Read & Watch: Felix, Dimitrov, Garin Visit Panda Base In Chengdu
Felix Auger-Aliassime, Grigor Dimitrov and Cristian Garin took part in a Chengdu Open tradition by visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
"It was good. It was the first time here and seeing pandas," said Auger-Aliassime, the No. 2 seed at the ATP 250 tournament. "I got to see different types as well, even the newborns. Overall, it’s a good day. Definitely a must-see if you’re in the region."
The players enjoyed a stroll through the forest and caught glimpses of several large pandas lounging on their tree platforms and chewing bamboo, prompting the trio to take numerous photos, videos and selfies. Two baby pandas were on their morning run and were seen cuddling with each other in the light rain. They also saw several red pandas, two of which were playfully fighting with each other and putting on a show for the visitors.
"I’ve never seen red pandas that close," said Dimitrov, who had previously visited the Chengdu Panda Base in 2016. "I’ve been here before but seeing them that close – it was pretty different, I’m not going to lie. I almost felt like a part of them. I wish we could actually go in and touch them, but I don’t know if it’s a great idea. It was a great way to start the day."
An official guide was on hand to offer interesting facts about the heritage and habits of the creatures.
"It’s my first time seeing the pandas," added Garin. "It’s amazing, doesn’t look real. I’m very happy to be here and hear the crazy story of these animals. It’s very beautiful here."
Auger-Aliassime and Dimitrov both open their Chengdu Open campaigns on Thursday. The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who is currently second in the ATP Race To Milan, will face Portugal's Joao Sousa as he looks to reach the Chengdu quarter-finals for a second straight year. Fourth seed Dimitrov, playing in his first tournament since upsetting Roger Federer en route to the US Open semi-finals, will meet Great Britain's Daniel Evans.
Earlier this week, Dimitrov also joined Serbian Dusan Lajovic on a scenic cruise on the Jinjiang River through the Chengdu city centre. The night cruise ferries passengers on old-style wooden boats and offers them a glimpse of iconic sights in the city, including the 339 TV Tower, the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district and Hejiang Pavilion.
"Exploring all this is marvelous I would say," he said. "I didn’t expect that at all. Especially when we stopped to take a picture at the bridge, then all of a sudden these animations came out on the walls. It’s pretty intriguing too. We travel a lot and often to the same places every year so it’s nice to get a different feel for the cities that we go to and explore more and more. It will be nice to come back with friends and family."