Doha is again hosting the WTA, or Women's Tennis Association, tour. The top-ranked women tennis players in the world congregate in Doha for this competition, with names like Caroline Wozniacki, Kim Clijsters, and Vera Zvonareva making an appearance. Now, to be perfectly honest, the only two tennis names I recognize on a good day are Serena and Venus Williams, and since they are both injured and not competing, I thought we'd take a pass on attending any games. But when Nicholas had an opportunity to go to a match with his Grade 7 class on Tuesday evening, he jumped at the chance.
A kid with as much good karma as Nicholas doesn't just get to go to a world-class tennis match for free and hang out with his friends; he catches one of three balls lobbed into the crowd by the winner. And as luck would have it, his ball was not only autographed, but bore the word "Phone". Following the Dohaesque (read "unclear; ambiguous; vague") instructions by the announcer, this lead him and his group to come to the conclusion that he had won a cell phone. Despite his teacher's best efforts, they could find no one with qualifications above Clueless when it came to finding someone who could provide him with the alleged prize.
Knowing that this shrugging of shoulders in ignorance is a Doha phenomenon, Nick's teacher suggested that if we were to ask someone else on a different night, we would very likely get a different answer.
Last night we had a meeting to attend at the school, and afterwards decided, ball in hand, to go to the tennis Stadium and see what we could shake loose, so to speak. As predicted, when we told the men at the gate our situation, we were ushered into the mall area and shown to the Sony Ericsson booth. Still not exactly right, but two booths later we found our man. He said that all prizes were given out after the third match. Expecting it to be over by 10 pm, we purchased tickets and found our seats.
Self-admittedly, I've never been a big tennis fan. It's not that I don't think the sport is worthy of my attention, but it's just never been on my radar of sports to watch at leisure. Give me a hockey game, and I can stay semi-conscious with a beer in my hand in front of the TV for all three periods, overtime AND the shootout, and even explain icing to someone if asked. There was a big risk that the tennis experience would be wasted on me.
Not surprisingly, my ignorance of the rules and the finer points of the game became apparent as the evening progressed. The following is a sample of my running commentary, albeit in the hushed tones of the Tennis-Watching, during the matches:
"Are the numbers on the screen the players' rankings?" (Apparently, no. It was the score.)
"Is there a Beer Gardens?" (Again, no.)
"How come she gets to wear that little sleeveless, knee-baring number, and I'd get deported if I did?" (No logical answer was provided by my better half.)
"Why does the judge keep calling her a Wus?" (Who knew that "Wus" sounds so much like "Deuce"?)
But I'll admit, it wasn't half bad. I rather enjoyed watching a sport in an open-air stadium without requiring a parka, three pairs of socks and a thermal blanket. We were so close to Wozniacki and her coach that I think we may have picked up a little Danish: loosely translated, we think we heard him say to her "Kindly stop hitting it to her freaking forehand, you dolt! She's killing you!", or something to that effect. The computerized replay on the big screen after a challenge was pretty cool, too. Disappointingly, though, no Smooch-Cam.
At the end of the night, Australia'a Stosur beat number-one-ranked Wozniacki from Denmark in a surprise upset. When it was all done, we were able to get Nick's new phone, which is far nicer than anything we would have bought for him (touch screen, HD video, "YouTube Ready", makes waffles, etc.). His reaction this morning was worth every extra minute we were awake past our regular bedtime last night. And that, my friends, is why I now consider myself to be a tennis fan.
I suspect that Nicholas may be on a roll, which is why I'm considering sending him to the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, currently underway. Maybe he could win Kevin Spacey or Robert DeNiro for a day...I wonder if they do windows?