The morning began with two expressions of disbelief by Emmo. The first was our response to his question, “How many of you watched the match?” Virtually all of us raised our hands. “So,” he asked the nearest camper, “why do you think Nadal lost?”
The nearest camper was confused. He thought Roy meant Italy versus Germany. As did the next nearest camper. And the next.
In fact, no one—except possibly Antony, his mother, and his father—had seen Nadal play. But virtually everyone had watched the Euro 2012 semi-final, and most had heaved a sigh of relief when the Italians pulled off their upset. Given that at least three-quarters of the Palace staff hails from there, we knew we’d be fed and watered with a cheery smile for at least the next 48 hours.
The second was that, in fact, Nadal had lost. Roy shrugged and offered his analysis. “His coach probably told the young Czech that he couldn’t get into a rally with Nadal. If he did, he had no chance. So Rosol moved inside the baseline, hit every return and ground stroke 90 to 100 miles an hour, and didn’t miss.” Emmo paused. “Now he’ll wake up this morning and discover what he’s done.” The implication was he’d find a level of expectation—and resulting pressure—that he’d never experienced, and possibly couldn’t handle. Emmo was right. He lost his next match in straight sets.
We moved on to the shot of the day: return of serve. “You’ve got to get it back no matter how,” Emmo insisted. “If you want to be a stupid idiot, and not get into the point, well, it’s your bad luck.” If we’ve all learned one thing this week, it’s that Roy has little use for political correctness as it pertains to our games. “For Ken Rosewall, to lose a return,” he continued, “it was like losing a million dollars, and he has every penny he’s ever made.”
After an hour or so of drills, serving and returning, Mohammed—the Dubai financier, who, I had learned, was off to New York City in a week or so to learn digital filmmaking in order to go to Iran to make a stealth documentary about the underground community of artists who are creating sculpture and paintings in defiance of the government, and help them make a market for their work that he would then influence and manage … yup, only in Gstaad—and I found ourselves facing off in a game of half-court, one-up, one-back, play to 11. I was still smarting from my day-one loss, and sensing this might be my last chance for retribution, I bet him I’d beat him. When I won the first game, he asked for a rematch, which he took. Then we had to play a third.
Did I mention it was in the mid- to high-80s? And I was playing a man nearly 30 years younger? And he lives in Dubai? When I dropped the deciding game, I was dizzy with heat stroke, which hopefully explains the picture. I appear to be kneeling before him, and bowing towards Mecca. Frankly, I don’t remember a thing.
Emmo brought me out of my daze by rushing over from a far court, with a beaming Lesley trailing him. “I’ve got a blog entry for you,” he declared. I rose shakily from the clay, and brushed off my knees. “Lesley aced me!” He’d been working on her service grip, and then began playing a set. Serving, she’d lost three points before figuring, what the hell, I might as well try to do what Roy was saying. “Right down the middle,” Emmo laughed. “Off the tape. I had no chance.”
Lesley smiled. “I think my father would have been proud of me,” she said later.
Does it get any better?
The week seemed to have raced by. At 7:30, we all gathered in the Palace Grill Bar for a pre-dinner cocktail, before heading upstairs to the dining area known as “Gildo’s Room.” Gildo himself would appear later, after we’d finished dessert, to sing, a cappella, selections from Tosca and La Traviata (three, in all, which we learned later was one more than the norm).
At the bar, we’d all posed for a last picture—Mohammed would leave before dinner—and massaged aching legs, arms, and feet. Five hours a day, five days in a row, is a lot of tennis. If any of you reading this are wondering would there be enough court time, yes, yes there will. However, you may not get to share space with the Swiss ski team. At the end of our meal, two team members—not being a follower of World Cup skiiing, I can only tell you that one was short(ish) and one wasn’t (seeing him on the street, I would have guess he played power forward for the Swiss National Basketball Team. If they have one)—joined our happy band to sing “the Swiss song,” as Emmo put it. I kind of figured it was the Swiss national anthem, until the singers began bouncing up and down like last call at a hip-hop club. But we cheered them, as we did Gildo, and Emmo with his epic “Waltzing Matilda,” and, finally, Patrick, who accompanied himself on guitar.
It was the finest performance since Rudy had wowed us with his accordion.
Patrick sang a series of original lyrics, borrowing the melodies of four pop hits, beginning with “Blowing in the Wind.” I would tell you the others, and share the lyrics—I was mentioned, I don’t think Mohammed was, YES I WIN!!!!—but Patrick apparently forgot his promise to email them to me. Or maybe he sent them to Mohammed, who now has a hit single in Dubai.
Anyway, Lesley says just go ahead and make them up. OK.
“How many balls does a champion hit
Before they can call him a Roy
Yes and how many lines can a champion hit,
Before he’s a number-one boy”
“The answer, you campers, is blowing in the wind
But don’t mention the wind, Joy won’t like it.”
We ended in the lounge, swapping stories, drinking apponzelle, and making it to bed with the final morning already upon us. Did I mention that life is sweet? Next: Living the Lagonda Dream