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I, Witness: Things I Learned at the O2 Last Night

Posted by gauloises1 on November 27, 2009

Check under the cut for the New Balls version of ‘what I did on my holidays’ …

1. Crossing Over To The Enemy Feels a Little Bit Good

I became one of those people who everybody hates last night. Sitting in my corporate box, eating and drinking, blithely chatting away between points. And it was basically awesome, except for the company. Which is not to say that the people I was with weren’t great and even in some cases related to me. But something in me rebels at having to explain the rules of a tiebreak during the tiebreak, or overhear comments like ‘Del Potro’s number five? So he’s only got five points?’, or being the only person who didn’t leave during the final set to catch a cab or a train in comfort without having to deal with the crowds. All things considered, I’d almost rather have been down with everybody else.

Almost. The free bar just clinches it.

2. Tennis at the 02? Actually Brilliant.

I could not have imagined, having been acres away from Girls Aloud and so forth, that sticking a tennis court in the middle of the arena would have worked so well, but it did. There can’t have been a bad seat in the house in terms of the view you were getting of the court, and for such a large venue it felt surprisingly intimate. And the somewhat cheesy gimmicks – the countdown, the ‘let battle comence!’, the heartbeat with accompanying graphics and so forth – actually weren’t that annoying. A bit patronising, maybe; I overheard someone remarking in annoyed tones when ‘BREAK POINT’ flashed up over their heads, “Yes, we know.” But it is immediately involving and allows the casual tennis fan to get a sense for the narrative of a match instantly. So, in general, good job.

3. I Suck In Front Of a Camera

I am never judging the people in the little ‘talking to the audience’ vignettes they show on TV ever again, with their frozen smiles and inane comments. I’d always assumed that they chose to be on camera, maybe even queued up for it or something. It doesn’t happen like that. How it happens is that a benign-looking woman approaches you and says ‘Can I ask you a quick question?’ like she’s about to ask you for directions. You say ‘Sure’, at which point she spins you round to face the two men armed with a giant camera and one of those sound thingys who have crept up behind you while you were completely oblivious, and barks ‘So who do you think is going to win the whole thing?’. You’re so startled that you say the first thing that comes into your head – which, oddly, is ‘Roger Federer’. At which point, not content with totally ambushing you and shocking you into an inane answer, she actually has the temerity to ask you to give your stupid answer again and better.

Anyway, you know the bit in High Fidelity when the journalist asks the protagonist for his top five songs or whatever, and he’s been waiting his whole life to get asked that question, and he’s so shocked he says completely idiotic things and it torments him internally?

It was basically like that.

4. Juan Martin del Potro. The Mona Lisa. One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.

I was concerned that actually properly watching Delpo play, finally (after a mere fleeting glance of him at Wimbledon when he was just a stripling) would be a let down. How could it not be, right? At best, he’d be exactly the same as he was on TV and I wouldn’t get anything more out of it. Plus he’d look smaller, because in my head he’s an actual giant. You can see where the Mona Lisa comparison comes in.

But unlike going to the Louvre and seeing that painting, it turns out Elf is actually bigger and better in person. As it happens, my hugely inflated idea of his stature was quite literally correct; he IS an actual giant, a fact that was not lost on those around me (the words ‘brick’, ‘shithouse’ and ‘built like a’ were generally floating around in the ether). He’s also, and I know this sounds odd, much quicker than he looks on the TV. His slow, unassuming mooch around the court is much more purposeful, and his movement is just remarkable. I’ve grown to hate hearing commentators and pundits say, whenever his name is brought up, ‘del Potro moves well for a big man’. But when you see how he maneouvres his long limbs and gets his body out of the way of the ball, it’s actually really hard not to turn to the person next to you and say in tones of slight awe, ‘Moves well for a big man, doesn’t he?’.

And those limbs are LONG. At Wimbledon, I couldn’t take my eyes off Federer’s legs. Last night, I barely noticed Roger was there. My god, Elf’s arms. The acres of them. I can’t write further about it otherwise I will need a lie down in a darkened room.

5. He Plays Tennis, Too.

I had convinced myself (with some justification) that there was almost no chance that he would win. I just wanted him to get a set so that I could enjoy him for longer. And there’s no question that the majority of the audience were there expecting him to play the role of sacrificial lamb. They wanted to see, to quote my sister’s disappointed comment at the end of the first set, ‘awesome Federer’. Instead we saw a match.

Does anybody crash a party quite like Delpo? When I think about his previous matches with Federer, particularly the double-bagelling which will live long in infamy, and then about how he played last night, I can’t believe how far he’s come in such a short space of time – or how young he is. (People around me refused to believe he was only 21 when I told them.) I can’t speak about the match in detail and I refuse to try; it’s pretty much a blur and was at the time, I just got so lost in watching him. But the way he came out and took the match away from Federer and refused to give it back … that was something to see.

It’s a cliche, but the force with which he strikes the ball is unbelievable when you see it live. I know, everybody says it – but it’s true. From the very first game, his forehand drew involuntary gasps from the whole crowd, whoever they’re supporting. You can’t not react. It has a visceral effect. And the clean, relentless pace of his backhand … I really do need to lie down for a bit.

Basically, what I’m saying is: did you know Elf is actually really good at tennis?

He is.

6. Wimbledon Awaits

All that’s needed for del Potro to be taken to the hearts of the British public? Going deep at Wimbledon so people become aware of him (getting past the second round would be a start). Don’t get me wrong, there are obstacles, most notably the fact that he has three syllables in his surname; that’s not how we like to cheer. “Rog-AH!” or “Fed’RUH!” on the other hand works well after a good “come on!”; “del Potro’ not so much. But then some bright spark starts shouting ‘come on, Del Boy!’ and it’s love.

Seriously. There were two quite young boys in the box next to mine who started off by yelling ‘Come on Roger!’ after literally every single point. By the end, they’re screaming for Delpo. So, incidentally, was I.

7. You Can Rely on the ATP to Ruin a Good Moment

I hear rumours that people watching at home had handy charts and graphs and stuff. Not so much where I was. The best we had was the ‘sets won/lost’ tally I’d scribbled on the back of my hand on the tube, and even that had (a) been done from memory, (b) smudged quite a lot, and (c) probably inaccurate to start with. I knew that if del Potro won in three it would come down to game differential. What I didn’t know was what that meant: number of games won, or the win-loss percentage? Where I went wrong was assuming that someone, perhaps oh, say, the tournament organisers, would know. ‘This is a very awkward moment, isn’t it?’ Petch commented while Delpo was left standing there like a lemon. He was not wrong.

All of which is to say that I think a large number of people left the o2 not sure whether del Potro had made it through or not, and those of us who did stay to find out weren’t sure quite how, although a heated debate on that subject did serve to liven up the weary waiting for the tube. Shouldn’t there have been people with spreadsheets and calculators or, god, an abacus or something backstage keeping track of how each game in the third set affected the qualification scenarios? Is it THAT hard, ATP? As it was, if anything could have made me sad last night, it would have been seeing Murray’s rather forlorn tweet still not knowing whether he was in or out fifteen minutes after the match.

I’m not sure at what point it was confirmed to Elf, but the crowd weren’t told after he’d spent a good few minutes knocking up with Carlos Tevez. Who is crap at tennis. Anyway, the whole thing was ridiculous and marred what had been a fantastic match and (I thought) a brilliant Elf performance.

8. Carlos Tevez Is Really Ugly.

And yet strangely hot. True story.

… And that is what I did with my Thursday night.

25 Responses to “I, Witness: Things I Learned at the O2 Last Night”

  1. sophienz said

    While I spend most of my time watching Delpo forgetting that he’s only a year and a bit older than me, in the first photo of this post he totally does just look like a wee 21 year old who’s a bit pleased with his effort. It’s pretty sweet.
    It sounds like you had possibly the best night ever?

    • gauloises1 said

      A number of people asked me how old he was and then refused to believe me when I told them he was only just 21 🙂

      Um. Did I rhapsodise too much? Because it basically as the best night ever.

  2. Jess said

    Love the report! The atmosphere is fabulous from TV (with the excitement) – I wish I were you!!!!

    Elf rocks! and that forehandssss – I’m afraid the balls would be broken and he would have lost the points!!!!

  3. linex said

    Gauloises I am so glad that you could enjoy such a great match as this one live.

    Did you see that the argentine talk show diva Susana Gimenez showed up in London to watch Delpo and therefore complied with her promise to him in Delpo´s last visit to her show?

    After the match Delpo greeted both Tevez and seconds after Susana who kissed Delpo to congratulate him. In Argentina they are speculating about a romance involving the two. It seems like a ridiculous suggestion because in terms of age Susana could be his grandmother.

    • gauloises1 said

      It WAS her! I saw the blonde woman who ran out with Tevez and got an Elfhug and thought it looked like her (couldn’t remember her name), but I couldn’t get a close enough view to be sure.

  4. Maria said

    Fab night watching it on the tele, must have been even better seeing it in the flesh. I squeed when I saw Susana Giminez, so she did keep her promise to come see him play in London, how sweet. Loved that she tied his headband around his arm. So Tevez gets his shirt, she gets his headband, who gets his shorts?

  5. Mom2KidsDog said

    That is incredibly sad that they the ATP / O2 officials did so much to involve / educate the crowd during the matches, but don’t have the wherewithal to indicate immediately who advanced to semis in the tournament. I added Tennis Channel to the cable package, and I have to say it was the best decision of my tennis life. They carried all the ATP Finals matches. In fact, I would venture to guess that within 5 minutes of the del Potro / Federer match ending, Tennis Channel indicated that del Potro advanced to the semis, and they even provided a graphic with match wins, set wins, and game wins, clearly giving del Potro the edge.

    And I get to watch doubles, too! Best Thanksgiving weekend of my life, as well. Vamos, Delpo! Vamos Bryan Brothers!

  6. lauren said

    Fabulous write up, G! Yes, yes, yes and yes. All though the match I was imagining you cheering on the boy.

    Isn’t the O2 great for tennis? Even the seats are comfy, not like Wimbie ball-breakers. And you’re so right about seeing Elf in person – on Sunday I was amazed by how fast he moved, even though I’ve heard a million times that he’s a fast mover. No-one told me THAT fast. Actually, Murray was nearly as speedy, but Elf seemed to be in two places at once.

    Watching this match at home was excruciating. I’m hoping for Andy to qualify and was ready to change allegiance mid-match for whoever could deliver that result, but hey, that was tortuous. First, all we needed was straight sets from either. Then about half an hour of befuddled theories until they settled on the golden rule – Fed must get to 4. Then he imploded. So I was really happy for Elf but gutted for Andy. And then absolutely appalled that the ATP left everyone swinging in the wind for so long. Oddly, Flembo in the studio called the placement correctly within minutes whilst the ATP blokes were in their locked room without a bleedin’ abacus.

    Tevez? Nah. You must have been overtired. 🙂

  7. Mango said

    Great post. Great photos. Great times.

  8. irefusetotellyou said

    I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here (the dead horse of my enthusiasm), but GREAT WRITE-UP and I’m overflowing with radiant joy at you seeing Delporino live. Not quite as good as ME being able to see Delpo live, but … I’ll take what I can get.

    Also, I was really astounded at how much faster and harder the balls/players are (…) LIVE than they are on TV, so I can only imagine how much more fantastically splendorific JMDP is in person. And Roger, too.

    On another note, I think we need to create some new, over-the-top adjectives to describe tennis/Elfie, because “fantastic” and “brilliant” and “amazing” and “orgasmic” just aren’t cutting it, you know? (Well, orgasmic might.)

  9. harini said

    Sounds like you had a mad experience, G. Loved the write-up!

    So glad you got to see Delpo live and saw him win!

  10. Maria said

    Running shirtless Delpo, 0:25:

  11. AmyLu said

    Fantastic write-up! And, I’m really glad to read your impressions because my parents’ DVR decided to erase everything on it last night…so there went the Elf/Fed match that I was planning to watch today (oh, but not to worry, I did get to see Rafa lose…again…thanks TV and DVR for making all my dreams come true). 😦

  12. Maria said

    Article on Elf: before his match with Federer this made me go eek, how annoying for him, poor bloke: ‘There were the obligatory ticker-tape parades, the shaking of hands with presidents and parties in the plazas of Buenos Aires, but it got a little bit out of hand when he found a persistent paparazzo laying in wait under his car in the morning, ready to pounce the minute he walked out of his apartment.’

    How rude of me, forgot to say: I echo what everyone else said: fantastic report! The built like a brick shithouse made me laugh.

  13. Bismarck said

    a most charming write-up, gauly.
    think i liked that part *3. I Suck In Front Of a Camera* best. but all other parts were a delightful read too.

  14. Deirdre said

    100% agree on the Tevez front.

  15. Angel of the Surf (Back onboard the Crazy Elf Train) said


    Glad you had an awesome time at the tennis, lucky you got a corporate box. Are you going to the semis?

    I want to go next year.

  16. Cubbie/Carrie said

    Belated thats for the write up and glad you had a great time. With the gloom/sadness for this Rafa fan that is going on with his career right now- Elf getting to the semis is a big huge amazing brightspot.

    I think the one thing that could help Elf in the UK is if the British press could actually maybe not be either jerky regarding him or act like he is just a small little moon rotating the Jupiter that is Andy Murray. Neil Harman – who I normally like- acts like Elf only exists to torment Andy or maybe Federer. Gets old. How about some of the UK press actually start to give Elf- I dunno credit?

    Regarding Tevez- back in my college days I went through a mad make out phase (I was the Blanche Devereaux of the make out scene) where my friend pointed out that I had an inclination towards guys who looked like an Australopithecus (I.e. fugly hobbits) yet were strangly hot. So I can see the Tevez ugly hot thing is because I had some mad make out sessions with one or two of his dopplegangers in the 1990s.

  17. Littlemisslynch said

    Brilliant write up. Both my sister and I were there for that match it was amazing but had to leave during the last set to catch the train. We both agree in person his tennis is better. We also saw his fitness coach walking around the merchandise shop in the O2.

  18. Awesome read. Wish I could have been there for the free drinks and seismic forehands…

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