pictures of this match. I think he spent about half the match with it out.)

After that, when I realized I’d been starring at the OOP for over 10 minutes without being able to decide where to go next, I figured it was time for a sit down and some “lunch” (around 5pm). So, I got some food and asked two chatty people if I could share their table. They said yes and continued to talk about French wine while I ate. After the lady got up, I noticed they both had volunteer badges on. After a bit, I awkwardly struck up a conversation with the gentleman and am glad I did. He was a long-time tennis fan and a long-time volunteer who had a lot to say (without that “know it all” air) about the game, the problem with getting attention to doubles and the way the sport needs a “star like Agassi and not a great but boring player like Samprass.” Hmmm. My mind is thinking, “Federer or Nadal?” He went on to say that while not as boring as Samprass, Federer is certainly no Nadal and I smiled and agreed vigorously. Then he said it was interesting to see how much Rafa had changed over the years, “well, even since last year.” Hmmm. What did he mean? Even as recently as last year, he said, Rafa would spend hours in the players’ lounge surrounded by other Spanish speaking players “and women” laughing and chatting – it was non-stop smiles and good feelings. This year, he said Rafa’s spent a lot of time alone and not out in the public areas. He saw Rafa lying down in one room with his headphones on and that he appeared to spend quite a while in there. I know Rafa’s had to do a lot of growing up in the past year, but this almost felt more like a “needs to find a new way to get his colm” to me. Of course, I could be reading far too much into it, but I found it interesting. It makes me appreciate the smiley fun he had with Tomeu yesterday just that much more.

After I said good-bye to the pleasant fellow, I decided to come back to the hotel. I really need to catch up on my sleep. So, as soon as I sort through some photos to share with you guys, I’ll do just that.

(Hours after getting back, it still feels like I have my hat on. That creeps me out!)

38 Responses

  1. Nana says:

    Miri, thank you! I don’t what else to say.

    Got a bit emotional reading the volunteer’s story, silly!

    Anyway, I’m really glad that you’ve had a great time, though you must be exhausted, having to deal with the rain and the sun! But you got Rafa smiling at you at 3rd last pic, so it’s all worthwhile =D

    • miri says:

      Heh, no. He’s smiling at the person who was coordinated enough to catch the ball, not the one who wasn’t. ;)

      • Nana says:

        I think he caught you out of the corner of his eye and thought, “is that the girl with the big camera at my practice today? She’s everywhere.”

        ;p

        • miri says:

          Heh, could be. I shall expect a restraining order soon. ;)

          • An says:

            Aaaaaawwww Miri, No!
            I’m sure he knows youre “from” Nadalnews and is, like the rest off us here, more then gratefull to you for giving his Rafanatics a place to freely drool over and lust after him;)

            And be a little more confident please. How do you mean not coordinated? Taking pics with a heavy camera and an even more heavy lens and also trying to catch a ball… Hell, i bet even Rafa would have a hard time pulling that off!! I think that must be why he smiled :)

  2. sia says:

    Rafa will always, always be Olympic gold medalist … miri those photos of Marc! are truly the best yet.

  3. Eliana says:

    “BTW, Tomeu was there, but I guess without a foot-fault judge, Rafa didn’t want to hit with him.” LOLLL! Poor Tomeu!

    Loving Marc! in your sequence. I jut want to go, tousle his hair and give him a big bear-hug.

    It’s great to know that I’m not the only one that thinks that tennis needs stars like Agassi and Rafa. Not to under-appreciate Sampras or Federer, because they have immense talents(never a fan of Sampras, but really like Fed). But just the other day I had a talk with a friend in which my argument for Rafa-love was that although I do think that Federer is the best ever, Rafa’s game is incredibly exciting. You can see he’s living the game, point by point, and that makes me live it too.

    I know it’s not consolation, but the smile that Rafa has in the pic when he was throwing the ball your way, Oh…my…God. I need to marry that guy

    • kefuoe says:

      I love how you put that, “…living the game, point by point…” I think it’s a perfect description of the irresistible tension of passionate tennis. And I also agree that it is a bit different from virtuoso tennis.

  4. sia says:

    Oh and am quite partial to “Ooooooh yes”.

  5. GB says:

    Gah, Rafa being more of a loner/less smiley makes me sad:(((((( He’s had such the shitty year:((((

    Agree that all the dubs fun seems that much more important now. Wish Marc! and Tomeu could be permanent travel buds…But, I guess they have their own pesky lives to be getting on with:) If only Rafa had the time/knees to be a dubs specialist as well.

  6. CC says:

    Now, that IS an interesting angle…

    I’m going to say it again. Marc! looks kinda hot with that scruff. Keep it going!

    I’d love to know what it feels like having Rafa down on my end. But not so much Marc!. ;)

  7. teejustice says:

    What a day! Interesting, we had almost the same day out there – long day too. Great photos and cool stuff with the gentleman @ lunch. My mom and I got on the grounds about 10:45 and went to court 2. We notice a crowd around court 10 and I see a yellow hat turned back with red shirt and saw the buggy whip. Rafa! The fence is crowded so I try to just watch from the top of the stands at our court, but can’t see anything but the top of heads.

    My mom suggests that I go over anyway and maybe I will be able to see better. I go and am just two people back but he’s at my end and a guy leaves and I’m that much closer. Yay! I only saw about 10 minutes before he had to leave. I didn’t see him smile, he seemed a bit grumpy to me.

    I am not one to request autographs, but I did try to no avail. I walked (got pushed) along with the group as the security said no more. I realize that I am right behind him (or rather the security guy). So I move to the side and am walking along with Rafa and could not help but to touch him. I touched Rafa’s left shoulder. It was surreal, I felt conflicted but would probably (sadly) do it again. He kept moving forward, I sort of froze for a moment.

    I caught up with my mom to watch Feli/Nando. She told me about her own encounter with them as they were arriving to the court they both had to pass on either side of her. Feli smiled, but Nando was all business. We got to watch a set-plus before going to see Rafa’s match then some much needed lunch, etc.

    (please excuse the long post – could not believe this day)

  8. tiemyshoe says:

    Wow, your photos are getting better and better! And from the cheap seats, indeed! Props. :)

    So many things I luuurve, so will list them:

    – Rafa’s face in that “Help me up!” photo – kind of annoyed and petulant that he’s still on the ground
    – Marc! being kinda … sorry, to be crass, but … kinda fuckable?! What?! Usually I think he’s cute like a baby panda, but the scruff is confusing my brain wiring
    – Maymo getting FIRED UP. I love it.
    – Roig looking like he always wants to be smoking a cig
    – Feli’s abs. HELLO, THERE. I’m kinda indifferent to most non-Rafa Armada players (sorry, outed!), but DAMN.
    – how that Nalby/Rafa net hug is off-center – ARTSY.

    Oh, and last but not least, what a cool perspective from that volunteer. The thought of Rafa taking more time alone is both poignant and comforting, ’cause first, he really has a lot to think about, and second, he’s probably alone so rarely otherwise.

    Then, I think that he’s probably alone in that room listening to Phantom of the Freakin’ Opera on his headphones, and I can’t help but LOL.

    Sorry ’bout this essay of a post, but I am enthused and procrastinating on writing an actual essay, haha.

  9. Isabelle says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your day with, loved the write-up and your awesome photos!

  10. dutchgirl says:

    Thanks again, Miri, for sharing your great day with us. I really like your writing, and I loooove the photos!
    My favourites are the one where Marc! is all smiling when he gets his applause, and ofcourse the smile of Rafa after he hit that ball into the crowd.
    Who cares that you missed that ball, when you caught his smile!!

  11. junko says:

    Thank you miri, for your wonderful write-up and the photos. It makes me feel so much closer to the centre of the action while I am so physically away from it all!

    No, I don’t think you are reading too much into Rafa’s preference to solitude, I totally agree he’s had to do (and perhaps still is doing) a lot of growing up last year. I’m sure it’s all for the good.

    Thanks again and hope Rafa will continue to re-gain his confidence and colm!

  12. faeaki7 says:

    Lovely pics and yep what a day you’ve had? Hope this match helps with his confidence and colm’ maybe thats what the relaxing and ear-phone thing is all about? stay Strong Rafa we are all behind you!!!

  13. tennisfun says:

    thanks miri. i love reading your reports . you capture the spirit of being there . i loved you reports from dc. and your pics are the best.

  14. Wooffie says:

    Miri – I am so enjoying your entertaining reports from Miami. They’re funny and informative, so keep up with the good work, we’re all enjoying it!!

  15. TeamNadal says:

    Great recap and your pics are just FAB!!!!

  16. xta says:

    thank you, thank you, thank you !!!

  17. mary says:

    Where does one start with all these goody pics. I’m still trying to move forward from the wonderful crotch pics. God I wanna massage that mans leg. I’m not sure which one I’d be going for though. One two or three? ;-)
    Interesting what that man had to say about Rafa having alone time. Maybe it’s just part of his maturing. I could imagine Rafa never being alone & always having someone aroud him or more to the point many someones.. Time out sounds fairly practical to me & maybe Rafa’s discovered that as well!!

  18. Nic says:

    Is it just me or is Marc gettin hotter w each passing day? And needless to say Rafa is fine, mighty fine.

  19. Stf says:

    Love the pics. Except the lovely Rafa pics, I particularly love all the Marc! pics. Marc! who, if I’m not wrong, will be coming to Greece for a challenger tournament that’s taking place in Athens. Hopefully I will be around to go watch. ;)

  20. Atch2 says:

    Great moments you’ve captured here Miri.

    Lovely angle indeed Rafa. The ‘Help me’ pic is funny bec Rafa looks like such a helpless baby, and Roig and Maymo seem to be just looking at him.

    Looks like Maymo is getting his own version of a Nalbandian tummy.

    I think that ball boy was a bit too close to Rafa during the shirt change. But then again I’m just jealous.

    My favourite Vamos execution is when Rafa does it jogging backwards and usually addressing it at his Team like in pic 20. It’s like ‘YES, I’m pumped for another round of action. Vamos’

    And if Rafa hugs me at the net, I want a tight bear hug like what Nalby got. One when Rafa’s on his toes, leaning over to my side of the net. One that does leave any space between us, and Rafa’s grabbing onto me or my t-shirt and he’s saying sweet things in my ear. Now that’s a genuine hug.

    Luv the sneakers.

    • tiemyshoe says:

      Awww, Maymo and his ‘lil gut! It’s like, Physician heal thyself! XD

      My obligatory shallow comment: Anyone notice that the yellow shirt almost obscenely highlights Rafa’s torso and how he was, um, nipping out?

      Or was he just that “happy for the win”? :P

      • CC says:

        Definitely a lot of nipple yesterday, because I remember going from saying “niiice nipples, Rafa” (when I was happy with his play) to “Rafa’s got man tits!!!” (when I wasn’t so happy with his play). ;)

      • johanne says:

        Totally noticed Rafa’s Pico-esque nipples yesterday! I enjoyed them very much indeed. Along with his sweaty sexy bod (just in general). ;)

        • miri says:

          Wait, you guys are just now noticing that Rafa’s nipples are often erect? What the hell is wrong with you? Sure, his nipples aren’t as aggressive as Pico’s, but they are often perky.

          • johanne says:

            Yeah I know but Pico’s are ALWAYS erect – he has magical nipples or something lol. Also, chances are I’m oogling other parts of Rafa’s body and maybe don’t notice his nips because I’m hung up on his ass or his back or his arms or his legs or his…well, you get the idea. ;)

          • tiemyshoe says:

            Au contraire. I’m been keeping a journal of Rafa’s nipple erectness patterns and observed a distinct spike during the Nalbandian match of nearly 20% perkiness.

            I think he just really enjoys saving break points. It perks him right up! :PPPP

            (P.S. – miri, I hope this gets you a lot of hits from Google searches for “Rafa+Nadal+nipples”) :D

    • CC says:

      “…Rafa’s grabbing onto me or my t-shirt and he’s saying sweet things in my ear…”

      You trying to kill me?! :D

  21. EJL says:

    this report’s as great as pics. though i’m usually reluctant to read this size post, yours miri proves against as i got through it in a gasp :) and besides chuckled whole-heartedly at lots of points

    well,hold yourself/nerves Rafa and let me celebrate your trophy-biting for the first time since i’ve been enjoying myself on this site

  22. Atch2 says:

    Wonder if the Women surrounding Rafa last yr was bec he was being flirtatous or bec they are just drawn to him.