giovedì 1 marzo 2012

When I received the email I was the winner of “Guess What Nadal Likes” Facebook competition, I couldn’t believe it. Well, actually, even if the tournament is over and I’m at home again, I can’t believe that this amazing experience really happened to me: the prize consists of an all expenses paid trip for two people to Melbourne, Australia, including flights, accommodation, and 2012 Australian Open tickets for the men single final!

My boyfriend Emanuele and me are very excited about the travel, because we adore tennis and we are both huge fans of Rafa Nadal.

We planned to extend our travel and book a hotel in Sydney, where we spent some days to visit the city.

Kia Motors planned our trip: on 20th January, we flew from Pisa (Italy) to London Heathrow, then from there to Singapore; then we travelled from Changi Airport (Singapore) to Sydney.

We landed in Sydney at 7.00 am local time, after 28 hours travel. J

We spent there four days: climate is so hot and warm (In Italy it’s winter right now…and it’s snowing!), Australian people have a fantastic summer and they enjoyed it! We changed our winter clothes into summer t-shirts and shorts and…we started visiting Sydney!

It’s a wonderful city, with a lots of garden, skyscraper and two sunny beaches, Bondi and Manly. Its symbol is one of the most famous theatres in the world, Sydney Opera House: it seems a big, white hedgehog from above; I think we took about one hundred pics to the theatre only! J

We took a sightseeing bus and went around the city: we visited the Rocks, the ancient quarter of Sydney, Darling Harbour, the city centre with its nineteenth-century churches and gardens: everything (especially streets) is clear and well-kept.

We visited Sydney Aquarium, too: it contains thousand kind of fishes, turtles, jellyfishes, squids, seals, sharks, penguins and so on… even strange animals like dugongs (kind of dolphin), giant prawns and the bigger crab, lobster and spider-crab I’ve ever seen: they come from Japan and they are…enormous, like a trolley of medium dimensions!

We did some shopping, too: Sydney has one of the most expensive street in the world, so we had a look to it and…decided to go to the street next to it! J

We flew at our own expense to Melbourne on 25th January at 14:00 pm and we landed at 15:35 pm.

After a shower at our first hotel in Melbourne, we started visiting the city centre.

The first thing I have to say is I fell in love with the city at the very first sight: it’s a metropolis, but it’s very livable and it hasn’t the frenetic rhythm of modern life; it’s very cosy and well-kept.

Australian people loves their cities and tourists, too: every person we met during this travel was always very kindly and welcoming with us; they are surely the most friendly people I’ve ever met during my travels around the world.

We could breathe Australian Open atmosphere everywhere: there were flags and banners of the tournament along the streets, into stations, pubs, shops and supermarkets. It was really exciting! The tram that stops in front of Rod Laver Arena has giant tennis players faces on its sides, too!

Kia Motors, as one of the main sponsors of the tournament, is everywhere in the city, too, as you can see from my pics. J

After having a look around, we moved to Melbourne Tennis Park, where Rod Laver Arena is located. We wanted to scout around the day before our very first great tennis match: the first Men’s Singles Semifinal, Rafa vs Roger (we bought two tickets at our own expense)!

Rod Laver Arena is located in a huge park along the beautiful Yarra river. The Arena is so big and…blue! Everything here is blue (the colour of the tournament) and…happy (I completely agree with Federer, who said, one time, that AO is the “Happy Slam”), because everyone is happy and welcoming with players and fans of the tournament, and the Australian summer helps to create a great atmosphere!

After taking our hundred pics (as usual J ) from the outside, we went for a walk along the lovely Yarra river, then we had dinner, looking at the beauty of Melbourne by night.

26th January: the day of the truth, for us. Another match with Nadal vs Federer, probably another epic match. All Melbourne tennis fans (and fans all around the world, for sure) are waiting for this game…and we’re going to see it live!

We decided to visit Melbourne Zoo in the morning and we tried not to think about the evening match (quite impossible, to be honest). The Zoo is the largest I’ve ever visited and we spent there almost five (!!!) hours in order to see all the animals: koalas, kangaroos, emus, parrots, zebras, giraffes, snakes, turtles, penguins, lions, gorillas, spiders…Think about an animal at random: well, Melbourne Zoo has it!

Now it’s Rafa vs Roger time! We were so excited. I saw Rafa playing live two times in Rome…and now I’m going for the third, but in a semifinal of a Grand Slam! It’s always a great emotion see him playing!

We had two nice tickets near the court, so we could hear everything Uncle Toni and all Rafa staff told him during the game. It’s unbelievable how all his family and staff support him, on psychological level: it’s like they were on court to fight with him. Really impressive.

What about the match? Well, everyone saw it J. Rafa lost the first set 7-6 (5). Roger plays in a unique way, he has style that no one else has, he plays simply and he’s the only one who plays in this way. No doubt he can be called the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Times). But Rafa has one thing that Roger hasn’t: the huge heart and the will to fight, always and in every situation.

Thanks to his “secret” weapon, Rafa starts playing better in the second set, and he wins it for 6-2!

We can clearly hear his “Vamos!” shouted to himself and to his staff!

The third set is pure battle. Roger reacts to the second set (I think he could get a disadvantage by the fireworks - the game has been stopped during the second set for fifteen minutes to celebrate Australia Day -) and starts playing as…Roger Federer. We have another tie-break but, this time, Rafa wins the third fraction for 7-6 (5). VAMOS! J

In the fourth set Roger tries his best to stay in the match, but Rafa now is very focused and plays with confidence: he breaks Roger for 5-4 and serves for the match! After lots of 40-40, advantage Federer, advantage Nadal, Rafa wins the fourth set 6-4 and the match! Wow! He’s in a final of a Grand Slam, again! We are so happy!

After the match, during Jim Courier interview, Rafa defines Roger as “the greatest of the history” and Rafa says also that he always sees in front of him a player better than himself. That’s why I love Rafa, one of the greatest tennis player, but so humble and so…normal. In one word, a champion.

After this amazing semifinal there was an exhibition match, a Legends’ Doubles: Ivanisevic/Navratilova vs Cash/Hingis. It was so funny, Ivanisevic is a real showman!

27th January: we moved from the first hotel to the second, unbelievable and astonishing hotel, where Kia Motors has kindly booked a room for us (as part of the prize): the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Collins Street, a five star luxury hotel. The only thing I can say is WOW!!!

We met Ivanisevic, who stays at our same hotel (as many others tennis players) and we took some pics with him. J

We have a room at the 28 (!!!) floor, with a fantastic view of the city and the Melbourne Tennis Park: we can see all the tennis courts and Rod Laver Arena from here! Simply amazing.

Tennis time again! Today we have the second Men’s Singles Semifinal (we bought two tickets for today’s matches, too): Djokovic vs Murray, at 7:30 pm. But gates open at 14:00 pm and we can see one Mixed Doubles Semifinal (Vesnina/Paes vs our Italians Vinci/Bracciali) and even Women’s Double Final (our Italians Errani/Vinci vs  Kuznetsova/Zvonareva). We saw also a Legends’ Doubles (Arthurs/Muster vs Forget/Leconte): it’s nice to see all this tennis champions on the same court!

During the afternoon I went around Melbourne Tennis Park and visited the sponsors booths and the Australian Open’ Shops: I cannot say how much money I spent. J

I had the chance to see Rafa and Andy training!

For the twilight session we had Djokovic-Murray: another great match, that lasted five hours! Djokovic beated a huge Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5. We’re going to see a fantastic Grand Slam Final!

28th January: free time from tennis! We visited the city centre, did some shopping (I bought the RRRAFAAA Nike t-shirt J ), bought souvenirs and then visited St. Kilda, the Melbourne quarter on the beach. We visited Albert Park, where every year Australian people can see Formula 1 Grand Prix and then we went to St. Kilda beach for a swim! J We swam near the beach, because we didn’t want to meet sharks. J

Then we walked around and had a look to the striking St. Kilda Luna Park (it has an impressive entrance).

We came back to the hotel, time for a shower, little rest and then we went out for dinner; after that, we went to Crown Casino, along the Yarra River, where my boyfriend played at roulette (yes, he won J ).

29th January: the day of 2012 Australian Open Final. Who will win? Nole did the perfect season in 2011 and beated Rafa six times in a row. I think he has a big psychologic advantage, but Rafa is a real warrior, so we’ll see what’s going on.

We went around the city centre in the morning and did some shopping, again. We had lunch and then we rested in our wonderful hotel room. At 4:00 pm, we were ready to go. At the Kia booth in the hotel lobby, Kia staff gave us our two tickets for the Final: vamos! J

Then we caught the coach with all the Kia Dealers to reach Rod Laver Arena.

4:30 pm: we entered into Melbourne Tennis Park. Still three hours to the Final. We had two great tickets, we are in the lower section, so the court is really near!

We could see the Mixed Doubles Final: Vesnina/Paes vs Mattek-Sands/Tecau. Mattek-Sands/Tecau won 10-3 in the super tie-break. Mattek-Sands husband was so happy! J

Having a look around the courts, I can see Nole’s training before the Final.

7:30 pm: here we are. The Final we dreamt about for two months, is now here, in front of us.

We sat down and…absolutely enjoyed the Final!

There was all Rafa staff and family, except for his mother, his sister and his girlfriend. In Nole’s box I could see a Serbian legend basketball player, Vlade Divac. For Nole, too, there was all his family, staff and his girlfriend.

The match has been played with an intensity absolutely impossible to explain; watching a match like this on tv is so different than watching it live; we were so lucky to be there. Both players pushed themselves up to the limit…and then probably went over it.

Supporting Rafa in a game like this is really like playing and suffering with him on the court: I lost my voice to support him; all the crowd did the same with both players: they offered us a historic match to remember for many years to come.

I can’t find, neither in one year time, all the words to describe this incredible battle: strength, will, passion, intensity, pain, hope, heart. The huge heart of Rafa, who almost lost his fight in the fourth set, but he was able, again, to find a way to stay in the match, to believe in himself (as uncle Toni shouted from his seat) and gave us a fifth set.

Rafa was able to break Nole and took the leading of the match on 4-2. He was 30-15 when he ran to the net and…he should bury a short ball, but he didn’t. The ball was out. 30-40 and then Nole broke back Rafa. I was sure, on 4-2 for Rafa, that he was going to win the trophy, but Nole had other plans. Djokovic did unbelievable improvements in the last year, and now he’s here to show us how to win, even if he was a break down in the fifth. War of will, war of minds. Nole broke Rafa on 6-5 and then served for the match. The Serbian player won his fifth Grand Slam Tournament 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 in 5 hours and 53 minutes, in the new longest men’s Singles Grand Slam Final.

I’m really sad about the result, I was sure Rafa could win the title, this time. He had his chances, but Nole is still the man to beat. There could be two winners for a match like this, but…this is tennis: one player wins, the other one looses. Nole deserve this astonishing victory, but I’m sure that finally something has changed in Rafa’s mind: now he really knows he can compete with him and beat him. He’s one of the greatest (or simply, the greatest) fighter in tennis history, so he’ll surely try to win the next time. I mean, without Rafa, Nole couldn’t win the longest Grand Slam Final in tennis history. J

I want to post two lines by Chris Oddo, a freelance tennis writer:

“I didn't know it would be possible to respect Rafa any more than I did before the match, is. More than tennis, HUMANITY.”

This is the reason why millions of fans around the world and me loves him. He knows how to win, but also how to loose.

Even if I’m sad, I proudly say that I was there and I was part of tennis history, watching live this incredible match between two heroic players.

We took some last pics before going out of the Rod Laver Arena; we went to sleep about at 3:30 am (!).

30th January: we had our last breakfast at Hyatt Hotel; then we did the checkout and went to our last hotel of this wonderful Australian trip. Once we left our luggages at the hotel, we went to buy some postcards for friends and families. Then we visited the Docks area, a really modern and very clean zone of the city; we decided to take the City Circle Tram, that is free and it’s the oldest tram line here in Melbourne: in this way we could see all the things we haven’t seen, yet.

We spent the rest of the day in the city centre, visiting Federation Square and took other pics: Flinders Station, St. Patrick Cathedral and so on. In Federation Square there was a huge banner of the AO, so: pictures, again! J

We had dinner in an Indian restaurant (I love Indian food!) and then, even if it was a very windy evening, we decided to go to St. Kilda’s Pier, where we could see penguins swimming in the ocean and staying on the rocks: lovely and unforgettable scenes. The only problem was the weather: due to the strong wind and very high waves, we were completely wet (even our things inside rucksacks were wet!) in two minutes! So we took some pictures and then went back to the hotel.

31th January: departure day. We had the flight from Melbourne to Singapore at 5:00 pm.

We leave the city almost crying, because we enjoyed this city and the whole experience so much.

When we arrived to Changi Airport, in Singapore, it was 9:30 pm local time. We took our plane to London and then…zzzzz, I slept from Singapore to the Caspian Sea: I slept over 10 hours!

We landed in London at 5:25 am in the morning and…it was winter again L.

We flew from London Heathrow to Pisa Airport (our final destination) at 13:00 pm; we landed in Pisa at 15:00 pm.

Back home and back in winter! It’s snowing out there!

I’ll never stop to thank Kia Motors and its great staff for this unbelievable chance and this breathtaking travel to the country I love and I always wanted to visit; for the great opportunity I had, watching Rafa Nadal, my idol, playing a Grand Slam Final.

I hope that, in the following years, people that win a travel like this have our same lucky and watching a Final like the one we saw. And enjoying the travel as we did. J



Eva Bernini.

PS: if you want to see my pics of this amazing travel, feel free to add me on Facebook (icon at the top of the blog)! :)

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