17 Jul2006

Italian Open 2006

by Marketman


Our recent trip to Europe went really well and there was little else we could really hope for other than a safe passage back to Manila. My daughter is an avid tennis player and before we even got to Rome she had mused out loud whether tickets to the Italian Open would be at all possible. open3We answered with a “lukewarm let’s see” but frankly, I didn’t think chances were good. I have been to the U.S. Open before, with a center court seat for the semi-finals, and those tickets were wicked hard to come by…so I just assumed the Italian Open was a tall order as well… As luck would have it, my wife’s relatives asked The Kid what she really wanted to do in Rome and “poof!#@!” – tickets to the Foro Italico two days before we left for Manila appeared! The shrieks, squeals, bouncing up and down, heartfelt thank you’s, smiles and shivering with glee were all signs that this was it…that one moment in a trip that you know she will remember forever. Forget the Van Gogh’s, the Sagrada Familia or massive Zara shops, the leaning tower of Pisa or charming towns of San Gimignano or Siena, let’s go see some tennis stars!!!

It wasn’t so hard, really. We went to see a day of the women’s elimination rounds for only 10 Euro (less than that tartufo!) for general admission, that gets you to stroll within meters open4of the players practicing or in the middle of matches on the outer courts. And the site is spectacular, held on the grounds of the 1960 Olympics. The pine trees soar and the red clay courts are sunken with bleachers running up the sides. My wife’s cousin in Rome really went to town, however, and despite our protestations, secured fifth row seats (significantly more than general admission) on Center Court (photo here is of second largest court) and we were able to watch several of the matches with seeded players. It was an absolute thrill to watch the Italian Open live and The Kid sat through at least 5 hours of matches! She still had a bit of her baon money in her pocket and had set her eyes on a large tennis ball (about a foot in diameter) for a souvenir so she scurried off to buy one hoping to score some autographs…

Again, the chances of getting an autograph seemed slim because of the huge number of kids (not to mention the humongous adults) trying to do the same. open1But again the unthinkable happened and The Kid got several autographs as she assertively positioned herself and politely asked the players as they walked by on the way back to the locker rooms! She was in seventh heaven and I am certain this was the finest day of her trip! We even watched a seniors match with Henri Leconte and Cedric Pioline and with some intelligent planning she also managed to get both of their autographs as well! Here, Henri Leconte reaches for a pen and signs my daughter’s (in hat) large tennis ball. But just as you thought it couldn’t be better scripted…

We decided to watch the Number 2 seed Kim Clijsters of Belgium on center court. open2As she demolished her unseeded opponent, my daughter decided she was going to get Ms. Clijsters autograph as well…and now I know that when she puts her mind to something, she does everything she can, but politely, to achieve her goal. She stealthily moved to the section of the stands right behind Ms. Clijsters seat, two games before the end of the match. Then at the right moment, as everyone else was screaming for an autograph, The Kid firmly, but loudly said, “Ms. Clijsters, may I trouble you for an autograph please?” and hers was the first ball signed while it was broadcast on Italian television (that’s my daughter in the hat again) !!!… I had rushed to a few feet behind her as I thought she might get crushed by the crowd that surged to the court’s edge and just managed to click this photograph for posterity… Walking on air is an apt way to describe the rest of The Kid’s day! Millions of thanks to her Tito who made this all possible!!!



  1. fabian says:

    MM, as a tennis fan/player, I can appreciate how wonderful that day for your daughter must have been. :) I’ve had to satisfy myself catching tennis players in airports :P

    FYI though, Kim Clijsters is from Belgium not Netherlands. :)

    Jul 17, 2006 | 10:44 pm


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  3. Bay_leaf says:

    another tennis freak/player here, was at Roland Garros last year, and i do my yearly trip to the Swiss Indoors in Basel and yesterday i saw Gasquet beat Feli Lopez in the finals in Gstaad. Also watch the ladies’ Swisscom Challenge in Zurich. (Thank God everywhere here is within an hour’s drive on the highway.) In my age though, i dont do the autograph thing but nothing beats watching live tennis in this level. But i do have two cherished pictures with the world’s no. one player, Roger Federer! What a guy. :) :) :)

    Jul 17, 2006 | 10:54 pm

  4. fried-neurons says:

    Cool! I love tennis as well. At the huge tournaments like the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros, etc, it’s nearly impossible to get decent seats no matter how far in advance you try to get tickets, unless you “know someone”. Which is why I like the smaller ones… cheaper seats, smaller venues, better views. The Paris leg of the Tennis Masters Series is my favorite. The Palais Omnisports is pretty small, so you get really close to the action, even on centre court. I even stayed at the same hotel as all the players when I went! Got my autographs not at POPB, but at the hotel lobby. :)

    Jul 18, 2006 | 3:17 am

  5. Marketman says:

    fabian, you are right, she’s from Belgium, I have changed post, it must be the effect of that “other” Belgian, Justine Henin Hardenne that causes the confusion… bay leaf, here’s a little trivia, did you know that one of Federer’s first coaches (when he was like 11), was Filipino, he’s now back in Manila and gives lessons? Fried neurons, you gotta see the Italian Open, the grounds are spectacular!

    Jul 18, 2006 | 5:35 am

  6. honey says:

    I had a college buddy who was a big fan of Felix Abbarientos 9or maybe it was Barrientos). she absented herself from a mid term exam exam to watch him play. the excuse she gave the prof was that her brother died. the next day, her photo was on the front page of the inquirer as one of the spectators. good thing our prof doesn’t seem to read the PDI

    Jul 18, 2006 | 7:42 am

  7. Bay_leaf says:

    hi Honey,

    i gotta add something to your post, whenever Federer is playing in Switzerland i always give out all sorts of excuses to come wherever he plays (i lied about Roland Garros, too, hehe)and when he came back last Monday from Wimbledon, he was met at the Basel airport by a couple of fans. Good thing i didn’t go cuz it was all over the papers and tv, if my boss finds out, i would be in big trouble! (except the weekends, of course. ;)
    MM, interesting about the Pinoy coach, what’s his name? The coach i know who trained him at an early age was Sepp Kacovsky (he still works at Old Boys Tennis Club in Basel) followed by the late Peter Carter.

    Anyone heard of our very own Alan Zafra? He is now based here in Swizerland and is a tennis coach.

    Jul 18, 2006 | 3:26 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    Bay leaf, I have to ask my daughter’s coach to be sure of the name…

    Jul 18, 2006 | 3:41 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    Bay leaf, the kid’s tennis coach says Beeyong Sison, who now coaches at the International Tennis School (ITS) Academy in Subic, once taught Roger Federer at an early age (when Federer was 11 or 12). Beeyong apparently was a Swiss National Assistant Coach and helped set up the ITS in Basel, Switzerland.

    Mrs. Marketman

    Jul 18, 2006 | 6:15 pm

  10. Bay_leaf says:

    Thank you for this info, Mrs. MM!

    Next time i see Roger, i’ll remind him. ;)

    In fact i’ve been prodding him (everytime i get the chance to get close to him) to come to the Philippines to enjoy our beautiful beaches. Unfortunately he’s got a very hectic schedule and it’s out of the way.

    Jul 18, 2006 | 6:30 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    Poetry in motion, bay leaf, is how I would describe Federer in action. MM doesn’t like him because he thinks Federer is too teutonic and hardly shows any emotions. :)

    Mrs. Marketman

    Jul 18, 2006 | 7:45 pm

  12. Bay_leaf says:

    lol, actually Roger was a brat when he was younger, throwing tantrums and rackets all over the place. He’s more controlled now. Off court though, he’s a normal guy, and very down to earth.
    But you’re right, his tennis IS poetry in motion. no one quite like him… :)

    Mrs. MM, i just found out that Beeyong Sison even played doubles with Heinz Gunthard when he was living here. HG is a former tennis pro and used to be Steffi Graf’s coach. He is now commentating for Swiss tv.

    Good luck on your Kid’s tennis. Hope we’ll see her in WTA in the near future! ;)

    Jul 18, 2006 | 8:24 pm

  13. JRodriguez says:


    Will “The Kid” turn pro? You might have to go back to the states and go to the Sunshine State. Good luck and what a lucky kid to be able to get exposed to the outside world at an early age! MM, I’m glad you posted this! Such a pleasant article to read!

    Jul 19, 2006 | 2:55 am

  14. Marketman says:

    JRodriguez and bay leaf…no, The Kid’s tennis is recreational sport for now…not competitive tennis…but she does appear to enjoy it!

    Jul 19, 2006 | 9:28 am


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