Yep. It was a great day for tennis.
We made the 4ish hour drive to Cincinnati on Saturday night after Carl got off work, stopping for hamburgers and fries, windows open to the wind, chatting about life—all the things happy road trips are made of. Although I didn’t actually consider that 4 hours would feel like a road trip, or I probably would have tossed in a book on tape or grabbed a book of mental puzzles. I think we make the 2 hour drive to GR so often it really doesn’t feel like a road trip at all, and I forget that 4 hours feels quite different from 2.
We stayed in Mason, OH, which is quite a bit ritzier than I would have thought. Not, of course, that I suffer from any particularly ritzy expectations of Ohio in general, so maybe that’s my problem. We kept driving around and saying, “oh. This is nice. Hm. Look at those houses.”
An impulse no doubt heightened by our house-hunting frame of mind.
“Tennis or King’s Island?” the hotel clerk asked knowingly when we trundled in somewhere around eleven. The TV in the lounge was tuned to the last women’s semi-final match still ongoing at the stadium a couple of miles down the road. Less eager tennis fans were already trickling back into the hotel around us. More annoying tennis fans set off a car alarm right outside our window at 3 or 4 the next morning… and UTTERLY UNCONSCIONABLE tennis fans allowed their car to flail in misery until the half hour loop finally died away on it’s own.
Even so, we were up on time, had an enormous breakfast, and dashed off to the tennis grounds around 11, giving ourselves an hour before the men’s final was supposed to start. It’s a really nice complex: one big stadium, a middle sized one attached at the rear, a couple of smaller courts for warm ups and early rounds, and lots and lots of vendors.
Note: the lemonade stands were AMAZING. Lemons squeezed while you wait, simple syrup already prepared (so no sugar crystals gumming up the works), and all of it over lots and lots of ice. We ended up going back between matches for another round.
A little spot of Disney World, which is to say a little spot of nostalgia heaven.
But to back up, we had just gotten through security check at the gate when we noticed people drifting toward one of the smaller, warm up courts to the side. I decided to pop my head in… which led to frantic hisses of honey, we MUST and respectful sitting down.
It’s okay if that name doesn’t mean anything to you. I forgive you. But you should probably know that he’s the most successful tennis player in history.
He’s kind of a big deal.
He’s also, by some accounts, at the start of the gentle downward slope end of his career. And it’s saying something that #3 in the world is seen as a downward step, but anyway it WAS a surprise to see him there, because he’d actually been knocked out of the tournament a couple of days previously. Just a lucky break for us, an omen, we decided, of the perfect tennis day ahead.
After exploring the grounds, we settled into the men’s final between Djokovic (current #1, Serbian, funny) and Murray (#4, Scottish, Carl’s pick).
Murray took the first set 6-3, a surprisingly easy win over Djokovic… who’d only lost 1 game this year in a record-setting season of wins. Then the second set opened, and within a few minutes Murray was up 3-0.
And then it started to rain. Big, fat drops. People started standing up and moving nervously for the exits, but it takes a lot longer to evacuate a stadium than it does for a thunderstorm to start.
We were SOAKED.
About half way through the interminable crush to the exits, the ref informed us over the loudspeaker that Djokovic was retiring from the match with a shoulder injury and that “weather permitting” Murray would receive the winner’s trophy shortly.
We all huddled on the ground level under the stadium for twenty minutes or so while the storm passed. Luckily, it ended as quickly as it started. We picked our way warily back upstairs and watched the crew start cleaning up the court.
Do you know how they clean up a court? I didn’t. First they form a long row of squeegees and dash across the court, sloshing water ahead of them. They do that forever. Then they run what looks like water vacuums over the whole thing. Then ball boys with towels dash around dabbing carefully at any missed spots.
It was an anticlimactic way to win a title, but Murray did get the hardware in the end. And we were on hand to cheer, so I’d call it more or less a win-win.
The women’s match was less dramatic in terms of weather, but definitely better tennis as it ran a whole, nail-biting 3 sets. I won’t give you the play by play, but Sharapova won. It was a good day.
A beautiful, wonky, memorable day in Cincinnati.