January 31, 2011

There’s one thing to have lovely seats, and get to watch fabulous tennis up front, and dance around with the Serbian army.

But the beauty of a slam final is all the other people who stand up and take an interest, because it’s a Slam, and it’s a final. And those people, who dot the audience, are sometimes of the famous persuasion.

So we decided to pap them.

I have now buried all journalistic integrity and will share with you accordingly the fruits of my surreptitious iPhone use combined with deftness and dexterity with my point and shoot. Excuse the fuzziness.

Celeb spotter extraordinaire, LP spotted Eric Bana in the crowd. Having a lovely chatskie with Vince Colosimo.

Before all that happened, of course, this lady arrived.

Molly was there too… but I was actually papping the Serbians at the time.

Alicia looked lovely.

And shared secrets with the lovely Renae Stubbs, also in the same row.


Who else? Oh yeah, just a player box filled with the most awesome Serbs you’ve ever met.

And Ana.

Yeah. That’s called papped.

What Ajde Looks Like

January 31, 2011

Buzzed is the only way to describe the feeling of a Grand Slam final and its aftermath. You spend all week, roaming the outer courts, watching two random people from countries you can’t point out on a map, with last names you can’t pronounce, hitting a piece of yellow fuzz with a wooden implement strung with netting, and somehow it’s all significant. When that same scene gets played out in an arena watched by thousands of people, with millions of others watching on TV, commenting via social networks and writing about it in newspapers, all of a sudden it’s elevated to the next level. That tiny match you watched on an outer court, with only a few stray family members, a coach, and some off-duty ballkids watching? That was all part of it, all spinning that huge intricate web that somehow led to this time, this place. Now.

That’s how we headed into RLA tonight, feeling like the antics of Rally for Relief and the incessant court-hopping of Rounds One and Two were more than just a few weeks ago, but knowing they all somehow knitted themselves together to get us here, to watch these two champions take each other on.

Suddenly it all made sense – let’s be honest, the Hiisense debacle that insisted on slaughtering every Serbian that came in its path? It was a sacrifice, an offering to the tennis lords who dared deem Serbia worthy of a grand slam. The cool breezes, the rainy patches, the lack of the typical Australian heat? It was a nice reprieve for two men who spent their leadup to this tournament gearing up for precisely that type of weather, and then sailed through the final day, when the mercury hit over 40 (that’s over 100 for you northern folk). Suddenly it all came together, and we found ourselves in Rod Laver Arena, watching Novak Djokovic take the Championship over Andy Murray in three gorgeously played sets of brilliant tennis.

Not that, of course, that’s all we did. Being the girls that we are, far more comfortable on the outer courts than we are in Centre Court, we found it disconcertingly awesome and straight out of our tennis fantasies to find ourselves on the outside of Team Djokovic’s box, in an area dotted with celebrities, while our two favourites battled it out. So we did lots of papping along with educating our neighbours (Jake Garner: Correctiontheballwasgood; Neighbour: What did he say? Me: Correction.. The ball was good… I watch too much tennis, don’t I?) and then we cried when Nole won.

True story.

Pictures, you want? Okay, here’s what Ajde Looks like.

We arrived, and Jake was there. Jake was standing in his blazer, waiting around.

Then Jake stood in his blazer, waiting around, with a child. The child was a Tennis Australia prodigy. I think. I wasn’t really listening. There was awesomeness to be absorbed.

Then Jake stood in his blazer, waiting around, with Muzza at his side. They were waiting for Nole, who was doing this:

Yeah, I know my pics are grainy and you can get prettier ones from Getty and whatnot. But this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Wanna read on?

We were really busy trying to get a glimpse of this lady here. Ain’t she pretty? And ooh she had such lovely bling on.

Nole was playing too. Even with the neverending ball toss.

He played bee-yoo-tifully. Like, the best tennis I’ve ever seen. Which doesn’t speak much for my quality tennis journalism, but let me say this. He was on fire, from the top of his recently-grown-back-spikey-shaven-head to his Sergio-Tachini-clad-Nole-emblazoned-tushy to his super-duper-extra-traction-Serbia-coloured-Adidas shoes.

He was on fire.

Not that Andy wasn’t either. All rumours of a choke are hereby dismissed by yours truly, because i was close enough I would’ve smelled the bile. This was no choke – this was awesome meets awesomer, and Andy was out-awesomed.

The Ajde Army may have helped:

Particularly this handsome young man:

Or maybe this fine lady:

Though Muzza wasn’t completely alone in his corner. Aside from having a fabulous Mum, he had such gentlemen as these, one of whom consistently had to remind him: “It’s your Slam, Andy, this is your tournament!” Um, okay.

Aside from Team Serbia singing from one group to another throughout every change of ends, there was lots of papping to be seen, with Eric Bana and Vince Colosimo having chats down the bottom, Molly Meldrum watching riveted from the top, Dave Hughes looking antsy to our right, and Alicia Molik and Renae Stubbs holding animated conversations mid-point to our left. That doesn’t include the riveting people watching enabled by an excited Serbian army located immediately next to Novak’s box, begging Ana for autographs, shaking hands with Djoko family members, and somewhere, somehow, involving an Orthodox Priest. Not quite sure how he scored the invite.

And then this happened, and we all lived happily ever after.

No Title Is Sufficient: NOLE

January 31, 2011

We’ve done our fair share of Grand Slam Gallivanting, particularly over the last two weeks.

From qualies to the finals, we’ve watched matches everywhere from the back courts to the show courts, from qualifying singles to wheelchair to juniors to mixed doubles. Everything has been an adventure, everything has been awesome. We’ve discovered new players and rekindled our love with old favourites; we’ve become enamoured with familiar faces and turned away from some who have just gotten that little bit too irritating. But old habits die hard, and with Nole, we’ve always known: It Must Be Love.

If someone could create tennis heaven for me, this evening was close to it. Let’s start with, say, a really hot Melbourne day – the kind where the term “stinking hot” was coined precisely for the purpose of describing the phenomenon. The beauty of such days, however, is in the evenings – instead of freezing away as the wind and the seagulls throw shadows over Rod Laver Arena, the warm air wraps around you like a blanket and you sit in the lush green grass and revel in all that is Melbourne.

That was tonight.

It was warm and it was sunny and the courts were sparkling blue and the people piling up in Garden Square and the sound of the thwack of the ball making me excited and the universe was beautiful. Then it got even more wonderful, when we made our way into Rod Laver Arena to discover the best seats in the house – were ours. I’m talking, eight rows from the front, slightly to the right of Nole’s box, surrounded by celebrities, best seats in the house.

It gets better.

Two of my favourite players in the universe, did you say? Sure, I’ll watch them play, say, a Grand Slam final. At my favourite tennis tournament in the universe? Why, how kind of you. And in the best seats in the house. Muchos Gracias.

We papped the celebrities, we watched amazing tennis, we tweeted and laughed and whispered throughout. We congratulated the Serbian box and cheered with the Serbian army. We danced through Garden Square and chanted throughout Nole’s post-match press interviews. It was like living in a YouTube video, and the high is not yet over.

Muchos, muchos pics to come. Excuse my terrible patience at uploading and awful photographic skills and hang in there.

View From The Top

January 30, 2011

Soon we’ll be heading down to our spiritual home, that lovely place we spent so many days and nights over the last few weeks. It’s pretty and blue and full of little hidey holes where fun times can happen. There’s that back end towards Hiisense, on Court 22, where the practices happen and the umpires stroll and the Serbians win on Court 18. There’s the other back end near my favourite court, Court 13 and her sister Court 14, where qualifiers and top seeds battle it out in the first few days and even the security guys can’t recall who is playing next. There are the concrete pot plans, where many a crazed fan has climbed for a better view of the practice courts. And there are the little trees where you can dash for a bit of sun or rain shade, depending on Melbourne Mother Nature’s whim of the day.

There are the big screens of Grand Slam Oval and Garden Square, and the joyous beer taps of the Heineken Garden and Jacob’s Creek Wine Bar. The fancy corporates keep to their side of Margaret Court Arena and the unwashed plebs, aglow with face paint and wrapped in flags, queue up to fill up their water bottles on the concourse outside Rod Laver Arena.

It’s Melbourne Park, my lovelies, and I am so sad to farewell it tonight.

Pics: Court Thirteen aka Mine.

How To: Behave in the Player Box

January 30, 2011

Over the last two weeks, R and LP’s tennis adventures have included a considerable amount of time perusing the player boxes of Melbourne Park. We’ve parked ourselves in the miniscule 3-seat-wide, 3-row-high strip separating the two on Margaret Court Arena; surreptitiously crept up to the rows behind Team Djokovic on Hiisense; craftily selected back row seats in RLA based on the views of Tio Toni and Team in their box; and even found ourselves sandwiched between coaches, trainers and significant others completely by chance on far-off outer courts and Show Courts 2 and 3.

Combine this with a significant amount of television watching during the year, and we’ve got the player box behaviour down pat. Leah summarised it quite well for me the other day, and made sure to perform appropriately during the Legends Doubles match on Rod Laver the other night. Making a beeline to where we were certain Ana had sat, contemplating stealing the skanky towels and selling them to some scary Ana fan (even though they more likely belonged to a sweaty Serbian team member rather than the lady herself), the lovely LP sat herself down and showed us how it’s done.

Clap politely.

Fist pump after exceptional points… Or, you know, give signals that LOOK like fist pumps but indicate…

And text.

And, you know, sit around and look pretty.

Note: That was Ana’s chair.

Where It All Started

January 29, 2011

The US Open was appropriate in its finish. We had Rafole Doubles starting us off in Toronto, and it finished accordingly.

The Oz Open has gone one better, as it is wont to do.

Remember this?

Q. Now is it hard to balance the friendship and the professional rivalry or do you achieve that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I sent him a message yesterday after his semifinal saying like, Perth final, because we practiced in Perth a couple times this year. We had fun. We played football there. He won, unfortunately.

It’s fun. It’s been a fun couple of weeks. I think we, as well, reconnected a little bit with the friendship in the last 12 months.

Well, we have to forget about all that when we step on the court. It’s all business. I’m sure he’s going to be very eager to win a first Grand Slam title.


See you tomorrow night, lads. Bring on the bromance.

Practice Porn: Rafa. Aka the Best Photograph I have Ever Taken

January 28, 2011

He’s gone, and we’re sad about it. I never wrote the appropriate ode, I couldn’t find the right way to say goodbye.

I was cold, I was numb when it happened, but it did. And I kinda have to get over it, because the Slam’s moved on, even if my blog posts clearly haven’t.

But as a consolation prize, that ominous night, Australia Day 2011, when we know Rafa has all the stars and fireworks lined up against him – I was meritorious of one truly stunning privilege.

An hour of glorious practice sessions, complete with some of the best pictures I have ever taken.

Eat your fill, my lovelies. Partake of this visual feast, because lawd knows that’s all the candy you’re getting for a while now.

Miss you already.

We Go Together (Like Rama-Lama-Kama)

January 28, 2011

So for those of you who haven’t yet had the joy of checking out Ziki and Miki, as they will now forever be known, I made sure to check them out before they were sadly derailed by the Indian Express. (Terrible analogy, I know). Every Indian in the Melbourne metropolitan vicinity descended on Margaret Court Arena, and the Serbian army were sadly nowhere to be found. I inched closer and closer to the player box in the hope of hearing a bit of “Ajde, Ziki!” and “Allez, Mika!” to keep me going. Along with several disturbing Davis Cup images that had me clapping more and more furiously and anxiously nailbiting as they ended up going down to Bhupathi and Paes, together again as the Indian Express.

But all is not lost. For those of you curious about this new partnership, let me confirm. It is all sunshine and rainbows and joy.

They even mimic each other’s moves.


Damn Right, It’s Better Than Yours

January 28, 2011

Why my Slam is better than any other slam:

Where else do you see a group of kids in short shorts, white singlets, headbands and the requisite Dunlop Volleys, clutching ancient wooden rackets, waltzing around the site?

Or a costume competition in the centre of the city?

Yeah. My Slam, it’s better than yours.

I’ll Think About It Tomorrow

January 27, 2011

To quote an extremely wise woman

I’ll think about it tomorrow…

After all… tomorrow’s another day.

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