My friends and I traveled to the BNP Paribas Open last week in Indian Wells, Calif., and the trip far exceeded my expectations. I didn't think it would compare to the locker room access I was given as a college player in 2004, but I was wrong. The venue was as magnificent as I remembered, and the practice courts were completely open to the public. I patrolled the practice courts for hours on end in search of my favorite tennis players, and I was able to get within five feet of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Simon, Tursunov, Monfils, Bolelli, Tsonga, Berdych, Gasquet, and countless other top professional players. No one left me as star struck as my favorite player of all time: Marat Safin.
Safin is much larger and better looking in person, as were most of the pros, and I was completely speechless in his presence. My friend managed to shout, "Take a picture with your #1 fan," and with that, Safin walked over, commented on my admiration, allowed me to put my hand on his sweaty back, posed for two pictures, pinched me on the side, and gave me the most unforgettable smile as he walked away.
The following day, all the big guns were out again, but this time, Safin was shirtless. I watched him practice, and the power he generated was like nothing I have ever seen. After his practice, he walked by me and acknowledeged that he remembered me. This time, my nerves got the best of me, and the words, "I love you" exited my mouth. My face turned completely red as he began to laugh. Safin grabbed my hand, offered up a wink, and kept walking.
It's not often that these moments exceed our expectations, but Marat Safin definitely left me wanting more. A LOT more.
Editor's note: Matt Coin played college tennis at UC Santa Barbara. Read his coming out story for Outsports.