Greetings from Cincinnati! My trip got off to a shaky start yesterday, what with my checked bag not arriving in Cincy until 2 in the morning(!), but yesterday's action more than made up for it.As I expected, the hotel was crawling with players. Jenni (who says hello!) and I haven't even been here for 48 hours and already we've seen countless players and coaches strolling the hallways, sunbathing by the pool, working out, or surfing the Net in the media center. It's quite the experience - though having been through it last year, I was less awestruck this time around.
I also must mention our lil' TWibe gathering Sunday night. TW poster raven and his lovely new wife Diana joined Jenni and me for dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill. I can't say enough about the newlyweds - such gracious, generous people. I hope we're able to meet again.
The Cincy tournament is wonderfully run and organized, and all of the officials/workers/volunteers make tireless efforts to ensure that everyone is enjoying their time there. Myself included; having never been a member of the press, this was an entirely new experience for me, and the tourney folks helped me find my way throughout the day. (Interesting note: The press interview room is much smaller than I'd envisioned. There's the table where the player sits, a seat for the ASAP stenographer, three rows of four chairs for the press, and a couple of cameras. Not that I minded - it provided a really intimate feel.)
I spoke briefly with Phil Smith, Director of Marketing & Communications, who shared some of the plans for the major infrastructural renovation to come. He showed me a mock-up of the new press/player center building; it will be twice as high as the current structure and allow for more space for players, media, and fans. Very neat. They'll start knocking down the structure the Wednesday after the end of the tournament to ensure that the project will be complete by 8/1, just in time for the '10 tournament. I'm really looking forward to it.
We were lucky that the weather was gorgeous, albeit extremely humid. Thunderstorms were predicted, but save for a brief rain delay (couldn't have been longer than 5 minutes) mid-afternoon, we were blessed with sunshine and temperatures in the upper 80's.
After picking up my badge and press materials, I made my way over to the practice courts and was pleasantly surprised to see Nadal there, hitting with Lapentti - what a way to start the day! Right next to them were Ferrer and Almagro. The Spaniards stick together, even when it comes to practices, huh? When 11 AM hit, I sauntered over to Centre Court to watch Simon vs. Odesnik.
This might've been my favorite part of the day, as the press pass allowed me to sit right on the court. (I was told I even made TV - did anyone see it?) While the prime seating made for a thrilling time, the lack of atmosphere was disappointing, likely explained by the early start time and relative obscurity of the players. Odesnik was in a fairly foul mood throughout, mouthing off to chair ump Fergus Murphy and yelling expletives (at himself, I'd guess). Simon, on the other hand, stayed calm, frequently digging himself out of 0-30 or 15-40 holes on serve. In the end, Simon won handily and didn't seem at all hampered by the old knee injury. (I mention it only because Jenni and I noticed him visibly limping by the pool the day before, yet his mobility was first-rate during his match.)
Then, I moved back over to the practice courts. I caught Hewitt hitting with Tsonga and Davydenko with Kunitsyn (later to pair up in doubles). I think I was sitting next to Davydenko's wife Irina - she's just radiant in person. I also spotted Djokovic practicing and the Bryans hitting against one another.
At around 1:30 PM, Ferrer and Wawrinka got started in the Grandstand Court. Incidentally, Jenni and I concur that it's our favorite court on the grounds - not a bad seat in the house! I left the match early on to catch Roddick's press conference (more on that later), but Jenni stayed for the duration. Her analysis: At the beginning of the first set, Ferrer ripped off his knee tape and strangely enough, it seemed to free up his game. He had an answer for everything Wawrinka threw at him and looked better than he has in a while.
On to press conferences. I couldn't wait to finally experience a live presser, and guess what happened? I missed every single one of them! The primary headliners of the tournament - Federer, Nadal, and Roddick - all held their pre-tournament pressers yesterday, and my timing was entirely off for all of them.
To be fair, Federer's was at 10 AM, which was when I was just arriving and getting myself settled and Nadal's was scheduled for 11:15 AM, when I was "stuck" on Centre Court watching Simon/Odesnik. Trying to make it to Roddick's, though, nearly turned me off of pressers altogether. Initially, I heard that he'd be in the press room at 2:15 ... then it was moved to 2:45 ... then after more than a half hour of waiting, we were told he'd be at least 15 minutes late (well later) ... then after 15 minutes we were told the presser was going to be rescheduled altogether.
After hearing that last update, I decided to wander around the practice courts again; for all I knew, Roddick wouldn't show up for 2 more hours. Apparently, in the 15 minutes I was away from the press area, the presser began. Without me, of course. I waited all the time only to miss the entire thing. Lesson learned - pressers never start on time. (Actually, I overheard the stenographer talking about that exact thing - players who show up late. The worst culprit? Nadal!)After the presser debacle, I returned to the Grandstand Court for Robredo vs. Chardy (which saw a quick Chardy victory), then headed back to the hotel. I passed on the night session because I was feeling so wiped out after the luggage problems, but the day's events will definitely hold me over until Day 2.
Speaking of which, I gotta head out soon to catch today's events - we have quite a stacked OoP. It's currently raining, so keep your fingers crossed that it dies down enough to allow for a Day 2 report! Talk to y'all soon!