Last week I attended a once in a lifetime event at the University of Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena (aka Matt Court). Like me I think most people in the sell out crowd were attending for the rare opportunity to watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play tennis. They only play in the U.S. four times a year – Palm Springs, Miami, Cincinnati and New York City – and those places are no where near the Pacific Northwest.
Their rivalry is unparalleled and after a string of finals match-ups in 2008 and 2009 where they elevated each other’s games and played what many feel are the best matches in tennis history, there has been an utter drought of Nadal v. Federer match-ups. Anticipation rises to a fevered pitch every time they make a tournament’s semi-finals, but with the exception of a couple non-Grand Slam tournaments in 2010 they haven’t played each other much lately.
As fans we are now semi-resigned to seeing them in exhibition matches, but even those are few and far between. As they mentioned at the event both had turned down exhibitions at Madison Square Garden and Cowboys Stadium. So the fact that they were playing together in little ‘ol Eugene, Oregon (aka Tracktown USA) and with both Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka was a dream come true. The surprise appearance by John McEnroe added the perfect amount of whip to the frenzy that was already brewing in Matt Court.
I met up with my friend Sarah before the match. We grabbed a quick moment to catch up while in the midst of a sea of kids with tennis rackets getting their game on. A little later as the lights dimmed in the stadium I met up with my friend Mari to watch the match and swoon in unison when our boy, Rafa, took the court.
Here’s the rest of the story in pictures…
Federer, Sharapova, Azarenka and Nadal being interviewed by Justin Gimelstob.
John McEnroe’s surprise appearance which thoroughly amuses Rafa and Roger who were on their way off court for the women’s match.
Roger and Rafa back on court and ready to play doubles.
Sharapova, Azarenka, Federer and Nadal chatting at net.
Federer takes over chair umpire duties from John McEnroe…
who wins the point for the Federer/Sharapova team even though he’s suffering from a sprained ankle!
The victors Nadal/Azarenka meet Federer/Sharapova at net.
Here are some excerpts from the program that Nike designed.
Coming next… the Nike Tennis Oregon Ducks love fest.