So Canada and America Are Actually Different?

Written By: achangeofends - Aug• 09•10

Ok, so I think I’ve officially started this post 10 times in my attempt to be witty; however, the exhaustion has set in and I’m pretty sure that my attempts at humor have only been funny to me. I think I’ll just keep it simple and give you guys a general recap of my weekend. I’m also planning to follow this post with a timeline of tweets from Saturday and Sunday for those of you who don’t have twitter. Those have my more off-the-cuff comments and probably read as an interesting stream of consciousness. I flew out late Friday night and landed in Toronto around 10:30pm. Theoretically I knew I would have to clear immigration to get into Canada, but I really thought this would be an easy walk through job. Nope. I got grilled by the gate agent. Apparently a young woman, spending a weekend in Toronto, to watch a tennis tournament, alone is very suspicious behavior. FYI, I’m not sure I could look less threatening. Anyway, I finally made it through and I was on my way.

I stayed at the Hilton Toronto, with the majority of the players, excluding the Top 3. A special thanks to the hotel for my free upgrade to a junior suite. The Hilton was lovely, but a bit of a letdown after my amazing stay at the W last weekend. The hotel was fairly unimportant anyway. Saturday, I left for the tournament around noon. It was a long trip on the metro/bus, but not too difficult. Plus tournament tickets for the weekend were free, which was awesome. The weather Saturday was nice, alternating between a little bit chilly and warm, but no rain. When I arrived at the site, I did a lap of the grounds to get my bearings. Toronto is nice and posts a board of who’s practicing where at what time. This is super convenient for picking out your favorites, but also means that when Federer/Nadal/Djokovic/Murray are practicing, fans camp out in those seats from like 10am onwards. It so happened that Nadal was practicing with Djokovic when I got there, but there was no chance I was going near that mob scene. The crowd must have been at least 20 people deep on any side. Plus, there were plenty of great players out practicing and I’d rather be up close. I spent some time checking out Youzhny’s practice before moving on to Belucci/Gonzalez practice. I decided to check out the next court and was pleasantly surprised to find Davydenko and Monfils. Nikolay Davydenko is so unassuming in person. He’s currently ranked sixth in the world, but you would never look at him on the street and guess he was a tennis player. Monfils is always a good laugh, so I stuck around for a little while to watch. I kept wandering and eventually ran into Sam Querrey’s court.

The Rexall Center is pretty good for watching practice sessions, as each court has bleachers, so you can actually see. I spent the full hour watching Sam. He looked pretty relaxed and his coach was quick to provide tips. I didn’t recognize his practice partner (it could’ve been someone he brought for this purpose or a less well known player.) Sam’s coach was very clear about how the practice partner should hit the ball over to Sam’s side to practice certain shots. All in all, it looked like both guys were having fun out there. The fence on the bleachers side of the court is probably only 3 feet high, so small children kept running over during water breaks asking Sam to sign various items. He was very accommodating, considering the interruptions. It was a great session for me because I could clearly hear everything said on court, and it was all in English. There was one long rally in particular that got very exciting and Sam ended it with a beautifully executed drop shot. The crowd applauded and Sam bashfully held up his racket in acknowledgement. In general, he seemed very down to Earth and was very nice to his fans. He still says “You’re Welcome” when people thank him. I really appreciate those qualities in a player and will definitely seek him out next time. In terms of tennis, he’s got a wicked forehand and hit several shots that made his opponent smile in defeat. He also had a couple of not so great moments, mostly at the net. It looked like his coach was encouraging Sam to practice volleys. His shots were so powerful that they often sailed straight over the baseline.

I took a quick breather by the retail tents and ended up with a new pair of Marc Jacobs sunglasses. I’m not quite sure how this happened. All I remember are the words $50 gift card and I was sold. All the tournaments I’ve been to have had retail tents. Most of them sell tennis gear and equipment, which makes sense. Tennis fans are likely to buy a new kit or bag if they see it on their favorite player. Some of them are just plain weird. See my post of Rotterdam. There was a meat tent. Toronto had all the regulars as well as sunglasses, some kind of pain relief spray, and cameras. All of these kind of made sense. I checked out the price of the glasses I bought this morning at work, and it looks like I actually got quite a good deal. I digress…

Benneteau and de Bakker were up next on Sam’s recently vacated court. I’ve seen them both several times so I moved on. I walked through Gasquet’s practice and took a few photos. When I came back out to check the practice schedule, there was a giant crowd by the connected practice courts. At the tournament, there are several outer courts that are used as stand alone practice courts, but there is also a series of four courts all in a row that have seating on two ends and fencing on the other sides. Sure enough the giant crowd was trying to watch Roger. Every surface imaginable was being sat on or stood on and people were doing anything they could think of to get a look. He was on one of the middle courts, quite far from most of the spectators. I adore Roger Federer. I’m fairly certain he’s the reason I love tennis, so I definitely wanted a few pictures. There was no way I was getting close to the front of the mob, so I blindly held me camera above my head and started shooting. Luckily he was nice enough to wear a bright pink shirt that day, so even though the photos are blurry and far away, you can still pick him out. The truly unfortunate part of this mob, was that I had no chance of seeing Tommy Robredo. I don’t know why, but since seeing him in Rotterdam, I have had some serious love for Mr. Robredo. He was practicing on the court next to Roger. Had he been on one of the stand alone courts, I’m sure I would’ve gotten the intimate experience I was looking for because everyone would’ve still been huddled around Fed. So, I decided it was time for a some fries and a beer. Fun fact about Canada, you can give them US money almost anywhere, but they will give you back Canadian money, which is completely useless outside of Canada. I finished up and started walking back in the direction of the mob. After scoping out the grounds, I knew that the connected practice courts had a side entrance and after seeing the crowd, thought it likely that Roger would choose that route out. He did. His fans were pissed. However, my lovely Tommy braved the crowd (although I don’t think anyone even bothered with him.) As he was passing me by, I held out my little book of autographs and a sharpie. He just kept walking, but because he is such a nice guy, he turned around and walked back over to sign it.

It was late afternoon by this point and I decided it was time to call it a day. I made my way back to the hotel decided to hit the gym. I was pleasantly surprised to find Stanislas Wawrinka and Peter Lundgren in the middle of a workout. I got a good chuckle from watching them while I was on the elliptical. Stan was trying to help Peter workout by trying a series of different style crunches. It wasn’t going that well. He was laughing pretty hard by the end. Finally, Peter left Stan to his own workout. Stan proceeded to play with his Ipod for a good 15 minutes before he started running. I was actively trying not to be a creeper and finished my own workout in a timely manner.

I sat in the lobby for a while to use the wifi and posts all of my tweets for the day. I had more and more to say as I sat and watched players go by. Other than that, I had a relatively tennis free night and headed out for dinner.

I woke up pretty early on Sunday and decided my best tennis player sightings would probably occur at breakfast, so I headed over to Tundra for the buffet. I saw Gulbis sitting outside on the restaurant waiting for his car. He didn’t look so good. I’m guessing he had a late night on Saturday. The food in the restaurant was mediocre, but I did see Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, Michael Llodra, a lonely Feliciano Lopez, and Alexandr Dolgopolov. I decided not to leave for the tournament until noon because it looked like rain, so I sat in the lobby next to the tournament table and continued to update twitter. Julien Benneteau’s girlfriend sat down right next to me to wait for her car to the site. I desperately wanted to make friends, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about that. Before I could hatch a game plan, Gilles Simon and co. showed up and Julien’s girl got to chatting with Gilles and his coach. They were just waiting for a car, so, when I caught a lull in the conversation, I stood up and asked if we could take a photo. Gilles was really nice about it and Julien’s girlfriend volunteered to take the picture.

It was finally time for me to check out and head over to the tournament. Unfortunately, it had rained quite heavily and all of the courts were soaked when I got there. The practice board had been updated and Federer and Nadal were set to take adjacent courts on the connected practice courts. Who could pass up the opportunity to see them practicing at the same time? So, I decided to camp out in one of the seats in hopes that the tournament staff would be out to dry the courts soon. About a half an hour into waiting (I wasn’t the only one, all the seats were full and there were plenty of people standing,) Ross Hutchins and his coach came out onto one of the courts to survey the damage. There were giant puddles. There was no way that they were going to be able to play like that. So, the coach popped out the side entrance to look for some help. All he got from the staff were two squeegees. All of the dryers and staff were being used to dry the match courts as the qualifying matches needed to be completed. So, as tons of people watched, Ross proceeded to squeegee his own court (noticeably absent was any help from doubles partner Andy.) It was hard, tiring work, and frankly wasn’t going so well. A while later, Andy Murray walked out on court. The squeegee man, aka “Ross,” had done a pretty good job, but not quite enough to dry the whole court. Murray squelched around for a while debating whether to practice, but the fates sealed it when it started to rain all over again. Poor squeegee guy. Murray walked off the opposite end of the court and stopped to sign some balls/t-shirts/etc. However, the crowd on my side was not pleased. One woman yelled, “Andy, we’ve been waiting for 3 hours, why did you go over there?” A small child started repeatedly yelling “Murray, you suck” quite loudly as it started to rain harder and Andy jogged off court. It was mid afternoon and I decided to cut my losses and return to the hotel. Of course, my luck is pretty horrendous and the sun came out a few hours later, but I had to catch a flight back to Boston.

As you can tell, day 2 didn’t work out so well, but overall it was a good trip. I would definitely go back to Toronto for the Rogers Cup next year. The tournament is very spectator friendly and the practice courts are accessible which is one of my big measures of how much I like a tournament. Even though the Rexall Center is part of York University, it is absolutely massive. I don’t know anything about Canadian colleges, but I can’t imagine there’s a tennis match outside of Rogers Cup that could fill the Center Court arena.

It looks like it will be a while before I can get to another live event. I was hoping to drive out to Cincinnati for finals weekend, but I will be setting up my new apartment in St. Louis instead. I still have high hopes for making it to the US Open, so I will keep you all posted.

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