Sunday, 29 April 2012
How good was that match? I don't think I've ever seen David Ferrer come out and play so well, especially against Rafa. He got off to a great start and broke Rafa in his opening service game, but Rafa broke straight back and it was "nip and tuck" throughout the whole of the first set, with Rafa getting the greater share of the luck and it ultimately lead to the inevitable tie-break. This wasn't, of course, before David had 5 set points on Rafa's serve, but Rafa survived, and the breaker is where he showed his class. For all David's ferreting around and getting back every ball, Rafa absolutely trounced him in the breaker and won it by 7-1.
What I next expected to happen, was the "inevitable" collapse from David, and when Rafa broke him early and stood to serve at 3-1, this is where I expected it to happen. Not so. David broke him, and then kept coming. For all I was enjoying the match and some wonderful play by both players, you will not believe the number of times I yelled out, "lie down, Daveed!!". Equally, I literally had to applaud some of Rafa's play. But guess whot? It was David who made the breakthrough as Rafa served a dreadful double fault to hand a break to him. But when David stood to serve for the second set, leading at 5-4, Rafa broke him comprehensively, and it was back all square. A service hold saw Rafa facing David who now was serving to stay in it, and whether his mind was still back on that last service game, who knows? ... but he was broken again for Rafa to take the match and his 7th title in Barcelona. He jumped high into the air in delight.
It was a fine showing from David, and Rafa continues to play well on the clay. His serve wasn't quite as accurate today and he missed several first serves, but with his different motion, I just hope that he doesn't put too much strain on that shoulder as he's going well thus far in this clay court season. His results may be the same or same abouts as last year, but the manner of his play and his victories, his on-court body language and his general persona is eons away from that weary, spiritless Rafa we saw in 2011.
He has a week off now before his assault on the next two big ones. The back-to-back tournaments of the Madrid and Rome Masters. But so far, so good. VAMOS RAFA!!
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Good, wasn't he? It was as good as it gets for Rafa in the first set today against Fer. He went 4-0 up with 100% first serves. His defence was wonderful, his shot making superb. It wasn't as if Fer was playing particularly badly, but there was simply nothing - and I mean, nothing - that Fer could do in that first set and he was bagelled very comprehensively.
But Fer stayed firm in the second and whether Rafa just lost a bit of level or something, but Fer held his serves and had break points against Rafa in the first of his. But eventually, he was broken and Rafa won the match 6-0, 6-4.
If there is one thing, well ... its this serving out for either the set or the match thing. Each time, he had to come from behind on points to do it. And it seems like pulls out his USO 2010 serve to do it, but he's currently playing awesome tennis and lets hope he brings more of the same in the final against David Ferrer tomorrow.
Although I don't think I can romp through this as quick as Rafa is doing through the field in Barcelona. ;)
First up was Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - the man with the greatest single handled backhand EVAH! - but regardless, Rafa dispatched of him 6-1, 6-2. Next up was a qualifier, Robert Farah, and although Rafa seemed a big sluggish in parts, he again came through easily by a 6-2, 6-3 scoreline.
Next up was Tipsaravic in the quarter-final and happily, I got to watch this match because Rafa was simply stunning. Earlier in the week he reported that he still feels some pain regarding his knee, so I hope he can continue to play through it because we had clay court Rafa in his full prowess yesterday.
He played fabulously well in the first set, and Tipsy had no answers to any of it. To a large extent, it was classic Rafa of old in that he just took his time to move his opponent slowly out wider and and wider until he came in for the killer shot which resulted in an easy put away. His concentration lapsed slightly in the second set as he did get broken, but Rafa at the moment is able to quickly get himself right back on track when this happens, and he immediately broke back.
A very, very good display yesterday as he took the match 6-2, 6-2. Fer now awaits him in today's semi-final.
Well that's it, folks. The final photos have been loaded and its time to leave Monte Carlo behind and catch up with what's going on in Barcelona.
So if you fancy a browse, you can find my photos on Flickr of the Quarter Final, the Semi-Final and the glorious, long awaited for and smackdown, Final.
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Yep ... I know there's a tennis tournament going on in Barcelona right now and I've not even cocked-a-snoop at it yet, but I've been uploading my photos. I can now bring you my first day at the Monte Carlo Masters which was Wednesday, and here are my Thursday photos.
I hope you enjoy.
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
So what was it going to be? Eight victories in a row for Rafa at the Monte Carlo Masters, or eight victories in a row for Djokovic against Rafa?
Hand up who felt the nerves??
We decided on an early start again to get up to the Club, so we arrived at about 9.30 am. And so began the questioning of where Rafa might practice. We stayed for a bit on the main terrace until Rafan thought she'd go and have a wander to see what she could find out. I just stayed to admire the views when I got a text that word was that Rafa would be practising on Court 2 at 10.30 am. I started to make my descent down to Court 2 and then Uncle Toni passed me on the way. I wished him "Good Luck for today!"
There were a few other Rafa fans waiting around Court 2, so all seemed rather promising. Eventually Rafan joined me and was squeaking with excitement as she'd been around the main entrance when Rafa arrived and he'd signed the Monte Carlo 2012 tennis ball that Costa gave to her. What a treat, and what a momento!! By now it was approaching 10.30 am, and Rafa fans were growing in number. We made our entrance onto Court 2 and found that Sky Sports Barry Cowan was also there with a camera crew. So someone asked, "Barry! Are you here for Rafa?", and he just gave that schoolboy gurn of his and replied, "Yes". One of our gang reminded Barry that next time he spoke of "the Spanish fans", he should remember that we are actually British fans who come and support Rafa. Lets see, huh? ;)
So we all then sat along the front row of the seats of the court, happy in that we would get a brilliant un-obscured view of Rafa ... and waited. And waited. There was a little boy practising his shots on there with someone who you assume was his coach. Eventually, the coach came over to us and said, "Are you waiting for Rafa, because they gave US this court to practice on." *gaah* Just at the same time, Barry Cowan must have been tipped the nod as he packed up and left, and the word was that Rafa would go onto the Centre Court to practice - as he had done last year. So we all headed off there but we were refused entry until 11.15 am which meant that Rafa at least had half an hour of closed practice.
So when they eventually let us in, we took up positions to watch. If I'm being perfectly honest, there was nothing particularly inspiring about Rafa's practice at all ... indeed, there hadn't been for the whole week. When he finished, he had to do a couple of media interviews, and then he was gone.
Enter Djokovic into the arena. Whereas Rafan had learnt from our European cousins that if you don't ask you don't get, something I'd picked up from our Italian friends was that I would just sit right down in any [slightly more comfortable seat] seat whilst I ate my lunch and would only move when the ticket holder actually arrived ... but the Englishness of Rafan won through and she went right up the stand to sit in her actual seat to eat hers. Hehe ...
So we watched the PoD do his practice ... and the difference between him and Rafa was alarming. He was hitting the ball beautifully. He had perfect length, his shots had "pop", the sound of the ball coming off his racquet sounded perfect ... and he wasn't even going at it full tilt. DOOM!!
I went to re-join Rafan and take my seat, and at 1.50 pm sharp, the whole event started. Monte Carlo does put on a sense of ceremony at the final which is nice. You have a whole heap of ballboys and girls that stand at one end of the court, and some that make a guard of honour which each player passes through, following their own national flag. Prince Albert and the Princess were in attendance as usual, and they playrd the Monagasque National Anthem. After the players' introductions and knock ups ... then we were ready to start.
I was convinced that the French and the Italians would be there in full voice for Djokovic. Not so. Rafa was soundly supported by all of us who had travelled from the UK and there were plenty of others in the stadium who were doing likewise. The great thing was that so many people had made an effort and were dressed in Rafa t-shirts or the red and gold of Spain, and many of us were there with our flags to wave and MAC from VB had very kindly handed out a load of red and gold pom poms to cheer with. Whatever the outcome of this match, we were going to make sure that Rafa was cheered to the rafters and we wanted to make him know it.
In the seven other meetings between this pair, whilst I'd had some fear about the outcome, if I'm being perfectly honest I always believed that is was going to be "this time". And even though I could watch it all unfold before me and be more part of it than what you ever can just watching on a TV screen, I couldn't for the life of me escape this feeling of "doom". Sorry folks, I just couldn't. Rafan and I were looking at each other and saying, "I just don't know what he can do to beat this guy!"
To be honest, I can barely remember much of the match. More because we were living on our nerves. When Rafa got that break in the first set and took it, we still didn't dare let ourselves catch our breath. "This is what he does," said Rafan. "He gives him the first set as a bit of a headstart, and then comes along and takes it from him." But Rafa was playing storming stuff in the second. He got his first break of serve, he then took his second. I shouted out, "Believe, Rafa!!", but I could barely believe it myself. When he stood to serve at 4-0, I think Rafa reacted to how we were all thinking ... if I get this service game under my belt, I'm 5-0 up. FIVE ... LOVE.
I think those voices in his head just got the better of him, and at 4-0 down, Djokovic had nothing to lose just by hitting and hoping. And Rafa lost his serve. But this is where I am most impressed by Rafa. In Djokovic's next service game, he concentrated, got himself back on track ... and broke to love. 5-1 and Rafa was to serve to be Champion.
Rafan and I never said a word to each other. I was exhaling loudly, we were looking at each other, until it got to the point where that became unbearable and we were yelling to each other ... "DON'T EVEN LOOK AT ME!!" as Rafa took to serve. In the days of old when we gathered together on our chat forum to keep each other company whilst Rafa was playing, I always used to do the "countdown" when Rafa got the 1-2-3 points he needed and then to win it. When he got the first, I said "One" ... and boy had it been a long time since I last did that. They started to accumulate until he got to match point, I could feel the tears coming cos he was about to do it ... and then he banged down that ace to victory.
We were totally and utterly ecstatic. Fabulous Rafa!! You DID IT!! Rafan and I hugged each other with relief and whilst Rafa let out a roar on victory, he kept a respectful and muted celebration if you ask me and did nothing in Djokovic's face so as not to be disrespectful considering his own personal situation of that week.
Which leads me on to this comment.
We all know that Djokovic lost his grandfather and that his funeral was on semi-finals day. And if Djokovic's mind was elsewhere, well, that was up to him. He had every choice as to either stay on in the tournament, or withdraw ... bearing in mind that he had nothing to lose if he did withdraw, and bearing in mind that if he stayed, then he must have known that his likely opponent in any final would be Rafa. But he chose to play on because from a professional point of view, he wanted to win the tournament, and he wanted to be the one to beat Rafa in order to do it. But he didn't, and comments like it wasn't the "real" Novak which were put to Rafa are disingenuous because as he said, the "real" Rafa has turned up when he's won or when he's lost. That's it ... whatever the circumstance.
But nothing, literally nothing will take the shine off this victory for us. Rafa cracked a joke in his acceptance speech thanking Djokovic for letting him have this one, and to see him biting a trophy again with a huge smile on his face was priceless. The manner of Rafa's victory pleases me the most and the fantastic tennis he played is a real joy. We basked in the victory until Rafa left the court, and then we joined Mrs L and Pearl for a drink and a chat - where we discussed World Peace, the Economy and the co-alition Government. Hehe. The VB girls were in full celebration mode in the background.
So that was it. Rafa was the Champion, the 8 times winner and he once again moves ahead of Federer for having the record number of Masters. It was a fantastic experience in one of the loveliest tournaments in the world, and we got to see Rafa break his recent duck and play fantastic tennis and DO IT. It was exhilarating, but very, very tiring.
So that's all folks. I hope you enjoyed the read and I hope I could bring you a little bit of the flavour of the tournament as we experienced it. My next big task is to sort through all of my photos, but I'll provide you with the links when I've done it, as I will with Rafan's as she has taken some stunning pics.
Lets hope this is just the start of good things for Rafa in this clay season *unjinx*. VAMOS!!!!
... no joke, I was!!
Based on Denzy's and my experience last year of seeing bus after bus after bus reading COMPLET go by and it taking us over two hours of waiting before we could finally board a No. 100 into Monte Carlo (bloody weekend tourists ;) ) Rafan and I decided that rather than risk it, it would have to be a 6.30 am alarm call and us leaving the apartment at 7.45 am in order to make sure we got there in plenty of time.
So that's exactly what we did, and we arrived at the Country Club as they were just setting up for the day. There was also an extraordinary amount of police around, as well as sniffer dogs, and as we found out shortly later ... that was because The Prince (no ... not him), but His Serene Highness, Prince Albert, was coming to hit a few balls. When we arrived, we didn't immediately ask after where Rafa was practising that day (thinking it a bit early), so we made our way up the various terraces to go to the practice courts. On the steps, we bumped into Sky Sports presenter (and all round biased and unabashed Federer fanboy), Barry Cowan. Our Rafan will talk to anybody *giggle* so she engaged Barry in a conversation and he revealed that Rafa was his tip to win. Not particularly based upon anything, but it was a feeling he had. As I have only very recently emailed a complaint into Sky Sports about Cowan's totally unrelated Rafarants during matches when he ISN'T EVEN PLAYING!, my lips stayed totally shut.
When we were up at the practice courts, we heard a familiar ahhh-oooooo, ahhh-oooooo, ahhh-oooooo ... yep, heard her before we saw her - Vika the Shrieker was practising. So we watched Azarenka for a little bit, before going back down again, when a steward seemed very keen to encourage as many people as possible to go to the practice court to watch Prince Albert frame a few shots. :D Ilie Nastase was there and he acted as umpire, Prince Albert was partnered by Fabrice Santoro, and Guy Forget and some other bloke were on the opposite side of the net. We didn't hang about for long ...
By this time we'd enquired about where Rafa was practising, and each time the answer was that he hadn't booked a court. We were told when and where the other three semi-finalists were practising, but there was nothing about Rafa. Perhaps he was having a lie in. :D But word got around that he could be on the Court des Princes (as he was on the Saturday last year), so we headed to wait there for a bit as Berdych was currently on it. When he left, the Rafa fans wished Rolf good luck *giggle* but there was still no sign of Rafa. Eventually, word came through that he was on Court 11 again, which meant that we had to make yet another hike up the hills and terraces in order to get there. I got a seat by the court to watch, joined by my lovely Italian friends. *roll* His practice partner for the day was Michael Llodra *boo*, but it was fun when Rafa called to play a point "for real" and had him scampering absolutely all over the place. Rafa wasn't quite the Practice Grinch that morning, and he did say "hello" to everybody. At the end of practice, Rafan (who by now had totally immersed herself in some of the behaviours of our Europeans cousins) decided that if you don't ask in France, you don't get ... so she enquired after one of the practice balls to Carlos Costa, who promptly gave one to her. She'd practised the same technique earlier when we arrived and they were setting up the tables for the Great and the Good to clatter and chatter through their lunch whilst supposedly watching the matches. The staff were setting the table places and were using plate mats that were made up of various players ... so Rafa went and boldly asked for a Rafa one - which she got. Hehe ...
So we entered the Centre Court to have lunch and wait for the matches. First up was Rolf vs. the PoD and we were desperate for Rolf to take him out, we just wanted him out of the way. And when he took the first set, did we dare believe? Well, no we didn't actually, and as is the case, Djokovic eventually started to get into his stride, moved up the gears and then played his way through it. He won in three, so that was it ... he was in the final, and if Rafa got there, we'd have to endure yet another of their meetings. *gaah*
So it then became time for Rafa and Gilles Simon to start, and the lovely Xisca had joined Rafa's Mum in the players' box and they seemed to be relaxed, laughing and joking and just generally getting on well with each other. We had our own live commentary for the match ... no, we weren't plugged into Radio MCCC or anything, we had Daisy and Dolly - two Gentleman from New York - sitting right behind us and making their comments on every single ball played. One of them thought "Allez le break", was such a hoot to keep shouting on the occasions when Rafa faced break point, until Rafan retorted with ... "Allez le hold!!". :D :D
I have to say that I find Gilles Simon utterly tedious. For whatever reason, I've managed to see him play loads of times when I really seriously don't like him. He justs plays pat - pat - pat - pat - pat - pat - pat from side to side to side to side sidezzzzzzzzzzzzz. I can't say I found the first set stimulating whatsoever, but Rafa won out, 6-3. It was a very hot day indeed on Saturday, and yours truly had brought her Spanish fan with her which I used all the time in Cordoba, with the intention of using it as cheering material. Not today ... I needed it for its real purpose as I was boiling. And of course, a camera man came and caught me in the act of wafting, and there I was up on the big screen and beamed around the globe to the tennis watching public. Denzy sent me a text from home saying ... "Gotcha!". :D
It was a bit alarming that Simon was managing to win some of the longer rallies that the pair engaged in, but he couldn't lift his game on the big points. Eventually, Rafa moved ahead and took the set 6-4 and therefore the match. So there we had it ... we were facing having to watch a Rafa vs. PoD final right in front of our very eyes. I wish I could say we were thrilled at the prospect.
But then it was nice that we met up with our old pals from BBC 606 - Mrs L and Pearl - part of the original gang of Rafateers, and it was great to have a chin wag. Rafan and I then made our way to be part of a huge Rafa fan team photo and then we made our way back to the bus stop for the journey home back to Nice.
Finals day ... what would that bring? *yikes*
Considering all that had gone on with Thursday, ie. the pushing and shoving practice session and the late finish, I decided that I would take a break from practice on the Friday and take myself off into Monte Carlo for a bit of sight-seeing and a hopefully more relaxed day before going up to the Club for the matches. Rafan still headed up there to see Rafa, and on this day he'd been put on Court 11 which is much more civilised for watching as there is a seating area for the crowds, but the downside to all of that is that he is behind wire meshing which does affect the pictures somewhat. However, at least on Friday Rafan was spared being turned into a climbing frame ...
It was a stunning morning and the sun was shining brightly, and I can't really describe what that light is like in the South of France, but its like nothing I've seen before and its simply brilliant ('scuse the pun). So I took the infamous No. 100 bus and alighted at the Tourist Office which is right in the heart of the town. Again its hard to describe Monte Carlo, and when you actually walk around it, there are old pictures all over the place which take you back to the very early 20th Century and however wonderful it still is, it does make you realise just how much it has actually changed over the years and how utterly stunning and amazing it was in the early days. That said, in the heart of the town in the streets leading up to the Casino and that particular area itself with the famous Hotel de Paris to the right, and the ability to walk to the terraced promenade which enables you to look right out over the famous azure sea and to the mountains surrounding the city, and the famous harbour which then draws your eyeline upwards as you see the Grimaldi family's Pink Palace and then you look across to see the Old Town which houses the Cathedral and is only a short walk away from the Palace - well, it takes your breath away.
Stunning, simply stunning.
Notwithstanding all of that, the people watching there is immense. Style, elegance, simply oozing money and plenty of other sights that just simply make your eyes roll. And the cars! I'm not that mad keen on cars, but there are seriously hot little motors driving around its streets. I tell you, if you ever have the chance to go then do so. Its totally immense.
So as you can no doubt tell, I had a wonderful morning and early afternoon in the city, but then it became time to make my way up to watch the matches.
I only saw the final couple of games of Andy Murray's match with Rolf - which took an age - and according to Rafan, Rolf really played well and deserved his victory. Then it was the PoD and then it was Rafatime!!
On Friday, we'd changed location on the Centre Court and had moved across to the stand which is directly opposite the players and the umpire's chair. It is from this position that you truly get to see why Monte Carlo has to be THE most beautiful court in the world. You have the Club House to the left, the lovely red clay of the court down below you, and you can see right up into the cliffs and across the bay to the fabulous blue, Mediterranean Sea. Its immense. And a certain hot Spaniard helps of course, too. Hehe ... ;) The Birkin bags (that I've previously mentioned) and which all ladies simply MUST have before they will be granted access to the VIP stands, also enjoyed the view too. Particularly the one below, which actually had the best seat in the house ...
Because we had a different vista, I was happy that I managed to photograph a lot of Rafa's infamous tics. The water bottle placement, the energy bar, the jumping at the net. Suck on it hatahs ... I love the routine!! Also from our angle, you got to see more of Rafa's footwork and his movement across the clay. I love to see him slide. To be honest, he doesn't seem to do quite as much of it now as he did in his earlier career, but I was happy to be able to photograph some of the marks that he had made on the clay. He opponent today was Stanisilas Wawrinka (Stanford), and to be honest, his matches with Stanford on clay do seem to have a bit of a repeat pattern. It always seems to be a very hard and tightly fought first set, and Friday was no exception. There were breaks by each player, until Rafa recovered the vital one and took the first set, 7-5. In other matches between the pair, Stanford seems to then crumble after not making the breakthrough after all his effort in the first, but this wasn't quite the case that day. Rafa still prevailed though, to take it 6-4, but it was a much more difficult encounter than what he had experienced the previous day.
We didn't hang around for the Simon/Tsonga encounter as we wanted to head back as early as we could. That night's forage for a restaurant eventually lead us to one on the same block as our apartment, where the steak and sauce I had was to die for ... as was the news that the Maitre d' delivered. For ease, I always say I live near Manchester when asked because then people have some sort of idea of where I come from. Which then lead him to ask whether I was from the Red half or the Blue half of the city (this is football speak, folks ;) ) I said in a very high voice that of course I was from the Red half, and he then went on to tell me that The King - no, not Elvis - but only, ERIC CANTONA!! had eaten in his restaurant and was staying nearby as he was in some sort of theatre production in Nice. *thud* The French footballer, Eric Cantona is - in my opinion - the greatest ever player to ever pull on a Manchester United shirt and I was simply stunned to hear the news. Rafa himself walking into that restaurant wouldn't have dumb-founded me as much as the news about Eric. :D :D The chap then brought me his phone to show me the picture he'd had taken with him. Pure *envy* ... and I told him to say "hi" to Eric from me if he ever came in again. ;)
So then it was time to embark back up those 120 steps to the apartment as a very early start awaited us the next day. Semi-finals day ... against the last remaining French player, Gilles Simon.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
So off we trotted for our second day of tennissss on Thursday knowing that another long day lay ahead of us because Rafa was scheduled as the fourth and final match of the day on Centre Court. Andy Murray was on first, followed by what looked like a very interesting match as Fer took on Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga, followed by the PoD and then finally ... Rafa.
First port of call was the very helpful lady at the Information Desk who last year told us exactly where Rafa was practising, and so it was as she did the same for us this year. We were told that Rafa was on Court 10 at 12 pm, but preceding him was the PoD who was to practice on the same court at 11 am. Now this court is right at the back of the Country Club and you're only able to view from a terrace and therefore you're looking down onto it. So we took up our positions there and were joined by the VB girls, so there was a lot of support around for Rafa.
But 11 am came and went and there was no sign of the PoD. Eventually, and nearly half and hour late, Doctor Frankenstein entered the court, followed by his charge. There then started some limbering up and he performed stretches that made me reminisce about a bendy toy that my baby brother had when he was little of Noddy, where we used to wrap his bendy legs around his neck and then try to make his bendy arms touch the bell on his bendy hat. But I digress ...
He also performed his dressage exercises for the un-interested crowd (accompanied by Dr Frankenstein which was a truly shocking sight) and then he began a light practice. He hadn't finished up by 12 pm, so when Rafa arrived for his practice slot and saw the court was still busy, he moved to the adjacent one ... and the crowd moved with him.
Word was that at this point, Djokovic was advised of his grandfather's passing. It is always terribly sad when you lose a loved family member, but it was a very public way to advise him of such news and I'll probably speak more of the subject in a later post. But the thing to remember is that Djokovic wasn't the victim in all of this. He had a choice. And his choice was to continue playing in the tournament. No-one forced him. It wasn't a big, brave thing ... it was his choice, so deal with it.
But back to Court 12 and Rafapractice. Now I'm afraid that this trip has made me incredibly jingoistic in that all the stereotypes you think of regarding our European cousins and the way we behave as British people were absolutely coming to the fore. We've had the queue jumping for the No. 100 bus, us muttering and moaning under our breath without actually doing anything about it, and then we have ... the Italians. Now Monte Carlo is just a hop, skip and a jump for them just up the coast and over the border, and the tournament has many of them in attendance. And with them, they bring their utter and bloody chaos.
Because Rafa had this late change of court, there was much jostling for positions, and never in your life have you seen such rudeness, elbowing, shoving people out of the way, their ENDLESS bloody chatter, and Rafan at one point was even used as a climbing frame from some little boy just so he could get a picture ... enabled by his own mother!! Utter madness. I kept myself apart from it because frankly, its not worth it. I mean ... I love Italy. I've travelled extensively all over the mainland, I love everything about it, and yes ... I wish they'd just shut the hell up from time to time, but somehow in the confines of their own country it seems, well ... "normal" ... but transfer it to a tennis club in so-called sophisticated Monaco and it transposes into nothing short of a rabble. But besides all that, Rafa's practice partner that day was Marc! And even though he still seemed to continue to be a Practice Grinch, having Marc! around is just such a good thing for Rafa because he seems to just push and cajole and take the mickey out of him till he can't do anything else than just break out into huge smiles and laughter. And an end-of-practice shirtless moment which I never got to see thanks to my Italian European cousins. Grazie bloody mille and no, that wasn't very "Grande!" ... grr.
It had started to rain just as Rafa was starting to finish up and after he left the court, we were treated to a massive downpour ... and that became the flavour of the day. Showers followed by blazing sunshine, followed by another shower, followed by The Windy ... do you get the picture? So for us it became an afternoon of down to the t-shirt, then cardie on, then brolley up, then brolly down, then fleece on, then fleece off, then sunhat on, then bring out the Factor 50, then brolley up, then fleece on, then coat on, then take it all off ... like a couple of boy scouts, go to Monte Carlo and "Be Prepared".
So what of the matches? Well, I'll just discuss the Spanish boys, starting with Fer.
What are we going to do with him? He was 40-0 up on Tsonga's serve in the first set ... and didn't break. He then led by 5-something in the tie-breaker ... and still lost it. So with the first set slipping out of his grasp, Fer did his usual thing of a total mental meltdown and before you knew it, the match was over. Fer was dressed in his god-awful Adidas get up of lime green and orange and after the match we saw his Dad. I do not even want to describe the truly HIDEOUS shell suit he was wearing. It had several Birkin bags creaking at their leather seams ...
We'd had a good few rain delay breaks during the afternoon, so it was getting late when Rafa finally came on to face Kukushkin. The weather really was playing its part now and we'd had a couple of thunder claps. But the biggest of which was saved for when Rafa was doing his warm-up when this ALMIGHTY thunder broke out to such an extent that scaredy old Rafa just crouched to his knees as if to try and escape it ... and the crowd broke out in a up-roar of laughter. He even had to see the funny side himself, and broke out into a laugh, but seriously ... that boy is such a dork! Hehe ...
The weather must have scared him into action though cos he was off the court in about an hour and a quarter with playing such actually lovely, quick and aggressive tennis, so that heartened us somewhat.
So it was time to make our way back to Nice, but it was getting so late by this time that Rafan had emailed her sister to check up on the time for the last bus for us. I'd decided that I must visit the Ladies before leaving and so joined the queue ... only for Rafan to come find me to tell me that the last bus for Nice left Menton at 8pm and it was this time already and we still had to do the massive uphill schlep to the bus stop. So I did a quick *cough* to check that the Tena-lady was working ;)and I left the queue as we did a high-tail as fast as we could up that hill to get the bus.
When we arrived in Nice, I was cold and hungry. Rafan was feeling decidedly queasy as although the journey back was quick as it was devoid of traffic, this had encouraged the bus driver to believe he was in his own little Grand Prix as he accelerated and braked his way through Monte Carlo and then continued in the same fashion on the windy coastal road back to Nice. But we decided that we'd just go to the local Italian restaurant near our apartment for a bite to eat ... thinking that a pizza and pasta joint would be amenable to us. Only we pushed open to the door to a room full of crisp, white tablecloths and a room full of people in very smart and elegant attire. So remember I discussed the two scarecrows from the the previous day? Well yes, we were ever the same and when we clapped eyes on the sophistication that greeted us, we did the honourable thing and just turned on our heels, went out of the door, and found some tourist joint that wouldn't mind catering for someone with VAMOS RAFA! written across her chest.
Hehe ... so what would quarter-finals day bring???
Well, what a full day's tennissss we had on our first day.
But I started the day in a raging mood with a dollop of baying to the moon thrown in to boot. I'd had some trouble on Tuesday with the "playback" mode on my new camera, ie. it didn't play back any pictures, but on Wednesday, I'd lost the whole LCD view function and it seemed like the whole thing had jammed. As it was a day when I wanted my new camera the most, I was totally fed up. Then the driver of the No. 100 bus decided that instead of parking correctly as he should do so that those at the front of the queue could get on first, he parked in the middle, so it was another meleé to get on. At least we got a seat though. On arrival at Monte Carlo and after we'd bought lunch, I got a text from my Mum about [my dog] Rose (who I'd been thinking a lot about and missing), and that made me *wail*. So I'd run the gamut of emotions before we'd even started.
But we made our way to Rafa's practice court and within 10 minutes ... there he was! Biggest hug of the day had to go to Rafan, who let me borrow her newest of cameras so that I at least could get some pictures on my SD card and I'm really grateful that she did.
Rafa was in one of his grumpy practice moods. As Rafan and I were of the first to arrive, we plonked ourselves right behind Rafa's chair. Its fabulous to be so close to him because he's literally feet away from you, close enough even to touch ... but the downside is that you really only get pictures of the back of his head or his neck. But when it looks like it does in the picture above with those loveable curls ... who cares? And when it gets wet and sweaty so much so that you can see the little beads running down it (see below), well ... *thud*
Rafa did his usual training drills and his partner was Stakhovsky. Seems that anyone who speaks out publicly in support of him ends up being "rewarded" with practice. I wouldn't say that Rafa was hitting particularly hard, and I wouldn't say that he was enjoying himself much. When Toni was talking to him, you could pick out the names of other players, or "player" I should say - Djokovic - but he was only on there for an hour before he was off on his way.
So we left to meet up with the VB girls for a bit of a gossip and then Rafan and I went to look round the stands. She was already a bit laden down before we'd even entered the Club. Simply because she'd picked up a free Tennis mag, a paper containing the day before's news, a local paper, the Order of Play and then she bought a programme. I ended up buying a Rafa t-shirt, the one where he is all pixilated, but I figured it would feel nice to have Rafa on my chest ;) With it came a free poster, so when the woman at the till said "do you want a poster?", Rafan answered, "YESSS!!" and then the silly bint said to me, "Do you want a Rafa or Roger poster?" I'd just bought a Rafa t-shirt what sort of poster do you think I want!! But then Rafan asked if she could have one too anyway.
As we walked away in search of the Tennis magazine stand that Rafan had spent a fortune in last year, she thought cos one poster looked red and another blue, that we might have been given a Rafa AND a Roggie poster. So I told her to look and to get rid of it, now! if it was a Roggie one ... but it turned out they were just the same. :D
So we found the Tennis magazine store and if you bought 17 magazines, you ended up with 37 free posters ... so guess who did? *whistle* Next we found ourselves upon a picture stall, you know the framed type with autographs and the like, and do you remember how Rafan swopped numbers with the lovely Victor in Cordoba cos she wanted that R-A-F-A picture well, there he was again and straight away he recognised us. He greeted me with a lovely open, warm European kiss and he greeted Rafan by calling her Susan ... He said he still had the picture that she liked and that he would sell it to her for €95. She reminded him it was €75 in Cordoba, and he said she could have it at the same price. What a salesman ... *roll*
It was then lunchtime, and although Djokovic was due on court, we decided we'd go in and eat it there as he could possibly put his opponent away in an hour, and to trek up to the practice area to come back again is a bit of a schlep. So whilst the PoD did his thing, I hoped that me chomping on a baguette and crunching my curleo crisps things might put him off ... it didn't, but it wound up the Feddie Mother Theresas sitting next to me, so that was good enough. Whilst the PoD's scoreline seemed easy enough that day, he had to play several deuce points and took over an hour and half. He wasn't on top form either yet. What made me laugh very hard though, was that after the match, the on-court interviewer welcomed him to his "home tournament".
And so ... it was Rafatime! It wasn't vintage by any stretch of the imagination, and Rafa was knocked on his heels on a few occasions by aggressive play and big, flat hitting by Niemanunmanumm, but he's still not good enough to give Rafa some real difficultly.
One mildly disturbing thing happened again though, and that was Rafa's inability to serve out a match. How many times has this happened now? What on earth was going around his head? Worrying ...
But he was through and all done in front of another legend as Bjorn Borg was also watching there on that day.
As the wind got up it swirled around and got colder and colder, to such an extent that Rafan wished she'd had a scarf. Then she remembered her Spanish flag and promptly tied it round her neck to help her keep warm. This was during the doubles and the funny thing was that lovely Mo came out to watch and sat in the players' box which wasn't too far from us, and his and Rafan's flirt game continued as he beckoned over to her and did the *shiver* motion. That Mo ... he's such a card.
Speaking of the doubles, well the highlight was being treated to lovely, soxy Fer. It was a fairly good match, and I was just a bit gutted that the Spanish boys lost, seeing as they had breaks, but it ended up with a Champions tie break. Towards the end of it, Fer took his cap off, poured water all over his head, shook it, and brushed the wet hair back. I wasn't quick enough to capture in on camera. Sadly, Fer and partner lost the tie breaker after we were cheering them loudly on. Because a final word on that match ... Llodra. What an odious twonk he is.
This time he didn't have some "sensitive" woman to blame, or an over zealous journalist putting out so-called nonsense on Twitter. He smashed a racquet in anger when he lost a game. Within minutes, he'd angrily smashed another one. He got a warning for racquet abuse, but even though he is responsible for his behaviour and the umpire applied the rules with a warning, Llodra started with a tirade against little Mohammed. And it wasn't a short tirade, it took the length of the change over, and so Mohammed would have none of it and deducted a point. Lovely Mo in the box wagged his finger at such behaviour, and Llodra wouldn't even shake the umpire's hand when it ended. And then he let him have another gobful as he was leaving. Twonk.
So it was time to go and Rafan and I went to the Ladies before making our trek back to Nice. And both of us stared in the mirror and said a hearty "hello" to the two scarecrows looking right back at us. I had mascara down my face and my hair having been blown to death looked like a rats nest. I also had a lovely red burnt circle on my chest. Rafan had a forehead that is as bright red as beacon. Gorgeous. Whoever said watching tennis was glamorous??
Another packed day awaited us on Thursday, and by the way ... I pushed an LCD button on my camera and it started working again. Good job, because the pictures I took that day with Rafan's were so lovely, she needed it back!
So where have I been? Two days of sight-seeing stories and then when it comes to the actual stuff you want to read - ie. Rafa playing at Monte Carlo - I disappear!!
:D :D *giggle*
I'm sorry that I didn't bring you the day's action as it happens, but its obvious I just don't have the stamina any more. Whilst its fantastic to stay in Nice and enjoy all that the city brings, it does make for a very long day because of early starts, late finishes, and a torturous bus journey to and from Monte Carlo on the infamous No. 100 that can take anything between 45 minutes and an hour and half. So by the time you get back, get something to eat and wind down, well, I was just too knackered to post anything.
But fear not. Over the next week, I'll bring you my stories of the tournament along with a few pictures, and I'll be working away to upload my photos to my Flickr account. So please bear with me and keep following.