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.

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.

Court 18, The Home of Ajde

January 21, 2011

Whispers have recently been circulating the universe reinforcing my theory that “Hiisense has a weird vibe”. Turns out, not only does this concrete monolith, complete with schoolteacherly-strict usher and annoying “obscured-vision” areas, feel like a cross between a high-school basketball court and a university lecture hall, but it’s also taken a penchant for murdering Serbians in cold blood.

The MO’s been the same each time. The first victim, Ana Ivanovic, was the guinea pig. Give her the first set, let it be clear she is kiling it. Let it be clean, let it be good, let the universe assume that it’s safe to sit back. Then comes the next part. Make it tight, make it tough. And finally, at the end, let her lose the battle.

The same followed yesterday with Janko, and let’s just say it was heartbreaking. I’m not tennis journo so I won’t go into the details, but let me just say, anyone who watched carefully will know that jANKO WON THE MATCH. There was a point, called long, at match point. It wasn’t challenged, because there were no challenges remaining. The TV replay showed it in. It was called out. Nuff said.

As for the rest, Bojangles went the same way today. And tomorrow, Viktor and Nole will go at it. Rumour hath they will both be bloodied, bruised and dead before it’s all over.

So here’s my suggestion. It’s not a long walk away, just a tiny bit smaller. I’m talking COURT EIGHTEEN.

Court Eighteen isn’t a favourite court for the Australian Open fan, though it damned well should be. It’s stuck in the End of The Universe region, on the Hiisense side in the cluster of courts 16-22. It’s a handy visitation point, being next door to the legendary Courts Sixteen and Seventeen of Practice Porn fame.

It’s also the ideal place for Serbian victories, as evidenced by the following:

Round 1: Bojana Jovanovski, d. Kai-Chen Chang, 7-5, 6-1

Round 1: Viktor Troicki, d. Dmitry Tursunov, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0

And I think Janko’s scores say it all…

Round 1: Janko Tipsarevic, d. Mischa Zverev, 6-3,, 6-1, 6-4

Round 1: Janko Tipsarevic/Bjorn Phau d Ivan Ljubicic/Lovro Zovko, 6-1, 6-4

My recommendations: Play Nole and Viktor on Court 18, together. They’ll be flowering and blossoming and making pretty tennis babies by the end of the match. Or, you know, crooning to one another in wigs. Because we haven’t seen that before.


Your job is easier

January 18, 2011

Like any good exho featuring the hilarious antics of Andy Roddick (I’m actually being serious), there comes the predictable umpire/linesman ribbing, and today was no exception. Andy was insistent on proving that the linesman’s job is easier, and even had him come up and serve for us.

Between tennis players posing as catwalk models (Caro), in the photographer’s pit (Nole and Rafa), calling lines (Vika and Andy), playing soccer (Nole and Muzza), being a proud father (oh wait… that’s Lleyton), and even baseball (Andy), the guys tried to prove to us again and again that they’re good for anything but playing tennis.

But we know the truth, sez we. You kids are tennis players, and here’s the Class of 2011 picture. Stop giggling.

Rally for Relief Stars

Like any good wedding photographer, I did the bit where you zoom in bit by bit.


Courier, Lleyton, Rafter, Murray, Ivanovic

Courier’s sad because he’s not with his best mate “Rog”. Why does he call him that?

Vera, Caro, Rafa, Andy Roddick, Kim

Ah, the racquet clutch. Perfect defensive position without looking too “arms-crossed” in an awkward situation. Like when you and your numerous “classmates” are forced to lineup for a cheesy pic. Why clasp each other’s stomachs and kiss on cheek politely if you can’t even put an arm around for a photo op?

Roddick, Clijsters, Henin, Federer, Stosur

Obviously, Roger has the friendly arm-wrap down. Dammit. He’s touching Sam. HE’S TOUCHING MY GIRL!

Tennis stars at Rally for Relief

the family all together

Looking gorgeous and playing gorgeous tennis vs looking at gorgeous pictures? My job is easiest.

Rally for Relief: Part 2

January 17, 2011

You can’t have too much of a good thing… So here’s the second lot of pictures and storytales from today’s epically awesome piece of tennis joy.

Let’s start with the favourite snap of the day, of which I may or may not have several more in the arsenal:

Analysis from US Weekly’s Body Language Experts….

Moments before the shot of the tournament, pretty much:

Let’s just say shutter speed is not my strong suit.


I believe the boys just hugged. Wooooooooot. Wait, you mean you haven’t seen that pic? Gasp.

The two Andys, being awesome. Muzz, being kinda funny. Everyone, playing tweeners. Because they can.

Ana: “Okay, so can we discuss the tactics in Serbian?” About to pull another muscle, not in her abs…

As expected, the Andy footfault reference.

Vera being funny. Who woulda thunk it?

Run, child, run ,far far away.

Paty recreating ancient days of school sunhats in the playground.

Lleyton being a dad.

Justine getting all clucky. Like a real person.

Caro making kids cry. Mirka unimpressed.

Nole in the photographer’s pit…

Andy manipulating the net. I can’t get past the hat and sunglasses.

Nole doing the polite thing and kissing the umpire. Um, Jim Courier, the umpire.



You will now be charged two bucks for the above picture of Hewitt children.

Pictures: @rishegee (that’s me). I know they’re fuzzy, but do me a favour and link me/ask me. Gracias.


Tennis is the best, chuck out the rest.

January 17, 2011

Rally for Relief was basically a portrayal of all that is awesome in our sport.

Par example:

It started with Johanna Griggs, who waited patiently for all the kids to be quiet. The announcement for each tennis player came with plenty of cheers, but we were sad to see the Rafa and Roger announcement in one breath. Did that mean that the cheers for Rafa really went to Roger? A conundrum.

The kids made their entrances, and we kept our eyes peeled for awkward exchanges. None of the same standard as Lleyton/Kim last year, sadly.

Ana strolled on in her purple ensemble, complete with sexy capelet.


Ana and her capelet, ready for her ride to the ball.

“You! What are you  doing here?”

To be joined by Nole, who clearly had sympathy of those of us who missed Hopman and treated us to a peek of the mixed doubles awesomeness.


A man among boys… ahem… girls. Watch me strut.

Then a mini Justin Bieber that none of us had heard of sang the Aussie anthem, we blinked back tears, and Ms JG gave us a speech. Anna Bligh probably had the biggest cheer out of everyone to be announced – Rafa and Roger included.

Spotted: The Andys having chats. Vika and Vera pretending to be very engrossed in Julia Gillard’s speech.



The camera followed Nole around, who as per last year, was dumped with the ladies. Jim Courier, attempting to explain the scoring system, had everyone stumped. “Okay, you call the score,” was Novak’s compromise.

And in some weird alignment of the tennis gods, Nole and Justine were paired up. Strange is not even the word. “Justine, make a winner,” was Nole’s tactical suggestion.

Apparently Pat was ringing in for some extra help.

Classic moment of the day. Nole playing drink in hand, lying on the floor.

Not sure what’s going on there. Do you?

Nole’s specially-procured towel, courtesy of the camera.

Wardrobe malfunction, Ana Ivanovic.

Get girlie with Caro, then.

Andy Roddick. Serving. Because that’s what he does.

Nole and Lleyton. This was NOT one of the epic chest bumps of the day.

Justine feeling like the uncool kid at school. I could’ve sworn she missed a shot and Nole looked at her and mimicked the way she should’ve swung. Coach Novak? Methinks so.

And the classic line of the day: “Novak, get behind me.”

Part 2 to come.

Photos: @rishegee. Please don’t reproduce without asking/linking me like nice people that you are. 🙂

It Starts with Ana

January 12, 2011

One of my favourite things about the Australian Summer of Tennis is what I like to call #tennisgoingmainstream on Twitter. I hear them mentioned on the TV or radio, see it in the newspaper and feel like these guys are my family who made it to the bigtime.

Yes, I did used to be one of these very same casual fans who paid attention to the mainstreaminess of summer, and look what happened to me…

It started this morning with the gorgeous Ana, who spoke to Hughesy and Kate, hosts of Australia’s – and probably the world’s – best ever breakfast radio show.

She calls Melbourne her favorite city and woot woot favorite Grand Slam. Yes, she calls Australia home, okay. Not so into the whole melodrama of The Great Adidas Shoe Heist but I’m not adverse to joining the hunt so I can catch up with the lovelies myself… Ana, Nando and Jo Willie? I won’t say no…

Ana Injury Update: She’s not “thrilled” but “pretty confident” she’ll be okay for Monday.

“I have treatment going on and hopefully in a couple of days’ time I can step on a court and start hitting again and feel 100 per cent,” she said.

A Cultural Experience: Sporting USA

April 13, 2010

A Fish Out of Water

By Dr Suess

In Australia, when little children are born, their parents and family gather around the cradle and croon to them football anthems as lullabies. They dress them in team colours and indoctrinate them with “Go Tigers!” before they are old enough to speak. In the sporting capital of the world, the G (MCG, of course) is hallowed turf, and weekends between March and September are sacrosanct for playing, watching, analysing and attending football matches. Beer in hand, pies chowed down, Melbourne is the sporting capital and I am so proud to be a resident. The Australian Open is no different – or at least, ten pages of this blog acknowledge it to be so – and being an Aussie girl with Aussie tastes, I’ve never known any alternative.
So for this reason I was rapt when on my New York sojourn back in March (I do know its mid April, but there’s a time difference, okay?) I noticed on the streets of Manhattan little WTA-green coloured banners advertising the BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean Cup. Not one to miss some live tennis, particularly if it entails a cultural experience, I hightailed it to Madison Square Garden to see how the Yanks do it.
I do want to mention that I found it difficult securing a partner – tennis nerds are often alone in this big bad world – and that’s where the tennisaholic’s best friend, Twitter, stepped in. Shoutout here to the lovely @nichut who set me up with the fabulous @linzsports, as well as the gorgeous @luciahoff, who came to sit with me and keep me company and listen to me utter aloud all the things I would have tweeted if AT&T weren’t so evil about overseas people purchasing data plans.

The whole evening was a cultural experience in a thousand different ways. Aside from the fact it wasn’t a proper tourney – they had mini set ‘semis’ then a final match – I was in a foreign country, in what was technically “Hallowed Turf” – Madison Square Garden.

The match up put me in a conundrum straight away – I was only there to support my adopted sisters, the so-called “Aussie Ana” and “Aussie Kimmy” who we’ve taken on due to their propensity to dating the gorgeous men who hail from our motherland. Kimmy might’ve left Lleyton and his golf clubs behind, but she’s our girl through and through – oh and my first tennis autograph, let’s not forget. Ana’s relationship with Adam is a sore point for those who believe he’s lapped her concentration and she needs to make Nole babies, but it hasn’t stopped the crowds at Melbourne Park adopting her as one of our own. You know we like the hot ones best. Having the two matched up against each other meant I’d have to go Team Sveta in the second semi. Which was totally fine with me. I mean, have you all SEEN her Twitter? It gives me good Russian practice, too.

I suggested to LP as I was departing that an Aussie flag would be nice, for our girls. This was the first of many texts, as being at the tennis without my lovely sister was a cultural experience on its own. LP, a veteran of the US Open herself, was honest about the Yank Sitch (or YS, I as I will refer to it from hereon). Apparently, despite the strategically located stars on the Australian flag, there are many in the North who believe New Zealand, Aussie and UK flags are all the same. No loss, then.

I went before the match to pick up my tennis snacks – an art at Australian sporting events, where meat pies are traditional, concession stands charge a fortune, and my sister M has trained me in bringing picnic baskets from home. So I was rudely surprised when the MSG guards ruined my buzz of “Wow, this is it, Madison Square Garden!” with, “Miss, you can’t take that in here.” My supplications fell on deaf ears and I found myself scoffing my burger and Chiko roll (it wasn’t called a chiko roll but had the same stuff in it, Americans are such copycats) outside the gates before I wisened up and hid them in my voluminous winter coat and assorted weather protective gear. Ah, sometimes I’m slow.

I found my seat and noticed the elderly couple next to me speaking Russian. This is tennis, where you make friends with strangers, so I asked them where they’re from. “New Jersey,” they tell me. “Oh…” I’m shattered. Was hoping they could help me cheer for Sveta with some Davay. I tell them this, and they admit to originating from Russia sometime in the last century. They’re unimpressed with my Davay Sveta cheers for the rest of the night.
I found the lovely Linz, who stood with me while the lights went down, and the music came up. I’m the fish out of water now and it shows. I kept jabbering as the Americans turn all solemn and put their hands on their hearts. Their hands, on their hearts. And the lights are down. There is a spotlight, on the tennis court. A spotlight. Sorry. Needed to repeat that.
The girls come on court, and there are spotlights on their chairs. The player chair, where they’re busy rummaging around their tennis bags and doing all the normal things players do. Except the lights are off, and the cameras are going off, so there are flashbulbs all over the court.

I am in for a totally cultural experience. Instead of Craig Willis with his “Sony Ericsson WTA Tour” voice, going up at the end, I have someone asking me to give a warm Madison Square Garden welcome. I feel like I’m cheating on Rod Laver Arena.

Play begins, and while Ana’s form is not something worth commenting on, she is looking very purdy. The ballkids, on the other hand, not so much. They look like they’ve swallowed some of those magic pills from Alice in Wonderland. They are HUGE. Grown ups. When they need to catch the ball, they jump up and catch it like basketball players.

An announcement is made telling people they can keep the balls that are hit into the stands. The lovely Lynn, always a favourite umpire of mine, starts explaining the rules like we are in kindergarten.

Ana’s ball toss is retarded. I want to buy her a serve for Christmas and wrap it up with a bow. At this time I noticed this was my first time seeing the lovely Aussie Ana. At home, I steer clear of the Serbian army and the Aussie perves who flock to Margaret Court Arena to ogle her beauty. Here, I’m just about the only Ajde-er to be heard in the stadium.

I took a moment to look at my surrounds. My knowledge of Madison Square Garden for many years was limited to a random movie I watched as a kid with Whoopee Goldberg where she tries to coach a basketball team. I was in the arena and fascinated. First of all, the colours. It reminded me a bit of Hiisense arena. Just a little prettier, with plum and teal – my two favourite colours. Very very nice. Then I went on a perusal of the snack bar and discovered Disneyland. They have potato knishes! And crackerjacks, like in the song. And a real live cocktail bar. The hot dogs in America are even different. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I’m salivating but not particularly interested. There are far more interesting goings on down on the court, where IVAN IS IN THE HOUSE!

I have never seen Ivan before, so this is tres tres exciting for me. The Hall of Fame induction is on, and I’ve taken it upon myself to scream extraordinarily loudly for the Aussies being honoured, in particular the wonderful Woodies. LP, via text, seems to think the Woodies are in the house too. I explain that they are at home taking care of the kiddies who are playing Davis Cup this weekend. Even though it’s Fitzy’s job, we know they like to help out.

Then the last of culinary excitements presents itself: The people coming round serving beer. I can’t even comprehend such an action at the MCG, where they’re trying to limit beer sales if anything. They also play Lady Gaga here. Is Australia the only place where there is no music at change of ends? I kind of enjoy the random commentary, songs and shouting of the RLA/MCA crowds. I can’t imagine music creating the diversion it does here.

The match starts to empty out and suddenly I feel like it’s Rod Laver at 3am all over again. The crowd is majorly behind Venus which is sad for me who is a total Kimmy fanatic. But I do have to say, to echo Linz, how incredible it is seeing everyone out there supporting Venus and getting into something like women’s tennis because of her immense marketability.

Venus beating Kimmy isn’t even too bad to handle when Mary Joe comes out to present the trophies. For some reason I really like this lady, and don’t get to see too much of her in my land. She’s got pretty red heels on, and it seems sacrilegious to see her trotting on hard court with them on. But the girls make lovely speeches, and Venus is exhausted by happy. So I’m cheering Mary Joe and Kimmy, and the rest of the depleted stadium is cheering Venus.

Only final observation? Why do foreign players always say “Congrats?” Is Congratulations not in the elocution lessons repertoire?

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