Saturday, January 2, 2010

Advantage, Abu Dhabi

I'm not a huge tennis fan, but the chance to see the top two players in the world on New Year's Day was too good to pass up. So I rousted myself from bed and headed out to Zayed Sports City to watch Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who were given a bye into the semifinals of the Capitala World Championships.

It was a great day. The sun was shining, the cozy stadium was mostly full, and everyone was in holiday spirits. Like most sports events around here, they did not have assigned seating, so I was able to move around the stadium. It was a diverse crowd; at various times I sat alongside Americans, Germans, Australians, two kids who I think were Egyptian, a French family and two elderly Emirati women.

Nadal held up his end of the deal with a fast-paced, spirited win over David Ferrer. But Federer looked rusty and disinterested in a loss to Robin Soderling. (Rumor has it, Federer and Soderling had a big time at the New Year's Eve party at Emirates Palace, which may have accounted for their lackluster play.)

The event is really more of an exhibition than a tournament, and Federer didn't seem to mind that he lost. I didn't either, really. He was my favorite player until last year at Wimbledon, where he won his record 15th grand slam title. That part was fine. But immediately after that epic match against Andy Roddick, he reached into his equipment bag and donned a pullover with "15" embroidered on it. Was he that sure he would win? Did he have a plain pullover in the bag, too, in case he lost? Not a big deal, I guess, but it just seemed like a crass move from a guy with such a classy reputation.

After the matches, cabs were scarce, and I ended up sharing a ride with two guys on holiday from the Ukraine. They were having a blast, and why not? It was 14 below in the Ukraine, they said, with not much to do. Abu Dhabi was pretty much their idea of heaven.


  1. Zach is gonna be so jealous (and impressed) that you were there. He just mentioned this to me at dinner tonight. Looking forward to seeing you back in the states in a few months.

  2. Why was the surface at abu dhabi so fast if it is the same plexicushion used in austrailia which is medium to slow paced