Tuesday, March 17, 2009
After shamelessly asking DtL reader Terry Lee, who visited Indian Wells, to p-p-p-please send over some insidery anecdotes and photos from his visit I was grinning this morning when I saw his email.
Apparently, he had two goals in mind. Well, one goal and two targets: to stalk and meet Rafael Nadal + Marat Safin (join the club.) I'll let him tell you the rest!
This was my first time at Indian Wells and I was very surprised at how open and accessible the practice courts are, you can literally sit on the court that the players are hitting on. The main mission was simple find Marat, find Rafa, everything else was secondary.
Immediately I see Richard Gasquet + Gilles Simon hitting, so I take a seat. I have always had a strange fascination for Gasquet, maybe it's because of the gay rumors, or maybe it's just because I think he is cute in a strange way, he has interesting ankles..and kind of a big butt right. Plus he was hitting with Simon, and after that pic of him in the weight room was posted, I am strangely fascinated by him too.
Richard walks by and I ask him if I could get a pic with him, even though I have terrible hat head from the visor I was wearing, I should have kept it on. He agreed to the pic (top photo) and I was just about to ask him to join us for dinner tonight when some stupid fan ruined my moment.
On the next court over was a large gathering and it was Novak Djokovic, who I had a crush on but lost it after last season. He looked good though and we got super close to him, his feet are larger than I expected them to be…I have a tendency to notice people’s hands and feet.
We decided to skip all of the matches until we got to see Marat + Rafa, so back to the practice courts. We noticed that there was still a large crowd of people where Roger Federer was practicing, so we kept going, only I saw Roger walking across the lawn…so who was everyone watching? It was Marat! Immediately we make our way over to the court and as the people ran over to cut off Roger’s path, I had direct access to watch Marat practice. I was standing 8 feet away from my hero and he was hitting with Oscar Hernandez. It was great - he was entertaining us with awesome shots and the power he uses is amazing. He would talk to himself in Russian and to Oscar in Spanish. I was totally star struck.
After the practice session was over he walked right by me and signed my program and I smacked him on the back, he was soaking wet from sweat, and told him he was best. It was all I could manage to say and hitting him was much like smacking a horse; the guy is huge, much larger than I expected and hard as concrete. Then out of nowhere these two guys run up and say they were his biggest fans and wanted to take a picture with him and he agreed. I was like, "Hold on…I am your biggest fan and if you are going to be giving out man on man pics, I am going to get on too." But I was still frozen and he left.
After an hour or so, I was standing at the fence next to the players lounge, hoping to see Marat again and staring off reliving my earlier encounter with him when I notice that Rafa was walking right towards me! He had a hat on so I didn’t notice him at first; just as he approached a mob of fans pushed me directly into him. He was so nice, he smiled and made sure I didn’t fall and started signing autographs. I finally thought to myself, "Self, take out the camera and get a pic stupid." Rafa was so nice, one kid took off his own shirt and asked Rafa to sign it and he did…what a nice guy.
We followed him down to the practice court and watched him hit for a while; he has such natural talent and the way he hits a tennis ball is like nothing I have ever seen before. After he finished up, he stopped to sign more autographs. It was then time for us to go because we didn’t have tickets for the night session plus we accomplished both missions for day one.
The mission for day two: get a pic with Marat!
(images courtesy of Terry Lee)