That’s it?

January 31, 2010

Well as I’ve explained, it is pretty hard keeping up a blog while you’re actually, you know, attending the Slam.

So here’s what you kids have to look forward to, once tonight is over and I have my life to myself again:

– PICS – Lots and lots and lots of pics. Feast your eyes style.

– Andy-JoWillie play by play, observation by observation, from inside RLA

As for tonight? Well, the tradition of watching in Garden Square may not happen judging by this weather, and the fact that I (R, if you’re curious) have a wedding to attend in the earlier hours of the evening.

I’m thinking I’ll get in front of a telly for the third set onwards or last resort join LP in the Garden. It’ll be nice to get inside and hear Roger bawl again.

On that note……….

C’MON ANDY!!!

ANDY!!!

Yeah, this guy:


Papped!

January 28, 2010

So guess who got papped at the tennis?

Our very own LP.

However, looks like they cut her out of half the pic, instead they just got some Scottish guy…

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/96152154/Barcroft-Media


Roger v Kolya – From the Baseline

January 28, 2010

I was trying to stay away from Melbourne Park for another day. I had laundry to do, hair to wash, homework to do, that sort of thing. Turns out at 5pm I got an urgent call from my tennis attending mate, R. “I got tickets, inside, Federer Davydenko, get here quick!”

40 mins later I’m in the stadium. Thanks to Steve Fergal’s tennis tours we are front and centre. The AO club are looking at me kinda funny. My thoughts through the match are herein.

Note I got there at the point of the match where Kolya was ripping his way through the second set. Roger was antsy, and his wife and entourage, sitting not far from me, couldn’t even look.

Seven years ago, I went to my first tennis match on Rod Laver Arena. I sat in the front row, behind the players’ chairs, and cheered for this grumpy looking, ponytailed guy wearing an Adidas tie-dyed shirt. He was tied in the 5th set against Nalbandian, and the crowd was evenly divided. Every call of “Go David” was answered with a “Come on…. Roger.”

Of course it was Roger. As he sulked and sulked, lost his concentration numerous times, and changed his shirt three times (which I asked for repeatedly, but he had no interest), his crowd support grew, and by the end of the match everyone was cheering Roger Federer like he was their new favourite player. (By the way, he did lose.)

Which he probably was. Hell, he was mine too.

Seven years later, Roger’s had his turn. He’s won fifteen majors, been in the finals here countless times and everywhere else for that matter. Give someone else a bloody go.

So I’m sitting in Rod Laver, only a few paces away from where I sat that first time, and this time I am willing him to lose it, somehow. For that little Russian man with the bald head and the skinny legs to pull out whatever he’s got, and give it to him.

Mirka’s not far from me, a little to the left and two rows in front. She’s got her head bent over, not happy at all. Her husband is supposedly unflappable, but being this close, you can see him start to lose it. He misses another one, and hits the ball into the net with a  vengeance. Roger’s down and he’s not happy about it. There goes Mister “Perfect Sportsman”.

The man in the white cap next to Mirka keeps muttering. Like, really loudly. If I understood German, I guess I’d have Roger’s whole game plan. At least he’s smart enough not to acknowledge he can hear them. But right now, damn the man.

It’s the fourth set, and Roger’s already got two. He gets an early break. Mirka, you can look up now. Being this close, I can feel the pressure, the way these guys must feel it. You’ve got to wonder. I’ve never played any sport professionally but the mental toughness required amazes me. Especially when I think about how young everyone truly is. If I was that talented in anything, there’s no way I’d be a roaring success at 22 – but for some reason tennis players have all done it somehow. I’m kind of craving that sort of discipline.

The game’s turned into a rout – it’s at 15 love and Kolya hasn’t had a game in a while. Then Roger makes an error. The ball flies right in my face before landing back down on court. Damn it can get pretty scary behind the baseline.

I need these people in the crowd to stop cheering for heaven’s sake. I keep throwing in my Davay Kolya just to remind him I’m here. And I want him to win, dammit!

I hear the audience start to get confused. Kolya is coming back a little in this game, and now they don’t know if they want to go for the underdog, as classically Aussies do, or their favourite sportsman in a colour other than green and gold.

I’d like to see a break right about here.

For heaven’s sake. It’s about the twelfth game in a row he’s lost. Mirka is muttering to her crew. Kolya has some sort of magnetic attraction to the net. Nothing is going over the damn thing.

Roger wins a point, and I hear the loudest come on I’ve heard on court since Hewitt. Why does he do that in English? Showman. Grrrr.

That’s it, kids. That’s the match.

The Aussies behind me are talking. Corporate entertaining assists in the lubrication of the vocal chords, so I hear interesting tidbits, like this one: “I feel sorry for Davydenko, mate.” “Yeah, he should practice more.” “Try telling him that!” “I did, mate!”

(These guys are the ones who were sitting behind me, five rows from the front, then moved to the front, centre, AO club area to “see what it feels like”. One of them felt the urge to shriek COME ON DAVY every few moments. I’m cool with that.)

Kolya to serve, and suddenly things aren’t so bad anymore. For a change, he doesn’t’ miss at the net. My fellow member of the Davydenko fan club is charged up. “Come on Davy, just win a game!” Then his beautiful serve gets called out. Sitting at the line, I reckon its an ace, and say loudly, “Challenge!” Kolya hears me. That’s it, methinks. Kolya is going to listen to my advice, and challenge the call, and if he loses it’ll all be my fault.

Luckily I look more like an idiot than I thought, and Kolya wisely keeps his challenges to himself. He produces a beautiful second serve and we’re at 30 love. Next thing you know he’s got the game. For a change.

That’s the plan, Kolya. Break back now, and we can get ourselves a fifth set. Don’t worry about all the people pushing and shoving in the concourse at RLA. They’ll get here eventually. Just win this damn thing and send the Swiss man packing.

Roger fan starts shouting. I start spewing.

BREAK HIM FFS!

What the hell was that ace for?

I’ve decided Roger looks a lot skinnier in the back than he appears onscreen. The man is practically scrawny. Yeah, take that! Scrawny! I’ll look for any insult I can right now.

I’m trying to explain to my friend R how I feel sitting here. “It’s like watching on TV, in real life,” I explain. Close enough to see every little detail, but you’re there and right now, I’m shaking. This is bad for my jaws. Tension. Ouch.

Ha ha. Tee hee hee. That went so wide. Ha ha. Who’s the greatest of all time now, yeah? Yeah!

Oh! I found the Seven commentary box. Gosh I’m an idiot. Been at the tennis every day and never figured out where it was. How does Courier’s ego fit in there?

I hate watching Roger’s little forehand there. He swats the ball like he’s swatting a fly. I used to love watching this man. What’s happened?

My friend is talking really loudly. “He’s wasting his opportunities.” Every time Kolya looks up at the ball boy, I catch his eye. I don’t want him hearing us trash talking the guy. That will just inspire more chokage. And right now there’s an albatross the size of China around his neck.

I do need to say thanks to Steve Furgal’s International Tennis Tours, and Grand Slam Tennis Tours. They’ve been lovely at ensuring we have the best seats at every match.

Roger hears my Davay Kolya. He’s unimpressed. Mirka, meanwhile, is smiling smugly at some dude shouting, ‘Go Federer’. I’m really over this. 

Nyet Nyet Nikavo. Sometimes, my Russian folk song background gets the best of me. At Youzhny v Gasquet it seemed to help somewhat. This time, it works for a moment and Kolya’s up a tiny bit. Then these aces keep coming out of Roger’s perfectly ironed bum. 

Mirka is a little cold, keeps rubbing her hands together – or is it with glee at her husband’s next progression? I think the hotel maid forgot to do the washing, she’s wearing Roger’s sweater.

The stadium roars as he hits another ace. Aren’t they sick of another Federer final? Hasn’t it been long enough?

That ace went in my face.

Now it’s match point. SAVE IT, KOLYA. He hears me, and he does. How lovely. I have a new role as on court coach. 

Damn its windy. All people watching on TV probably think it’s a boiling hot Melbourne day. It’s actually bloody freezing and the wind keeps whipping through the arena. Wait for the wind, Kolya – don’t send that serve over.

My mate R: “What happened to his serve?”

Me: Shut up, he can hear you. He will lose confidence. (loudly) DAVAI!

Challenge. I love a bit of Hawkeye action. Of course, I was right. I am after all on the line. So, on-court coach and lineswoman? I could handle that. 

It’s at Advantage Kolya. I love this. He saved the match point. Little hope of winning now but at least he can push off the Federer onslaught of oozy smugness. Though the interview guys are already on court. Damn them. Just cos they’re in a hurry to start the night match.

I keep fist pumping as Kolya wins his points. Mirka’s head is in her hands.

Suddenly we’re at 6-5 and Roger is serving for the match again. OMG, the man is actually strutting.

MP. F@# this. 

Courier interview? “I tried to stay positive.” That’s crap, mate. I saw you hit that ball into the net for the ballkids and you didn’t look to positive to me. So go ahead and tell all of Australia. Oh wait, the world. 

“It was a nice match.” Oh right, was it? Rafa says it was a tough match. Gives credit where credit is due. Roger, life isn’t just about strolling, ffs.

Oh I am way too pissed off right now.


Days 5 and 6

January 25, 2010

No blogs for Day 5 and 6.

Day 5 was at home on TV.

Day 6 likewise.

And you’ve already analysed the matches, cos I’m 3 days late.


Day 4… still no pics. If you read on, I’m impressed.

January 25, 2010

Day 4

I think it’s now become clear to all of you that I can’t stay away from the Aussie Open for too long. On Day 4, I’d decided to be a good grown up and head back to the day job.

That’s until the lovely folks at Betfair offered to send me to the tennis – again – if I tweeted for them. Being that tweeting to me is breathing, it wasn’t hard to make a decision.

This time, I was front and centre on all the action – Corporate gold tickets, four rows from the front on centre court, not far from the baseline. I had lovely views of Nole, Lleyton and Carlos Ramos. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Coming in to RLA was bizarre, it gave me that feeling I usually get halfway through week 2- and only on day 4. It’s that “get me a sleeping bag and find me a tent, I’m moving in kids” feeling. Seriously. Sometimes I go to Melbourne Park during the year for a concert or show and feel like I’m  home again. This time, I had been away less than 10 hours – from 2.30 am after Tomic match, to 11am in time for Novak.

Novak’s been waltzing around quietly for most of week 1, and that day was no exception. He lost it a little in the first set but then kept on waltzing. Or like, hip hop waltzing. I think he liked my Ajde Nole, but the corporates around me thought I was clinical. Do they not speak Serbian?

Chiudinelli has some really vocal supporters right across the way from me. They look like Team Roger with a name change, all red and white like inside out nurses. They’re singing “Q Dinelli” really loudly, which is good, because otherwise I’d have no idea how to pronounce the dude’s name.

I have the best seats in the house –  technically – but the scoreboard is really hard to see. I keep getting them wrong. I think it’s break point, but really we’re right on serve. How embarrassing.

Can’t figure out who’s in the chair. Is it my good mate Enric? I think I’m the only tennis fan who looks out to see who’s in the chair at matches, and a good ump means a good match. Please tell me I’m wrong. I’ll feel much less like a loser.

I’m checking on my phone and I can see Baghdaddy isn’t doing so well against Ferrer. This is not good. However, I’m in Rod Laver on amazing tickets, so I’m not making a sprint to Hiisense to see it. Even though there is nothing like a Hellas fan club chant to make your day.

Aussie Ana’s on Margaret Court Arena, and the shrieks are getting louder. The MCA crowd know how to party, and partying they are. A little check on my phone Scoreboard tells me it’s more like suicidal howls. Then again they may be Gisele fans, which could explain the cheering.

Novak’s finishing up the match but first goes for an “equipment” change. Yes, that means his shoes. Now, I worked in footwear for nearly five years, and last time I checked footwear would go in the “apparel” category. So please, next time, I expect to hear “apparel change”. Thanks, Tennis World. I knew you’d listen.

Novak’s about to  finish off the match, but he decides to take a pisstake at Hawkeye. Classy. I love it.

He clinches the match and it’s time for Aussie favourite Sammy. Now I followed Sammy through many a witching hour through her golden run in Roland Garros, but now that she’s on home soil she’s lost her allure somewhat. At Hit for Haiti, there we had all these glitzy and glamorous tennis players bantering and hitting with the best of the best, and Sammy was like the little lost girl on the edges. Doesn’t mean she isn’t fabulous, but I’m all for cheap thrills and she don’t give ‘em to me. So I bailed, and went to find the Hellas who were sure to give me a good show.

And I did. Now the rules at Melbourne Park mean that Hiisense is available with a  $20 upgrade from a ground pass – but no rules regarding Rod Laver tix. Turns out nothing would help as Hiisense was sold out. So what did this resourceful lady do? Swap tickets with a stranger of course!

All the ladies and gentlemen are sitting outside the food court, watching the match on TV. I start with a general public service announcement: “Is anyone not planning on going bck in to this match?” No answer.

I try again. “If you’re not going back into this match, I’d love to see it. I have tickets to Rod Laver Arena.” I know the Williams girls are both up in the next two matches, and most ticket holders for the day are after Venus and Serena. Not Baghdaddy and Ferrer grunting like old men.

One lady looks up. I start my sales pitch again. I kind of leave out I have RLA tix. She hears me and buzzes. “What if I want to go see Stosur on RLA?” I relent. She looks nice. I haven’t got my phone on me – it’s dead, and charging in the betfair tent. But she looks lovely, and I’m a trustworthy Australian. So we swap tickets and I go on my merry way.

Of course, the Hellas don’t disappoint. I go home that evening with “We just had a barbecue, nowe, nowe” in my head – and for those of you who know the greek words, please don’t ruin it for us – M and L have made up their own lyrics and they’re quite passable in a crowd.

Baghdaddy’s match finishes and I race back to RLA to catch L L L Lleyton. I’ve had a love hate relationship with the man for as long as I can’t remember. He was our golden hope but he was also annoying as hell. He got us in the papers overseas, but for all the wrong reasons. Then he married a soapie star and that just made him all the more irksome. But now he’s playing good tennis, so we like him again. Aah, I’ll never decide.

But the green and gold boys were out in full force, having cheered Sammy to her previous win, and they were gunning for Lleyton. The two rows of USA cheer squad in the house had not a chance. Their cheers reminded me of being in overnight camp. “What’s his name? Donald Young. Where’s he from? USA.” Puh-leeze! Oh, and the “boom boom, dynamite.” That’s straight out of year seven bunk competition.

After Lleyton cleaned up nicely, with a lot of loud COME ON’s making me feel like it was back in 1999, I wanted to head to MCA because beautiful Tommy was battling it out with Tipsy and I really love Tommy. I loved him since Lleyton made him cry, and if anyone knows which match I’m referring to please remind me? It would have been circa 1997-8 methinks. Tommy still won, but Lleyton made him cry. Good times.

Tommy was at Kooyong and I did try to do my stalkery “Tommy! Hi Tommy!” before he went on, but he was too nervous eyeing off Novak against the Channel 7 men. Then he went into his freaking out, talking to himself between points – of which the only word I could understand was a rude German word which shall not be repeated on this blog. I was unimpressed with his language, but agreed entirely with every word – Tommy Tommy Tommy!

Turns out the match was fraught with nervous tension but of course the MCA queues didn’t budget and I didn’t make it in until afterward. Oh wait, except for the two tweens who emerged right at match point. In their little shorts and Australian flag singlets with little handbags perched on their bums, they were all excited for their day at “The Tennis”. But they LEFT the court at MATCH POINT after an epic FIVE SETTER between TOMMY and TIPSY and as such, they should have their tennis watching license revoked from them. They deserve no such privilege.

It was Fenja’s turn on MCA next, but at this stage the exhaustion had set in. For some reason, living in the same timezone as a grand slam is more exhausting – for more details, see previous post. So I watched Fenja play nicely, and I made friends with a lovely Danish/Spanish gentleman sitting next to me. Then I spent a few moments in Hiisense to watch Jo Willie, pushing past all his tween fans but not making it in time for an autograph. Then I figured out what the irritating helicopter had been hovering over MCA – Prince Bloody William!

Turns out all my clever match chasing had let me head to the opposite end of the complex right when the Prince headed to RLA. But who am I kidding, I was still in a 500m radius, so I get something for it right?


Day 3 – Tomic, Tomic

January 25, 2010

So Day 3 was meant to be a chilled one for me. Being that I do have a day job, at least for now, until I find a way to make a living off other people reading my random thoughts, I spent Wednesday with my friends at IBM Slamtracker. I wasn’t particularly worried – and based on the straight sets wins for all the major players that morning, I needn’t have been – but I couldn’t imagine not knowing the scores. Kimmy and Rafa made it through okay, as did my new favourite Tweeters, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka.

The highlight of Wednesday was of course, the “final” – oh wait, Round 2 – between Henin and Dementieva. As a sporadic follower of women’s tennis (I like Wozniacki and that’s about it) I wasn’t all over it, but my fellow fan R had been so excited over Henin’s comeback he’d booked these tickets three days in advance, anticipating the draw. Yes, he loves Henin. I’m ambivalent towards the woman, and being that I like the idea of unseeded finalists, I wouldn’t have minded seeing her progress. Then again, that was before I saw she was up against the lovely Elena. Elena is a great sportswoman and a truly brilliant player. She does all the right things and it’s a true shame she hasn’t won a slam yet. She hasn’t got the same glamourific associations as Masha or Serena but deserves the same accolades they get, if not more. So I was really hoping to see a win from her, but at least, some awe-inspiring tennis.

Let’s say I most certainly got that. We headed in at 7pm on the dot to watch the warm up and both girls were truly in fine form. The place was pretty empty but of course, those lazy corporates like to take their time getting in.

Simultaneously, I was trying to get through the gateways of Planet 3 on my beyond outdated mobile to find out what was going on in Hisense. Juan Martin and Blake were battling it out and it was promising to turn into an epic – one that I would have to miss. Even if I could have found someone leaving Hisense – which is officially a day session only, meaning that any session going into the night is half empty with people walking out all the time – there was no way I could make it out of the packed Rod Laver. It was literally a finals crowd. I felt like I was at the footy.

As always, the Aussies didn’t disappoint in their support either. The crowd was divided pretty evenly, and shouts of “Go Justine!” and “Come on Elena!” were called throughout the stadium. The best bit, however, was the quintessentially Aussie pronunciation of Justine. This was no French “Allez Richard” or Russian “Davay Mikhail!” that I’d witnessed the previous night. These were true-blue, dinki di Aussies, and they wanted both “Alayna” and “Justiyne” (I was expecting Juzzy but that didn’t make it in, unfortunately) to have a crack at the title. It really made me love my sporting nation.

Let’s not forget during the set break. Suddenly, everyone could hear a hoarse voice come from across the place: “Good everyone, everyone and welcome to Rod Laver Arena!” It was a hazy, blokey, ‘been drinking beer out all day in the sun’ type of voice, but you could hear him crystal clear. “Now, who here is going for Elena Dementieva?!!” Cue cheering. “And, who here is going for Justine Henin!” The crowds went wild. Seriously, the guy was running an informal pep rally, right in the middle of the match. Only at the Aussie Open.

So between Elena saving all those match points, and Delpo battling it out down the road, it was a bit of a nailbiting evening for us spectators. Once Delpo made it through, thanks to the random guy’s iPhone on the row behind me (I know, poor sod was in the back row of the whole stadium in his Aussie singlet. But he made up for it later when I saw him climb back from being front row at Tomic – obviously at 1am the rules change), I was focused on willing Elena to get through, but alas twasn’t meant to be. That doesn’t say anything about the quality of the tennis though. It was fabulous.

The next match was little Bernie’s turn. I’m going to call him little Bernie because I think I’m just about the only one. In a crowd full of Aussies barracking for the guy, I think I heard his first name once. I love how in tennis the cheering gets really personal. There’s no “Carn the Blues” like you get in team sports, or a bit of “Get him Juddy!” with the surnames and nicknames you find in the blokey footy culture. In tennis, it’s all class, and we go for Rafa, Fenja, Nole and Kolya, with each player a personal mate. (Then again, M’s favourite technique for grabbing attention during signings: “Mister Djokovic!” and you get an automatic eye contact with Nole.) But with Tomic out on court, the Freakinators, or some distant relatives of theirs, were all over Tomic, Tomic, to the tune of the Ants go Marching.

I guess we are sad country in a way. Sports mad, religiously indoctrinated in the culture of sport, and host to several world class events. One in particular, held every January, is one of only four in its class – and we have no one halfway decent representing us. Ok, I’ll correct that, because Lleyton is halfway decent – in fact, we’ll call him decent for now – but there’s nothing like what those Spaniards have going on, or those bloody Russians! Now luckily I love Spain, and I have a Russian background, so good on those guys, but Come on Aussie Come on! I did have a chat with my new best friend, the umpire Molina about it in our Court 14 rendezvous on Day 2. Apparently, state and federal funding for tennis is huge in Espagna. Every tennis club has over 200 kids playing, and tournaments are easily accessible because they’re in Europe, for heavens sake, not thousands of kilometers away as Aussies are. So the parents don’t have to pay all that much for the kiddies to learn, and they get all their match practice in, and the next thing you know you have young bucks like Rafa and Fenja and Granola Bar Marcel; and old bucks like Daveed and Carlos and Juan Carlos; and Hernandez and Montanes battling it out on Court Fourteen with all of five spectators present.

So I suppose the moral of my story is that Bernard is our hope, our flame, our dream. He is the saviour who is going to bring us back to the glory days, like that morning I woke up to my radio alarm clock in Year 7 to hear that Pat Rafter had won the US Open and was Number One. Being a little bit behind in the following of sport, I thought everyone who wins a grand slam becomes automatically Number One. But what I remember was reveling in the fact that one of our blokes, our Patty, was best in the world at something. It gave me something to feel proud of, even though at the time all I knew about tennis was that it was something we watched while on family holidays in the summertime as that was all on TV. And then came our Lleyton, and we still had the Scud doing his thing on occasion, and for a while all was good. But now we’re lost and bereft, and for heavens sake the votes on Heraldsun dot com dot au had Bec Hewitt as the number one female that came to mind when people heard tennis. Seriously – Bec Hewitt? It makes me cry.

So Bernie had played through the wind and rain on Day One, and beaten an old mate from the Juniors circuit. He’s got arms and legs that he hasn’t figured out what to do with as they keep on growing, and a massive mouth on him. I thought Marin would carve him up and serve him for dinner. Honestly, I was petrified because we weren’t far from Daddy John again this time and I had no interest on being in the receiving line for his tirade against Tennis Australia’s scheduling.

Turns out it was Bernie who had the tirade… seriously, someone put a muzzle on that kid.

It’s been all over the Aussie news – instead of being grateful for getting a match on prime time, in Centre court, he couldn’t stop whingeing about the scheduling. It’s what we like to call unAustralian, though truthfully which Aussie doesn’t love to whinge?


Why I’ve been slack

January 25, 2010

Having been 12 months since the last time I watched tennis “in the flesh”, so to speak, I’d forgotten just how exhausting it is. Sure, I had my 2 weeks of all nighters watching Roland Garros, followed by uni exams, where I forgot exactly how a full night’s sleep worked. This was followed by Wimbledon, which was lovely since I had flown to South Africa and for some reason the jet lag made me precisely on schedule. Suddenly I was in the same time zone as a tennis tournament which was completely disorienting, and meant that instead of sitting up all night to watch and having a life during the day, I had to be out and about while constantly checking scores on my lovely Wimbledon iTouch app. (Yes, I have no iPhone, just an iTouch. Whatcha gonna do about it?) The beauty was we could spend the whole Sunday arvo watching the final and making a day of it. Being an Aussie, I’m all over the twilight finals meself so it was great looking at the sun shining, then going down, and thinking – hey – the sun is shining here too! Oh, the novelty. Us Aussies really are incredibly isolated people. Anyway, my point was that Roland Garros and its awkward timezone had nothing on this. Even the US Open, where the day job got pushed aside for the joys of slamtracker and US Open radio (no TV in the workplace, clearly) was at an exact opposite so I could handle it ok. The Aussie Open, due to its fantastic scheduling (I don’t want to turn Tomic on you and say anything else) has left me with less sleep in a week than the mother of a newborn. It’s also given me less time to write on this blog, read match reports and articles, and do all those things I like to do during regular tournaments. I feel like I’ve been given a choice – live the tennis, feel the sunburn, smell the crowd. Or watch the tennis, like, properly.


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