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ATP Tennis Open 13 – Marseille

The company I work for mostly uses FedEx to receive our inbound packages and to ship our products out. Now, I definitely have had my share of the not-so-great experiences (I even wrote about one here and here) with FedEx, but for the most part we’ve had a pretty great relationship and due to the amount of packages we send out every week, I’d say their track record is really good.

I’ve meet with our account representative several times and we get along really great. She has sent me some very nice personal emails and we’ve chatted a good deal about our families.

Apparently she likes me cuz last week I got a personal invitation from her to see the ATP Tennis match that was being held in Marseille. She let me know that she had two tickets available for Friday, 24 February and if I would like to go. The tickets were the super awesome VIP kind which meant that we would get to have lunch with her and some of the other account reps and a few other invitees and we would get to sit in the VIP seats of the FedEx box right down in front next to the court.

Well, me being a huge tennis fan, took no time in responding to her with a resounding “Oui, avec plaisir!”  All Dude and I had to do was show up at the appropriate time and show our ID and we were in like Flynn.

When Friday came around Dude and I hit the highway about 9:30am since it takes a while to get to Marseille from our house. Amazingly, I took the day off of work and told everyone that I would not be available by phone or email. This was the first time I have ever done this since working for this company! In the whole time I’ve been there, I’ve never taken a day off of work and put my out of office assistant on. I did work on the house during the summer months for a couple of days during the week, but I always had my computer on and my email constantly streaming so I was always available to work. Believe it or not, I am bit nervous about people not being able to get in touch with me when it comes to work. I’m sort of a work-a-holic and a day off or vacation days seems a bit stressful cuz I’m always worried that inevitably something will go wrong that ONE or several days that I’m gone.

This time around I just said “screw it”, I would be at the match and there wasn’t anything I could do about someone trying to get a hold of me and I would just answer all my emails in the evening! For a little bit of the morning I was stressed, but I got over it by the time we arrived at the courts. I just kept telling myself that it was Friday and no one in Europe works on a Friday 🙂

Once Dude and I arrived at the Palais des Sports in Marseille and parked the car, we proceeded to the entry that said VIP and went to the desk to get our tickets. We followed the runway into the underground area where the ATP Tennis association had spruced it all up with a restaurant, bars, France Bleu Provence radio station area, and all sorts of stands for goodies. I was even able to watch a guy string a new racket for one of the guest. That was fascinating since I had never seen that in person before.

Lunch was at noon and Dude and I arrived about 30 minutes before that so we just took a tour around the facility. I was amazed at all the old wooden tennis rackets they had on display and the wall paper they had made of photos of old tennis magazines. It brought back memories of my childhood when my mom would watch the tennis matches on television of the great players of decades ago. They had photos of Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Arthur Ashe, and Bjorn Borg among others. My mom was a fantastic tennis player in her youth. She played on a team and was the proud owner of many trophies. As a result of her love of tennis it became a very intricate part of my childhood. I didn’t appreciate it growing up, but as I became a teenager I remember practicing with my wooden racket hitting the ball against our wooden garage door. I had forgotten about that until I saw those old wooden rackets and those memories all flooded back to me. Especially the ones where my friend Carmen and I would tell her little sister Melanie to run across the front of the garage while we hit the ball! Bad kids 🙂 Just so you know, she never really got hurt badly….well, maybe once or twice.

Around noon my account rep, Joelle, turned up with Audrey a co-worker who came down from Lyon for the day to enjoy the match. Here is a photo of me and Joelle.

We were also greeted by Benjamin who is another co-worker of Joelle’s. While we were waiting for the other guests to arrive Dude and I conversed with the FedEx people and got to know them a bit better. Benjamin was hilarious and at one point he was telling us about this cool game he had on his IPhone where you do a shoot-out. He demonstrated how you take your phone out of your pocket and whip it out in front of you mimicking a gun and then you point and shoot your opponent. He showed us a couple of times how it worked and in the process actually whipped the phone out and it literally flew out of its case, twirled a couple of times in mid air as it flew across the table and almost landed in the bowl of ice. It was completely hysterical and all of us started cracking up. I asked him if he had spare phones cuz of this game and he said “Yes, 3 of them!” Apparently this app from IPhone can be a bit expensive to play!

Once the other guest arrived our lunch was served. Audrey, who happened to sit next to me, explained to me what everything was. I asked her to do so since I don’t like fish and wanted to avoid anything of that nature.

The first course was a crème brulee with foie gras. This was very tasty and it actually enhanced the flavor when I dipped my bread into it and used it as more of a spread then just eating it straight out of the bowl like everyone else.

Next up we were served a red pepper cut and stuffed with fish placed on a disk of olives with some ratatouille. I loved the olives and the ratatouille but left the fish, of course. For some reason this part of the meal was of particular interest to Benjamin as he got on the subject of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He didn’t know the word for dwarf so he, Joelle, and Audrey proceeded to ask me what we called very small people in English. Mind you, before they asked the question, I was not aware of why they were asking it so you can imagine the look of confusion on my face when it came up! It seems that Benjamin thought that the cut pepper stuffed with fish resembled the hat that the dwarfs wore in the movie and he wanted to make this point but didn’t know how to tell me in English since he didn’t know what the word was. Once I knew where he was going with this, I was able to tell him (although none of them could say the word cuz I guess it’s one of the more difficult words for the French to say). Later on Dude told me that he was super uncomfortable with the conversation cuz it just so happened that Audrey was extremely tiny. In fact, she is probably one of the tiniest French people I’ve met. This being the case Dude didn’t really want to talk about small people in front of her. Although see didn’t seem to mind very much when she brought up the fact that she hated those little garden gnomes cuz they scared her! It was by far the strangest conversation that lasted about 10 minutes all because of what this particular item of food looked like!

Next up was the main course. This happened to be some more fish (which I politely left on my plate) along with some delicious vegetables. All this was served with a wonderful red wine, a 2009 Bouches-du-Rhone 45. I’m not really a wine drinker, but I gave it a go and to my surprise it was excellent. I made sure I ate heartily since I’m a bit of a light weight. I wouldn’t want to be sliding out of my seat during the game!

Last, but not least, was the delicious dessert. It was a lemon and coconut cake served with a side of sorbet. Dude couldn’t even finish it cuz he said it was too sugary. I soooo didn’t have a problem with that!

Lunch was concluded around 2pm and the match was due to begin so off we went to our VIP box seats. I was totally delighted when I saw that our seats were right down in front and we were going to have a terrific view of the game.

The first match was between two Frenchmen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. I was not familiar Roger-Vasselin, but I had seen Tsonga play before so I was rooting for him. The game turned out to be pretty exciting with Roger-Vasselin being a fair opponent. I was able to get some good shots of both players while they were serving and also in between games. In the end Tsonga beat out Roger-Vasselin  2-0.

This particular tennis tournament was using the scoring of best two out of three sets to determine the winner of the match. I prefer that type of scoring as oppose to best three out of five. Then you’re able to stick around for a possible second match given that the first match will usually last anywhere from 1 and ½ to 2 hours.

There was about a 30 minutes intermission between the first match and the second. Right before the second match began we were all treated to a disco sort of show. They turned down the lights, turned on the strobes, blared music and had a pretty groovy television screen show of multi-colors and advertisements for the tournament. It was all in good fun and woke us all up after sitting around for so long eating, drinking and watching the first match. Towards the end of this little “1/2 time” show they introduced the next two players who were going to be in the second match, they both happened to be French, as well.

I shot a little video of the “half time” show. It was really more exciting than what the video shows, though.

I had never heard of Michael Llodra or Albano Olivetti, but these two players sure did put on a good match for us. It was Olivetti’s first appearance at this match and I tell you this guy has got a serve that would knock you out. He was hitting some top speeds for someone who was there for the first time and he even took out a referee during one of his serves! It got to the point that the audience would cringe as the ball came hurling towards them during his service and they all were hoping that Llodra would be able to return the shot! This guy’s serves almost took out some of the ball boys and girls, too. They were darting around like it was dodge ball. It was actually quite humorous and the camera men started to put up instant replays of the cringing audience after Olivetti served! In the end, though, it was Llodra that won two sets out of three and took the match. Though Olivetti was great at serving he seemed to fall short on returns and didn’t have too much stamina. I will be watching him closely as he is only around 22 and could have a good career ahead of him.

After this match a little boy of about 11 years of age from the local tennis club was invited to play against Llodra. This kid was great! He had Llodra running around the court a couple of times and really played well. After about 10 minutes of fun he was rewarded with an interview and his picture taken for the news. It was really delightful to see this young boy make some terrific plays on the guy who just won the match!

Once concluded that was the end for Dude and I. We were escorted out since the next game was for new ticket holders. I thanked Joelle for inviting Dude and I and let her know we had a really terrific time. I would sure like to be able to go again some time. This was a first for me and Dude and it’s nice to enjoy a little “perk from work” every now and then.

Since it was about 5:45pm and high traffic time on the freeways leaving Marseille, Dude and I headed over to one of our favorite and very missed spots, Starbucks at the Vieux Port. We hung out for a while, chatted and relaxed with a snack and REAL BIG coffee and waited for the traffic to die down. We headed home around 8pm (since that’s when Starbucks closes and they kick you out). Totally lame, I know! Who goes home at 8pm on a Friday night! Starbucks seriously needs to get their priorities straight!

Off we went happy that we had a super fun day and great experience at the tennis match and totally buzzed out on Starbucks coffee! Friday was definitely and excellent day in my book 🙂

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