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?

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Watch out, FIFA Scouts

March 22, 2011

When you watch as many post-match pressers and read as many tennis profiles as I do, it’s easy to start assuming that tennis is kinda the uncool little-brother sport to it’s cool-big-brother sport of football slash soccer. Many players admit to wanting to play football when they were younger, some dropped out in order to make room for tennis, and there are still a few who readily acknowledge they would’ve preferred to be better at their bigger, glitzier, shall we say more-universally-renowned big-bro sport. As a hardcore tennis fan, this is when it’s apt to grin smugly that “we” got that dude who looks rather dashing with an unclad torso in “our” camp, even though he clearly wants to be bromancing it up on a muddy field with twelve of his equally dashing European-or-South-American-but-either-way-from-a-hot-looking-country mates.

Luckily, some tournaments let our boys release that inner energy, and that’s why last week at Indian Wells the grassy turf killed about seventeen birds with one stone, giving the boys a chance to get kickity and the girls a chance to watch. (Credit to C Note for doing an amazing job stalking – I mean, blogging – and keeping us posted with the soccerhotness.

Now we’ve moved on beyond a few minutes of boys kicking around a tennis ball at the end of practice, Melbourne-style, or some serious grassy matches, a la Indian Wells. In Florida, the childhood fantasies get indulged and your favourite specimens of men-with-unclad-upper-torsos will be showing off their goods – for a good cause.

I know I’ve made this sound trivial, but it’s not, so let me go on: This is really all about Japan, and the ATP guys have gotten together to raise money for the victims of the disastrous earthquakes and tsunami of the last week. This is not the first time this sporting organisation has gotten together to raise funds for relief to those hit by natural disasters (see: Haiti; Chile; Queensland) and it’s a very special thing to see. This week in Coconut Grove, Florida, an ATP all-star team of tennis players will be bringing their soccer skillz to the stadium so you can all throw your cash at them and make sure it goes to help the people of Japan. Who need it. Really bad.

According to Nole, who, let’s face it, is teacher’s pet of the ATP at the moment:

“I am very concerned for the people of Japan and think it is only right that we do whatever we can to help those in need,” Djokovic said.

“I would love to see all of Miami support both events by showing up Wednesday, March 23rd at the Ransom Everglades High School soccer field at 7:00 pm to cheer on your favorite team and attending the dinner afterward.”

More facts:

The match against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers will take place at Ransom Everglades High School (3575 Main Highway), a couple miles south of the tournament in Coconut Grove at 7:00 pm. A dinner and auction will follow the soccer match at an undisclosed Miami location. Info at http://www.GR8Miami.com.

Confirmed ATP Players
Novak Djokovic (Team Captain, obvs)
Kei Nishikori (Japanese rep, vital)
Rafael Nadal (Little boy’s dream, couldn’t be left out)
Andy Murray (Nole doesn’t leave out his besties)
Fernando Verdasco (Too cool for the tennis court. Also, looks good shirtless)
Feliciano Lopez (See above).

Also included are other fine graduates of the European summer outdoor training scheme and unclad torso specimens:

Richard Gasquet; Viktor Troicki; Marcos Baghdatis; David Ferrer; Jurgen Melzer

Kick away, lovely gentlemen!


What Katy Did Next

January 18, 2011

Turns out blogging with pics can be time-consuming and – since it’s nearly 7am I’ll admit it – exhausted. So here’s what you get:

Following Dima’s match, we also managed to spot a few more pieces of excitement. They include:

– Fernando, Gil and Papa Djoks. Fernando most certainly is fat. But the mohawk makes his neck look thin.

– Nole, entertaining a crowd clustered around Court 4 five-deep, showing off his tighty-whiteys. At the end, a kid no older than 9 or 10 gave Nole a piece of his own medicine, presenting tennis imitations 2.0

– Elena Baltacha, who we like. Playing Jamie Hampton, who we don’t know, but bumped into on her way to a toilet break. Oh, the glamour.

– Benoit Paire, who we now love. Who was somehow missing the love of the thousands of Frenchies who had gathered around Gilles Simon as he battled Rendy Lu, or were practicing their chants with Aravene at the next court. So we gave him some love instead. Particularly since he was up against 2009’s Dima-slayer Flavio Cipolla.

– Lots of rain and a darkened sky meaning camera flashes switched off, crappy autofocused photos. Hence nothing can do justice to the rocking outfit of Ms Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

– A visit back to the ‘dark side’ to see Janko. Instead, we saw Eva. Totally owning the place directing the ballkids, who performed the most interestingly choreographed piece I’ve seen in a while, wiping down the lines with towels to Eva’s direction. Oh, and Janko was there too. Played quite nicely, actually. Nenad was watching.

Vote here for which pics you wanna see and they’ll be up at some point in the next millenium.


Still Counting Down…

January 11, 2011

The lovely online folk at Australian Open have posted another countdown episode.

Petko wants to “bring more light into the world”. Nando wants to be a “soccer player”. And Shahar watches Sesame Street in Hebrew. Tell us things we don’t know?

Looks like they’re planning on a similar segment to the “Road to Roland Garros” backseat interview. Which makes me kinda excited, until I remembered that when the tennis is on, I don’t actually get to watch any videos, read any pressers, or really do anything other than stumble around trains and taxi queues, run between outer courts, and wait in toilet queues. And love every minute.


Holiday Candy

December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays to all my Court Thirteen lovelies!

I haven’t forgotten about dishing out the pressies either, so here’s some tasty treats for you to chew over during the long weekend.

Fernando Verdasco, doing what he does best: Strutting. Papped at AAMI Classic Kooyong. (Photo credit: M)

Juan Martin Del Potro, biceps triceps deltoids, oh my

JMDP. That wrist doesn’t look too sore there now, does it? Biceps, triceps, delts, oh my!

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal

Our world, summarised. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Novak Djokovic

Feliciano Lopez

Delicious.

 


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