There are two types of people who write about tennis. There are those professional journalistic types that we love to read and bash as being completely unworthy of their professional while simultaneously salivating over their ability to be at every tournament, and those of us wannabe bloggers who spend hours bent over livestreams and wordpress themes certain that the universe actually cares what we have to say.
Unfortunately, the sad reality of being a wannabe blogger is we don’t get the chance to explore live tennis all too often, particularly those of us residing in tournament-dry regions (I’m looking in the mirror here).
This means that while the end of year summaries are crowded with professional journalistics giving us their opinions on the best matches of the year that they attended, and the gorgeous blogging crowd telling us the same, no one is going to give you the inside scoop on which matches were the best from a live crowd point of view.
Of course, I’m all about niches, so here goes my bit. I grew up in a city where green, then blue courts were the only way or the highway, but this year I was lucky enough to have Fabulous Tour of the Universe TM coincide with the tennis season (coincidentally, of course…) With a near Grand Slam complete in the 2010 season, I’m here to give you what were, in my humble opinion, the greatest live matches of the 2010 season.
The “Oh Man I’m Gonna Miss My Train” Award: Gasquet v Youzhny, Australian Open, Round 1
It was late, the clock struck twelve. 12.16 is the last train from Richmond station. Not a problem when Misha was killing it and turned the match around. We hung there til the bitter end, and didn’t regret a second.
The “No One is Watching, but it’s a Grand Slam” Mention: Brianti v Lepchenko, Australian Open, Round 1
L and I, hanging at Court Fourteen, with no-one in sight but a chair umpire and court services kids. The security guard wasn’t sure who was playing. The chair umpire knew it was the “Italian girl”. We split up and took pink and green respectively, changing ends with the girls. It was a grand slam match.
The “Seriously, Why Can’t We Sit in Front? It’s 3am” Complaint: Cilic v Tomic, Round 2, Australian Open
The lovely security folk at Rod Laver Arena had the devoted Freakinators move back to their nosebleed seats. At two am. In an empty arena. I nearly fell asleep during change of ends. And yeah, Bernard had something to complain about. Apparently, it was past his bedtime too.
The “Hellas Own the Universe” Award: Baghdatis v Ferrer, Australian Open
I swapped tickets with a stranger, Marcos whipped the match around from a cramping Daveed by drawing on the masses of energy generated by the craziest fan group in history, the blue-and-white clad Hellas Fan Club, made up of Melbourne’s significant Greek community. The songs were resonating in my head for weeks afterward, and I’m still inclined to sing a bit of Greek Cypriot ditties. Yikasen a parking lot.
Rafa made us feel better about the pantsing he’d had a year earlier, when we had clutched each other in solidarity and cried, vowing tennis would never be the same again. I snagged a seat with two frat boys in front of the big screen at Court 2, in the hallowed red clay land itself. Of course, the gaggle of ballboys in the back wouldn’t let me enjoy it, instead booing Rafa and cheering Robin the whole way through.
“Can I go to the bathroom yet?” Award– Henin v Dementieva, Round 2, Australian Open
The early-round semifinal, I found myself anxiously checking Juan Martin Del Potro show the first signs of the struggle in an epic against James Blake on a random iPhone behind me, while Justine and Elena battled it out in a match where we waited 27 minutes for the first change of ends. Highlight of the evening was definitely the guy shouting out from the front section during a break: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ROD LAVER ARENA. NOW, WHO HERE IS GOING FOR ELENA DEMENTIEVA? (wait for cheers) WHO IS GOING FOR JUSTINE HENIN? (more clapping). Proud to be an Aussean.
“Hiisense has a weird vibe, but I think I’m witnessing epicness”: Tsonga v Almagro tied with Delpo v Cilic, Australian Open
I never buy Hiisense tickets if I can help it. Unless something big is going down. Turns out I lucked out by dropping by for the last two sets of Tsonga Almagro, which became such an epic tale it was said just like that, in one breath. Delpo Cilic was an even briefer visit, but to this day I am grateful for the chance to be present at one of the last times this rare creature was witnessed by the known world. He wears muscle tanks, he is a lanky llama, he owns the universe, his name is Juan Martin. Delpotro, ladies and gents. Before sadness ensued.
“I can feel the bile rising from here” Award: Federer v Davydenko, Quarterfinal, Australian Open
Biggest choke in history, witnessed by yours truly from the baseline. I could’ve sworn I caught Kolya’s eyes a couple of times and inspired him through those, um, twelve lost games in a row. Sadness, pure sadness. And Fed’s serve coming at you is kinda scary.
The “Eye Candy in the Hot Hot Sun” award: Lopez v Paire, Round 2, US Open
I had to head home at 3pm. I left at 4.3o. Benoit was hilarious, Feli was delectable. It was hot, I didn’t care. Nuff said.
The USTA Saves Us With a Party Award: Nadal v Djokovic, US Open Final
We came back for a second day, and nearly suffocated in the crush of the most disorganized rain delay in history. Rivers of rain rushing through the concrete concourse at Arthur Ashe, people forced from the stadium to a foyer which sealed exists, I was ready for a Love-Parade type scenario. The rain abated, we came back on court and suddenly, the dryers were out, the music was pumping and the town was dancing. Only the USTA could have me forgive them so quick. “Baby I like it!”
“Bloggers take over the stadium”, Stosur v Dementieva, Round 3, US Open
Sammy needed our help, and thanks to the lovely C-note of Forty Deuce for providing moral support, we were able to give her just that. Learning songs (including one to the tune of Happy Little Vegemites) with the Stosur Fan Club beforehand at the Heineken Lounge made us lubricated enough to jump down into our ‘lucky seats’ and watch Sammy and Lena give us the match of the tournament, maybe even the ladies match of the year. And yes, we wore purple. I still think my voice hasn’t recovered.
“Sex-all, tie break” – Ferrer v Verdasco, Round 4, US Open
Hanging with two Spanish fellow USTA volunteers for this match was only the start. Heavenly hitting, gorgeous grunting, and it was only inevitable I texted C, who I was meeting for the Sam-Kim match that stole my buzz, “sex all. I mean, six all.” Insane tiebreaks, arrived back from Kim crushing my heart to watch the Match Point of the year. Impossible to breathe.
“The Little Aussie Battler” – Sally Peers v Alexandra Wozniak, US Open, Round 1
Heating up in the sunshine, trying to get our mugs on Foxtel and wave to Mum, Australian flags peeping through our hats. Though my awesome meeting with the lovely Craig Tiley was at the next Aussie match, Rodionova vs Bojana, this took the cake as Aussie match of the day with an awesome surprise from the fabulous Sally. Happy start to a happy day.
The “If Only Love Could Save Us All” Heartbreaker Award, Dokic vs Kleybanova, Australian Open, Round 1
An entire stadium supporting you, shouting your name. Oozing love and support because you have a crazy dad, and we want you to win. And you go ahead and choke away a match. Not fun for anyone present, least of all the sad girl in the orange dress. Jelena, we still love you.
The “I Always Miss the Best Shots When I Go Out For A Second” Sitch: Murray vs Cilic, Semifinal, Australian Open
My lovely sister L, accompanying me at the semifinal, proved that she and Murphy are not friends when she missed one of the most epic shots of the year while in line for change of ends. There’s gotta be someone who’s the Blitz.
And here are some honorable mentions for retarded viewage situations, albeit not live:
Thai Tennis (Federer vs Nadal, Madrid Final): Cheering Rafa in an Aussie pub full of football-watching Spaniards and Swiss tennis supporters in Thailand, accompanied by a jug of pink cocktail and a bunch of towelling wipes, in the sweltering heat of Koh Samui.
Screaming at the TV Makes you Look like a Freak (Soderling v Federer, French Open, round 4): Opting for Soderling in a “Lesser of Two Evils” match went against my grain, but sometimes you gotta take one for the team. In an Israeli pub, ensconced with a burger, laptop and 3 pints of Stella. Noone quite grasped the “Anyone But Fed” concept.
Irish Pubs Are Everywhere – Except when you’re searching for one (Nadal v Berdych, Wimbledon Final): Horrified by the Spanish inclination to ignore Wimbledon, despite their countryman killing it, in favor of the World Cup soccer, I embarked on a search throughout the city of Barcelona to find an Irish pub that would show the final. The Rule with Irish Pubs, of course, is that they are everywhere – except when you’re looking for one.
Sunday Night Tennis Party (Nadal v Verdasco, Monte Carlo Final): Rafa’s first shot at a title in eleven months, and L and I were equipped. Sunday evening Melbourne time, we had our livestream set up, plenty of snacks and drinks, and the yellow Optus what-a-shot signs. Great night, oh yeah.
Tennis on My TV Makes me Happy (Baghdatis v Gasquet, Sydney, semifinal) It was summer. I was at the gym. I was on the treadmill. There was tennis on the TV. It had subtitles, so I could read the commentary. Other people watched tennis with me. Need I say more?
Here’s to another year of epic tennis watching… and traveling. Happy New Year!