Sunday, August 28, 2011
So, yeah. I made it to this year's Taste of Tennis albeit a little late. I had to work so my friend, Erin, covered the Rafael Nadal/Armani event at Macy's earlier in the day for me, where he unveiled his ginormous ballboard to the world, before heading over to the W Hotel in Midtown where we were meeting up.
When I got there I ran into Karen from Tennis Panorama, my annual US Open Party Patrol buddy, who is always up for a good time. I also hung out with Nick from Tennis Served Fresh, @MariyaKTennis and finally got to meet Rachel from OntheGoTennis and Elena from The Slice. The one thing I noticed immediately was the fewer number of media in attendance - it didn't have the same INSANE feel it had last year. But, here was the worst part: no complimentary bottled water. HOW COULD THEY LET US GET THIRSTY??? I wondered if it was on downhill from there. Luckily, I had gum.
The green carpet arrivals began to, er, arrive. Rafa, surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly, came through first. I compared his appearance to having "the dessert before the main course" over Twitter. It was also like a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am moment- a quickie but without the guilt. He was literally there for less than a minute before Benito moved him onto the VIP area. For him to do all this publicity for his book and ad campaign must be draining for him - it's soooo not his thing. I guess I'm not surprised he flew through the line.
There were also less lady ballers at this event than last year which meant less opportunity to ask, "Who are you wearing, guuurl???" So I asked the guys. Well, one guy: Marin Cilic. He had on this cool shirt jacket but no idea who designed it. I suppose it wasn't a question he was prepared to answer. Hopefully he will be next time, and in that small way I've helped prepare him for future green carpet questions - or not. Probably not.
A few of us made it upstairs to the big party (we have our ways) where we ate some fabulous food and drank, um, a lot. A fucking blast. But as they say, it's not how you start but how you end and THIS end was awesome. Just awesome. Even an obviously fanatical and possibly drunk person accosting him on the street for a picture couldn't scare him away. HE BE THE BEST.
Thanks to E, who's an amazing graphic designer BTW, for helping me out and DKC for the great event and invite. Until next year Taste of Tennis!!!
Check out my full Q & A with Tommy Haas, Tamira Paszek, Fernando Verdasco, Janko Tipsarevic, Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon, James Blake and Vera Zvonareva from Taste of Tennis after the jump.
You’re obviously a new father these days. How’s that affected being tennis player? Is it a challenge or something you work through?
Yeah, it’s a new experience. You don’t really know what to expect once it happens to you but it’s the definitely been the greatest thing to happen in my life so far. My family is not here in New York, it gets a little bit hectic especially for the baby so we have a schedule at home that makes it easier. Sometimes you pick your tournament when you’re going to be away, you try to do you best and do your job, basically, and look forward to going home and being a dad again.
How did it feel being a first time quarter finalist at a Grand Slam?
I mean, you know, there’s a lot of work behind it. I started very early on the tour had some good results in the early years so I knew what it took to come back after tough injuries, tough 2009. I’m just really happy to make it to the quarters in Wimbledon. I feel ready for US Open, feel well prepared and looking forward to good tournament.
What do you think turned it around for you? What got you to that point?
Um, I think working a lot on being aggressive on court, trying to perform my game on the court and trying to finish the point as early as possible. Also working a lot on my physical side. It helped.
What do you think will get you to the next level?
You know, just keep working on the things I should, my serve, keeping aggressive. You have to fight, stay out there, and try to win as many matches as possible.
Being in a Grand Slam, it’s such an intense time. What do you do to break away from it, try to relax?
I stay at the club just the time that I need. After that I go to the hotel and I rest and stay with my family, my coaches and just try to do normal plans. Relaxing plans, go to the cinema, dinners, or walk around, try to be as much relaxed as possible and then the next day rest a lot and sleep a lot, next day try to be 100%.
You’re a big user of social media, you’re on Twitter all the time. What do you love about it?
I imagine it like a wall where you post stuff. You try to be honest with the people who are following you. You shouldn’t try to be funny or try to inform them about your life. Nobody cares if you say if you had a great breakfast. Normally you should try to be honest and if people like it they will follow you, if they don’t they won’t.
Anything you want to tell your Twitter followers tonight?
I love it in New York. If I see something interesting, if I see something funny I’ll write it!
First of all, I love that shirt. Do you know who it is?
No, No I don’t (laughing).
Ah, okay! Second question, when you come to New York where do you have to go? Doesn’t have to be a restaurant, but where do you have to go every year?
Interesting. Nothing is really on the menu that I have to do some things. Depends also on the company. This year, last year I’ve been here with my girlfriend so I have to go with her some places she hasn’t seen yet. So most of the free time we visit some things, last night we went to a Broadway show…
What did you see?
Lion King so that was great. Today went to the MET, things like that. Different than usual things from the rest of the year.
I was just talking to Tommy Haas earlier about being a new father and you are a new father as well. What is it like in terms of your career? Does it affect your career? How much of a challenge is it to balance it?
I thought I was ready to be a father very soon also because of my wife, I know she would be a good mother so it helped a lot. And she is actually. It’s not changing anything about the tennis just on the tournament I just try to do my thing. I feel like tennis and my private life are totally separate. Just that I feel better outside.
I have some bad moments as all the players on the tour. Arrived in Montreal three weeks ago, hurt my neck in the bad moment, lost the first round. And then when you lose of course it’s easier when you have your family, your baby smiling outside the court.
So that’s the biggest difference, to have that outside support.
It’s better outside, doesn’t change anything on the court. Still have to fight, still difficult. I feel that the result doesn’t affect me that much now because you leave one month you really want to win, because if you lose three times first round you have the impression you’ve lost some time and it was a terrible month. Now I just try to do the maximum, as usual. I know I can win, I know I can lose also and when I lose it’s easier because I can enjoy the family.
You had a good summer. What turned it around?
I’m healthy again and that’s the biggest difference. My knee feels good and I’m able to move. Without my legs I’m not quite the same player so I need that and I feel good about it now and I’m ready to hopefully ready to make a run. You know I haven’t made any deep runs, I’ve had some consistent results and not a deep run. I feel now’s the time to do it.
What do you think it’s going to take?
Getting through the first round or two and then see if I continue having that confidence. I feel like the way I’m playing anything can happen, so this crowd will pull through some tight ones I hope.
Last year I interviewed you here, I asked you as a first time finalist as a Grand Slam what did that feel like. Now you’re coming back one year later you’re a defending finalist. Is there a different pressure, how does it feel?
No, actually I don’t feel any pressure. I’m excited about where I am right now that I’m in the position to go out there and defend my final. I also believe in myself always believe if I can play my best tennis I can beat anyone. I know there’s a tough competition, every player is tough so just trying to take it one match at a time like any other tournament and let’s see where it will take me.
What do you think will get you past that last step?
I don’t know. I think it’s the maturity, the experience, the desire, the determination all those things that you need in the right attitude. I know it’s not easy we will see how it goes. I’m trying to give 100% and hopefully it will pay off one day.
[Photo(s) credit: DtL]