Today, August 7, 2008, was the last day of practice at the Tennis Venue. The Opening Ceremony is tomorrow (of course) at 8:08:08 pm. Sunday, 10 August, will be the first day of tennis tournament play.
The athletes made use of their hastened time--Roger Federrer practiced twice on the courts on this last day (earlier days he only practiced once, so I saw), Nadal also twice, I believe. The Americans made their debut today--the Williams sisters played a few rounds, as did James Blake and Sam Querry, and Mike and Bob Bryan.
I interviewed Serbian athletes Janko Tipaservic (current ITF ranking 45) and Novak Djokovic (current ITF ranking 3). I won't write what they said, but I was surprised to learn how amiable and open these world renown athletes are; Nadal is known for being uncannily humble, but many of the other athletes also have been extremely friendly, much friendlier than I imagined a competitive spirit would allow. During the last few days, the question, "How do the Olympics compare with other tennis tournaments?" arose often; in many of the answers, athletes have cited the presence of their national friends as a huge boost and a crucial differentiation to the energy and spirit of the Olympics. Instead of rushing past us, as I was afraid could potentially happen, the athletes respond politely to a few questions asked in the mixed zone (well, at least, so far--there haven't been many negative emotions from athletes yet, as no matches have been lost yet...) and have even entertained audiences.
For example, today during practice, Djokovic practiced attacking a lob ball. After a few, however, instead of slamming the ball with a typical and impressive attack, Djokovic simply let the ball fall from high in the air and bounce quickly on the court. Immediately after the bounce (almost invisibly from a spectator's view), he caught the ball in his shorts, turned to the laughing audience, and took a deep bow.
The playful attitude of the Olympics has definitely arrived at the tennis venue. I'm so excited that practice has finally ended--the real matches begin!
Note: There is no picture here because taking pictures, as a volunteer journalist, in this setting, is considered unprofessional from BOCOG; however, many other volunteers who aren't held to journalist standards took pictures galore, so perhaps I can borrow one of their copies later.