It had all come round too fast ... Sunday, and our last day. Its funny, but as quickly as you get into it all, its over. After our first couple of days, it then became the most normal thing in the world to walk around streets in Spain that were centuries old and to wake up in the morning and think, “I’m going to see Rafa today”. But Larky Lark Rafan had a bit of a shock when she went to her usual newspaper stand on her paper round, as I did when I turned the corner expecting to see our little place for breakfast ... cos everything was closed! Sunday really is treated like Sunday there and there was nothing open or about ... so we went up to our saviour Plaza Tendillas and found somewhere for breakfast. And spied the handsome cocktail waiter from the previous night. ;)
Spurred on by our successful venture “off piste” from the previous evening, we negotiated the little streets in the Old Town on as we made our final trip to the bullring ... and got lost. :D We ended up coming out onto the big avenue a lot further up than we expected ... but hey, what’s a few more steps when you’ve walked miles in 4 days. Hehe. As we approached the bullring, Rafan’s phone beeped off. Victor!!
Now I know you’re going to be very surprised to read this, but I may be guilty of a tad of exaggeration now and then. And whilst I may have built Rafan’s new friendship up with Victor ... she really only handed over her address and phone number so he could give her a price for sending the R-A-F-A picture on to England for her. For 75 euros. Whilst she didn’t take him up on that offer, I’m not sure she’s deleted his number from her phone yet though ... Especially seeing that Valencia are playing Chelsea in the Champion’s League and so he could be in London any time soon. :cough:
So on to the tennisss, and Rafa was up first. The local newspapers had the headline of “In the hands of Nadal” ... so no pressure then? I’d also thought that France had pulled a fast one by putting up Tsonga to play him. Now when the draw was first announced, Tsonga didn’t even feature as a singles player and I just assumed that he was a bit injured from the USO so France had decided just to put him out for the doubles and chance their arm with Gasquet and Simon. But as they were back in the tie after the doubles, I thought it a bit underhand to suddenly put Tsonga in there from nowhere, in the hope perhaps that in spite of Rafa’s great performance against Gasquet, he could be showing signs of fatigue and hamstring tweaks (although Marc!’s head might have other ideas about that ...). I was a bit nervous about this match, but Rafan wasn’t ... and had every confidence.
There wasn’t quite the pomp and ceremony today to bring the players on court and each player just took to the court individually. But Rafa’s reception ... unbelievable. Once again the Spanish crowd had come out in full fiesta fashion, dressed in the country’s colours, more flags, more horns, more fans ... more “Raa-fa, Raa-fa, Raa-fa”. Brilliant! And boy did he not disappoint. I should have listened to Rafan because he blew Tsonga off court in that first set – 6-0. I’ve forgotten the finer details of all the points of the match now, but there was a period in the match where Tsonga didn’t even score a point on Rafa’s serve. He had a double break in the second set and a single break in the third to take the match. He was positively superb ... what a fantastic couple of matches from him, and it was just a joy to see him playing so freely again ... loved it!
So Rafa had taken Spain through to the final ... fabulous! Cue tons of singing and chanting and flag waving. Brill. The stadium started to empty though, and we weren’t sure whether or not the second singles match would be played. But eventually it was announced that it would ... and it would be FER against Gasquet, not little Daveed. Now after Fer’s woeful performance the previous day, we weren’t sure whether or not that was a good idea, but we should have feared not. If there was one player who simply DID NOT want to be out there on court, it was Gasquet.
Shame for Fer, but the biggest cheer of the match came for ... Rafa. As I’ve said, that boy is never still, and during the second singles he came out from the matador’s entrance and just literally ran round the side of the bullring with people clapping him as he went past, and then he left via another entrance. I think it was reported that he went outside for an interview or something, but the cheering for him was so loud that people within the bullring could easily hear it and were going “ssh” “ssh” so as not to distract the players. :D Then Rafa came bounding back in and successfully negotiated the fake garden area they’d created at the end of the court so that he could go and re-join his team-mates.
As Fer tonked Gasquet, the matches and the tie were over, and it was time for the team to celebrate. But before the full party started, Fer went to his bag, un-zipped it ... and pulled out a custom made trackie that had been designed to look like a matador’s jacket which was red, with black braiding. And he walked to the centre of the court and put it on and with the crowd shouting Tor-ero! Tor-ero! Tor-ero! he did that gesture with his right hand from his shoulder to sweep before him just like a matador does ... hehe, brilliant! He then started to go to his team-mates, but then went back and turned around so that he could do the same gesture to the other side of the court. Show off!
Then the team and Costa took to the court and Costa spoke to the crowd and offered some kind words to the French and then they all took their celebratory lap of honour around the court. We were hoping for some happy-dancing, and whilst there were one or two jogs up and down, what we got was perhaps better described as “Dad Dancing”. Feli looked fit again in his flip flops, and someone threw a hat into the arena that he wore very well, and then it got passed around. The players stopped to pose in front of the word CORDOBA that had been painted on the court, and that was a nice picture. So then one by one, they left the court and that was it. It was over.
We made our way out, passed Victor’s stall, and walked down the main avenue. Now you know how we say that Rafan can smell Rafa? Well ... I never even noticed a car go zipping past with a police escort, but she stopped me and we waited on the pavement to watch the next one go past. And sure enough ... there was Rafa sat in the back messing about on his phone and Marc! was sitting by the window. So that was our absolutely final, final glimpse of Rafa for this holiday.
It seems we can only manage going “off piste” correctly in the “going home” version of the journey because we once again made it straight back to our hotel without any detours. So we reluctantly packed, Rafan went through her papers and tore out the pieces she wanted for her :scrapbook: and we got ready to out for our final dinner. We earlier had thought that we might try this tapas bar that had been recommended ... but thought nah! we want to be able to eat ;) so we ended up back again at the same restaurant in Plaza Tendillas where we ate steak and drank cocktails and toasted our lovely time.
So that was it, readers. Adventure over, and back in the hotel room in bed, we said our customary words to each other ... “Night night, lovely Rafan”. “Night night, lovely Wooffs”.
Footnote : As its now a week since this all this happened and with penning these tales during the week and looking at all the photographs and stuff, as is usual ... it now seems like such a long time ago, and you can barely believe it all happened. But looking back, what a fantastic experience and I would not for the whole wide world have missed a thing of it. Spain as a country will never capture me like Italy does, but I still really enjoyed all that we saw, from the squares to the palaces, the churches and gardens and of course, the arches ... even if they all became a bit “samey”. Beautiful ... all of it.
But the tennis, and the Davis Cup ... it was like nothing I have ever witnessed before. You tend to mostly have to support Rafa in a quiet sort of way if you know what I mean, because tennis over here is like that. Not so with Davis Cup. And I just think watching Rafa and the Spanish team in Spain, with that heat, in a bullring, with the colour and noise, chanting, bands playing, fan wafting ... I mean, its an experience that will stay with me for a very long time.
And although we hope again to be able to go to the final, I just think the setting and being in that ancient old town just made it what it was ... perfect. My heartfelt thanks to our lovely Rafan, Rafateer extraordinaire, but above all, great company and a great pal.
And VAMOS RAFA!!!