So I tooled down River Oaks Boulevard in my bird-poo-covered ride, passing all the luxury cars and the pedicabs parked along the way as I zoomed past the country club gates to the stadium-side lot.
I found my way to the Lexus Pavilion and up the stairs to an indoor/outdoor area of tables, bars and a sizable buffet at the top of the eastern bleachers. Showing up in the middle of the afternoon, the stands were somewhat deserted as I had just missed last year's winner, the much-maligned Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, make a comeback victory over Somdev Devvarmen. (And I also missed Beyoncé, dammit!)
Grabbing a bevvie in a giant plastic Lexus cup, I nabbed a seat in the traditional top row in front of the tent, and watched as super-hot American ace Sam Querrey manhandled Blaz Kavcic with 135 mph serves, winning in straight sets.
By the evening matches, the crowd had arrived in full force, and it was quite an accomplishment to nab a proper table in the tent (the outdoors by then being too chilly for my seersucker-heavy tennis viewing ensemble). Far from the sparse but focused crowd earlier in the day, this is when I realized I was attending a social event as much as a sporting event. Hellos and air kisses were exchanged, gossip was spread, and the de facto opening line for flirtation was "So, what's the score?"
Of course, nobody knew the score. Even if we wanted to know (which I did) the line judge spent half the match blocking the scoreboard, and the speaker announcements were too quiet to hear over the din.
Which is quite a shame, because the game in front of us between Xavier Malisse and John Isher was tight and hard fought from beginning to end, with all three sets going to a tie-break. We debated whether Malisse's BEL country signifier meant Belgium or Belize, after ruling out Belarus, Belgrade, Belfast and Bel Air. When in doubt, I always try to root for the American (in this case, Isher), but I kept being drawn to shorter, sexier Malisse, at least until my friend described his short ponytail as a man-bun.
Even the cutest tennis player cannot overcome such a description.
I spent enough time outdoors to hear the cheering section for top-seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, in a game that didn't begin until after 9 p.m. While Gonzalez successfully faced off against up-and-coming South African Kevin Andersen, many migrated over to the pool area, where the world's No. 1 men's doubles team, Bob and Mike Bryan, used their night off to entertain as the Bryan Bros. Band.
While the guys were pretty good (they just released an album), the rum punch served might have had something to do with the crowd as well.
But the best part of the day was spying the tennis pros out and about. I actually had to look away from them to avoid a mad case of the schoolgirl giggles, but the women milling around them didn't seem to have the same problem. For a professional sporting event, I was amazed at how up close and personal all the action was.
Am I coming back next year? Hell to the yes.
The ATP Championships at River Oaks continues this afternoon with the men's semifinal matches at 1 p.m. (Tennis Channel starts its coverage at 3). The final takes place Sunday.