I bet you can’t make it through this post without thinking I’m crazy.
I know this will sound incredibly dramatic, but in my mind the success of this study abroad semester rested almost entirely on a single trip. There was no way I was going to go home without going to the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 men’s tennis tournament that takes place in (duh) Monte Carlo.
So how exactly did the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters become my highest priority of the semester? Well as you all know I’ve been playing and watching tennis for as long as I can remember. Thus far I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to attend Wimbledon and the Sony Open in Miami as well as tour Roland Garros. I’ve also been extremely blessed to have grown up in a “Golden Era” of tennis, having been able to watch Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s entire careers. Now it’s no secret that I adore both Roger and Rafa, and I was lucky enough to see Roger play when I was in Miami. While I’ve been able to see him and seemingly every other professional tennis player while I’ve been at these tournaments, Rafa is the big gaping hole in the list of players that I’ve been able to see in person, something that I obviously cannot accept. I hate to admit it, but I realize that Rafa is getting older and given his history of injuries he may not be playing professionally much longer. I knew that I was running out of chances to be able to see him, and since I would be in Europe during the clay court swing leading up to Roland Garros, I had the opportunity to not only see him but also watch him play on his best surface. The Monte Carlo Rolex Masters is considered the most picturesque tournament site on the tour, and that combined with Monte Carlo’s proximity to Milan and the fact I’ve had a vintage poster of the event hanging on my wall since my freshman year (proof below) made Monte Carlo the perfect tournament to make the dream come true!
Now making this happen was actually pretty difficult. The first challenge was figuring out which day to buy tickets for. The tickets were not cheap so I knew I was only going to be able to go to the tournament for one day, and that meant I had to pick a day that maximized my chance of seeing Rafa. I literally spent hours analyzing old tournament brackets and creating different scenarios based on projected rankings and seeds, ultimately deciding that tickets for center court on Thursday would be the best way to go. Unfortunately, I have two classes on Thursday and everyone else in the Milan program has classes on that day as well. While I was 110% willing to miss class for this, I realized I wouldn’t be able to go with anyone else from my program. Since I couldn’t travel by myself, I sent a desperate plea to all of my friends studying abroad in other programs in Europe, and God bless Maggie Condon for coming to my rescue and agreeing to go with me!
Once I had the tickets booked, there was still no guarantee that I was going to see Rafa on that day. He had a bye in the first round, but he still needed to win a match in order for me to see him on Thursday. This match was against Lucas Pouille and took place on Wednesday as I was taking a long and very delayed train to Nice after my classes. Needless to say, I was checking the match score constantly, and was incredibly relieved when Rafa won easily 6-2, 6-1. With that, the schedule of play for the next day was set and it was finally official – I WAS GOING TO SEE RAFA NADAL!!!
The reason I took a train to Nice is because Monte Carlo is so expensive, and it was much cheaper for Maggie and I to stay in Nice and take the 30min train to the tournament (more on Nice and Monte Carlo in my next post!). It may have been cheaper, but getting to the tournament was unexpectedly a huge struggle. Long story short, train schedules are really hard to read in French and we ended up unintentionally getting off at a stop just outside of Monte Carlo. Taxis weren’t an option, so we had to walk along the coast in order to get to the tournament. The walk really wasn’t that bad (honestly the French Riviera is not the worst place in the world to be lost), that is until GoogleMaps told us to walk through a path (if it could even be considered a “path” – see the picture below on the far right), which also required hopping a fence. But again I was going to do anything it took to get to that tournament, and once again, bless Maggie for being such a good sport.
This is was obviously a stressful start to the morning, but also proof that things happen for a reason because the most amazing thing ended up happening! Google Maps had us walk along a road that went above the practice courts, allowing us to see the players that were preparing for their matches later in the day. I was super excited because some incredible doubles teams, like the Bryan brothers and Granollers/Lopez were warming up on the courts, and then I started really freaking out because I could see a player on the last court wearing all grey that looked very familiar…We were far away but I was pretty confident it was who I thought it was because 1) there was a huge group of people watching the court, and 2) no one else looks like that. As we got closer, I could barely hold myself together because YES IT WAS RAFA NADAL!!! Again, this was the first time I had ever seen him in person, and I was so excited I thought I was going to die of happiness! It took a ton of self control to pull myself away from the fence and head to center court to go watch the first match, which at this point had already started. Oops.
The first match was between Stanislas Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov. I may not be a passionate fan of either of these two, but I definitely don’t dislike them and they’re both two of the top players in the game so I was excited to be able to see both of them play. Though he’s had a tough season thus far, Stan had a great year last year, winning this tournament as well as the Australian Open (still bitter about that) and the Davis Cup with fellow Swiss teammate Roger Federer. Grigor on the other hand, who is Bulgarian, is considered to be the future of men’s tennis. While I can’t stand people comparing him to Roger (it’s a joke to think anyone could ever be on Federer’s level), I will admit that out of all the “newcomers” I am rooting for him to be the future face of men’s tennis. Stan did not have a good day, and Grigor won easily 6-1, 6-2. Wasn’t the most exciting match, but again I’m glad I was able to see both of them play!
The next match was between Roger Federer and Gael Monfils. To put it simply, Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time. Not only does he hold the record for most weeks ranked number one in the world (302) and Grand Slam singles titles (17), he’s a wonderful ambassador for the sport of tennis and is one of the most beloved and respected athletes in the world. Despite all of this, Monfils is French, making him the crowd favorite in this case. He’s known for being one of the most athletic players on the tour as well as one of the most mentally/emotionally unstable. He’s incredibly unpredictable, on any given day you’re not sure if you’re going to get good-Monfils or bad-Monfils. Well that day good-Monfils showed up playing extremely well, beating Roger 6-4, 7-6. While this was obviously not the result I wanted, I understand that clay is not Roger’s best surface and also respect the fact that Monfils played some exceptional tennis. Roger Federer is my hero and the way he plays the game is simply beautiful, so at this point I just consider any opportunity to watch him play a huge honor and blessing!
It was finally time for Rafa’s match! He was playing John Isner, the ridiculously tall American who’s game I despise since he has nothing more than a big serve. Rafa of course is the greatest clay court tennis player of all time, having won this tournament a record 8 times and a record 9 of his 14 major singles titles at Roland Garros. His work ethic and willingness to battle and fight for everything never ceases to inspire me. He won the match 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, and even though going to a third set was super stressful for me to watch, I like to think that he knew I had made such an effort to see him play and he just wanted to give me the chance to see him on court longer 🙂 Gracias me amor
As I’m sure you can imagine, I had been dreaming about this for a long time so I had pretty high expectations. Happy to say that the King of Clay did not disappoint! It really is obvious that he is an incredible clay court player, the way he moves on the court and strikes the ball is absolutely beautiful to watch! The entire match I was flipping between sitting silently in awe and being so giddy I was talking Maggie’s ear off with my match commentary. She, like everyone else sitting around us, probably thinks I’m crazy.
So after the match, Rafa does his usual thing where he takes his shirt off (we scream), does his post-match interview, waves to the crowd, etc. Maggie and I decided we were going to use this break before the next match to get closer to the court and take some pictures. I wasn’t expecting us to be able to get all that close, since security normally checks tickets before allowing you to get to the good seats near the court. Shockingly no one stopped us, and as we were walking down closer and closer to the court, I was realizing how close we were getting and I was literally (ugh this is so embarrassing) having trouble breathing. The pictures make it still seem like we’re still pretty far away, but let me tell you we were standing in the front row and we were close. Honestly if we were any closer I may have passed out, my heart was beating out of control. I was seriously freaking out, and since girls our age don’t really go to this type of event, I’m sure all of the rich old people thought I was insane.
The last match of the day was between Novak Djokovic and Andreas Haider-Maurer. Djokovic doesn’t need much introduction, since he’s currently ranked number one in the world, has won 8 major singles titles, blah blah blah. I can’t really provide much of an introduction for Haider-Maurer, since I had literally never heard of him before (this is saying something, since I watch a lot of tennis), so all I can tell you is that he’s Austrian. The match, as expected, was a beat down with Djokovic winning 6-4, 6-0. Still glad I got to watch though, since even though it may not seem like it, I’ll admit that I actually really like and respect Djokovic. I just have to root against him a lot since my heart obviously belongs to Roger and Rafa.
Even though that was the last center court match of the day, Maggie and I walked around the grounds for a bit. After all of the effort that went in to getting there, we were going to stay for as long as possible! As I previously mentioned, the tournament’s location, which is at the Monte Carlo Country Club, is considered the most beautiful of any tournament on the tour since it’s located right next to the Mediterranean. It is so beautiful and such a cool atmosphere! I also needed a souvenir, so I bought an official program only to find out later that I can’t read it because it’s in French (whatever, still totally worth it).
Well, that concludes the greatest day of my life. Words really can’t describe what an amazing time I had, I hope this post did it at least a little justice. I can’t thank everyone enough for helping me make this happen, this meant so much to me and I am honestly the luckiest girl in the world that I can dream up crazy things like this and then actually get to experience them! Studying abroad is literally the coolest, it makes you believe that anything is possible.