I have now watched four matches at the Rogers Cup. I have experienced mild heatstroke, torrential rains, and the sharp elbows of tennis ladies in the washroom facilities. I have also come to learn a few things.
1. Tennis fans.
These fans are generally better dressed and cleaner cut than many other types of sports fans. I think it’s safe to say I was the only one wearing a Metallica T-shirt yesterday. Our cousin Jess was probably the only one in a $1 white cowboy hat and large silver belt buckle, complete with bucking bronc.
However, tennis fans are still prone to saying dumb, fan things.
Sample from last night’s match between pale, skinny Scotsman Andy Murray and bronzed Spaniard god Rafael Nadal.
Plus various Spanish slogans that I couldn’t understand.
We’re here for you Andy!
Don’t give up Andy!
As you might expect, Rafa’s fans were better able to get chants started. I tried and failed to think of what exactly would work with “We’re here for you Andy.”
Also, the umpire (if that’s the name of the guy who sits in the high chair in the middle of the court) had a shaky grasp of English. So when he tried to get Rafa’s fans to stop chanting during Andy’s serves (presumably so Andy’s fans could yell self-esteem boosting slogans) he admonished them in a foreign language. Which they didn’t understand and ignored. I could be wrong. Maybe he wasn’t telling them to shut up. Maybe he was chiming in with his own chant.
During matches, tennis fans also like to shout non-sequiters, such as “Federer!” (who, as noted earlier, was not playing.) I got the impression that this was their big opportunity to tell a joke that people would have to listen to.
2. Tennis Players
The difference between an older player and a younger one is astounding. The young ones (except Nadal) are, as P.G. would say, thin as razor clams. The older ones look twice as wide. The young ones seem to wilt after a few sets, probably because it’s tiring to be 6 feet, 3 inches and seventy two pounds. The older ones are held together by tape.
Today we’re going to see the final with Nadal and Kiefer. Kiefer is thirty one, which I’m told is about sixty-five in tennis years. He’s German and extremely firm with the ball boys and girls. One had the temerity to leave a towel draped outside the towel box and Keifer gave the kid the Teutonic Stink Eye until he put it back in place. In fact, Kiefer won’t serve until serve until his ball boy or girl is locked in position.
Keifer sports an impressive array of tape down his legs and I thought I saw some straps and pulleys keeping his back together. His ability to tame children and his cagey silver fox play make him my underdog favourite.
Tennis is a tiny bastion of well-behaved kids who race to do adults’ bidding and I think Keifer may be the reason. Credit where credit is due.
The other thing about tennis players is that their international-ness is evident even in their grunting styles.
When they get into it, they emit a loud noise each time they hit the ball. In the case of French player, Gilles Simon, the noise seemed to be a “Oui”, which made him sound like a man being repeatedly winded by very bad news. Nadal goes for more of a primal grunt. I’m not sure Kiefer says anything, but he may have tape on his lungs. When things are going well they pump their fists. When things are looking grim they stare closely at their rackets as though wondering what went wrong.
Finally, the screen shots used for the big screen makes the players look like kids who’ve been busted for smoking pot in their Pacer out back of the 7-11. How many other athletes can say that?