Last year while walking around the grounds of the US Open I was interviewed and then quoted in the New York Times about the “it” bag I was carrying around. I wish I could say I knew how hip I was, but the truth is I had no idea I was toting such a coveted item. I still don’t know why it was so sought after since anyone who bought something at the Ralph Lauren store exited with one. But far be it from me to stand in the way of the opinion of the Style reporter for the Times….
I was quoted as saying, “It’s perfect because you can hang it off your back and leave your hands free to take photos or get an autograph from Rafael Nadal, not that I’ve been able to find him yet.” Due to the incessant rain delays in 2006 I never did see Nadal.
2007 was going to be so much different! Not only was the weather forecast divine – sun for each of the three days I had tickets – but Nadal would be playing matches on two of those days and hitting balls on the practice courts for all three. Plus I’d come up with the idea to get Nadal to sign a copy of the NY Times article. Seeing him play was the easy part, even though I had to sneak into Arthur Ashe to see his first and second round matches. When I observed how protected the players were I realized getting the autograph would be nearly impossible.
The only time I could hope to get Rafa’s signature was in the brief moment when he exited the practice courts. But of course nearly every teenager had already discovered this special spot and the area was usually several rows deep. This was no exception when about mid-afternoon on my second day at the Open I got a call from my scouts (Amy and Robin) who had spotted Nadal hitting balls with his coach, Uncle Toni. I dashed out of the match I was watching and scurried over to catch a glimpse of him and realized this was probably my only chance to get an autograph. However, the throngs of teenagers who’d been waiting for hours was huge and I didn’t think I had a chance in hell. But somehow the newspaper caught his eye and he scribbled his initials on it. The deed was done and I was still in shock when I peeled myself away from the mob. Thank god I never have to do that again!!
It was definitely a highlight to see him and so many others play tennis for three straight days. At times our seats were right alongside the courts so you could smile back as Bobby Reynolds celebrated a great shot or Mikhail Youzhny comisserated over a missed opportunity. Even though I loved watching Nadal compete on Ashe, the intimacy of the side court matches is unmatched. The quote of the tournament game from an 8 year-old spanish boy who cheered from the heart for Carlos Moya – Vamos Carlos! Vamos!
I can’t wait until next year!!