November 23, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Hello everyone, back again and as promised here to write about the fabulous arena and some of the action inside it. As we make our way down the banks of the Thames heading eastward and slightly out of the city, we start to see what appears as a huge tent with several huge antennas sticking out from it. The O2 arena is absolutely massive, and unlike any tennis venue out there.
When we get off the boat, a shuttle is there waiting to take us to our locker rooms which is about a 1 km walk around the stadium. I didn’t believe it was that far until my wife and I decided to walk it with our child in arm. About halfway through I realized that it was no lie and the stroller was put to use.
Inside the place it doesn’t look much different than most hockey or basketball arenas back home, though it is quite dark at all times as they are trying to have a boxing match type atmosphere with the spotlight on center court.
The singles players, for some reason, all have their own locker room with their individual pictures on the doors while us doubles guys have to share. It seems strange that they would give guys like Federer and Nadal this kind of service, and make Nestor/Zimonjic slum it up side by side with the other teams.
But somehow we manage and soon forget when we relax in the player/guest area on the 3rd level of the building which is basically a huge open suite that overlooks center court. Comfortable couches, hot food, video games, flat screens, internet—who cares about watching what’s going on down there on center court?
For some who still enjoy watching tennis they have that option too. I am not sure but I think they may have stole this concept from our Rogers Cup in Toronto and Montreal which are two of the few tournaments that offer this view while having a bite to eat for the players and their guests. Whatever the story is, the hosts are doing an unbelievable job of taking care of everyone from the fans, to players, to VIP’s.
On the court, we had the honor of opening the event (perhaps the organizers were regretting their decision afterward as Nenad and I didn’t play much like No. 1’s, though all credit to our Polish opponents who are very dangerous and were definitely the better team).
But unlike every other tournament where we lose our first match, this event is a little different as we play in a round robin of two groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the semis, meaning we still have a chance to go through if we win our next two matches.
If we bored the fans with the first match of the tournament then it was quickly forgotten as Andy Murray, The Last King of Scotland, came through with a nice win over the US Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro. Each day, the schedule has a doubles and singles match followed by a night session. We play again tomorrow night prior to the blockbuster between Murray and Federer (hopefully we bring our A game this time otherwise this trip will be nothing more than sightseeing on the Thames).
I was looking forward to taking my mind off tennis after the match Sunday with some NFL action because there is nothing better when you get live action in Europe, but I think I was more upset after the Steelers decided it was time for an early Christmas present as they lost to the lowly Chiefs. At least my daughter made me feel better later on that night when she pulled my hair, scratched my face and yelled at me.
I think she was trying to say, last time we were here four months ago you won Wimbledon, you call that tennis what you were doing out there today?
Anyways, that’s all for now, next time I will hopefully write to you after a win.
November 21, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
So here we are at the end of another grueling season. It’s the year end championships, or the decider as they have been dubbed it, where the best of the best battle it out for year-end supremacy. Qualifying for this tournament is a goal that every player has in January when the season starts and what a treat it is to be part of the show. Most tournaments on tour treat the players quite well but the masters takes it to another level, which says a lot because we get treated well at every tournament we play.
One example is the boat shuttle they have organized to the site so that we don’t sit in traffic as the journey from hotel to venue is a straight shot along the Thames. You can say we are sight seeing every time we go back and forth from our matches and practice as we pass Big Ben, House of Parliament, Eye of London and the infamous Tower of London where King Henry ruled the town kind of like Andy Murray present day.
Having my wife and daughter with me is always nice and as this is the first time we are staying in the city as opposed to June where we are in Wimbledon village for the month. Both places are great, but being downtown gives you a whole new appreciation of how amazing this city is. So many places to walk around and quite different from life in Canada where you need a car almost everywhere you go. Don’t get me wrong, I still regard the Canadian Open as my favorite tournament of the year because there is nothing like playing in front of friends and family.
Speaking of matches, we are first up tomorrow. We have the honour of opening the tournament so I am going to check out now to make sure that I am well rested to try and get off to a good start. But I will be back soon to talk about the state of the art O2 Arena where it all goes down. See you then.