“Gracias por el apoyo.” (Thanks for the support.) Often we hear the players saying this to the fans and public at the end of a match, and if we see (and hear) it well when we watch a match, this is nothing to what I was able to witness since the beginning of the tournament, including during the qualifications. Whenever a local player takes the court, the ambiance becomes very electric, the crowd cheers, chants.
But most importantly, they do it while respecting the opponent. No such thing as what we saw in Brazil last week here in Argentina. They cheer on their players, yes, but never, never insult the opponent. And that’s all to their advantage.
Be it ATP rookie Andrés Molteni against David Ferrer, at the end of the evening, who was encouraged by the crowd so loudly that we could hear them in the press room despite a 1-6 0-6 defeat, or Federico Delbonis, who was cheered on by a less imposing but just as loud crowd a few hours before on Court 2 in a 6-2 6-2 win over Frederico Gil, every local player receives a lot of love and encouragement from the public present at the event.
However, nothing beats the support received by David Nalbandian, the enfant chéri of the local crowd. Every point, won or lost, of his 6-2 6-3 win over Wayne Odesnik was welcomed with cheers or groans generalized to the whole crowd. The points he won were greeted by loud and heartfelt cheers and after each of his greatest shots, the whole stadium literally erupted. When the match was over, the whole stadium started singing the traditional “Ole ole ole, David, David!!” that has become so natural in each of his matches (as well as those of a lot of his countrymen). A very special ambiance.
I had always wanted to watch David Nalbandian play, but my dream, as a tennis fan, was to watch him play in Argentina. Last night, I could realize that dream and if there is one thing that I can say, it is that it really gave me goosebumps that had nothing to do with the cold there was in the stadium. It’s an experience that really defies belief and the TV really doesn’t do justice to such an amount of crowd love.
Questioned about the support of the crowd after his first round match against Molteni, David Ferrer had a knowing laugh and said that it was, of course, normal that the public would encourage one of their own, and that he likes how the crowd cheers and chants on the local players, and always with respect to the opponent. This is a high compliment that the Spaniard paid them, and it was obvious that he meant it.
This constant encouragement of their own is really something that needs be seen and from what I’ve seen from other tournaments, the Argentine crowd is really one of the best in this regard. Not only are they respectful to the opponents of the local players but when they are not playing a local, they encourage most of the star players.
I can only imagine how electric the atmosphere will be tomorrow night, as Nalbandian will face Pico Mónaco. This promises to be very special!