Big thanks to GTT reader and big-time tennis fan, Judy Salas, for her report and candid photos of Rafa, Serena and others from Wednesday’s GAME. SET. NYC. event in Manhattan. She came for Roger, but stayed for Rafa – and boy, is she glad she did! Here’s her story:
I spent most of my day at the Nike GAME. SET. NYC. event and it was pretty cool, though it was sunny and hot! They built a small court, with some bleachers, a player tent and a little store on the side and it was all on the wide sidewalk right next to the iconic Flatiron Building at Broadway and 23rd Street, with views of the Empire State Building. Fantastic setting!
Nike’s tennis stars were out throughout the day, starting with Roger Federer and John McEnroe, then Gael Monfils, then Li Na and Victoria Azarenka and finally, Johnny Mac again with stars Serena and Rafa. It was pretty well organized and included the participation of local kids groups, like the NY Junior Tennis League and the City Parks Foundation. They were the lucky ones who got to hit with the pros. Part of the event raised money for those organizations. The players had fun chatting with the kids and the spectators and hitting some balls. All the tennis stars were debuting their US Open outfits. I liked all of the clothing, especially Roger’s, he was looking sharp. Rafa’s suited him as well.
I actually came to the event thinking it would just be Roger and John and stuck around once I knew there were more players. Unfortunately there were so many people in the morning that I couldn’t get anywhere near Rog to get a decent photo (and I have a great Nikon zoom lens). The set up of the court, with half or more blocked, limited the viewing and the press would sometimes be in the way. Plus security made me (and other people) move from our pretty good spot.
Back to Rog… after spending some time talking to Johnny Mac and playing with the kids, Rog left and sneaked out the back. I wish he walked near where I was, but oh well. I got a pic of his Mom, Lynette, and agent Tony. Ha! Severin was there too. No Mirka or twins of course. I think Roger didn’t leave out the front path because it would have been pandemonium.
Monfils was great with the kids and signed autographs for them inside the court. I really like Vika Azarenka and Li Na is pretty cool, so they were fun to see. I am not a big Serena fan, but I was still glad to see her because she is such a tough competitor and grand slam champ. I found it funny that Serena walked in (with the biggest entourage) talking on her cell phone and did not make eye contact with the crowd of us standing outside the court.… as opposed to John and Rafa who looked and smiled at the crowd outside the court.
I came to see Roger, but I was super glad to see Rafa. He was smiling the entire time and it was nice to see him enjoying. When he was done and he left the player’s tent, security was guiding him out, towards his car pick up and instead he made it a point to come over to where I happened to be, along with other fans. I didn’t get a picture because I was by myself, trying not to get pushed and I was busy holding out a tennis ball for him to sign, which he did! Highlight of my day! I was right in front of Rafa and he was so great with the fans, despite getting absolutely mobbed. He was the only player to do this all day and it was a great thing to see! I think he stopped traffic too.
Thanks again, Judy!