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?

The Thunder from Down Under

March 10, 2011

Qualies at Indian Wells finished up this evening and what do you know – we have some very familiar names on the list.

I mean, obviously Flavio Cipolla had to qualify – when does he not? The kid is like a qualify-and-lose-in-the-first-round machine.  The Americans have gone all out and enriched their home-town arsenal, with Donald Young, Ryan Sweeting, Alex Bogomolov Jr, Mike Russel and Tim Smyczek all ready and able to lose in the first round while spectators clutch their hot dogs and cans of Bud (blatant straight-up stereotyping, admission).

But wait, who else is coming through from qualifying hell, girding their loins and shaking off the dust, striding across the grassy knolls of Indian Wells with big muscles rippling, ready to take on the world with their Aussie brawn?

Look who’s playing Indian Wells main draw, biatches?

Marinko “Australian Number Two” Matosevic

Chris “Gooch” Guccione – Let us hope, finally, injury-free

Matthew Ebden, also known as one of Australia’s highest ranked players, higher than Tomic and anyone else whose song you want to sing.

Oh yes, speaking of Bernie? He’ll be there too. Along with Lleyton. Fun times ahead.

A few more Aussies played qualies and missed out, including Sam Groth and Greg Jones. Which makes me think someone’s been paying attention to Lleyton’s grumblings during the summer, where he basically asserted that young Aussie players aren’t doing enough to make it on the ATP Tour. The piece from The Australian describes the difference it can make to take a risk by qualifying for a main event rather than staying in a challenger, picking up guaranteed points. Looks like they’re finally doing something about it, and of this I am proud.

For the record, just so I’m not accused of forgetting my Commonwealth kinsmen, Rik de Voest of South Africa along with this past weekend’s Indian Davis Cup battlers Somdev Devvarmen and Rohan Bopanna are also through. Which is also perfectly lovely.

Now, get ’em, Aussies.

Davis Cup Envy: Why I Like Bernie Boy

January 25, 2011

I’m a little late to the game, but it’s time for me to say my piece about little Bernie.

Tomic, that is.

I talked a lot about this boy last year, having been one of the few brave-hearted souls who stuck around and braved turning into pumpkins to watch him take on Marin Cilic in 5 sets in the 2nd round. That was 2010. In 2011, Bernie’s got the formula down pat, taking on two Top-50 players of extraordinary hotness (which seems to be completely relevant, Jeremy Chardy and Feli Lopez, to be precise) in his first rounds and setting up a Saturday Night Hot Date with the Prom King himself, Rafa.

While half of Australia mouthed off about the glorious future of Australian tennis and the others rolled their collective eyes at the spectacle BraTomic was making again, I sat quietly in the corner (perhaps mumbling to myself). Not even a Tweet was uttered. Because, while I had no interest in seeing Rafa crash out early, and in my heart of hearts hoped he would be the sole survivor, I also was quietly, calmly, excitedly, happy to see our Great New Aussie Hope do well.

Pic: Reuters

See, there’s this condition I’ve recently been suffering from, and every day I spend at Melbourne Park it gets harder and harder to overcome.

It’s called Davis Cup Envy.

It started on Day 2, when I found myself at my 2nd Serbian match of the day, at the House of Ajde on Court 18. I screamed myself hoarse for Ruski favourite Dimitry as he was swiftly taken apart by Viktor Troicki, and marvelled at how only a few short weeks ago, I’d been Ajde’ing him from my Brooklyn apartment (bed, shall we be honest?) at the Davis Cup final. Finding myself sitting with some members of the Serbian tennis contingent with no knowledge of who they actually were, I spotted Nenad at the sidelines and later, on returning for Janko’s match, saw the whole crew again. The next night, at Novak’s match, as we slipped into the rows behind the player box, spotting Papa Djoe’s and Marion’s head, we found our Serbian friends yet again. And the twinges began.

The next night, I whet my appetite at Mikey Llodra’s match against Chela before moving into full-Frenchie-frenzy on Margaret Court Arena as Tsonga’s supporters grew in strength and noise. After days of watching Frenchie stunts all over the grounds, it couldn’t be denied. The twinges were growing closer together.

Several days later, congregating on Margaret Court Arena to watch Nico (Nico Nico!) being ushered on the Spanish Armada, killing him off swiftly and silently, the twinges intensified. By the time I was at Tommy’s 3rd round match on Friday afternoon, my coach magnet having me sandwiched between Marc Lopez and Tommy’s own coaches, the Armadians vamosing in a sea of red tipped me over the edge.

I was in serious Davis Cup Envy territory.

The Argentinians, the Spaniards, the Frenchies, the Serbians. They all bring it out of me.

I want me one of them find cups, and I want it now.

And having a kid like Bernie around gets me closer and closer to that day.

In a sport like tennis, that’s all about individual, we don’t often get nationalistic. The Australian Open differs from most other slams, that all of a sudden everyone’s face painting and flag-swathing and reminding everyone that their auntie’s grandma’s petsitter’s boyfriend is from Montenegro. Actually, just kidding. Australia is an awesome place in that 99% of the people you will encounter down the street tell you they are from another country, and it’s not uncommon to ask someone, “What Nationality are you?” same as you ask them their name. But despite the huge volume of navy flags and green and gold facepaint around the joint, it’s the Serbians, Greek Cypriots and Spaniards who have something to dance about while us Aussies dance to a dying tune by the time the second week starts.

So let’s stop whingeing about his whingeing, and set a nice example. The boy plays interesting tennis, and he’s going to make it real interesting in the years to come. I’m behind him. And if, somewhere in the mix, he gets to pose in a green-and-gold tracksuit with a pretty silver cup? I believe my symptoms may subside.

Wild Thing, I Think I Love You

December 23, 2010

With all the chat going on about wildcards and those that are left (Yes, there are a lot of lovely Aussie boys at challenger-level seeking WCs, and yes, it’s a shame that some have to miss out. Personally I believe a few of them – ahem hem Bernieboy – are capable of doing it through qualies, but that’s enough from me.) and let’s move on to who is actually getting them.

Exciting news today that the French reciprocal is going to hilarious hottie Benoit Paire. Ranked 152nd, the kid’s got game, but that’s highly irrelevant when more importantly for the tennis world, he is brimming with personality and has the looks to match.

Benoit Paire at US Open 2010

Snuggle up, children, for some eye candy of the day and a bednight story from Rishe G. Those who followed my USO exploits may be familiar with this Frenchie for the heartache he put me through one cloudy Friday afternoon in Flushing Meadows, where he stole my heart – or more likely, ripped it away from the Spanish Adonis across the net, who was magically entrancing the gaggle of ladies on the left sideline (the ball was called good). I refer, of course, to round two, when he pushed Feli to five and had us in hysterics. Falling over theatrically and swearing in French at your coach is kinda funny, but kinda juvenile at a Grand Slam event. Motioning to the heavens, the earth and your audience and commentating on every move? It’s bloody gold. Mimicking our cheers of “Lopez, Lopez” complete with eyerolls and carrying on a French conversation as if we were in a Paris cafe had this boy on my list, even if I had to make sure he didn’t beat Feli in the process. Happiness abounds. Feli made it through, Benoit is our new Frenchie fave, and guess who’s coming to Melbourne?
Benoit Paire on-court antics
Benoit Paire, mid-service

Moments of Joyness

February 2, 2010

Well its once thing to hang up your sunhat (yes, I did purchase an Australian Open branded sunhat on one emergency sunny afternoon) and say, tata to a summer of tennis, it’s time to reset our body clocks and watch random overseas tournaments on livestream with Portuogese commentary. I mean, I will most certainly be falling into that category in a week or so.

But for now, we’re Aussie girls, and we don’t get tennis very often. (Watch us count the days to Davis Cup against – that’s right – Taiwan – in March.) So we’re going to milk this a little while longer, with a few more recaps and photos from the summer of tennis.

It doesn’t feel like only three short weeks since the girlies and I loaded up on sunscreen, confirmed our (MY!) credit card details on Ticketmaster and packed our everpresent “tennis bags” for what promised to be an awe-inspiring summer of tennis.

Here are some of our favourite moments from what has been an incredible whirlwind, of train rides and ticket “appropriation” and umpire chasing and sunburn and phone-charging in RLA concourse and toilet queues and big screen cheering and Aussie Aussie Aussie and hot Spaniards and live bands and IBM Slamtracker and EPIC EPIC TENNIS.

It started out with Hit for Haiti, where we remembered just why we love this sport, even if we only get it once a year. It was described so perfectly by one of the tennis writers I read avidly but who’s name I can’t recall, who reminded me it serves those tennis geeks among us who just love to remember that these people actually have, you know, personalities. And stuff.

Hit for Haiti

The teams squaring off on each other...

Kim & Andy

Kimmy & Andy

Team FabulousSo we had Kimmy and Andy sizing up Rafa, Novak, Serena and… who’s that in the yellow? Why it’s L L Lleyton… Awkward, anyone?

It has been uttered, perhaps blasphemously, that Hit for Haiti was probably the best part of the whole two weeks. I’m inclined to agree. Here’s hoping they do the same every year.

What else happened during the week?

– We nearly melted from the rain, and we got to know Little Bernie just a wee bit better….

Day 1 brought all the rain... and the dressed up awesome people of Australis to MCA.

We became riveted by the racquet stringers in the middle of garden square

And watched “our Jelena” crack it, despite being surrounded by a Stadium full of Love (true story).

On Day 2 the sun was shining, so we abandoned our post in the RLA concourse and went out to find adventures. Which we did. For example, one particularly hot, Spanish adventure on Court 16, who proceeded to sign LP’s tennis ball binoculars, my AO program, and essentially our hearts for good.

And our favourite celebrity on the circuit….. FETTE TONI!!

Some of his mates joined him too.

We watched the Magician’s Swan Song…

Caught up with Target-wearing Casey

Sang “we just had a barbecue noweh, noweh” and other assorted Greek favourites with Marco

Located our favourite umpire…

And watched Soda Water get bitten by of all things, a Granola Bar!! Happiness and Joy!

Found some hunky Spaniards on Court Fourteen, always a favourite location:

And most importantly, harnessed the power of DAVAI MIKHAIL to prevail over intense fifth set cramps.

To be continued

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?

Day One in the Town

January 19, 2010

I have lots of favourite colours. I love green, I love purple, and I love blue – that deep, teal greenish blue that looks great on a summery dress. And in that family of greenish blues, there is one blue that I love for a completely random reason – it’s the Australian Open, Plexicushion blue. The blue that’s used in all the signage, all over the venue, on the Tshirts, tickets, towels and plastered on buses in Melbourne. It’s the blue of the plexicushion on court and it’s the blue that reminds me I’m home.

And home I was!

Except today, for reasons I’ll never know, the Melbourne weather in all its unpredictability decided to go one better. It said, I know you smartarse Melbourne people, what you’re like. You’re the eternal optimists. You’re the kings and queens of “she’ll be right, mate”.  You spend three days in a heat wave saying “cool change supposed to be tonight, isn’t it?” and wait for that cool breeze and inevitable torrential downpour. You head through the cold winds of the winter knowing that by afternoon, the sunshine will come. You expect the weather to change, because nine times out of ten, it does.

Until today!

Today, for some unknown reason, the rain came… and stayed… and went away for a moment… and came back… and goddamn it I just wanted to watch some bloody tennis!

For the exciting Day 1, the three of us like to get the full ground pass experience. This means no need to waste your hard earned dough on the spectacles in Rod Laver or Hiisense when chances are there’s a top quality match being played on the big courts at Margeret Court Arena, Show Courts 2 & 3, and even the rest of the courts, including of course, our favourite, Court Thirteen. So while M and I had work/study commitments for part of the day, L headed down this morning to see what kind of adventures would be found on day one of the Happy Slam.

With the rain coming hard and fast, play was delayed initially, but the eventual clear up came and all us Melburnians breathed a sigh of relief.  For example, you may refer to the previous post on this blog. By the early afternoon the skies were clearing and L was relaxing on Margaret Court, watching Wickmayer v. Durgheri and loving the antics of the legendary Freakinators. Highlights include comments on Wickmayer’s little practicey bits…. “Forehand…. Backhand…. Forehand… backhand….” And so it went. Then the rain came, and then it went, and then it came, and the guys started mopping up, and just as play was about to resume…. The rain came back again. Lots of fun and good times.

Well, it actually was, because while all this was happening, my clever sisters M and L had taken a breather inside the warm and cosy Hiisense foyer. Where clever L happened to pass a tournament celebrity in the eyes of CourtOneThree, and many who love this great game. We’re not talking players here, or even a past legend of the game. We’re talking the man of the people – umpire Carlos Ramos!

“Mister Ramos!” M shouts, and jogs over to where he is. He is, as should have been expected, delighted to see her. Mr Ramos is a gentleman and gave her the time of day, and more, despite admitting to jet lag and having to ump another match that night. Which reminds me – did anyone see Carlos Ramos umpire a match on night 1? Thinking it might have been one of the ladies’ matches in Hiisense…. Hoping for another rendezvous with the Great Man before the week is up, so for all spottings Ramos, make sure to tweet in this direction!

Roundabout this time the rain stops for a moment or ten, and I made my way into Melbourne Park. Can’t describe the joy, but I can say it wasn’t the same joy as when the sun is shining, the beer gardens are full, the people are streaming…. Okay, not going to get into a huff about this or anything. Twas still a great day of tennis! Found the girls at MCA and watched a whole two – maybe three – points played by Australia’s newest hope, Bernard Tomic. I was intrigued by this guy because to hear the Australian media talk about him, you’d think he was the saviour of the planet.  For more on this, see “Why an Article about an exhibition match is news” in Saturday’s Age. Not that he made it very far – that lovely rain started again and this time it was for real. The Freakinator’s tastefully choreographed “Umbrellas up! Umbrellas down!” wasn’t going to work this time so it was sardines all around inside the foyer at RLA.


Being just before seven, all the evening pass holders were picking up their champagne, fish and chips (apparently that combo was a hit) and then queuing up at door 18, watching the Del Potro match on screen and shouting insightful comments to their singlet-wearing friends. It took fifteen minutes to crawl from door 8 to door 12 where M had made her way earlier, and got me trying to think up some sort of maneuvers game for crowded situations such as this. I’m sure if the Freakinators had been on hand they could have come up with something. Perhaps, “everyone in blue, start walking. If you’re in green, crawl on the floor. Those of you in red, climb on the backs of those on the floor.” It could have helped the situation.

Starting to understand where all the Wimbledon attitude comes from. Being rained out for a day is unfun. Wimby in January – well, it was an experience. The realisation that this doesn’t usually happen and was more of a translation of the Extreme Heat Policy rather than an activation of a Wet Weather Policy made it all the more irritating.

DelPo finished off the young American and with Hiisense nearly done for the day, we started debating whether they might move an MCA match on to Hiisense. It was at this time, however, that the skies cleared up, Nadal started playing, and the options became endless again. We could go watch history being made as Grandpa Magician aka “Allez Fab” Santoro sang his swan song. We could find out what Bernard was made of and cheer on a countryman. And of course there was Rafa up against our boy Luczak playing on big screens everywhere.

We headed back to MCA, and found a kid I can only describe as a “gangly lad”. Sorry, it reads straight out of Enid Blyton, but its true. The kid hasn’t yet figured out what to do with his body – but what he does do, he does okay! Sitting behind John Tomic wasn’t so okay though. Every messed up point and I was bracing myself for a Damir Dokic style meltdown. All the mums and dads and grandpas of the Tomic extended crew were there as well, and lets not forget a heap of children. As Johnny bent down to say something to the little girl sitting next to him I could only hope that said child would prevent any blasphemy from being uttered. Once again, shoutout to the fabulous Freakinators for livening up what was a great match but bloody freezing and insanely windy. The Ants go Marching had a revamp with “Tomic, Tomic” as the refrain, and that brought our boy home in straight sets. I didn’t forget my Tomic family fear, especially when the match announcements came (sure enough, Dementieva had moved to Hiisense and we were all welcome inside on our ground passes) and some clever camper yelled a loud “Shut Up!” in hope of a Tomic interview. Couldn’t see who it was but being that it came from a very close vicinity to my right side, I wouldn’t put it past my friendly neighbourhood Tomic family member. Classy!

With the next match on MCA scheduled to be Aussie qualie Ebden up against crowd favourite Monfils, we were again spoilt for choice. The Santoro match promised to be a classic, and of course Rafa is Rafa. Garden Square was filling up and Luczak wasn’t doing all too badly, considering.

Santoro won out, and we were back there to sit up front with our tennis friends Florian and Florence, muttering in as much French as we could muster. As M and I discussed how our house looks (“ma maison est assez grande et de style traditionnell”) and what we’d eaten for breakfast (“petit dejeuner”) using our eloquent levels of high school French, I sensed some stern, French eyes on me. The French face-painted crew cheering on Santoro were still shouting “allez Fab” and other lovely unintelligible chants. The Croations were going at it for their new young gun Cilic. And behind me was a stern faced man with a pass around his neck announcing himself as the coach of Arnaud Clement, clearly unimpressed with the private school education of an Australian young woman.

It turned out even all the Croatian song and dances couldn’t keep the rain away, and we heard the inevitable news, “Play has been suspended for the rest of the evening.” Still unsure where the fomo-inducing noises were coming from – my guess is on court 10 or 11 somewhere to the back of show court 3 – but wherever it is, we will find it tomorrow and ensure it is a party we are part of! I do kind of rue the fact we missed watching Gonzo today, apparently the “Chi Chi Chi, Le Le Le, Chile Chile Chile” could be heard at MCA and reminded these ladies once again, that its that happy week in January.

And it was a happy day – all things considered. We even got to thaw out in the end by applying the classic Ticket Procurement Method ™ outside Rod Laver Arena and watching the Jelena match start to finish. It was sad. I don’t think I want to talk about it anymore. From one Aussie girl to another, Jelena, we love you. You need to love yourself, and realise how much we love you, and the sky is the limit. Last year, the three of us sat in Garden Square among hundreds of Aussies and watched our recently returned Princess Jelena win back our hearts. She fought and she won, and even as she lost that quarterfinal to Safina, we were all fiercely proud.

(This might be the spot where I mention the fact that as we chewed our nails and tore our hair, the girlies and I got screened on national TV. Oh, and did I mention it was the most watched television that week? Surprising, isn’t it, what happens when the ladies from CourtOneThree are on TV…)

I thought she’d come back better than ever, but basing on recent form and the performances over the last month, we know she’s got a bit of a way to go. The thing is, that way to go is nothing to do with her physical shape and everything to do with her mental abilities. Jelena, Jelena, Jelena. I don’t know what happened on the plane last week and I don’t know what happened yesterday on the court with Tony Rochus. But we really, really love you. Us Aussies really do. We want you to be happy, and if you can make us happy by winning some tennis to do that, so be it. If you’re unhappy playing tennis and want to be happy doing something else, then so be it. But whatever it is, just make sure you’re happy.

Tonight, Jelena looked completely miserable, and it just ripped my heart out. Sorry about the lack of technical tennis talk, but this is a girl who represents the heading of today’s Tennis page in the MX, a free newspaper distributed on Melbourne public transport. “Tennis – We used to be good.” Babe, whatever you are now, it sure as hell isn’t good. I don’t care if you’re not good at tennis anymore, but please be good – just be good, and happy, and wonderful.

And now enough with the pop psychology for today. I’m sure there is more for tomorrow.

I’d love to say what a fabulous day tomorrow will be, and all the great matches we have lined up, but seriously, its nearly 3am, and I’ve gone on forever already. I’ll be tweeting from there for Betfair_aus so make sure you check out www.twitter.com/betfair_aus and www.twitter.com/rishegee for updates on who, what, where when. I mean, you really don’t want to miss out on Baghdadis practising shirtless on Court 15, do you?

PS. I still need to write down more of the hilarious quotes from Hit for Haiti yesterday.

PPS. M is going to post up pics. Seriously, she is. And they’re good. Just hang in there. I can add in some of my crappy ones but seriously… hers are fabulous.

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