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

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