After the first few points I thought “Ok, this match will be over in an hour.” Bellucci dropped his serve early in the match, but he kept fighting and even broke back Djokovic’s serve. Despite unusual unforced errors, Djokovic dictated the game from the baseline, and battled past the 40th-ranked Brazilian 7-5 6-3.
Rafaael Nadal teamed up with veteran Leander Paes to play doubles in Bercy this week. They lost in straight to Dominic Inglot and Robert Lindstedt in the first round. Rafa seemed to have trouble finding his rythm and missed lots of volleys. He’ll play his second round singles match against Lukas Rosol tomorrow.
David Ferrer defeats Alexandr Dolgopolov
An entertaining doubles match to finish this first morning session: the experienced team of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek face the pair of Lucas Pouille and Fabrice Martin. I must admit I had never heard of Martin before today, but he was quite impressive at the net, and the French pair win the first set 6-3. The veteran Stepanek is on fire in the second set, and the Czechs level at one set all. Martin hurts himself during the match tiebreak, and Berdych and Stepanek win 3-6 6-0 10-4.
I’m in Paris until Thursday for the BNP Paribas Masters (aka Bercy Masters). There’s usually plenty at stake in the ninth and final Masters 1000 event of the year: the race for world number one ranking or the battle for a place in the season-ending London finals. But this year, the eight players who have secured their spots are already known: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori.
I have however big expectations for this tournament:
– I’m eager to see the “new” Bercy arena: the POPB that hosts the Bercy Masters has been completely renovated (read more about the modernization project)
– I didn’t manage to get tickets for the Davis Cup final, so I would like to see the clash between Andy Murray and David Goffin in the third round. I also would like to see Rafa Nadal and Kei Nishikori.
My first impressions about the renovated arena: everything looks so … grey: the court, the seats, the hallway. It’s quite depressing! The food is expensive, as usual: €8 for a pizza slice, €4 for a 50cl Coke bottle! If you plan to attend the Bercy Masters next year, bring your own food. There’s also a bakery just in front of the arena where you can buy good sandwiches. On the plus side: free wifi is now available in the arena, and the seats are much more comfortable!
Julius, the owner of the house we stay has a class at 6 am, that’s why he wakes up at 5. I’m listening to his movements and I can’t sleep. Abel is still asleep and I’m lying in bed thinking about all we are experiencing.
At 8.30 we prepare to leave, eat a couple of slices of bread with Nutella, and we go. We stop at one of the many gas station and drink a Sprite for breakfast. Players on the football field greet us on arrival. We are not strangers, they consider visitors a good thing, something very typical of the people in Uganda.
Kids are coming slowly, they’re taking their time but they mark the lines and prepare the court.
We play with them, we don’t understand the rules but manage to have fun. Once again we divide the group, some go with Abel and the others stay with me. The 2 hour tennis less we have today pass really quickly.
Suddenly we realize that the time has come to say goodbye. We start to bid our farewells and things get complicated for us. We take pictures and videos with the kids, both of us look for his favorite students. I give one of the boys, Edward a Boca Juniors shirt that belongs to my son.
I am looking for Siyama, one of the smallest. On Monday during class, he tripped over one of the cables that support the net and hit his knee. For nearly an hour he sit on a rock outside the group with signs of pains. Every now and then I would approach him and ask if he was OK. After a long time, I tried to convince him to join the group, and he did, despite his knee pain. But the more the minutes passed, the more I noticed he was less distant with me and he began to smile at me. I took that as a small personal triumph.
Back to the farewells. Siyami hugs me, and I’m with tears in my eyes and I can hardly talk. I whisper:
“You’re special, never forget it, because I’ll never forget.”
Just a minute later, while the other kids ask us if we’ll return here someday and as we write our phone numbers on a piece of paper found on the ground, Siyami comes and says,
“This is my pencil, for you!”
I swear I’ll keep that little pen as a personal treasure for the rest of my life.
I begin to take note of a couple of names to remember and suddenly I’m surrendered by thirty kids that spell their names. Of course I write down each one of them. The minutes pass and finally we have to leave.[…]
At 3 pm we are at the School for Deaf Children. Ivan, the teacher who helped us during the lesson, is not there, so we have to make our own sign language. To our surprise, the net is already in place. We just have to start. The class goes well, even without Ivan. […] We finish class, and the kids bring a football and invite us to play. It’s amazing how they can run at full speed in flip flops and control the ball so well. Then, we leave for home.
Every time we seek to isolate ourselves, the memories come back to hit us in the face. It is impossible not to be emotional. To make matters worse, thanks to our bad habit to look at our mobile all the time, we see pictures of “our” kids, and it’s another slap in the face.
We are tired and want to go out for dinner. Julius joins us and Abel begins to download videos from the Iphone and GoPro, and explains to Julius how to organize Tennis League between schools. We speak of formats, regulations… It’s getting late and we go home. Tomorrow is our last day in this beautiful city.
#TennisAid Uganda: the story of Martin Rocca
#TennisAid Uganda: the project
#TennisAid Uganda: the funding
#TennisAid: the arrival in Uganda
#TennisAid Uganda: the Ntinda School for the Deaf
#TennisAid: the second day in Uganda – the Shimoni Primary School
#TennisAid third day in Uganda