Showdown of Champions, KL 2008

As Shirley Bassey so aptly sang, “Where do I begin?”

My birthday was on the 17th, but the 18th was what i was really excited about and looking forward to, so ignoring the big 21, here goes!

Meet and Greet/Autograph session, KLCC foyer

Yesterday went beyond all my expectations, which were, to begin with, already great. So in the morning Zah, Nadiah and I stood for about 2 hours in line waiting for Roger Federer to arrive, and even though the encounter was brief, and by brief I mean really brief, it was great. Even standing in line we were entertained by the presence of a Federer lookalike, which we learned later on was an Iranian who lived in the USA, he was there with his mother. His name was Zaher Khan, also found that out later.

It must be weird, for famous people. Many people they meet tend not to look them in the eye, instead, they point a camera straight in their face. That was one mistake I did in the meet and greet. Couldn’t really savor the moment because I was flustered and didn’t know what to do. Missed a lot by seeing through the camera display rather than using my eyes. Didn’t really repeat the mistake in the match.

this picture appeared on gettyimages, with the hilarious caption of “Roger Federer (C) of Switzerland signs autographs for a Malaysian Muslim fan…”

After the meet-and-greet (aptly named, as that’s all you did. Meet, say hi, and then you get shooed away) we were standing outside KLCC towers all giddy and beaming like overexcited children, and for some reason Bernama decided to interview us. God knows what nonsense we were jabbering on about because we didn’t get to see ourselves, not that we’d want to anyway. They also interviewed lookalike and his mom before us (that’s where we found out his name).

After all that excitement, it was a case of “now what..?”

So we wandered back inside and into the mall, where we were walking around when suddenly, I turn to say something to Nadiah and who else do I see but Mirka? Funny, because we were just speaking about maybe bumping into her in KLCC. She was taller and prettier and more down-to-earth than we imagined, but she declined any pictures taken. Respect that. What I found most odd was how she seemed to be wandering aimlessly around the mall, all alone. Well, except for the freaky couple that was silently stalking her.

Showdown of Champions, Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil

Left the mall at 4 to beat the rush hour, even if that meant we’d get to Bukit Jalil ridiculously early. Hung around the Putra stadium observing the weird people around, pointing out people we recognized from the autograph signing, like South Africa hat dude +family, lady who needed to “meet someone,” guy with stripey blue shirt, Jason Mraz hat guy, cowbell lady, dude with plaid hat, lookalike and mom, etc. oh we also saw Hans Isaac, weird again because we were, for some reason, talking about him that day also. Saw a really lost looking dude who was walking aimlessly around the complex alone. Weird.

Waited for Ilham and Ayesha to arrive, since they were stuck in traffic. Meanwhile, we walked around the stadium looking for where the players would arrive/exit from, so that we could stalk them when they left. Found it with no trouble at all. They finally arrived at 7, so we entered the arena, prayed marghrib, and went into the seating area where our ears were blasted to smithereens from screechy Ella singing. Jacklyn Victor was a bit more tolerable, as was Ning Baizura. But who cares about them, its tennis we came to see! Other people we spotted inside were mostly some other political people. I chatted with this family from Alberta, Canada. I told her I used to live in Canada too, in Waterloo, and apparently she went to university there! Also some weird guy started chatting me up when I went down to take some pictures after the match. Freaky.

The first match was with the old timers, Bjorn Borg and Jon McEnroe. McEnroe being the feisty one, always playing up the crowds with his antics, as per usual! It was all in good fun. There was some racquet throwing, ref-slamming and ball-boy teasing which really cracked us up. Borg was more reserved. Watching them play, I thought, this is a lot different than what I’m used to seeing on the telly. Its much slower paced and not as aggressive. But then again they are old so I guess that’s why. McEnroe won that 1 set match in a tie break.

Three short minutes later, the real reason people came to the match started. It was James Blake vs Roger Federer, which was absolutely amazing to watch. It seemed so surreal watching a live tennis match, the movements so familiar and yet it was different, because it was right in front of our face, live. Everything was really just so surreal. And it was awesome seeing a master at work, you could tell he was a genius in his element, so exquisite and graceful, that one. Watching live, you get more of a feel and understanding of how different the players’ styles are, their temperament, personality, quirks. Federer was the elegant and graceful one, full of finesse and sweeping movements and nimble ballet-esque footwork. One thing I heard but never did on telly was his cute “aiya” when he’d mess up a shot. Blake was more aggressive and hard hitting, but both were absolutely brilliant. Federer won that match, also in a tie-break, much to the crowd delight, especially the cowbell lady et al, who (I gathered from their view-blocking banner) were Asian rogerfederer.commers. Which, come to think of it, so am I.

Another thing, I noticed that anything the players say on court can really be heard by almost everybody, at least up to where we were seated, midway up the stands. And its not even shouted, just things said normally. So imagine what it must be like if Nadal or Sharapova were in the house, grunting and shrieking all the way? By the way, next year instead of Federer et al, Miss Sharapova will be gracing our shores, opponent not yet confirmed. Big Whoop. Guys should be glad I suppose.

The final match of the night was a single set doubles, Europe vs. USA, with Roger pairing up with Bjorn and Blake with McEnroe. That match was super exciting. Fast paced, a lot of laughs from us and the players, and all in all a really exhilarating match. In the end USA came out on top 7-5, so the only person who didn’t win anything was poor old Borg.

We planned on stalking the players back to the hotel but then it was already late and some of us had work the next morning. Also, it wouldn’t be that easy this time, like it was during the CYC because these people had a whole convoy and police escort whereas at the CYC it was just a bus. Went to Ilham’s house feeling dazed and giddy and happy all at the same time.

So to Federer, Blake, Borg and McEnroe, a HUGE thank you for coming to Malaysia and giving us something to buzz about for a long time to come! You guys made my day! And last but definitely not least, Thank you to Nadiah and her dad for giving us all the opportunity to witness a genius at work!!

Pictures, videos, and links
hcfoo’s tennis blog
NST article
The Star article

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