DC: Happy dancing Spaniards, take two
Davis Cup finals – 2011
In the midst of the wonderful afterglow I had from attending the Davis Cup quarterfinals, I started thinking about going to the semis in Cordoba. That didn’t work out and I was sad. The results of the semis, however made me happy because they meant the final would be played in Spain and would be Spain vs. Argentina – teams with players on my “like to watch” checklist. Needless to say, I immediately started looking at budget and vacation time for work. After much conspiring with fellow RafaFans, plans were made, flights were booked, an apartment rented, and much fun was anticipated. Let’s just say that, after a bumpy start, the anticipation paid off.
The bumpy start was the way there. Turns out I should have ignored the cheaper ticket price and followed my gut to never book a trip that connects via Chicago in the winter. Chicago was a mess thanks to 60mph winds and wintery weather. Flights were getting delayed indefinitely or just plain cancelled. Not that my airline bothered to update their website to tell me this or send me any of the flight alerts I’d signed up for. I showed up at the airport thinking everything was going by plan only to be told I wasn’t going to be leaving until the next day. Fun! After much whining (from me) and searching (from the check-in lady), my flights were re-booked to avoid Chicago and go by way of Dallas instead. I would arrive in Sevilla much later than planned (and thus lose a day of tourism), but I would still be there! I let @nycsandygirl know about the arrival time change so that she could pass that on to the people from whom we were renting the apartment. Glad she was able to contact them and they were flexible on getting someone to let us in and provide keys at the new time.
I had been whining non-stop about the situation on Twitter (hey, it’s boring and stressful watching a check-in lady punch keys on her computer terminal knowing she holds the fate of your tip in her hands). Turns out @bluebirdone had been reading. She sent me a text asking what flight I was on out of Dallas. I told her and she replied she was on the same flight. (She had been going through similar travel frustrations and been re-booked.) This cracked me up because we’d also been on the same flight to the 2009 Barcelona final. Done with my re-booking whining, I started my “I’m now bored waiting for 3 hours for my new flight” whining. This got worse when my flight to Dallas was delayed and was now scheduled to land 5 minutes before the flight from Dallas to Madrid was scheduled to board. I was stressed out for the whole flight wondering if I’d made it. We landed. I ran. I barely made it. (And bonus – check-in lady had put me in business class!)
I’ve bored you long enough with the travel stuff so far, so I’ll skip the cluster that is the Madrid airport and just say: if you are transferring there, give yourself plenty of layover time. Sure, the 6+ hours I was stuck there was too long, but still. No tight transfers in Madrid. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
I got to our very nice apartment 24 hours after my trip had started. Soon @jeannab4 and Deb were there as well. Not long after, @sapphireswell showed up. It was starting to feel like a RafaFest. Man, I love those. @gandaines (our local RafaFan contact and tour guide) dropped by on her way off work and we all had a grand time talking. It’s always fun to put a face and voice to someone you’ve only known via twitter/email.
The next day we did the sightseeing thing. If you ever go to Sevilla, you must see the Alcazar. That is all.
Finally, it was Friday – time for tennis! We got over to the venue and waited for will-call to open so we could pick up our tickets. Oddly enough, it opened after the doors did. While waiting, we amused ourselves by being dorks and posing with the large Armada poster that was nearby. We finally got our tickets and met up with @beefromgoa to get our original tickets (that were now extras) and tried to sell those. @sapphireswell and I gave up on selling the extra and went inside, but left it with @NatalieHoHo and @Atch2 who also had tickets to sell. They sold it – yay! After spending way too much money at the Toro booth (bought a hat and a jacket), we went in to find our seats and were very happy once we did. They weren’t the ones I really wanted (on the side near the end where any ceremonies would face), but they were good seats with a nice view – as long as the camera crane wasn’t blocking us. (The darn crane sometimes picked the worst times to get in our way, but what can you do?)
The opening ceremonies happened and then we realized that we could see the teams lining up along the track waiting to get announced to come onto court. Rafa was bouncing and talking to himself. Right behind him were some Argentina support team members jumping and waving their flags. Ah, mind games. I think Rafa gave himself three or four Vamoses before he even got onto the court. He was pumped and ready to go. It showed in his play too. I actually felt a bit sorry for Pico because he wasn’t playing badly – certainly not as poorly as one would think looking at the score. It’s just that Pico’s a good match-up for Rafa, and Rafa was on his game. (By the way, the day before we learned that the little breadsticks they often serve in restaurants there are called picos. So, I guess Rafa served Pico a pico.)
From the pre-match pumping up, to the leap of joy at the win, it was clear this match meant a lot to Rafa. It was fantastic to see him playing full-throttle, full of passion, and full of joy at the win.
Next up was Daveeed and Del Potro. Oye, what a match. I was sad to hear after the tie ended that Daveeed might not be playing DC again. I mean, after this match, I thought was had a nice tradition going: every other year, I travel to Spain to watch him play in a DC final and he tries to kill me. To be fair to him, this match wasn’t as stressful as the one he played against Stepanek in 2009, but still. I was so happy for Daveed that he pulled the match out. His consistency paid off and he didn’t lose his nerve.
As usual, one of the fun things about DC is watching teammates cheer for each other. We were lucky and our seats were on the same end as the Spanish team, so we had a clear view. Feli didn’t seem to be too into cheering, Fer seemed to know his play was going to suck and that his new main role was that of cheerleader (that is, he was cheering in hyper mode) and Rafa was…well, Rafa. Once he got out there (after his pressers, etc), he was doing all he could to support Daveeed. There was a lot of bossy looking chatting with players/team members that to me always looks like him trying to explain to them how he would have played that last point. Other than that, there were yells, fist pumps, clapping, and slapping at the barrier between him and the court. When the crowd would do their rhythmic claps that ended with a “Ferru!”, Rafa joined in. (BTW, I loved being in a place where a huge crowd cheered for the fierce lil’ man by name. Never happens in the US.) At one point, I thought Daveeed was getting a little nervous. Rafa was up to clap and yell support, but Toni kind of motioned that he should sit down and Rafa did. Maybe Toni thought the encouragement would just add to Daveeed’s nerves at the moment. Seemed like the right call as Daveeed went on to win that game.
Daveeed looked so happy with that win. His post-match kneel to the ground and roar was amazing. He had a nice moment at the net with DelPo (who looked devastated), did all the appropriate handshakes with officials and the opposing team captain and then went to his teams for high-fives and hugs. Rafa squeezed him like there was no tomorrow – it was great to see two of my favorite guys in such an emotion filled bear hug.
The matches lasted a while and I was a partial popsicle by the end! Since the day started overcast and foggy, there was no sun to heat up the stadium. It’s not enclosed at all; they just put a plastic roof over the court to protect it from rain. I was very glad I’d spent my money on the jacket (which looks just like the team jackets). I had it on and had wrapped my legs with my hoodie…and was still cold! During chunks of his cheerleading stint, Rafa had on two jackets! They didn’t have the slight breeze down there that we had in the stands, though. Brrrrr.
The next day, we got up early to do some sightseeing, got a little carried away and were running late to the doubles. We got there after all the ceremonies, but did get to see the full match. Not that we would have missed anything all that spectacular if we hadn’t. I was okay with the loss. I was glad that Nalbandian (for whom Davis Cup means so much) was able to get a win for his team, and Verdasco and Lopez didn’t deserve a win at all the way they were playing. Plus, this meant Sunday wouldn’t be just dead rubbers.
I think the team bench was pretty resigned to the loss as well. They attempted to cheer, but just seemed kind of lackluster about it. At one point. Rafa was clapping and yelling loudly, but as soon as he realized Verdasco/Lopez weren’t looking (as they moved up to start their point), he just kind of shrugged and sat down. Summed up the match to me!
And so, that brought us to Sunday. First up would be Rafa/DelPo. We were all wondering, if Rafa couldn’t win that match, would the next one be the scheduled Daveeed/Pico? Or would Nalbandian be the one to play for Argentina? We’ll never know because, despite how awful that first set was, Rafa managed to pull it out.
That first set? Was truly, truly awful. I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but Rafa, the King of Clay, was actually slipping on it. Not sliding, slipping. Mainly when going to his forehand. He just looked a bit lost out there and my insides were in knots. Thank goodness he’s made of stronger stuff than me. He managed to calm himself down and work his way into the match. I’m so glad he didn’t lose to DelPo . The press has already been trying to write career obituaries for Rafa this year and losing poorly to the same guy who caused similar premature obits to be written in 2009 would have made me very sad. (Well, plus, my dislike of super-tall tennis players is well documented.) I can’t say when it felt like things finally clicked for Rafa, but it might have been when he managed to get that second set. He seemed to play with more confidence after that and, although things were still tight, I didn’t have the same doubts I had in that first set. Well, except for a few scares when extended crowd noise clearly mucked up his concentration and it took him a bit to get it back.
One thing I noticed during that first set, Costa talked to Rafa a lot on the changeovers, but so did Uncle Toni and Roig. Rafa talked back to them as well. No idea if he was listening to Costa at all.
For the first time in his career, Rafa hit the winning shot in a DC final tie. His fall and extended time laying on the clay really underscored how much the victory meant to him. He knows DelPo is tough and considered by many to be a RafaBeater. He also knew that anything can happen in 5th rubbers – that the tension, pressure and crowd craziness can do things to players’ heads. It was great that he managed to wrap things up (even if it meant no Daveeed for us) and win that clenching point for the team. (Speaking of Daveeed, I love how at 6-0 in the tiebreaker, the guys on the bench all started jumping up and down and he was like, “whoah, it’s not over yet.” Solid head on that man.) He gave a devastated looking DelPo a nice hug and then went to each Argentina team member with a handshake, or in the case of Pico and Nalbandian, a hug. Then, of course, came high-fives and hugs with his team. Always fun to see this group with huge smiles on their faces.
The trophy ceremony and celebration were a bit more subdued than I had hoped for. I mean, they all looked crazy happy, but I wanted happy dancing Spaniards. Little did I know. When Rafa was giving his speech after the ceremony, the crowd started chanting something during a pause. He looked embarrassed and dimply at the chant. I didn’t know what was being said so asked @gandaines the next day. She said they were saying, “you are worth it” – boy, ain’t that the truth.
After the stadium pretty much cleared out, we all met up, took what looked to be the last shuttle bus and then walked back to the apartment. There was much chatting, talking, squeeing, etc as everyone talked about the match and we watched coverage on Spanish TV. After a while, I decided to take a hot bath since my hip was hurting. As I emerged from the bathroom, @sapphireswell said that @nycsandygirl was at the player party and they were letting people in if we wanted to go. She was changing out of pjs and into party clothes in a frenzy. I was unsure what to do. I’m not a party gal, had no clubbing type clothes, hate club music, and was sure I’d just feel like an idiot there…but…when would I get an opportunity like this again? Shortly thereafter, @sapphireswell, @jeannab64 and myself were in a cab and heading to the party. We got in and checked out the place. There was a main dance floor that the general public was allowed on. Towards the far end, was a raised stage – about 4.5-5 feet high. Access to that was limited. There was another raised section at the back of that. There was also an upstairs area, but access to that was limited as well.
So, we got some drinks, I pretended to enjoy the music while we did our best to yell at each other over it and waited. Suddenly, Armada was spotted on the far stage. I could see the top of a dancing Marc!’s head from time to time. We saw Rafa to the edge of the stage – trying to make his way back, but stopping to talk to a lot of people. Finally, he’s back there with the rest of the guys and much dorky dancing ensued. After a while, they broke up again – some going upstairs, some talking to people on the lower stage. As Rafa was heading upstairs, he stopped to look at the guys on the stage and then started pointing at them and dancing in the most dorky way. It looked like some people were trying to talk him into going upstairs, but he was having way too much fun doing his solo dance while referencing his friends on the stage.
That was pretty much how things went. They would drift upstairs and then back down for a while – chatting on the low stage and/or dancing on the higher one. Eventually, someone found the tables that lined the right edge of the public area. And, they figured out that you could get to the tables from the stage if you were very careful about it. Thus, the table dancing began. Everyone but Daveeed danced on the table. Daveeed doesn’t seem to be much into the dancing – just saw him briefly and then he just seemed to be bouncing, but I got the feeling he spent most of his time upstairs.
At some point, large bottles of champagne appeared. Some of it was sprayed all over each other, the rest chugged directly from the bottles. Most of the guys arrived feeling little to no pain and just got drunker as the night went on.
Their dancing styles? Pretty much what I expected: Rafa, super dorky but doesn’t care. He’s just having fun and it doesn’t matter. Feli managed to look emo while partying. Fer was all about the pelvic thrusts. Marc! was a pretty good dancer with a good touch of dork in there too. Marcel was a step dorkier than Marc!, but nowhere near Rafa’s level.
At one point, not long before we had to leave, Rafa decided to do a dance/walk “among the people” and went through the main dance floor. (He was pretty wobbly at this point, so Moya was close by to offer a hand if needed…and perhaps to keep crazy fans from mobbing.) Rafa ended up facing the stage, arms up and wiggling his hips. I had a lovely view of the backside. It wasn’t a bad way to start my birthday, that’s for sure.
We had to leave at 5am. @sapphireswell and @jeannab64 and transport they needed to catch in order to make their ways back to the US. So, off we went. I later heard that things went to 6:45am. How Rafa managed to get up the next day, go to Madrid and look perky for a Nike promo is beyond me.
Here are a few useless photos of Rafa dancing on the stairs and then what is possibly the world’s most poorly taken 10 minutes of video ever. I promise it gets a bit better after the start. I was having to hold the camera up above my head and could barely even see the screen to know what I was filming.
(Heh, just what is that girl looking at in the first picture?)
Again, I feel the need to express my deep love for Davis Cup. The crowds are amazing – flags, crazy outfits, chanting (before the matches even started!), drums, horns…you name it. The atmosphere is something so completely unique in tennis and so electrifying to experience in person. It’s a day and half after and I still have the chants ringing in my head. Hearing a huge crowd chime “Raaaafa” in unison is something I’ll never forget.