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. We answered with a â€œlukewarm letâ€™s seeâ€ but frankly, I didnâ€™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 byâ€¦so I just assumed the Italian Open was a tall order as wellâ€¦ As luck would have it, my wifeâ€™s relatives asked The Kid what she really wanted to do in Rome and â€œpoof!#@!â€ â€“ tickets to the Foro Italico two days before we left for Manila appeared! The shrieks, squeals, bouncing up and down, heartfelt thank youâ€™s, smiles and shivering with glee were all signs that this was itâ€¦that one moment in a trip that you know she will remember forever. Forget the Van Goghâ€™s, the Sagrada Familia or massive Zara shops, the leaning tower of Pisa or charming towns of San Gimignano or Siena, letâ€™s go see some tennis stars!!!
It wasnâ€™t so hard, really. We went to see a day of the womenâ€™s elimination rounds for only 10 Euro (less than that tartufo!) for general admission, that gets you to stroll within meters of 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 wifeâ€™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. But 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 daughterâ€™s (in hat) large tennis ball. But just as you thought it couldnâ€™t be better scriptedâ€¦
We decided to watch the Number 2 seed Kim Clijsters of Belgium on center court. As she demolished her unseeded opponent, my daughter decided she was going to get Ms. Clijsters autograph as wellâ€¦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, â€œMs. Clijsters, may I trouble you for an autograph please?â€ and hers was the first ball signed while it was broadcast on Italian television (thatâ€™s my daughter in the hat again) !!!â€¦ 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!!!