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Day 1 in Tokyo

02.10.2006 | Off Court




It's very exciting to be here in Tokyo and I'm also very pleased to be writing the ATPtennis.com blog this week. I've read a few blogs during the year. I really enjoy them as they shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes on the ATP circuit and it’s a great way to communicate with the fans.


I've had an unbelievable time since arriving in Japan on Friday. I had one of my first practices on one of the outside courts of the Ariake Tennis Forest Park and many, many fans watched me. That was very special for me. They all had their cameras and their phones up in the air taking photos. It was like a sight I'd never seen before. People were running behind me on the way to practice, wanting photos, autographs, my rackets and even my clothes. I thought for a second that maybe I should practice naked. It was a great atmosphere and for the first time I felt what it must be like to be a rock star. I practiced with the No. 1 Japanese player Go Soeda, who is very nice and a very talented player.


Two months ago the tournament asked me if I would practice at 10AM on Centre Court on the first day of the tournament and I did not understand why but I decided it would be ok. Now I understand why. The tournament had promoted it as my first official practice in Japan and opened it to the public. It was great to see so many fans out there for an early morning practice.


On Saturday I had an incredible experience meeting with the Crown Prince of Japan, Prince Naruhito at one of the Imperial Palaces. I had been waiting for the moment for a long time and it was something that needed to be planned well in advance because of the protocol. We went to one of his guest palaces. He had two clay courts back there. I warmed up with him and I was surprised how well he played. Then I played with another junior as he took a rest and then I asked the Prince if he'd like to play some doubles. He was excited about that and we played a set together, which was a lot of fun and we won! I must admit that the Prince hit some fantastic winners and was a great partner.


Princess Masako and their beautiful daughter Aiko were also there and spent some time with my girlfriend Mirka and my agent Tony. After tennis we had a wonderful lunch and talked for over an hour at his tennis villa. Then we went for a walk around their picture-perfect gardens - in particular I remember they have a beautiful lake and trees - and had lunch at the court. It is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen and to think that it is in the centre of Tokyo is quite amazing. It was a very enjoyable moment. You don't get to play tennis with royalty every day and I will never forget this experience.


It's very exciting to be here in Japan. It's been a while since I've been to a city or a country for the first time. I'm still feeling my way around, but the people are so polite and respectful here and I'm really happy I've made the trip. Mirka has played here five or six times so I knew what to expect but it’s been more enjoyable than I thought. I love travelling in Asia. I have been to Bangkok, Shanghai, Dubai, Doha, and I always wanted to come to Japan. It's a very interesting country with fascinating history and culture. It's very different from home and I wanted to see it.



The traffic hasn't been as bad as I had expected and Tokyo is a very clean city where the pace of life is not as hectic as I imagined. I was expecting Tokyo to be like New York or Rome. This is such a big city with 8 1/2 million people in the centre and 12 1/2 million in total that you'd think there would be people everywhere, but it seems very relaxed.


I love Japanese food a lot and I eat it anywhere I go as it seems to be the 'in' food. It's healthy food with a lot of rice and vegetables. Over the last few years I started to eat fish and meat, so I can enjoy sushi and sashimi as well. Saturday night I had dinner with Mr Morita, the chairman of the Japanese Tennis Association. We had shabu-shabu - it's like a broth where you put the meat in and it’s very much like the Swiss dish ‘Fondue Chinoise’.


The other night I played a joke on Mirka and put a lot of wasabi (the very strong green paste) underneath a piece of her sashimi…she still has fire coming out of her nose and has promised to get me back!


For breakfast I was introduced to the Japanese custom of drinking vinegar, which is supposed to clean your system. I quite enjoyed that.


I’m off to do my pre-tournament press conference now.


Sayonara and write to you tomorrow!



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