, Rafa time!!!
When we came in, Rafa was practicing with Feli.
, followed by a practice session between Bemelmans (very, very good-looking in real life and he has a very cute girlfriend) and Malisse.
Fantastic start of the afternoon.
Rochus vs Nadal:
Olivier wanted his gala match against Rafa, he got it. It was very clear from the start that Rafa treated this match as practice for Indian Wells. Not that he was not trying or anything but he wasn’t going full out and wasn’t taking any risks running and moving. Again, we also got to admire the skilful game of Rochus. Even though this game was a dead rubber and so, there was no real match tension, it was a lot of fun to watch (surprise, surprise). I wasn’t expecting to be able to see Rafa in action so this was a very, very nice bonus.
So, other than wanting to gain match rhythm after a fairly long break, ahead of IW, we heard from many journalists and officials that Rafa had wanted to play on Sunday to thank the Belgian public for giving him such a warm welcome.
Rochus was very pleased to have been able to play his match. He got great compliments from Nadal in the interview and he said that Nadal was a great champion, off and on court.
Darcis vs Lopez.
The brain-sharing theory gains territory: It seemed to me that Verdasco had forgotten to return The Nandeli Brain to Feli since we saw many WTF???? moments throughout the match. However, Feli was sometimes rubbing his lower back and judging from the many flawed returns, it seemed to me that Feli was just not going to take many risks in this match. The fact that Darcis was motivated as hell to win a match for Belgium and was serving well, sealed the deal.
During this match, we got to enjoy Rafa
the cheerleader to the maximum. Well, not exactly because the Lopez/Darcis match was hardly riveting but he was in a very good mood so it seems so he was fun to watch. He had some great moments with Nando (at one point, they were chatting together with their arms around each other…Nando was also constantly signing stuff for people).
Nando’s coach was there as well and he had brought his little daughters (at least, I assume that they were his daughters). At one point, Rafa stood up, went to the table where the officials were sitting to get some balls (to sign them to give them to some people) and on his way back, those little girls caught his attention, so he had a chat with them, he was laughting with the youngest girl, touching her nose,… Then he stood up and went back to his chair but the little girl followed him and got on his lap. Rafa started up a lively conversation with her, trying to bite her neck laughing and generally teasing her followed by a lot of giggling and laughing by the girl with her sister standing beside Rafa to try and catch his attention. The girl almost needed to be dragged from his lap.
During the Feli match, a woman in her early 30s came sitting between me and her (what I assume to be) boyfriend. She was all flustered and red in her face when she sat down and uttered: "I was soooooo close, sooooooooooooo close but couldn't get to Nadal" after which she started to cry with a baffled boyfriend looking on.
The man tried to console her: "just about everybody wants to get near him so it was almost mission impossible anyway. At least, you saw him up close."
Woman:" "Nooooo, I wanted to get on picture with him".
Man: Why don't you go and try again?"
Woman: "I can't", she cried, "I wanted to get a picture with him and it was
possible because I got sooooooooooooo close but he had to get into the dressing room. A security guy told me that he was in a hurry to catch a flight so there was no time left. I asked somebody from the staff if I could get a picture and she said that she would try but he had to hurry to the airport."
What followed was the woman rambling on about Nadal and you could see her boyfriend's eyes glazing, clearly not interested at all. After 10 minutes swooning about Rafa and trying to stop crying, the woman finally seemed to understand that it was perhaps not the best thing to swoon about one man in front of her boyfriend.
After that, she started cheering for Darcis like a maniac. Very strange woman.
Rafa mania up close is bizarre to see.