What better way to end the tennis year? I mean you only have one tournament where just the first 8 singles players and the first 8 teams in the WORLD play. Just them. It’s a special tournament that is played differently. No, they still hit the ball with the racket, the rules are the same just that first they split the players into two groups. Each group has 4 players or 4 teams. They play each other and just the first two qualify for the semifinals. This year they named the groups in honour of past champions. One of the singles group is named after Ilie Nastase, Romanian player, the first ever ATP number one. The other group is named after Stan Smith. In doubles the groups are Ashe/Smith and Fleming/McEnroe.
It’s the second time I come to this tournament. The first time I flew to London just because Horia and his then partner, Robert, decided to stop playing together and I just couldn’t miss their last tournament as a team. You can read about it here, but unfortunately it is in Romanian. Now there are two Romanians playing in the tournament: Horia Tecau (with Jean-Julien Rojer) and Florin Mergea (with Rohan Bopanna). It is so exciting to see Romanians play, especially when they are among the best in the world. But I had another player on my mind, as always: Roger Federer. I love watching him play.
On Sunday evening we came to the O2 Arena and watched on the big screen as Florin and Rohan played against the Bryan Brothers. We just sat there on the floor in from of the screen drinking coffee, cheering and, no, nobody thought we were crazy because there were many other tennis fans doing exactly the same. And Florin and his partner won. Must I say that the Bryan Brothers are the no 1 team? Well, Florin and Rohan dominated the match and took one step closer to qualifying to the semifinals.
The second day it was time to step in the huge arena and enjoy some live tennis. The whole tournament is a show, with pre-match entertainment, interviews, stories, light shows, a beating pulse as the players enter the arena, loud music and great tennis. First stop: Rojer/Tecau against Matkovski/Zimonjic. And without too many problems, the other Romanian alongside his partner, took a first step to the semis. And they did an on-court interview in front of everybody. And they played “Heroes” by David Bowie for them. What an excellent choice of a song, one of my favourites, they must have known I am attending the matches.
Then it was time to watch Andy Murray take on David Ferrer. This was a beautiful match, especially because Murray was playing at home so everybody was cheering for him. And a match against David Ferrer is always tough and involves a lot of hard work. Andy won after a double 6-4.
Quick lunch break, hot cup of coffee from Costa and fast back into the arena to watch Herbert/Mahut take Dodig/Melo. I like Mahut (Google “the longest match in tennis” and you will find he was involved in it, great story behind that one) since he lost the Roland Garros final (pairing Llodra) and he cried like a baby with the runner-up trophy in his arms. Plus the French team dedicated their performance to the victims of the Paris attacks. They played dressed in black and when they entered the arena the French flag was on display everywhere alongside #playforparis. Respect! Unfortunately they lost, even though they had a match point.
In 2012 I didn’t get to see Rafa Nadal because he was injured. Well, now he’s here and on Monday he played against Stan Wawrinka. I don’t want to be mean but compared to the Murray-Ferrer match this one was… not a display of beautiful tennis. It was more a sports match than a spectacular tennis game. Or maybe I am picky. Rafa won 6-3, 6-2. I am happy to see him play again, it’s barely the second time I see him play live, and the first time I see Wawrinka play under my eyes. Nadal doesn’t have the thunder he used to have in his game but he changed his style, recovered from some injuries and came back strong enough to be in the spotlight where he still belongs and where I hope he stays for a while longer.
So now I look back and see that I’ve written quite a lot and I think that maybe I should take this tale into more parts. So Tuesday as a tennis day and more coming up tomorrow or whenever I have the time to sit and put some order in my tennis stories.