When I woke up, there was a crook in my neck, and my mouth tasted pretty awful. Not to mention, my entire body was covered in sand. I emerged from the tent feeling groggy, and wanting nothing more than a decent nap in an actual bed. Everyone sleepily stumbled around, munching on toast until we were loaded into the cars and brought to our new hotel. Seeing the inside of the hotel instantly erased any grogginess I might have had. The lobby was decorated with huge tennis balls and racquets. I thought the tennis theme was weird, but I pushed the thought from my mind once I saw the inside of our hotel rooms. The rooms were huge. Our bathroom came with two shower heads and a tub, and the actual room had a large sofa, coffee table, and a balcony. Just when I thought that the hotel couldn’t get any better, I got a life changing message: Rafael Nadal was staying in our hotel.
Rafael Nadal is a six foot tall, Spanish, tennis player who I absolutely adore. He’s my favorite male tennis player, and there is nothing I love more than dreamily watching him on TV during his tennis matches. Finding out he was in my hotel was like a dream come true. Immediately, I texted all of my tennis coaches and friends to tell them the news. After gushing over the news to them, one of my friends on the trip proceeded to just fangirl with me for a few moments (read: the rest of the day).
I could not shut up about Nadal. When we went to the Yas Marina circuit, I was unable to focus on our tour. How could I? Nadal was currently in the same city as me, battling his way through a championship match. A match that I couldn’t even watch. I worried about the match through the tour, and when they let people ride in the cars, I still worried about the match. However, once we left the track and arrived at Ferrari World, I managed to push Nadal from my mind.
Ferrari World is unlike any amusement park I’ve ever been to. For one, it’s entirely indoors, and it looks more like a high class mall than an amusement park. Second, it seems more like an advertisement than a place where people go to have fun. Everywhere you look there’s Ferrari paraphernalia and Ferrari cars. Not to mention there isn’t too many rides. They had a huge ropes course, but it catered more to smaller kids than college students. In fact, the only enjoyable thing about Ferrari World is their roller coaster: the Formula Rossa.
Before we go any further, I feel like I have to give some background information on the Formula Rossa. The coaster is designed to look like a fancy Formula 1 car, and it’s painted a sleek red that practically screams danger. In addition, to looking pretty awesome, the Formula Rossa is the fastest roller coaster in the world. The coaster launches you off at 150 miles an hour, taking only five seconds to reach that speed and using the same launch carrier as an airplane. The ride travels so fast they make you take off all your jewelry and wear protective eyewear.
Getting on the ride, I couldn’t help but think about how intense it was. I felt like my heart was going to leap out my chest. Luckily, the ride moves so fast that by the time I fully registered I was scared, the ride was over.
Getting off the ride, everything felt a little shaky. I felt like everything was traveling in slow motion after being on something that was so fast. My friends and I took a couple photos by the Ferrari logo then stumbled outside to get a cab. Sadly, our hotel was located so close to Ferrari World that many cab riders refused to take us. We had call security so they could hail us a cab.
When we were back at the hotel, we were treated to a buffet; a buffet that my friend and I ditched because we heard that Nadal’s match just ended (he won!). That’s right, we ditched a five star meal just so we could sit in a hotel lobby on the slim chance that a famous tennis player would casually waltz in and take photos with us.
We sat in the lobby for hours staring at the door. About two hours after we sat dow, Roanic, the man who was playing against Nadal came into the lobby. My friend and I acted with all the grace you could expect from two tennis enthusiasts: we squealed and proceeded to beg him for photos. After Roanic left, we settled back into our seats giggling and shaking and laughing. At this point, we didn’t mind about not seeing Nadal. We would’ve been disappointed, but it was still a good night.
Fast forward another hour, and my friend and I were ready to call it quits. Nadal still hadn’t shown up, and the two of us were dead tired. In fact, my friend had already fallen asleep twice during our wait. We were deciding whether or not to head upstairs, when a group of men wearing VIP badges came sauntering into the hotel. They each carried large tennis bags and spoke in hurried Spanish. My friend didn’t pay the men any attention, but my eyes landed on one in particular. A man who looked eerily similar to Nadal’s coach.
My heart started hammering in my chest, and I started to hyperventilate. Holy crap, it was happening. I looked at the lobby doors, and almost cried when I saw a car pull up. I pointed it out to my friend, saying, “I think that’s him.” She seemed skeptical, but she sat up so that she could see out the doors. Neither of us could see who was in the car, but eventually, the door slid open and a few people immediately leapt forward to snap pictures.
By now, my friend and I were on our feet. We were holding onto each other and shaking from excitement. Could it really be him? We hesitantly approached the doors, and I swear my heart stopped when I saw the familiar flop of hair emerge from the car.
It was Rafael Nadal.
As soon as he entered the lobby, we asked him for photos. He obliged, obviously tired from his match, but still willing to entertain some fans. We took our pictures then yelled out a “Congratulations” as he made his way to the elevators. Once he was gone, the tears came. I was crying and shaking and squealing like an idiot. I couldn’t believe it. I just met Rafael Nadal; my absolute favorite male tennis player. The tennis player who was my screen saver for a solid two years. Honestly, this was my favorite night of the entire trip.