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10:00AM

Fan Club: The good, the bad, and the crazy

Sometimes, being a manic fan can the most rewarding affliction in the world.  Waving the Swiss flag in 2006, cheering on Novak Djokovic in 2011 in mispronounced Serbian, raising a knee and fist in time with Nadal in 2010; all good.  At some point, though, things take a turn for the worse.  Supporting Federer now without losing your dignity?  It’d be easier to show more grace running naked up the street.  Vamosing on Nadal can’t be easy either, and yelling for Murray?  Well, who said that’s ever been anything but bad news?  But heartbreak won’t stop a true fan.  These are the people that admit they’re a little obsessive, that take the good times with the bad, and don’t stop being crazy for their player just because times are tough.  Chances are, we all have a little mad fan in us.

But we’re not just about poking fun at others.  So for our final three posts, we the writers at On The Go Tennis, will open up about our own fandom.

For my last fan post, I interviewed OTGT editor, Rachel.  However, one particular story was just so crazy I decided to dedicate the whole piece to it.  This is Rachel’s fairy tale with Rafael Nadal, and it could be the craziest of them all.

The Short

Name:  Rachel Vinson 
Age:  35
Country:  USA
Occupation:  Pediatrician
Twitter handle:  @onthegotennis
Blog: THIS ONE! :)
Other blogs/tennis-related achievements:  Just this one, baby.
Her Prince Charming:  Rafael Nadal

The Crazy

When Rachel decided to attend the US Open back in 2009, she had only one player on her mind. Rafael Nadal.  A long-time tennis fan, Rachel had once rooted for the rebellious Andre Agassi before the boy with the long pants and cut-off shirts made an impression. One idol was replaced by the next, and Rachel found herself buying a US Open mini-pass, knowing Nadal was guaranteed to play on one of the three days she had tickets for. What Rachel didn’t account for was a cruel twist of fate that would see Nadal playing the only two sessions her pass didn’t cover: the Wednesday morning and Friday night sessions.  It wasn’t until Thursday night she realised the true extent of her dilemma; Friday’s night session had sold out and Rachel wouldn’t get to see Nadal. Understandably, she was devastated. 

Rachel was desperate to see the man she’d traveled miles to watch.  Prepared to pay almost any price, she hunted for tickets online and around the ground but it came to no avail.  Drawing inspiration from Nadal himself, Rachel was determined not to give up and committed to her risky Plan B. 

Rachel sat through the Friday day session and prayed for five set matches knowing that if the day session went on too long there was a chance the stadium wouldn’t be completely cleared before night session ticket holders were let in.  But Lady Luck eluded Rachel once again and Andy Murray crushed a no-namer in straight sets, ensuring that the day session was finished well on time.  As her pulse rose and anxiety started to take over, Rachel came up with a crude Plan C. 

Beg. 

Eyeing up ushers that she thought looked like reasonable, nice people, Rachel twirled her hair, flashed a smile and explained her case.  “I’m a HUGE Rafa fan, my birthday is just around the corner and I’ll be distraught to come all this way and not see him!,” she pleaded.  The ushers took pity but politely turned her down, kindly letting her know that even the bathrooms were inspected during the break between the two sessions. Rachel’s spirits were down but she decided to give it one last go.  It was then she met a man she’ll never forget. 

Rachel approached another usher and repeated her story with all the fake tears she could muster.  This time, she got lucky.  With his eyes darting around nervously, Robert* replied, “Come with me.”  Rachel obediently followed him around like a lost puppy as he cleared patrons out of the stadium.  She was hit with guilt as he shooed out those desperately hiding in corners and under chairs to see Nadal, but thinking of the Spainard soon eased any pangs of regret.  Unfortunately, Robert wasn’t feeling quite the same way and suddenly was hit with a wave of anxiety when he spied his boss overseeing the proceedings.  But rather than renege on his invite, he sent Rachel to hide in one of the toilets, reassuring her that any cleaning would be long finished. 

Rachel spent a drawn-out half an hour squatting on the top of a toilet seat, hoping Robert would return.  The position may have been a good exercise for her thighs, but her heart was racing with fear at the thought of being discovered.  Her nightmares were almost realised when two cleaners came into the bathroom and began to clean the stalls. Rachel contemplated surrendering herself then and there but instead bravely decided to take her chances.  Lucky for her, the cleaners weren’t particularly dedicated to their jobs and left after cleaning just one stall.  Rachel could barely breath when yet another person wandered in to the bathroom.  This time, the woman knocked on the doors of the toilets and Rachel realised it was time to give the game up.  She’d come far, but breaching security at Arthur Ashe Stadium was no easy feat.  Feigning illness, Rachel responded to the woman’s knock.  “Hey,” the woman replied, “Are you Robert’s friend?” Sweet relief overcame Rachel as she was rescued from the toilet stall.

Rachel assumed the disguise of Robert’s niece from out of town.  She helped herself to complimentary hotdogs and soda as she invented a story about her new uncle.  Rachel’s courage and imagination were finally rewarded when she was allowed to watch Nadal warm up on Arthur Ashe.  She then got to sit in some of the most coveted seats in the stadium to watch Nadal play his match.  It’d been of the most nerve-wracking days in Rachel’s life, and looking back she swears she was close to having a heart attack, but it is now one of her warmest memories. 

As for Robert, Rachel is indebted to him for life.  They eventually lost touch, but Rachel trusts he’ll seek her out if he ever needs a favour. 

“He made my dream come true.”

Rachel's favorite Rafa YouTube Video.  (No tennis involved)

*Names have been changed

How crazy is she?

At this particular time in her life, Rachel was an undeniable 5**!

**

1= Misses the occasional match
2= Has to explain to romantic partners that ‘tennis comes first’
3= Has been known to sacrifice basic life materials (food/water) to watch said player
4= Has drafted a biography on said player
5= Verging on stalker

Thank you for taking this journey with me through the lives and minds of tennis’s biggest fans.  We are a bunch of passionate people that find inspiration in the bright yellow balls and blue courts our favourite players grace.  These posts have proven that tennis is one of the most international sports.  My emails have stretched from the USA to the UK to Israel. And in what other sport can we relate to someone from such a different background and a totally different demographic to ourselves?  What other sport would cause a young Indonesian, man to identify with an African-American woman?  What but tennis could inspire an Australian girl to pick up a Swiss flag?  Tennis may cause us make excuses for important events, to skip work, to pick fights with total strangers and lie to our friends. But it also brings us together. That’s the beauty of tennis. 

And it also makes a bloody good story. 

Kait O'Callahan also has her own tennis blog Any Given Surface.  To follow her on Twitter, click here.

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Reader Comments (1)

Such a great story, and fab way to end your series Kait. Really enjoyed reading about other crazy tennis fans - hope you'll write more! Rachel - impressive determination to see Rafa, and who can blame you! :D
May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

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