10 Reasons Why We Love Clay!

April 22, 2010

This week heralds a time when the colour of our screens change and life becomes happy and breezy again.

Here are a few reasons why we love it when the dirt of Europe takes over our lives and makes tennis full of joy, love and laughter.

10. Sliding is Sexy

9. The View’s not bad from here

It’s one thing to be a jet setter and travel all over the world on your yacht and private plane.

It’s another thing to be a tennis fan, where you can head over to the most gorgeous countries – and some pretty boring, grey ones as well – and get a glimpse of what they have to offer.

So far this year, we’ve been tempted to do things like play with lions in Joburg, swim with dolphins in Miami, and play golf in the desert (by far the most daring activity of all).

Clay season takes it up a notch. Is there anywhere you wouldn’t want to be?

The View from Monte Carlo is salivating:

Nice makes you want to take a spoonful, cover it in hot fudge and dig in.

And I love the ancient statues in Rome right up against the brick-red clay.

8. Longer Rallies make pretty watching

I love it when you settle in to watch that first clay match and just like the players have to readjust their game, we’re readjusting our watching eyes. The rallies are longer and for those of us who like to watch, it doesn’t get much better than that.

7. Rafa on Fire

There are reasons this sport was invented. This is one of them.

6. Time Difference makes ALL the Difference.

Australians all let us rejoce for we are young and free….

Free. That’s right. We’re so free that we’re on the other side of the world, a 24 hour planeride from most – except a handful of Southeast Asian countries, some islands for occasional holidays, and a random nation that copies our every move and then whinges about it.

We’re also desperately alone every morning as we venture into the day ahead, stealthily creeping into Monday, or Tuesday, or the 1st of January in the knowledge that we are going where no man has gone before. We take it on the chin for those of you on the other side of the dateline, because we’re hardened up Aussies and we like being adventurers. But sometimes, when you’re all still having a party up on Sunday and we’re stuck into Monday morning, it brings on the yuckness.

That’s where Clay season is made of joy, because come 6.30 in the PM, we can sit round the Teev with our dinners and our glass of wine and have a night made of fun right in front of us (or at least, after MasterChef. And for those of us without Fox Sports, in front of the Livestream). If you’re going until the late match, you only  need to keep your tired peepers up until the relatively earthly hour of 2 or 3 am and then off to beddy-byes you go. Thanks Europe.

5. Umpire Love

Any self respecting tennis nerd will admit that aside from having a host of player crushes, the favourite umpire fan clubs are still reigning strong.  Readers of Court Thirteen from Australian Open days (oh yeah, we still have more pics to show you from that) will recall that these particular ladies are fans of the gorgeously adorable Carlos Ramos and his Spanish bestie, Enric Molina.

Which is why the clay season brings umpire stalking to a whole new dimension, when the adorable man in chair gets off his fancy high horse and comes down to examine the line. Also provides many opportunities for cutesy umpire convos.

SO much more fun than the hawkeye “oooooooh”.

Unless you’re Gonzo….

4. Sammy is an Aussie and she plays on clay.

For anyone out there who isn’t Spanish or Swiss, it gets pretty irritating after a while when your country harps on about how title starved they are.

Aussies are no different, with a favourite topic of discussion being whether we will ever have a homeboy raise the trophy on our home slam ever again.

It’s also a rife time to whinge and complain at how hard it is to play on clay when you just haven’t been brought up with it, and for Aussies, Americans and Brits to shut their eyes and take a nap until grass season starts.

But for those of us backing Aussie Sam, it’s been a lovely time and the winnage is just going to continue.


3. Spaniards Rule (always). And even more, on Clay.

Watching the hottest guys in existence, play deep into tournaments week in, week out?

Yes please.

2. Quarante-Trent

Say anything in a French accent and it will sound tres chaud. Just try listening to the scoreline being called after Jeu, Set, et Match.

1. Rafa Nadal

The King of Clay deserves two entries.

Please let me see more of this in the next few weeks?

Roger v Kolya – From the Baseline

January 28, 2010

I was trying to stay away from Melbourne Park for another day. I had laundry to do, hair to wash, homework to do, that sort of thing. Turns out at 5pm I got an urgent call from my tennis attending mate, R. “I got tickets, inside, Federer Davydenko, get here quick!”

40 mins later I’m in the stadium. Thanks to Steve Fergal’s tennis tours we are front and centre. The AO club are looking at me kinda funny. My thoughts through the match are herein.

Note I got there at the point of the match where Kolya was ripping his way through the second set. Roger was antsy, and his wife and entourage, sitting not far from me, couldn’t even look.

Seven years ago, I went to my first tennis match on Rod Laver Arena. I sat in the front row, behind the players’ chairs, and cheered for this grumpy looking, ponytailed guy wearing an Adidas tie-dyed shirt. He was tied in the 5th set against Nalbandian, and the crowd was evenly divided. Every call of “Go David” was answered with a “Come on…. Roger.”

Of course it was Roger. As he sulked and sulked, lost his concentration numerous times, and changed his shirt three times (which I asked for repeatedly, but he had no interest), his crowd support grew, and by the end of the match everyone was cheering Roger Federer like he was their new favourite player. (By the way, he did lose.)

Which he probably was. Hell, he was mine too.

Seven years later, Roger’s had his turn. He’s won fifteen majors, been in the finals here countless times and everywhere else for that matter. Give someone else a bloody go.

So I’m sitting in Rod Laver, only a few paces away from where I sat that first time, and this time I am willing him to lose it, somehow. For that little Russian man with the bald head and the skinny legs to pull out whatever he’s got, and give it to him.

Mirka’s not far from me, a little to the left and two rows in front. She’s got her head bent over, not happy at all. Her husband is supposedly unflappable, but being this close, you can see him start to lose it. He misses another one, and hits the ball into the net with a  vengeance. Roger’s down and he’s not happy about it. There goes Mister “Perfect Sportsman”.

The man in the white cap next to Mirka keeps muttering. Like, really loudly. If I understood German, I guess I’d have Roger’s whole game plan. At least he’s smart enough not to acknowledge he can hear them. But right now, damn the man.

It’s the fourth set, and Roger’s already got two. He gets an early break. Mirka, you can look up now. Being this close, I can feel the pressure, the way these guys must feel it. You’ve got to wonder. I’ve never played any sport professionally but the mental toughness required amazes me. Especially when I think about how young everyone truly is. If I was that talented in anything, there’s no way I’d be a roaring success at 22 – but for some reason tennis players have all done it somehow. I’m kind of craving that sort of discipline.

The game’s turned into a rout – it’s at 15 love and Kolya hasn’t had a game in a while. Then Roger makes an error. The ball flies right in my face before landing back down on court. Damn it can get pretty scary behind the baseline.

I need these people in the crowd to stop cheering for heaven’s sake. I keep throwing in my Davay Kolya just to remind him I’m here. And I want him to win, dammit!

I hear the audience start to get confused. Kolya is coming back a little in this game, and now they don’t know if they want to go for the underdog, as classically Aussies do, or their favourite sportsman in a colour other than green and gold.

I’d like to see a break right about here.

For heaven’s sake. It’s about the twelfth game in a row he’s lost. Mirka is muttering to her crew. Kolya has some sort of magnetic attraction to the net. Nothing is going over the damn thing.

Roger wins a point, and I hear the loudest come on I’ve heard on court since Hewitt. Why does he do that in English? Showman. Grrrr.

That’s it, kids. That’s the match.

The Aussies behind me are talking. Corporate entertaining assists in the lubrication of the vocal chords, so I hear interesting tidbits, like this one: “I feel sorry for Davydenko, mate.” “Yeah, he should practice more.” “Try telling him that!” “I did, mate!”

(These guys are the ones who were sitting behind me, five rows from the front, then moved to the front, centre, AO club area to “see what it feels like”. One of them felt the urge to shriek COME ON DAVY every few moments. I’m cool with that.)

Kolya to serve, and suddenly things aren’t so bad anymore. For a change, he doesn’t’ miss at the net. My fellow member of the Davydenko fan club is charged up. “Come on Davy, just win a game!” Then his beautiful serve gets called out. Sitting at the line, I reckon its an ace, and say loudly, “Challenge!” Kolya hears me. That’s it, methinks. Kolya is going to listen to my advice, and challenge the call, and if he loses it’ll all be my fault.

Luckily I look more like an idiot than I thought, and Kolya wisely keeps his challenges to himself. He produces a beautiful second serve and we’re at 30 love. Next thing you know he’s got the game. For a change.

That’s the plan, Kolya. Break back now, and we can get ourselves a fifth set. Don’t worry about all the people pushing and shoving in the concourse at RLA. They’ll get here eventually. Just win this damn thing and send the Swiss man packing.

Roger fan starts shouting. I start spewing.


What the hell was that ace for?

I’ve decided Roger looks a lot skinnier in the back than he appears onscreen. The man is practically scrawny. Yeah, take that! Scrawny! I’ll look for any insult I can right now.

I’m trying to explain to my friend R how I feel sitting here. “It’s like watching on TV, in real life,” I explain. Close enough to see every little detail, but you’re there and right now, I’m shaking. This is bad for my jaws. Tension. Ouch.

Ha ha. Tee hee hee. That went so wide. Ha ha. Who’s the greatest of all time now, yeah? Yeah!

Oh! I found the Seven commentary box. Gosh I’m an idiot. Been at the tennis every day and never figured out where it was. How does Courier’s ego fit in there?

I hate watching Roger’s little forehand there. He swats the ball like he’s swatting a fly. I used to love watching this man. What’s happened?

My friend is talking really loudly. “He’s wasting his opportunities.” Every time Kolya looks up at the ball boy, I catch his eye. I don’t want him hearing us trash talking the guy. That will just inspire more chokage. And right now there’s an albatross the size of China around his neck.

I do need to say thanks to Steve Furgal’s International Tennis Tours, and Grand Slam Tennis Tours. They’ve been lovely at ensuring we have the best seats at every match.

Roger hears my Davay Kolya. He’s unimpressed. Mirka, meanwhile, is smiling smugly at some dude shouting, ‘Go Federer’. I’m really over this. 

Nyet Nyet Nikavo. Sometimes, my Russian folk song background gets the best of me. At Youzhny v Gasquet it seemed to help somewhat. This time, it works for a moment and Kolya’s up a tiny bit. Then these aces keep coming out of Roger’s perfectly ironed bum. 

Mirka is a little cold, keeps rubbing her hands together – or is it with glee at her husband’s next progression? I think the hotel maid forgot to do the washing, she’s wearing Roger’s sweater.

The stadium roars as he hits another ace. Aren’t they sick of another Federer final? Hasn’t it been long enough?

That ace went in my face.

Now it’s match point. SAVE IT, KOLYA. He hears me, and he does. How lovely. I have a new role as on court coach. 

Damn its windy. All people watching on TV probably think it’s a boiling hot Melbourne day. It’s actually bloody freezing and the wind keeps whipping through the arena. Wait for the wind, Kolya – don’t send that serve over.

My mate R: “What happened to his serve?”

Me: Shut up, he can hear you. He will lose confidence. (loudly) DAVAI!

Challenge. I love a bit of Hawkeye action. Of course, I was right. I am after all on the line. So, on-court coach and lineswoman? I could handle that. 

It’s at Advantage Kolya. I love this. He saved the match point. Little hope of winning now but at least he can push off the Federer onslaught of oozy smugness. Though the interview guys are already on court. Damn them. Just cos they’re in a hurry to start the night match.

I keep fist pumping as Kolya wins his points. Mirka’s head is in her hands.

Suddenly we’re at 6-5 and Roger is serving for the match again. OMG, the man is actually strutting.

MP. F@# this. 

Courier interview? “I tried to stay positive.” That’s crap, mate. I saw you hit that ball into the net for the ballkids and you didn’t look to positive to me. So go ahead and tell all of Australia. Oh wait, the world. 

“It was a nice match.” Oh right, was it? Rafa says it was a tough match. Gives credit where credit is due. Roger, life isn’t just about strolling, ffs.

Oh I am way too pissed off right now.

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