I Love A Sunburnt Country

January 16, 2012

I’m writing this in transit, from the Ben Gurion Airport Departure Lounge, where I just caught wind of the livescores and the tweets following Bernard Tomic’s epic win over Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Australian Open 2012.

Running around catching the epic matches on day one is usually the most challenging yet exhilarating part of being a tennis fan, but I can be almost certain that if I’d been at home today, Rod Laver would’ve been where it was at.

While I was watching the first two sets back in Jerusalem, then following the scores as I travelled to the airport in Tel Aviv, passed through security and immigration, and finally settled in the departure hall to read the recaps, I’m sure there were people on Rod Laver Arena who’d been doing just what we tennis fans do best: Fan themselves with free Kia swag to keep away the flies and get rid of the relentless heat, constantly reapply and respray sunscreen as the merciless rays beat down in the sunny side, queue up for beers, Evian (only Evian, let’s not forget), Pods and ice creams, queue up for toilets and again for change of ends; but most importantly: sit through the entire match, slathered in face paint and swathed in flags, the Aussie Aussie Aussies coming thick and fast.

That’s what we do in a sunburnt country, and today, on day one of one of the greatest Australian sporting events, the spirit was unparalleled.

Nearby on Margaret Court Arena, young Aussie Greg Jones felt the passion and took his opponent Alexander Dolgopolov up two sets to love. As this goes to press (do blogs go to press?), Dolly’s come back two sets so we shall see where that ends up: But it doesn’t end the pride for this new young crop of Aussians and most importantly, for what went down on Rod Laver Arena today.

In his postmatch interview (on court), Bernie was something people haven’t seen for a while: He was gracious. He was humble. He admitted how challenging the match had been – “It was torture” – and thanked the crowd – profusely, even – for being there with him and helping him get through – “It was you guys, probably”.

Two years ago, we watched Bernie dismantle Guillerme Rufin in the spitting rain on Margaret Court Arena before a patchy audience. Two days after that, he lost the hearts of the country when whingeing to the news after his second round match against Marin Cilic was scheduled second at night and only ended after one in the morning. Love him or hate him, there’s one thing most can acknowledge about Bernard Tomic right now: The boy is growing up.

Sam Querrey next.

I’m jumping on a plane. The best thing about day one of a slam? The opportunity that still lies ahead. Looking at each section of the draw and imagining which name could jump out as the next big thing. Who will be the Milos Raonic of this year, the Angelique Kerber, the Alexander Dolgopolov, the Bernard Tomic – that one name that jumps from the obscurity of barely qualifying to a quarter or semifinal spot and hence – let’s not overdramatize – changing the face of the new generation.

Okay, I totally overdramatized but let’s not lie, that’s why we all love slams. And today, on this promising glorious day when all of America sleeps and all of Australia glitters – vampire-like – in the sunlight and those of us in the Middle East embark on long flights without a day or night – oh wait, that’s just me – there is so much to look forward to, and so much yet to come. Let’s board this train, baby. It arrives at Richmond Station and because I’m making it up, it also drops you off behind the arena at Rod Laver.

Who wouldn’t want to be on board?

Never Forget, January

January 16, 2012

For those of you who have been following this blog of mine since its inception, you would be well aware that today is not just any day – not just the first day of the Australian Open or the Golden Globes or the freezingest day New York has had all year or the day Fernando Verdasco decided to single-handedly blind the entire tennis watching population:

No, it’s also the day when two years ago, I decided to start this little blog of mine.

Back then it was ours, actually, a joint project of my lovely tennis-watching partners in crime and dear sisters, M (resident photographer) and L, resident stalkerazzi who always knows when to find the match or practice court that’s heating up at the time. Then I started talking tennis to all the Twitties (R.I.P, Dinara Safina – the R is for retire, obvs) and suddenly writing about tennis was one of the funnest things I could spend the wee hours of the morning doing, coming only a close second to watching grainy streams on illegal Romanian websites.

Then some interesting things happened after my Fabulous Tour of the Universe TM, and I relocated to another pretty city, though not as pretty as my home where courts sparkle blue, Melbourne. This city also has a Grand Slam to its name, and so I learned that aside from sparklelicious Plexicushion and beer-toting banana loungers in the grass, there are other tennis tournaments out there, among them the biggest and sometimes nastiest of them all (I mean it with love) – the US Open. Blue replaced navy and all my golden experiences in Rod Laver were replaced by binocular-necessitating nosebleeding moments in Arthur Ashe. Relocating to New York, I had to cope with a whole new set of tennis time differences, the kid-in-a-candy-store array of tennis tournaments on the continental US to contemplate holidaying to each year, and most importantly, the concept that perhaps one day, come January, I wouldn’t be able to make it to the courts that sparkle blue.

So when last year the tennis gods had me home in Australia during the US Open, and now, back in the US during the Aussie Open, it’s all giggles and laughs and rainbows and – WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT, BUCKETS OF TEARS, DUDE – as I discover the concept of watching a Slam from afar. And blogging it, when I can.

So here’s my apology:  There are no guarantees that the years of practice porn and outside-court recaps will continue. I will admit to having some sources on the ground who will do their best to Whatsapp, Facebook, Tweet and Picasa me as many pictures and bits of tennis juice as possible. So if you’re with me, let’s do this together. It’s January. #neverforget

You’re Welcome, Sam!

September 20, 2011

I will most definitely come out and support you then.

Still proud of you. *tear*

Summer sun, something’s begun

July 28, 2011

I’ve taken my itsy-bitsy teensy-weensy break from tennis that had you all bawling your eyes out and unable to watch the green grass or the patriotic displays without me, and now with Wimbledon, Davis Cup and that weird break-in-the-middle-with-nothing-of-significance-going-on over, it’s time for me to talk tennis in the state of the nation.

It’s summer in the United States, and being that I’m actually located in the land that is Up and Over, I’ve had a chance to finally grasp the concept of the summer swing. See, it’s turned hot in the east coast of the Americas, and I’m not talking hot-sun-blazing-off-sparkling-blue-courts-in-Melbourne-Park-hot, which in my humble opinion is totally doable because, let’s face it, anyone can step into an oven and handle the heat for a few hours; but serious, sweat-inducing, brain-melting-and-coming-out-of-ears swampy heat that radiates from every surface in the city from sidewalk to building to sidewalk again because there is absolutely no space to breathe in this town, and makes a sauna look like a pleasant whiff of steam. It’s hot, let me just say.

So while the hot’s been hotting and the sun’s been sunning I’ve noticed that suddenly, they’re playing tennis again, and this time, it’s at timezones that make you realise – um, hello lovers, it’s summertime!

This week, the tennisoids are back and making us happy again, both East Coast and West Coast, which means – tennis soothing me to sleep again! Oh, right, and also, potential live tennis visits, American media coverage, some bizarre concept of a US Open series that I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it – and another Slam only four weeks away!

Let’s skim over the fact that the irony of life will have me missing most of these live tennis opportunities and examine the excitement we have ahead of us:

– He’s number one, he can’t be number two: In case your only source of tennis news is this lovely blog, even when defunct for two months, I may as well warn you now: Sit down, grab a cup of tea and take a deep breath, because if you though the #1 player in the world is only applicable to gents whose first names begin with R, apparently not. It’s out with the Rafa and Rogers, in with our beloved Nole. Novak Djokovic, Number One. Can’t say I don’t like the sound of that.

– Aussie, Aussie, Aussie: Aussie tennis update has been all silent on the ladies side but good things a’brewing for the boys. Wimbledon had “Our Bernie”, the irksome little brother one likes to shove away and ignore but then can’t because he’s actually kinda cute at times, show us his real stuff and not only blow away the competition, causing upset after upset on his way to the quarterfinals, but also show through some surprisingly well-articulated press conferences that the kid’s grown up. He’s playing great tennis, he’s giving good quote, and he seems to be a fitting replacement for Our Lleyton, who’s not even in the Top Hundy anymore.

– These kids are alright: Wimbledon also heralded a new era in Aussie sport – heh, look at me all cliched and stuff – when aside from Bernard Tomic making headlines, we did ourselves a junior sweep. Ashley Barty and Luke Saville both took the Juniors titles in Girls’ and Boys’ Wimbledon, respectively, and Mama couldn’t be prouder. Great kids, too.

– I like them boys: Irrelevant to anyone other than myself who’s not a completely shallow tennis fan, but some of my favourite boys have been showing good results lately and that makes me happy, if not particularly proud. Welcome back Mikhail Youzhny, Feliciano Lopez, Janko Tipsarevic, and recently, the gorgeous Ernests Gulbis. If that won’t make this upcoming stretch worth watching, I dunno what does.

– So, on that note – who’s heading to DC next week? Methinks a little daytrip is in order.

Roland Garros 2011: Best. Clips. Ever.

June 6, 2011

I know I neglected to keep you lovelies up to date with the goings-on down in that dirty cesspot of evil and dancing ladies and red clay that I call La Vie A Paree but don’t you worry there are stories to come and stories to tell. But before I blog out my Novak woes and give you the Aussie lowdown and dance with joy there is one thing you need to see what will sum up the week, the year, and the entire soap operatic universe that is tennis that we know and love:

To quote an evil Swede with large teeth and a penchant for beating favourites on red clay…. ENYOY.


*Special thanks to @sianDavies09 who located the Yootch clip. She was the only person along with me absolutely agog in the Twitterverse as awesome after awesomer clip rolled by. If Ana’s “That’s Not My Name” doesn’t do it for you, or Muzza’s I’m a creep, or Pico’s you tAlking to me, or… okay there’s no point in even attempting to pick out the best as they are all just fabulous.

And I know none of you ever write in my comments box, but please feel free to discuss below any others you’d add, and which were your faves, and what you had for breakfast, and other exciting things.

The Day That Was, And Other Stories

May 26, 2011

While I would never say no to kicking back in a Heineken Garden or Grey Goose Lounge, watching tennis from an outer court and feeling grass between my toes in front of a big screen, I’ve got to admit there are some benefits I’ve noticed from sitting this Slam out (first since USO ’09, excepting Wimby last year which doesn’t count as I was embarking on a road trip of the universe and didn’t even find out that Australia had a new Prime Minister, let alone the crazy story that is Isner-Mahut). It gives me a chance to keep up with the off-court side of the slams, the stories, the interviews, the photos – oh wait, what did you say about interviews? Never mind then – and cool stuff the tourney websites like to post (aside from interview transcripts, what?) like Road to Roland Garros and the awesome new Name A Player video interview.

So based on the day I’ve had, here’s my little recap of Day 4 on the dirt in Paris, as seen through the lens of the Interwebz:

Woz and Woz: If the umpire wasn’t challenged enough by CWoz and AWoz of Wozniacki and Wozniak name, further dramz were presented when Ms Woz – niacki, to be precise, decided to argue a line call which was determined by many to be “unsportsmanlike” as it was set to distract AWoz, who promptly lost the TB, the set, and the match. I’ve always said Caro is good for the sport and we should embrace her, but like any 20-year-old engaged in high stakes to prove their worth, emotions can take over – talk to your average college kid re. SATs, cheerleading or internship dramz and you’ll know she’s not alone. Nuff said.

So Frenchie, So Chic: Showman Gael Monfils decided to provide the folks on Phllippe Chatrier with some bang for his buck, ably assisted by FFT wildcard recipient Guillerme Rufin, a man I am only aware of due to his first-round exit at the hands of Tomic in a rain-delayed match in Melbourne last year. They battled it out in four sets, but it’s the crowd favourite La Monf who’ll jump-and-fake-tweener on into the next round.

Viktor Hanescu was on the verge of making this clay season all the more memorable, following an impressive run last week in Nice, challenging the undefeated Novak Djokovic in the first set before falling behind and ultimately retiring due to injury. He scored the consolation prize that all Rafole opponents get these days, though – a worldwide Twitter trend. #tennisgoingmainstream, woo!

My Sam maintained her “attitude and composure” with a cool win over Simona Halep, love and 2. Oh yes.

David Ferrer continued his badass awesomeness of the last year or so but still failed to remind half the world he exists when posting his TWO HUNDREDTH win on clay today. For the record, ladies and gents, that’s huge.

Hearts surged, melted and finally broke in an incredible roller-coaster match from the lovely yet sadly stricken Sabine Lisicki against a kinda-slumping-without-her-model-coach Vera Zvonareva. Heart, guts and pretty play weren’t enough for the German who gave up matchpoints as her body gave out, leaving her writhing on the ground and sobbing her guts out before a stretcher carried her off court along with the tears of half the tennis universe.

Julia Goerges didn’t disappoint those who’ve picked her as this year’s breakout despite losing the first set to Lucie “Miz Berdych” Safarova; Richard Gasquet was pretty much the same against Marcel Granola Bar, another Court Thirteen favourite.’Twas a sad day for family Berdych-Safarova as the Tomas-Slayer of Round One, Stephane Robert, failed to back up his birdslaughter and fell to Fabio Fognini. Whatevs.

Badass Bethanie Mattek-Sands emerged from the All-American match against Court Thirteen favourite “Girl in the Pink Skirt” Varvara Lepchenko with her black grease paint still intact – only to tell us all on Roland Garros radio, that actually, kids, it ain’t greasepaint after all – the traditional eye black is actually stickers, which don’t smudge the same in the heat. Also, they serve a purpose beyond mere badassery – despite matching oh-so-well with BMK’s fabulous on-court ensembles of long socks and Gaga-esque outfits, the eyeblack removes glare from the sun. American fans of football and basketball may have been aware, but from this Aussie girl – who woulda thunk it?

It was a good day for our loved ones, come to think of it, with Aussie neighbour Anastasia Rodionova, Canadian sweetheart Rebecca Marino, sexy Russian favourite Mikhail Youzhny and beauty-brains-and-beats maestro Janko Tipsarevic all making it through to the next round, even before breakfast, New York time.

Last mention must go to the match of the day that left my livescoring self hanging at the edge of my desktop as tennis history showed us a brief open page in its books before slamming shut again – refer, of course, to the epic five setter between GEE GEE EL aka Guillermo Garcia Gomez aka Guillerme Garcia-Lopez of Spain, and Marsel Ilhan, the Uzbek-turned-Turkish player who’s already been the first Turkish player into R2 of a Slam and looked close to making history a second time round in the third. They finished 13-11 in the third, not that anyone would know, being on a non-TV court that even RG radio didn’t deign to switch to due to the “lack of ball sound” on court. And that, my dears, is the joy of the interwebz. Lots of stories unfolded – oh yes, not that I will blog about them now – but nothing beats pulling up a chair, grabbing a beer and basking in the sunshine out at Court Number Thirteen.

Bonsoir, mes amies. See you tomorrow for another belle journee of joue de tennis!

Bloody Marvellous

May 26, 2011

While the world mourns the state of American men’s tennis, John Isner goes ahead and takes Rafa Nadal to five sets. On clay. In a first round match. While they’re aflutter over the dearth of women’s aces in the sport, girls like Jill Craybas and Varvara Lepchenko  make it to the second round, teens like Sloane Stephens, Melanie Oudin and Coco Vandeweghe are playing main draw, and surprise acts like Vania King and Bethanie Mattek-Sands have chances to go deep in the tournament..

As the FFT worries over the close to 100% sure fact that there’s no way the prized Coupe des Mousquetaire will end up in the hands of any of their countrywomen, the top 20 – and even top 50 – is chock-full of Frenchies who casually led their country to a Davis Cup final last year.

While Australia mourns over Lleyton Hewitt’s absence and rumours of an impending retirement and places all their guts behind Sam Stosur for this year’s title, Jarka Gajdasova and Anastasia Rodionova, both breakout successes at last year’s event, have made it clean to the third round.

And what of the last Grand Slam nation? The one who pin their hopes on a man sometimes deemed to be British, sometimes Scottish, but always with exceptionally bad hair, an emo attitude and an uncanny habit of taking the best players to the limit only to fold when the stakes get high? Despite the constant whingeing over  how Andy Murray will/won’t/must/can’t/should win a Slam, turns out the Brits have more of a legitimate reason to whinge than any other ‘slumping’ nation over the state of Women’s tennis. Didja know, for example, that no British woman had made it past the first round of Roland Garros since, oh, let’s say, 1992?

Until yesterday, that is, when the lovely teenage Heather Watson and her experienced compatriot Elena Baltacha swept aside their opponents to dance into the second round, creating British history and also reminding the world that some women in tennis are just ‘brilliant’. Bally’s been around for a while and happy to be passing on the torch, but keeping it competitive at the same time as the British women dance around the edges of the top 100 (along with the gorgeous Annie K, or Anne Keothavong).

Pic: Getty.

Bally’s got Vania King next, another surprise win from the first round, which could make Americans very happy. So either way we have jubilating media and casual fans sitting up to take interest. Joy!

“Hev”‘s become a familiar face to tennis fans of late with her excellent featuring  on the WTA Experia Hotshots channel, and the girl looks, sounds, acts, and plays as lovely as any future hope of the nation should be. Pair her up with Laura Robson and it’s not looking too bad, innit?

Pic: Getty.

She plays Kanepi tomorrow. Interesting to see whether Kaia can back up her surprise slam results of late and give the British something to really celebrate about – maybe taking the heat off another young man?

Let’s do this, Ladies.

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