Today was the final day of the final SAP Open (originally the Pacific Coast Championship) tennis tournament, bringing to an end 125 years of top-class tennis in the Bay Area. (The tournament has apparently been sold to South American interests, and as only an ATP 250 event — grand slams are 2000, major events 1000, and mid-grade tournaments 500 — it had become increasingly difficult to get the top players to turn up in the Bay Area.
For the only day I've been able to attend, I wasn't wrung out and exhausted from lack of sleep before I got there, as I was able to sleep in this morning before catching light rail downtown and walking to the Shark Tank for the 1 PM start of play.
I'm not quite sure what this bunch of people was doing dancing on the corner across from the arena, but they were entertaining nonetheless.
First up was the doubles match between Xavier Malisse/Frank Moser and Lleyton Hewitt/Marinko Matosevic. At first the match looked like was going to be a real yawner, with Moser/Malisse rolling 6-0 and then going up 4-0 in the second, but Heweitt and Matosevic roared back with four straight games of their own and eventually worked up to a tie-break, which they won 7-5 to send the match to a ten-point match tiebreak. Moser/Malisse knuckled down for the super-break and won it 10-4 to take the title.
Here's a shot of the officials preparing for the presentation of the doubles trophy.
I ducked up to the concourse to grab some lunch — which I had to eat very carefully due to the missing temporary crown &mdash and retook my seat as Milos Raonic and Tommmy Haas were getting started on their singles final. At the first changeover, one of the staff hailed me and told me that I had (again) won an upgrade to a floor-level seat. Paying attention to Twitter on the breaks had been good for me!
On the next changeover, I made my way down to my new and improved seat. Here's what the view is like from Floor Section 103, Row 1, Seat 64, sitting just behind the right baseline line judge. It's a vastly different perspective than you get in the higher rows.
I don't know for sure, but if you watched this match on television — CSN California was covering it — I probably was in a bunch of shots including the master long shot of the court from the left end (all directions relative to the chair umpire). I was wearing my "Aussie hat" and maroon vest over a black long-sleeve shirt.
Had I known I was going to win another upgrade, I might have brought my real camera. The camera phone just doesn't handle this kind of work well at all. But here's a shot of Tommy Haas serving just a few feet in front of me.
The zoom just doesn't work well on the camera phone — the lens isn't up to it — so here's a shot that is approximately what I was seeing live of Milos Raonic preparing to receive a serve from Haas.
I managed to get this action shot (albeit a bit blurred) of Raonic trying to return a shot from Haas, which he did not. He looked in my general direction and yelled something in Serbian. I worried that he was yelling at me for taking pictures, even though I had no flash and had silenced the shutter tone. However, I think I just was coincidentally in the line of fire, because Raonic's players-box including his family and team was right behind me.
Raonic defeated Haas 6-4, 6-3, and while the staff began to set up the table for the trophy presentation, Raonic came to his box, which as I mentioned above, was right behind me. I didn't actually realize that initially until I found myself in between various television cameras trying to shoot around me to get pictures of Raonic hugging his parents.
While the dignitaries congratulated the winner and made speeches, the crew of hard-working ball kids and their coach stood arrayed behind the presentation area.
Here are Raonic's family and team waiting to go out onto the court. A tournament official had come over and told them that after the presentation and official photos, they were invited to come one to the court with Milos.
Having Row 1 tickets meant I literally had a front-row seat on the presentation, and furthermore meant I could move down to the other end where the doors to the locker room are located. Tommy Haas made his exit here and I got this shot of him signing autographs, but I was not placed properly to get one myself.
As Raonic made his last poses for photos with the trophy, I realized that I had a shot at getting his autograph. I put away my camera and got out the "Ace!/Great Shot!" roller that SAP had been distributing at the tournament desk and that I'd had in my pocket. As Raonic made his way toward the door, I lined up on the rail, and sure enough, he stopped and autographed the roller for me.
Raonic was quite generous in signing autographs, but he did tell people trying to get him to do multiple things that, "Hey, I have to keep moving" and he soon vanished into the locker room.
The Security people began to shoo the rest of us out of the arena. At the doors to the concourse, I turned and took this one last shot of the indoor arena tennis court as the crews began the work of disassembling it.
Also being removed were the posters with the tournament draw, results, and rankings of the top ATP players and doubles teams. The show was over, and it was time to leave.
As I left the arena, I got a Twitter direct message (DM) from @SAPOpen informing me that I'd won a signed item as part of one of the various things I'd entered, and that if I'd send them my address, they'd send it to me. However, since they don't follow me, my DM back to them bounced. (I'm unsure if they were thinking this through.) I tried to find someone with the tournament to see if there was anything I could do about it now — after all, if the promotions people were still around, I could save them the trouble of mailing it — but nobody I could find knew anything about it. I complained about it in public on my own Twitter and got another DM from them with the e-mail address of the person I needed to contact with my address, so all is good.
Because the tournament ended around 6 PM instead of close to midnight, I didn't have to leave early or dash 1.5 km to catch the last or nearly-last train back to my apartment, and instead was able to easily and without panic ride back home.
I'm sad that the tournament is ending, but looking at the turnout, I can see why the sponsors saw no future in it. Attendance was lackluster, even at the final, and I always had plenty of room to spread out. (Even when I got upgraded, but that's because I got two seats even though I only needed one.) I'm very glad I got to see the tournament at least once. This was my first experiencing seeing professional tennis live, and I really enjoyed it.