ROGERS CUP DAY 8 :
I must admit my last two days in Toronto had little to do with tennis.
On Saturday, Day 8, I went to the Rexall Center to watch the afternoon semi final match between Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray.
Andy seemed flat so Richard won easily.
After the match I returned to the hotel. I was in my room in time to watch Roger Federer play Fernando Gonzalez. The outcome was about as I expected.
For Sunday, Day 9 I choose not to go to the Rexall Center to watch the final.
Instead I turned in the rental car and walked to the CN Tower, a major Toronto attraction.
While watching the Rogers Cup final between Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet I pack suite case. I will be leaving in the morning for Cincinnati and hopefully will arrive and be settled in time to watch Rafa and Feli play doubles.
ROGERS CUP DAY 6 and 7 :
It is never pleasant to write about losses especially when it involves a player you admire. Like anyone I will put off discussing bad news as long as possible or at least until I feel better. No, I was not devastated by watching Rafa lose Thursday in both singles and doubles but I did not leave the Rexall Center in a particularly good mood.
So I have procrastinated writing this report until Saturday morning now the eighth day of my visit to the Rogers Cup tournament.
Thursday started with the minor irritation of not being able to find the current order of play at the Rogers Cup website. I may have not refreshed the pager but for whatever reason it was not coming up.
I knew Rafa would be playing both Tomas Berdych in singles and a doubles match with Felicano Lopez against Fabrice Santoro and Nenad Zimonjic. I figured Rafaís doubles match would be after he played Tomas Berdych but you never now about what thinking is going on when schedules are drawn. So after handling some email I headed out to the Rexall Center. I thought Rafa might be in the second match of matinee session but when I got the order of play it turned he was scheduled for the third with his doubles to follow on the Grand Stand court.
At least that was a bright spot because there should be no need to scramble for seating.
Because there were several hours before Rafaís match with Thomas Berdych I decided to keep an eye on the practice courts in case he scheduled a full session instead of just a pre-match warm up. When after a short while I saw a golf court surrounded by security personnel traveling my way I congratulated myself for making a good decision. It is one of those funny/sad scenes to see Rafa sitting alone in the cart with the driver surrounded by six large men.
They moved through the grounds looking like a head of state traveling in a slow motorcade. As much as it annoys Iím one of Rafaís fans who realize the importance of the protection. Too many people seem to forget that people on the tennis courts are just players and tennis is just a game.
Although there were not many people in the area I hurried to get a seat in the bleachers. In my zeal to get a good seat when I bent down to go under the chain I forgot about my back pack. So when it hooked in the chain it threw me off balance and I end up on my back probably looking very much like an upside down turtle.
With the ground area being covered by shredded tree bark the only injury was to my pride. I picked myself up and tried to look cool but you know people are watching.
Before Rafa, Carlos Moya had been practicing on the court. They sat and chatted for a few minutes. Carlos would be playing Andy Murray in the match before Rafaís. I have been very fortunate this trip to have attended several practice sessions and had the opportunity to take many pictures of Rafa.
I took a few at the beginning but then decided to put the camera aside and just watch Rafa. I know we all want our own Rafa pictures but once you take some I highly recommend you take some time and just watch him practice. It does not take long to realize Rafa is a normal person like the rest of us but with a special talent for tennis. It is enjoyable and satisfying to watch a gifted person practice.
Whereas an artist might organizing mind and body to produce something of beauty, Rafa is doing the same when it comes to his ball strikes and other tennis moves. At the end of the hour Rafa did the usual signing of autographs and got back in the golf court at the urging of security. I left in the other direction still dusting stuff off my pants.
The first match I watched on center court was between Carlos Moya and Andy Murray. It was entertaining but somewhat one sided with Andy dominating.
Andy has moved on to the semis and I will be there today to watch him play Richard Gasquet. I may find cheering difficult because I like both young men.
Rafaís match with Tomas Berdych was next. I am always hopeful whenever Rafa takes the court but as I had noticed the previous evening and at his morning practice Rafa was still have problems consistently hitting the mark with his shots. As the first set would prove Rafa is not quite back to his best form.
Between the 6/1 results and the fact I was sitting in pocket of vocal Berdych fans my concern level began to rise. Although Rafa won the second set he did not seem to be exactly controlling Tomas. My feeling was unless Rafa could come out strong in the third and dominate he might well lose the match. Unfortunately may feeling and assessment was right and it was not long before the match had ended.
Tomas Berdych was being interviewed as the winner and Rafa waved as he left the court with bag on his shoulder. I did not feel disheartened because I have seen Rafa lose before and the look on his face was just the acceptance of one more match in his career.
After getting my jacket form the car I head for the Grand Stand court to get a good seat for Rafaís doubles match.
On the way I met Nancy and found out she had managed to get a media pass and would able to attend Rafaís news conference after the doubles match. For the first time during the tournament we were able to sit together and cheer for Rafa and Feli. As I noticed during their first match they seem to enjoy being on the court together. They were horsing around a bit and Rafa gave no impression he was particularly bothered by his loss of a few hours earlier.
I know we take this all very seriously but I Ďm trying to get myself back to the reality this is just a tennis match. Like I enjoy being successful, seeing Rafa win make me feel good. In truth win or lose this is just one more step in a series and Iíve been lucky to see these steps by our Champion in person.
Rafa and Feli are fun to watch. It is too bad our television broadcasters seem to avoid doubles coverage below the championship match. With the new rules the matches are brief and certainly give the marquee players another opportunity to showcase their talents.
Rafa and Feli lost but it looked like they had fun. So although I felt a little disappointed drive back to my hotel I was able to look on the bright side; with no Rafa match to follow I did not have to go to the Rexall Center on Friday.
I guess Iím bad thanking Rafa for losing but Friday morning I stayed in bed a little longer, took care of some personal things and when I did go down to the lobby I signed up to a brief tour of Toronto. If nothing else I learned from the tour, downtown Toronto is no place to drive. It is mostly high rise buildings with a few old building mixed in. The buildings have gone up but the streets have never widened.
It is on the shore of Lake Ontario and I have a feeling the street grid is the same as it was in the nineteenth century. There are one way streets, street cars, and tour guide said rush hour traffic starts at noon. To avoid increasing the weight of luggage and the fact I had little time Iíve been refraining from shopping.
On getting back to hotel before going to lunch I decided to investigate some evening entertainment. On my room card key there is an advertisement for the musical version of Lord of the Rings.
I had asked my first day about ticket costs and they seemed a bit more than I wanted to pay. Now after Rafaís departure from the tournament I felt Iím curious to see the show and I wonít worry about the cost. Joan the hotel concierge was once again right there to assist me. She was so helpful Friday a week ago when I arrived and now she was helpful again. She called the theater and found out there was a dinner and show package costing less than just the ticker. Got to eat right, so we took care of the details and my evening was set.
The theater and restaurant were only a few blocks from the hotel and close to each other in the Entertainment district. Iím not going to go into details about the show because the report is mostly about Rafa and his tennis. But the Ring, Rafa as Frodo and I better stop before I have our favorite Mallorcanís tennis career turned into an epic. The show is worth seeing but it is like other current musicals with scenery and staging that is almost more important than the actors.
So here we are it is Saturday morning of Day 8 in my tennis odyssey and I will be heading out the Rexall Center in a few hours to watch the semis. t
ROGERS CUP DAY 5:
I must admit I was slow getting started today.† I stayed in bed a bit
longer and then wrote my Day 4 narrative.† I was not too concerned about when I got to the Rexall Center because Rafaís match would not be until
after 7:30 p.m.
I thought about not going out until late afternoon but there were two > day time matches I wanted to see:† James Blake versus Richard Gasquet
and Tim Henman versus Andy Murray.† To be honest from the start I should
have followed my instinct and taken the day to visit some of Toronto.
The Blake/Gasquet match was the most disappointing.† No it was not
because Richard won.† I like Richard and have watched him play in person
before.† In the past he has been inconsistent but I think he is settling
into becoming a good, solid player.†
I suppose, like Rafa, being 20 years > old increases your sense of maturity.† Richard looked good and played
well but it seemed James was not in the mood or forgot to come to the
match.† The final 6/4 Ė 6/3 score does not totally reflect my boredom.
Good job Richard I hope your next match is more of a test.
My second must watch match was between Tim Henman and Andy Murray.† The match was just lack luster.† Andy showed he is becoming the dominant
British player and Tim we all still love you but maybe it is time to
> work on your rťsumť.†
The score of 6/2 Ė 7/6 (3) indicates the level of
control Andy is beginning to show.† I hope his work with Brad Gilbert
helps his development.† I watched him and Brad hit together the day
> before and they may prove to be a strong team as time progresses.† It
still looks like Andy need thicken a bit.†
I may envy him being thin but
a few pound might increase his force endurance.† This was the first time
had seen Andy in person and there is a possibility of him meeting Rafa
because they are in the same side of the draw.† With Gerry Armstrong as
umpire I almost expected to hear Rule Britannia at some point during the
Next I went to my car to get a jacket.† The day may have been hot but after the sun goes down it get cold in center court.† I still had a
couple of hours before Rafaís 7:30 pm match so I wandered the practice
courts hoping I might catch him during his warm up.† I did not see him
because most of the courts were being used for match play he may have
warmed up on stationary athletic equipment.
At 7:30 p.m. I was in my seat with my camera ready to do my best for
> Rafa and his website.† To the theme of Star Wars Rafa and Hyung-Talk Lee
from Korea enter the court.† Thanks to both Rafa and Mr. Lee this was a
much more entertaining match than the 6/4 Ė 6/3 score would indicate.
Although not showing a particularly strong serve Mr. Lee was a strong > hitter with what seemed a good backhand and forehand.† He kept Rafa moving.†† They both played mostly base line had some entertaining
sideline passing shots.† What Iím enjoying is watching Rafa attacking
the net.† He is increasing his full court play with volleys and his
developing drop shots.†
Although I still donít think at the top of his game he
looked better than his previous match and his double play yesterday must
have had an impact on his net play.† I know I enjoyed the match and the audience also was responding to Rafaís play.† He is collecting more and
> more fans.†
The group in the box area where my seat is located >† were Rafa fans.† The young men sitting next to me had driven from
Wisconsin just to see Rafa.† So we all had fun cheering and applauding
The only minor irritation was umpire Fergus Murphy decided to give Rafa > a time violation warning in the fourth game of the second set.† When it
comes to between points Rafa is not a wind-up toy buzzing up to baseline
for his next serve.† He is thoughtful and deliberate in his pre-serve actions.†
From my photographic point of view he can take as long as he wants because it gives me time to take better pictures.† In the second
place Rafa has sped thing up considerably by no longer adjusting his
socks as part of his pre-serve ritual.†
I guess with his ankles being
taped > the need is no long present.† After watching Rafa hit some balls to the† fans and† leave the court I
went to some people I had met to have some adult beverages and talk about
ROGERS CUP DAY 4:
I think many of us sympathize with Rafa, it is hard to get back to work after a vacation. I attended a number of his practice sessions and Iíve seen him look sharper. Being aware of Rafaís professional background I see one session of practice as just that. Some people I suppose use what they see to make prediction I just enjoy watching a talented athlete work the kinks out of system.
As a person who enjoys photography Rafa practice session give me a much better chance to take more intimate and human interest shots.
It takes about 45 minutes to drive from my hotel to the Rexall Center. Iím certain a resident can do it much faster but I learned a route that gets me there and back.
I may try what should be a faster variation before the end of the week. Freeways are great if you know the surface streets but if you donít and get stuck in traffic any time you save will be lost. Iím going from downtown Toronto to the Rexall Center using surface streets. It may be slower but Iím much less likely to get me lost.
I arrived just as the gates were opening.
Like most if not all sporting events a bag check was require so there is a line of people waiting. I think we tennis fans are a mature and patient lot so we just chatted as we waited for the inspection. I guess in some areas Iím still naive because the person in front of me had a container with a liquid and ice which the inspector opened and sniffed.
I guess they were concerned about alcohol or other banned substances.
When through I got a copy of the order of play and headed for the practice session board. With a 1:00 p.m. match I was only hopeful of catching Rafaís warm up session. I guess he and I must be on the same wave length because when I looked in the direction the court he has been using regularly there was a crowd.
I was prepared to stand at the back of the line but for whatever reason there were sets open on the bleacher and no one was making a move to them. Trust me gang when it comes to getting an obstructed view of Rafaís practice I donít stand on ceremony. Rafa was just hitting with Francis Roig and of course Juanan Martorell was there.
They seemed to be in a light hearted mood with Rafa smiling and even hitting a ball to the standing fans. It was a good sign not see any dark cloud of concern. This session ended as others with Rafa trying to please as may fans as the security team will allow. It is good to see the number of people on this side of the Atlantic who are excited by Rafa.
I guess Rafa went on to have lunch and get ready for his 1:00 p.m. match. I went in the other direction to the Grand Stand Court to watch some of Juan Carlos Ferrero versus Paul Goldstein. I was able to watch the first set and part of the second before leaving to get some lunch myself and go to see Rafaís match in center court. On the way I was stopped by Nancy and Mayaís sister.
Maya from Montreal joined up in a few moment and we chatted with me questioning if they saw Rafaís warm up. Turns out they did and it was Maya who caught the ball Rafa hit into the crowd. We parted ways with me reminding them to be sure to get to Court #1 early for Rafaís doubles match.
Well here we are at 1:00 p.m. in my seat at center court waiting to get the answer to the first part of the question. So with the theme from Star Wars or 2001 A Space Odyssey (I forgot to write do which it was) Rafa and Nicolas Massu entered the court. Although Iíve seen it many times I finally got a picture of Rafa eating his pre-match energy bar. I hope by now you have all seen Rafa on court either in person or on television. Our Champion has charisma and presence and there is no other way say it.
You know Rafa is in the house!
Coin toss, 5 minutes practice, and it show time. To be honest in the initial games Rafa has looked better. In my notes I wrote ďNadal machine starts 8th game 1st set.Ē From there on you could tell Rafa had focused. Not the best match but to quote Rafa from his ATP interview, ďThe most important thing is win and I win.Ē
I canít add to that but I would suggest you listen Rafaís interview with ATP at: http://www.atptennis.com/1/en/audio/
Rafa won and I took the best main court pictures I have to date. It was time for a cold drink.
You get very few opportunities to see the marquee players in competition up close. Be sure to take advantage but be prepared to be at the small courts early. I got to Court 1 while Fernando Verdasco was still playing and it is two matches before Rafaís.
With several moves I finally got to a seat at the top of the bleachers. Because of a walkway and fence separation it was senseless to sit in front. The top of the bleach is good because you can stand without obstructing views for picture taking. Sadly the bleach was facing into the setting sun so backlighting was a problem and I did not get may acceptable pictures. Before Rafa and Feliciano I got to watch Jarkko Nieminen versus Telmuraz Gabashvili from Russia.
I think most know Jarkko is from Finland and is a player we see often. It was a hard fought match which Jarkko won. I suppose Telmuraz was trying to do a Marat Safin impersonation with a racquet throwing incident. He needs a lot practice before he can out do Marat.
The Court 1 bleach may seat a maximum of 400. Then there were standing areas Needless to say it was packed.
The autograph receiving line was formed and waiting for Rafa and Feliciano to arrive by golf cart. As part of my miss spent youth I have been to my share of rock concerts and know the sound of the cheers and screams when the star arrives. Smaller version but same sound: Rafa is in the house!
I know Rafa and Feliciano Lopez are friends and have a history of playing doubles together.
Because these matches are never broadcast on this side of The Pond all Iíve ever seen was a DVD of last yearís Davis Cup doubles loss to Italy. Probably by being Davis Cup the atmosphere was tense.
Today seeing Rafa and Feli together where nothing big was at stake much more camaraderie came to surface. No they are not the Bryant Brothers but if there is ever an attempt to form a Spanish Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis team I have idea who would get the Jerry Lewis part.
Anyhow it was fun to watch them although the play was perhaps not world class or top ten. Actually Feli seemed more practiced. Rafa still need work on his serve and his net play was not exactly a thing of beauty. There opponents Leos Friedl and Cyril Suk seemed more organized but our guys won.
To paraphrase Rafa, ďThe most important thing is win and they won. I glad I got to see Rafa and Feli partner and Iím hoping even though doubles is sometime sacrificed for a successful singles play that I will have a chance to see them again.
I finished my day by watch the first set of Roger Federer versus Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Thirty-five minute drive back to the hotel, dinner and although I wrote this report in the present tense I went to be and wrote about my day yesterday this morning.
ROGERS CUP DAY 3:
The weather was hot today and I guess you could say my luck was too. I arrived at the grounds a few minutes before 10:00 a.m. As with all sporting events there is a bag check before entry. Because of the camera equipment my back pack is robust and usually gets some extra scrutiny.
Once through the gate the Rogers Cup people were handing out ticket pouches with lanyards so we can all have out tickets visible and hanging around our necks. They make everyone look so official.
Although I said I did not trust the practice court assignment board it was still the first place I went. With the main draw now in competition two of the otherwise practice courts are being used for match play. Obviously I'm looking for Rafa to be listed.
No mention but I did see Tim Henman was scheduled to practice. One of the RN.com team members had emailed me requesting if I could attend Tim's match with Jonas Bmorkman and cheer for Tim. I figured I would go one better. I would watch him practice take a few pictures and if I could not attend the match I would be able to say I saw him in person. Doing a good deed will many times bring other good things.
As Tim was collecting his thing to leave the security people arrived to tighten crowd control ropes and extra personnel were assigned to the area. You may not know who but when security starts to secure the area one of he marquee players is going to practice. Currently there are only two players' whose name automatically draws a crowd. Because it was about the time Rafa has been doing morning practice I figured it would be him.
Then some one said Nadal and you could see people start running to the court like ants to a picnic. Thanks to my good deed I had already settle myself into a spot with a good field of view. With in a few minutes up pulls the golf cart and Rafa is on the court and signing autographs as he entered.
Rafa hitting partner this time was Juan Carlos Fererro. Francis and Juan were with Rafa. After tying his shoes and the practice started and I started taking pictures. Because I'm experimenting I'm taking more pictures than usual. As I get better I end up with less to delete. They were hitting hard, practicing serve, occasional volleys. lobs, etc.
The one thing you notice about Rafa's practices is he more relaxed and animated. He has a whole repertoire of looks for balls that don't cooperate. I don't think there is any doubt Rafa is serious about his tennis but it can be amusing to watch him when a ball that was supposed to be inside when hit flies out.
This does bring up an interesting point. The main court is using Electronic Review. I think this will be Rafa's fist time to play hard court with the review option. We know how he plays on clay it will be interesting to see if Rafa makes use of the new instant replay option.
Rafa's practice with Juan Carlos was uneventful except I kept snapping pictures. The most interesting thing happened near the end of the practice when Carlos Moya arrived for his time on the court. For us outside of Spain and Mallorca we don't normally get to Rafa and Carlos on the same court except as opponents.
Now after seeing them together on a practice court I'm hopeful some time IĎll get to see them hit together. After pouring a bottle of water on his head Rafa put on his cap and towel around his should went to the fence to start signing autographs. Those were really lucky people not only to they get Rafa's autograph but they stood a good chance of having his wet hair drip on the prize.
I had wanted some pictures of Carlos Moya and this practice was a good moment. I attended Carlos' match with Gaston Gaudio later in the afternoon but sitting on the east side of the stadium with sun going down and causing back lighting pictures were impossible.
As I was leaving to attend Tim Henman match Nancy came up. We talked for a few minutes then we went in separate directions. I'm not saying much about what we talk about because I'm sure she plans to write a narrative on Toronto if not before but when she gets back to Montreal.
At Tim match it was warm and with the sun beating down and I almost went to sleep. Even without much cheering on my part he won. He did well at his match in spite windy today. I hope it lets up tomorrow and does not cause Rafa any problems. After the match I went and got something with caffeine to drink. It helped.
While I was looking for something interesting to do before Carlos Moya's match started I went by the practice court Rafa used in the morning and I found Andy Murray and Brad Gilbert hitting balls. They seemed to be bonding or something.
I watched for while and then went to the Moya match. Carlos also won. My presence did wonders today.
At 7:00 p.m. the opening ceremonies were held in center court. With one exception they were like so many other opening ceremonies I've seen. The exception was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carried in the Canada flag.
Now I've seen actors wearing the RCMP uniforms since I was a child but this was the first I had seen real members. I stayed for the fist set of James Blake's match and the wind was making the place much cooler as the sun went down I decided it was time to head back to the hotel..
Just a brief personal note. There has been some uncertainty about signing of these narratives. First the editor signed it from Bob. Then because I feel most people know me by my board logon Lopaka I added that yesterday.
I think everyone must realize I think Rafa is a very special and is developing into a solid role model for many young people. Through my professional life I have always signed my own name to documents I created and to causes I supported. I believe these reports should be handled the same. But don't forget my alter egos Lopaka and Uncle Lopy had a hand in the work.
ROGERS CUP DAY 2:
As an admirer of Rafael Nadal I’ve learned there are great days with Rafa and there are others. On a scale from one to ten with ten being best today was a six. No particular big problems like my first day just several little annoyances I was happily able to work through.
I mentioned yesterday I would be back in charge of my own transportation. The young man with my rental car was about 30 minutes late so I read the morning paper certainly nothing the make for an exciting start to the day. After signing for a Ford Focus Station Wagon
I started on my adventure to get to York University and the Rexall Center.
It was fortunate I took the taxi ride yesterday it made today’s initial drive in Toronto much easier. I found it like other cities with roads that don’t meet current traffic needs but not particularly confusing place. Driving every day I think by the time I leave I will have no problem getting from downtown to York University and back.
I realize the costs of a tournament the size of the Rogers Cup are high and ticket prices only pay part. I have no problem paying to enjoy my hobbies. Lately there are just two hobbies, photography and following
Rafa’s career. I’m happy to be contributing to his prize money because he is providing entertainment I enjoy. Now I’ve seen him in person I want to see him holding a winner’s trophy and take a few pictures myself.
Contributing to costs doesn’t bother me but what I paid for a bottle of water on Saturday went over the line. So as part of my first day on the roads of Toronto I stopped and bought a six pack of water for less than I paid for one bottle on the tournament grounds. It may add my weight to my back pack but I won’t feel the pain in my wallet.
Besides driving the route to the Rexall Center I also learned you can’t trust what is written on a board in wipe off marker or what is written on a schedule. There is a board where every hour or so the player’s scheduled to practice on various courts are written down for the public to see. Being early the first scheduling was being written when I arrived. Now I would never consider myself nosey but if information is within eye shot I don’t feel it is wrong to look especially if you have accomplices.
The young man writing the numbers suddenly found himself surrounded by several Nadal fans who wanted to know where Rafa would practice. I trusted the official looking list, bad choice. I went to the court where he was to practice at noon.
I must admit I had several interesting conversations, Nancy found me and we continued to get to know each other. I found out I had been mislead when two different players entered the court . I went to check the board and saw Rafa drive by in a golf to a court other than the one I expected. Worst of all Rafa did not even wave as he went by!
I went and got Nancy and we hurried to the proper court. Needless to say we were at the back of a large group. The two things you must learn to be a Rafael Nadal fan are patience and how to stand for long
periods of time. Nancy and I both know, as hard as it is to understand,people lose interest in watching Rafa hit tennis balls.
If you are patient the person in front of you will move. I had planned to work on close ups of Rafa today but not having a secure place to stand limited my practice. It was not a total waste and I got a couple of fair
pictures during his practice with Richard Gasquet.
At the end of the practice watching Rafa do his best to satisfy every fan who wanted an autograph makes you realize he may work as hard getting off the court as
he plays during a match. I’m sure he must be just a bit dazed by the time the golf cart gets him back to the locker room.
In my opinion Rafa cares and understands the importance of his fans and admirers. Following Rafa’s noon practice and a cold drink Nancy and I parted company with her going to shop and me going to center court to watch one of the qualifying matches. I wanted to see Kevin Kim’s match for several reason beside the fact we have a birthplace and school in
I wanted to continue working on close ups. Also what most have probably forgotten is he played Rafa in the second round of this year’s Roland Garros. Even with Rafa importance a certain television network did not bother to show the match.
I decided to cheer for him in his qualifying match (which he won) and continue my photography practice. Rafa always says each match is important. I feel mentioning Kevin on Rafa’s website and taking a few pictures of him gives us a chance to see an overlooked opponent.
Now it was time to once more gamble my morning information would be correct in the afternoon. No point in trying to build suspense Rafa was practicing on the court next to the one I expected. Nancy, who had rejoined me, and I trudged over there to peek through heads and shoulder to see Rafa complete with white bandana on the court.
I guess it must be a Murphy’s Law that says no matter how tall you are there will always be two people taller who will be standing in front of you when you want to see something. I did notice Francis Roig , Rafa’s
coach for this trip, was on the court. Nancy did not know him but said it was the same person she saw yesterday afternoon.
I guess Francis is not a morning person. While I was considering Coach Roig someone walked by and said last shuttle for the parking area leaves in 20 minutes. I left for the shuttle and let Rafa continue his practice.
Nancy called me saying she was finally able to sit down and Rafa continued for some time more.
The main draw play starts tomorrow. The order of play posted on the Internet indicates neither Rafa nor Roger will play. With Rafa entered in doubles with Feliciano Lopez I’m hopeful of another set of doubles
The next few days will be filled with the first rounds of the tournament. Perhaps by mid week I hope to visit a few of Toronto’s attractions.
ROGERS CUP DAY 1:
One of the difficult things about going to a tournament is buying tickets in advance then waiting. For those who have never gone you find out very quickly after the tickets arrive in the FedEx pouch a whole group of concerns an ďwhat ifsĒ will suddenly develop and you still have months before youíre scheduled to leave.
When all the problems you envision donít happen and you are finally holding your fist dayís ticket in you hand and waking through the gate it is a good feeling.
I left my home in Hawaii 03 August at 9:30 a.m (HST) and arrived at my hotel in Toronto at 04 August at 11:00 a.m. (Eastern Time).
My arrival on Friday started off badly because the airline had lost one of my bags. Fortunately I hand carried my camera and laptop so my only worry was having to wear the same cloths for over a month. I am not an easy going patient person when my comfort is at stake. By the end of Friday I was nearing notorious with the airline baggage personnel, the concierge, the bell captain, and the hotel operator.
It was probably all the ďmake this guy stop callĒ vibes that helped my bag turn up at 6:00 p.m. Toronto time. I canít say I was euphoric but I was happy.
The Rogers Cup tournament in the Rexall Center on the grounds of York University started to 05 August. My lost luggage was my big problem but I did have the smaller problem of getting to the tournament grounds.
I hoped for a shuttle but so far none has been scheduled. My next alternative was a rental car. Because of a convention not a car was available for today. My third alternative was a taxi. Alternative four was public transportation which would have been a combination of subway and bus. Letís not even consider what might been next. Thanks to a very nice Indian taxi driver I arrived at the tournament grounds just as the gates where opening.
Because I have a rental car for tomorrow and the remainder of the tournament transportation becomes my responsibility again.
Obviously my primary goal is to see Rafa. Until after the tournament begins the only place Iím likely to see him will be on the practice court. So my first order of business was to find the practice courts and any other information I could get.
I learned Rafa was supposed to be practicing at 11:30 a.m. It was still early but I went to the court he was schedule for and staked out my location. By being early I got to watch Ivan Ljubicic and one my favorite French player Paul Henri Mathieu practice. Mikhail Youzhny was Rafa practice partner and he arrived first. When Rafa arrived a few minutes later the no room left to stand crowd started to cheer. His popularity is growing.
I canít say if Rafaís game looks rusty but he looks relaxed, rested, and in good spirits. The accompanying pictures are the ones without too many spectator heads and hand in the frame. Iíve seen Rafa practice in person before and I did not see anything new or unusual today. The one thing you do notice is Rafa is easy going compared to his on court intensity.
As Rafaís and Mikhailís time ended David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero came in for their round. After some chatting David and Juan Carlos took over the court and Rafa did something that was a real crowd pleaser. He took off his shirt laid down and on a towel on the ground. Then Juanan Martorell spent between 10 and 15 minutes stretching Rafa.
It was a bit surreal to watch Rafa being stretched and David and Juan Carlos hitting balls.
With the finish of Juanís job and some more chatting Rafa got up and smiling headed over to the crowd to sign autographs. I think he would have stayed all day but the security people finally got out to the golf cart. Even as they started to move away people were still hanging on and shouting Rafa.
The main draw was to be at 2:00 p.m. and with Rafaís practice taking longer I header there to try to get a good spot. Also Nancy from Montreal and I have been in contact and planning to meet at the draw. She spotted me and now someone Iíve been chatting with electronically for months were able to meet and chat in person.
The main draw was hardly worth the time it took standing. The officials placed the seeded players then they had member of the public come up to draw the unseeded players. It was rather time consuming and because a press pit had be set up in front of the stage media with camera mostly blocked the view.
After the draw I had planned to leave for the day and called my friendly Indian taxi drive to pick me up. He was happy because this was the fist time he had the same person for first and last fare. Tomorrow Iím on my own. The man from the car rental company is supposed to meet me in the lobby at 8:00 a.m. and once I sign the rental agreement I will be on my way to try to find the Rexall Center myself.
Nancy had also left to get settle at the place she is staying. She called to tell me she had returned to the tournament grounds and discoved Rafa was taking another practice session in the late afternoon. So we both got to see him today.
Written by Bob.
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