August 2006, writen by Bob

DAY 1:

Like it or not my first day attending the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters was mostly taken up in traveling from Toronto to Cincinnati. Even though the tournament had started on Friday August 11th and Rafa was not longer in the Rogers Cup I had decided to stay in Toronto for the semis and the final.

In the end as some of you know I made more like a tourist than a tennis fan. I was packed and ready to leave from the Toronto Hilton early Monday morning. For that matter I was at the airport early enough to go stand by on the early flight to Chicago.

The only problem was because my reservations were with the same airline throughout my trip I have to accept their scheduling. From my point of view if you manage to travel occasionally accumulating mileage can be an advantage.

The carrier I was on only went to Cincinnati through Chicago with only a morning and late afternoon flight. Between my Toronto flight and the Cincinnati flight there was about a three hour layover. Ugh! All in all by the time I had my rental car and I was on the road for an approximate 40 mile drive to the tennis center it was near 2:30 p.m. Cincinnati time.

I already knew Rafaís doubles match would be after 4:00 p.m. Not often as a tennis fan can I say Iím happy to see rain and the possibility of delay but this time I was ready to sing if it would delay Rafaís match a little. I got my wish and a bit more delay than I wanted.

The rain had started the delay during the second match ahead of Rafaís. I arrived at the tennis center just about 4:00 p.m. I was through the gate and oriented by 4:30 p.m. and play was just beginning after the rain delay. In spite of dark clouds over head play continued through the remainder of the day. I was in a good seat and watch Hyung-Talk Lee beat Arnaud Clement. It is an interesting side note that Mr.

Lee will be Rafa second opponent like he was in Toronto. Lee and Clement finish and my new favorite doubles team of Lopez and Nadal arrived. I am not much of a doubles fan but the rules change and faster format have helped me take a greater interest. I am sorry this aspect of Rafaís game is not seen on television because you do get to see Rafaís athletic play but without the stern intense singles look. Actually it looks like he and Feliciano are having fun.

Once again the luck of the draw showed up when Rafa and Feli played the same opponents they had in their initial match in Toronto. This time, however, Friedl and Suk give our guys a much more solid match. But with the Lopez/Nadal win it looks like I may get to see them play again. Thanks to ESPN, The Tennis Channel, and DVD I have been able to see a great deal of Rafaís play but the doubles so far it has been a matter of being there.

Got to admit I get some of my best Rafa on court pictures when he is playing double. It was about 9:00 p.m. when I left the tennis center and I still had to check into my hotel. I guess with checking-in, getting my laptop on to the Internet, unpacking and going out to find something to eat it was about 1:00 a.m. before I got to bed.

This morning Tuesday the 15th I got to the tennis center by about 10:30 am I took a quick look around and checked the practice courts but no Rafa. Because I wanted to see the 11:00 a.m. match between Henman and Murray I did not have an opportunity to see Rafa practice today. Although I joined into the joking about the Brad Gilbert relationship, Andy is still very high on my players I follow list.

Andy may have a ways to go before he becomes Scotlandís answer to Rafael Nadal but I am expecting before very long after seeing hin several times on this trip he will be on my must watch list along with Rafa. After the three set Henman/Murray match Rafa and Sam Querrey came out for their match. I was of course hopeful Rafa would look a little sharper than his did in Toronto. I donít feel Rafa disappointed because he showed flashes of the Nadal brilliants.

Although Rafa lost the first set on a tie break he would come back to control the match. Also I would say Rafa got to face his first hostile or partisan U.S. crowd. Most of the cheers were ďCome on Sam.Ē I got some particularly nasty looks from a woman a row down every time I shouted ďCome on Rafa.Ē I donít think Rafa had won that many hearts but he played a good match with Sam Querrey.

At 18 years old Sam may well develop into a person to help fill some of our current top American tennis player void. I have not taken a very good look at the tennis center grounds but from what Iíve seen Iím reminded of a county of state fair.

There are carts sell lemon aid and believe me even at $5.00 for a large cup it is a bargain on a hot day after sitting in the stands for over 5 hours watching two matches. After my lemon aid I went back to the stands to watch Andy Roddick for a while. After the first set last evenings late night and a number of hours in the sun and I was tired. I see by the scores on the Cincinnati website Andy fought his way through to a win. I donít know how it is for the players but from a fans point of view Cincinnati seems friendly.

Bob Gaffney