Exactly a year ago today, I arrived in Madrid, my first time back in almost 24 years. The next day was my first day at La Caja Mágica, the modern but kind of weird facility where they hold the Madrid Open.
As befits a place called the Magic Box, my time at the Madrid Open was pretty magical. I watched a lot of Denis Shapovalov, who will likely be my favorite player once Federer retires. I watched Maria Sharapova from up close. I told Ekaterina Makarova that I could probably help her with her injured shoulder (and I could have). I saw Dominic Thiem beat--truly beat--Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
What I didn't see, not there nor at any of the other three tournaments I attended during that trip, was Roger Federer play. For the past couple of years, Federer has skipped the clay-court season in order to focus on preparations for Wimbledon. Federer--my very, very favorite player--remains the only major player I've never seen play.
But perhaps because life sometimes has a cruel sense of humor, he's not skipping the clay-court season this year. He'll play his first match in Madrid tomorrow.
If you see me this week and my eyes seem a little distant, it's because my heart is in Madrid.