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.
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.