Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Janko Tipsarevic, Feliciano Lopez and others play a quick game of soccer on the lawn next to the practice courts.
Rafa and his team before Ernests Gulbis starts practicing.
Rafa meeting Elizabeth Shue
Rafa must have redone his grip a half a dozen times – wanted to get it just right.
Favorite shot of Rafa from this year’s tournament
His afternoon practice was a hot ticket.
I love his hands
A little late afternoon coaching from Francis Roig while Benito Perez Barbadillo takes a call.
I don’t usually find myself deep in the woods on a tennis finals day, but though my heart is in Indian Wells and I’m wondering whether Rafael Nadal is meeting Roger Federer in the finals I am actually hundreds of miles north in Mendocino, California.
You’re probably wondering what would take me away from tennis sunday. It’s definitely something special. I’m currently at Mendocino Woodlands Camp with landscape architecture students from the University of Oregon doing research and field work at an historic summer camp that was built in the 1930s. Only two such camps were built on the west coast and this is the only one being used as it was when it opened during the Great Depression. But more on that later… it’s Tennis Sunday!
So in honor of what I hope is transpiring in the southern part of this state here are a few more shots from the Nadal v. Federer match I was lucky to see a couple weeks ago. Vamos Rafa!
Not only did the Clash of Champions highlight tennis, but it served as a complete love fest for the University of Oregon. Obviously none of this would be possible without the University’s close ties to Nike and everyone at Matt Court knew it. One spectator, who perfectly captured the crowd’s sentiments about halfway through the evening yelled, “thank you Uncle Phil”! I couldn’t have said it better myself!
The love fest was present in every detail – from Nadal, Federer, Sharapova and Azarenka dressed in UO colors to the little Oregon Os on each of their custom made shoes. There were videos that played throughout the evening highlighting Oregon and Nike’s ties to great sports moments, and UO football stars Joey Harrington and Dennis Dixon served as linesmen. After the matches the tennis stars donned custom made Oregon football jerseys while joining the crowd in our common refrains – “OOOOOOOOO” and “Go Ducks”! Complete and utter love fest… you know like two teenagers who’ve just started dating. Kind of amazing after all these years.
I never thought I’d see the day when my two sports loves would be together in one place! Add in the Red Sox and you would have had to take me away in an ambulance. Good thing that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a minute.
Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova wore custom made yellow, and Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka wore custom made green.
I especially loved the details on the shoes from the little O’s on the tongues to the green and yellow tread patterns.
UO football starts Joey Harrington (in perfect O formation) and Dennis Dixon (showing Justin Gimelstob his Super Bowl ring) enter the court, wearing green shoes of course.
Uncle Phil greets the players after giving them personalized UO football jerseys.
Even the Duck can’t believe he’s standing next to Nadal… and Federer, Sharapova and Azarenka!
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…
Here are some excerpts from the program that Nike designed.
Coming next… the Nike Tennis Oregon Ducks love fest.
Though I’m pretty sure he’ll be wearing more clothing, I’m excited to see Rafa play in the exhibition with Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. The event is definitely a gift! Not only will I get to see them play tennis (a nice treat since I’m missing the Indian Wells tournament this year), but I’ll get to check out UO’s new Matt Court!
Matthew Knight Arena (or Matt Court) replaces MacArthur Court aka Mac Court, the well-loved arena where I watched many a basketball game when I was in graduate school. The new arena has been the source of a great deal of controversy due to the avant garde court floor which gives the impression of being within a fir forest. I, for one, love how UO Athletics continue to push the envelope artistically – from the million and one football uniform combinations to this new floor. Better to be at the forefront than the back end!
The glory season of tennis, which spans from the European clay courts in spring to the hot fast courts of NYC in the summer, is almost over. As I watch Rafael Nadal make his way through the last grand slam of the year I try to soak up every moment, watching the matches live (usually in person, but this year on the tele), listening to them at the office, in the car, or walking around town on my iphone (thank you apple – your technology is a sports fan’s friend), and following all the in-depth coverage in the NY Times.
With today’s win Rafael Nadal has made it to his first US Open final. Tomorrow he’ll meet Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer (please let it be Roger) for a chance to win a career grand slam at the young age of 24. He’d be one of the youngest players in history to meet that achievement. So in honor of Rafa here are some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken over the years.