We’re sad about Delpo, but full of the Marcos love here tonight.
So here’s a treat to get you going
We’re sad about Delpo, but full of the Marcos love here tonight.
So here’s a treat to get you going
There’s a reason the Australian Open is the greatest slam of all. (What, am I biased?)
It’s not the happy slam because of the beer gardens everywhere, the costumed fans, the easy access to transportation, the gorgeous sunny spaces and the sparkling blue courts. It’s not the friendly staff everywhere, the fun off-court entertainment and the variety of outer-court matches.
The Australian Open is what it is because of those amazing fans that make up the best tennis watching crowd in the world.
Melbourne Jewish community doing their thing for Dudi Sela against Del Potro.
The crowd gathering in Garden Square to watch Alicia defeat Roberta Vinci at match point. Only drawback: You can kinda tell how a point is going to end, because the cheers erupt from Rod Laver behind you a second before the TV shows the end of the rally. At the same time, you gotta love that.
“We are yellow, we are blue, we are Swedish, who are you?”
The Swedes, always hands-down best costumed at the Open, going insane for their man Robin Soderling on Margaret Court Arena. As for me? I was watching Carlos Ramos, and noting that Robin’s black outfit with fluoro yellow trim was looking decidedly evil, particularly if the yellow was substituted for red. Flames. Owww.
And my favourite thing about the Open, hands down: The Hellas Fan Club at Marcos Baghdatis matches. Granted, earlier I’d seen some stupid Greek kids, wrapped in flags, asked to sing for a Channel 9 camera. They promptly belted out a very obviously anti-Turkish racist chant, which had all the nearby Greeks in titters. The grownups do it better, and they did, all through five sets of Marcos against a random I cannot name. Sorry. And yes, I now have favourite Greek chants. No, I cannot tell you what they mean. But I do know it’s not worth watching Marcos anywhere else other than the Australian Open. The crowd belongs to him.
Marinko’s Main Men: A crew of who I could only assume were Marinko Matosevic’ mates cheering their lungs out for their boy on Court 6 against the Lithuanian army cheering their boy Richardes Berankis. Sitting next to his couch, I could only just mumble “oi oi oi” to their Aussie Aussie Aussies, but was also busy listening in to Pat Cash’s commentary. “Great serve,” he sez, before elbowing L out of the way. Marinko put on a great fight but lost the match, but those Aussies were on fire. “We love Marinko because he is Victorian!” Love.
Blurry for a reason. Margaret Court Arena is known as the hub of insanity. The Bay 13 of Melbourne Park. MCA at night? Take the craziness and double it. MCA, at night, with crowd favourite Jo-Wilfred Tsonga?
I’m talking hardcore.
The Frenchies had forgotten compatriot Mikey Llodra on the court next door, so we did the dutiful and watched the lovely Mika – always fun for some volleying action – before heading to MCA for the fifth set. And I was afraid for my life. The picture above is blurry – if you were there, you’d know why.
All the cool kids are doing it these days, so I figured we should move this blog into the land of The Facebook, where uploading pictures is as easy as a click and you can all share your wondrous brilliance right back at me.
Seventy-three tasty images, fresh from M’s camera and my iPhone, taken at the Australian Open 2010. They may be a little grainy, but the moments are pure priceless.
Let us know what you think.
I think I was supposed to be inside RLA that day, watching Lleyton and Sammy do it for the Aussies. But Baghdaddy just put on too much of a great show. Let’s hear you sing it now… marco le ole.. Ah as if I can pretend I know the lyrics. M has made up her own fabulous version. I know one word is “parking lot”. The one I can guarantee to get right is Marcos Baghda-tis (clap clap clap clap). Awesome.
It’s worth the ground pass just to see those guys go.
Here’s Nole, before he had a sore tummy…
Our Lleyton, finishing off Donald Duck and shutting up the Americans behind us “dynamite goes tick tick tick” like summer camp all over again.
Fenja doing his best to make a glorious twilight tennis match boring – how? Lucky for MCA crowds.
Taylor and Jo Willie leaving little breathing space in Hiisense with all the testosteron-erone present.
The next set of matches gets its own post. You will see why momentarily.
I think it’s now become clear to all of you that I can’t stay away from the Aussie Open for too long. On Day 4, I’d decided to be a good grown up and head back to the day job.
That’s until the lovely folks at Betfair offered to send me to the tennis – again – if I tweeted for them. Being that tweeting to me is breathing, it wasn’t hard to make a decision.
This time, I was front and centre on all the action – Corporate gold tickets, four rows from the front on centre court, not far from the baseline. I had lovely views of Nole, Lleyton and Carlos Ramos. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Coming in to RLA was bizarre, it gave me that feeling I usually get halfway through week 2- and only on day 4. It’s that “get me a sleeping bag and find me a tent, I’m moving in kids” feeling. Seriously. Sometimes I go to Melbourne Park during the year for a concert or show and feel like I’m home again. This time, I had been away less than 10 hours – from 2.30 am after Tomic match, to 11am in time for Novak.
Novak’s been waltzing around quietly for most of week 1, and that day was no exception. He lost it a little in the first set but then kept on waltzing. Or like, hip hop waltzing. I think he liked my Ajde Nole, but the corporates around me thought I was clinical. Do they not speak Serbian?
Chiudinelli has some really vocal supporters right across the way from me. They look like Team Roger with a name change, all red and white like inside out nurses. They’re singing “Q Dinelli” really loudly, which is good, because otherwise I’d have no idea how to pronounce the dude’s name.
I have the best seats in the house – technically – but the scoreboard is really hard to see. I keep getting them wrong. I think it’s break point, but really we’re right on serve. How embarrassing.
Can’t figure out who’s in the chair. Is it my good mate Enric? I think I’m the only tennis fan who looks out to see who’s in the chair at matches, and a good ump means a good match. Please tell me I’m wrong. I’ll feel much less like a loser.
I’m checking on my phone and I can see Baghdaddy isn’t doing so well against Ferrer. This is not good. However, I’m in Rod Laver on amazing tickets, so I’m not making a sprint to Hiisense to see it. Even though there is nothing like a Hellas fan club chant to make your day.
Aussie Ana’s on Margaret Court Arena, and the shrieks are getting louder. The MCA crowd know how to party, and partying they are. A little check on my phone Scoreboard tells me it’s more like suicidal howls. Then again they may be Gisele fans, which could explain the cheering.
Novak’s finishing up the match but first goes for an “equipment” change. Yes, that means his shoes. Now, I worked in footwear for nearly five years, and last time I checked footwear would go in the “apparel” category. So please, next time, I expect to hear “apparel change”. Thanks, Tennis World. I knew you’d listen.
Novak’s about to finish off the match, but he decides to take a pisstake at Hawkeye. Classy. I love it.
He clinches the match and it’s time for Aussie favourite Sammy. Now I followed Sammy through many a witching hour through her golden run in Roland Garros, but now that she’s on home soil she’s lost her allure somewhat. At Hit for Haiti, there we had all these glitzy and glamorous tennis players bantering and hitting with the best of the best, and Sammy was like the little lost girl on the edges. Doesn’t mean she isn’t fabulous, but I’m all for cheap thrills and she don’t give ‘em to me. So I bailed, and went to find the Hellas who were sure to give me a good show.
And I did. Now the rules at Melbourne Park mean that Hiisense is available with a $20 upgrade from a ground pass – but no rules regarding Rod Laver tix. Turns out nothing would help as Hiisense was sold out. So what did this resourceful lady do? Swap tickets with a stranger of course!
All the ladies and gentlemen are sitting outside the food court, watching the match on TV. I start with a general public service announcement: “Is anyone not planning on going bck in to this match?” No answer.
I try again. “If you’re not going back into this match, I’d love to see it. I have tickets to Rod Laver Arena.” I know the Williams girls are both up in the next two matches, and most ticket holders for the day are after Venus and Serena. Not Baghdaddy and Ferrer grunting like old men.
One lady looks up. I start my sales pitch again. I kind of leave out I have RLA tix. She hears me and buzzes. “What if I want to go see Stosur on RLA?” I relent. She looks nice. I haven’t got my phone on me – it’s dead, and charging in the betfair tent. But she looks lovely, and I’m a trustworthy Australian. So we swap tickets and I go on my merry way.
Of course, the Hellas don’t disappoint. I go home that evening with “We just had a barbecue, nowe, nowe” in my head – and for those of you who know the greek words, please don’t ruin it for us – M and L have made up their own lyrics and they’re quite passable in a crowd.
Baghdaddy’s match finishes and I race back to RLA to catch L L L Lleyton. I’ve had a love hate relationship with the man for as long as I can’t remember. He was our golden hope but he was also annoying as hell. He got us in the papers overseas, but for all the wrong reasons. Then he married a soapie star and that just made him all the more irksome. But now he’s playing good tennis, so we like him again. Aah, I’ll never decide.
But the green and gold boys were out in full force, having cheered Sammy to her previous win, and they were gunning for Lleyton. The two rows of USA cheer squad in the house had not a chance. Their cheers reminded me of being in overnight camp. “What’s his name? Donald Young. Where’s he from? USA.” Puh-leeze! Oh, and the “boom boom, dynamite.” That’s straight out of year seven bunk competition.
After Lleyton cleaned up nicely, with a lot of loud COME ON’s making me feel like it was back in 1999, I wanted to head to MCA because beautiful Tommy was battling it out with Tipsy and I really love Tommy. I loved him since Lleyton made him cry, and if anyone knows which match I’m referring to please remind me? It would have been circa 1997-8 methinks. Tommy still won, but Lleyton made him cry. Good times.
Tommy was at Kooyong and I did try to do my stalkery “Tommy! Hi Tommy!” before he went on, but he was too nervous eyeing off Novak against the Channel 7 men. Then he went into his freaking out, talking to himself between points – of which the only word I could understand was a rude German word which shall not be repeated on this blog. I was unimpressed with his language, but agreed entirely with every word – Tommy Tommy Tommy!
Turns out the match was fraught with nervous tension but of course the MCA queues didn’t budget and I didn’t make it in until afterward. Oh wait, except for the two tweens who emerged right at match point. In their little shorts and Australian flag singlets with little handbags perched on their bums, they were all excited for their day at “The Tennis”. But they LEFT the court at MATCH POINT after an epic FIVE SETTER between TOMMY and TIPSY and as such, they should have their tennis watching license revoked from them. They deserve no such privilege.
It was Fenja’s turn on MCA next, but at this stage the exhaustion had set in. For some reason, living in the same timezone as a grand slam is more exhausting – for more details, see previous post. So I watched Fenja play nicely, and I made friends with a lovely Danish/Spanish gentleman sitting next to me. Then I spent a few moments in Hiisense to watch Jo Willie, pushing past all his tween fans but not making it in time for an autograph. Then I figured out what the irritating helicopter had been hovering over MCA – Prince Bloody William!
Turns out all my clever match chasing had let me head to the opposite end of the complex right when the Prince headed to RLA. But who am I kidding, I was still in a 500m radius, so I get something for it right?
Day 2 Recap – Better Late Than Never
It’s 3am and I’ve just returned from what was once again an epic match. I think I need to stop using that term – epic match – because so far all I have seen this tournament has been just that.
I haven’t written on this blog in two days, but for my tweet peeps out there, you would know that the last few days have just been one thrill after another. From racing around the outside courts to watching the Magician’s swan song, catching the last set of Soderling’s upset and supporting Baghdatis with the crowd, and checking out the many talented players on the outside courts, Day 2 was a whirlwind. Let’s not forget my exciting catch up with two of my favourite umpires on tour, and of course, the EPIC late night thriller between Youzhny and Gasquet.
Day 3 was a little quieter, with my day job taking over and the majority of the day session observed via the genius IBM slam tracker. It was only later when I came up to Rod Laver for a supposedly innocent Round 2 night session that the action began. Let’s put it this way – it was lovely getting to watch a final for the price of Round 2! Then I assumed the night would end off quickly, with Cilic demolishing Aussie upstart Tomic – but what a surprise. It’s now 3.19 am and I have decided to write up more details of the Day 2 and 3 highlights.
You ready? Here goes.
Now usually in Australis come AO time, Day 1 is the day to go. The area is packed with Swedes, Serbs, Aussies and Russians decked out in their national colours and covered in face paint, or even better, zinc. (If you haven’t got zinc where you come from, you need to check it out. It’s like this sunscreen face paint stuff. Potent and awesome, reminiscent of school sports carnivals.) Everyone is wrapped in their flags and the vibe is so thick you could cut it with a knife .
This year on Day One, thanks to the temperamental Melbourne weather, the crowds weren’t as predicted. Now that didn’t turn off the hardy Melbourne crew – instead, they all turned up Tuesday instead. So we had a record crowd Tues, which was amped up again on Wednesday. By the time we got into the grounds, the place was teeming with the vibrantly dressed crowds.
The problem with Days 1 and 2, aside from overcrowding, is the incredible choice of matches available. Everyone is on the outside courts, the show courts are definitely the most fun, and of course you get the big names on centre court that can be watched in the gorgeous Garden Square. This year, Grant Slam Oval has been set up to shorten that annoying walk from Hiisense to Rod Laver and is full of deck chairs, bars and massive flat screens. You could sit there all day with a glass of wine and a good match on.
The girls and I started our morning with a lovely surprise – Baghdatis and Soderling having a hit on Court 9. Soderling is our favourite enemy on CourtOneThree thanks to that fateful night in June when he stole the heart of our beloved Rafa and proceeded to eat it for dinner. But he was hitting with Marcos, who is basically part of the furniture in Melbourne Park and beloved by all. We tried for a signature on my shiny new copy of the Australian Open program but he was in a hurry – the match against Lorenzi was scheduled on MCA later.
We continued perusing the outside courts – Ana Ivanovic was finishing up on MCA and the queues too long, so we headed to Court 2. Aussie wildcard Nick Lindahl was finishing off his match against Nieminen from the night before. Interestingly enough, young Nicholas beat Bernard Tomic in the wildcard playoffs, but in comparison, his sojourn at the Open wasn’t as exciting as Tomic’s. What was exciting, however, was the sight of who was in the chair on Court 2- None other than favourite umpire of all time for our crew, MR CARLOS RAMOS!
If you are hardcore tennis fans, people, you will understand the joy and the excitement of seeing Mr Ramos. For those of you who don’t, I will save it for a guest post that L plans to write, explaining the umpire enigma. Being that the lovely M had already met Mr Ramos the day before, I went over to him as he walked off court and mentioned I was her sister. Of course he remembered her, and told me he’d be on court in 2 matches – the upcoming Soderling match. I of course had no interest in dealing with said player coupled with the irritating Swedish chair squad but would do anything to see our Ramos.
Then the news came over the wires – with Israeli crowd favourite Dudi Sela playing over in the HIisense courts, my clever mates in the stands had spotted Rafa practicing on his favourite, Court 16. Believe me when I say I have never run faster. On our way, we passed Court 17, and who is there flaunting his skinny chest, none other than Andy Murray. So we’ve got Murray on 17, Rafa on 16, and it’s a feast of young virile men under the age of twenty five. Oh, who happen to play tennis, like, really really well. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
We left Murray playing footy or whatever he was training in that day and came to the crowd by Rafa. Standing by the court triple-deep, with one side closed off, L and S hatched a brilliant plan. Climbing atop the little concrete pot plant tree thingies courtside, L had a perfect view of not only Rafa, but the magnificent Uncle Toni in his sunglasses, clenching his racket. Methinks he doesn’t like our Aussie sunshine – not sure why its not as good as Mallorcan sunshine, but maybe he detected the lack of ozone. Then Rafa decides to leave, but being the gorgeous soul he is, there are autographs happening. And the next thing you know, I have gracefully forgotten my age and am pushing and shoving with the rest of them…..
The rest is history….
Well, not really. Two minutes later Andy Roddick strutted on court and the practice fest continued. With Sela on his way to a loss, we moved back toward the outer courts and caught the end of Santoro’s match. It was really special to see a piece of history in front of our eyes. In his traditional tennis whites and with his old-fashioned grip, the Magician said his last goodbyes to the Grand Slam circuit after participating for the span of 4 decades. The match had been delayed due to rain the night before, but now with the sun shining brightly overhead, the stadium was close to full as the crowd gave a standing ovation, shouting “Allez Fab!”
After a quick look at the schedule, the matches on Margaret Court were too tempting to overlook – Aussie home favourite Casey Dellacqua, renowned for making her way through the 2008 Open with no sponsor and Target clothing, was making a comeback after shoulder injury. Her match would be followed by another home favourite, or adopted son, Baghdatis, whose matches are always a huge party with the massive Greek presence supporting the Cypriot.
I think at this point I started to envy those watching at home. I was missing good matches – big matches – because the lines were out of control. James Blake on Court 6 had no access and there was no atmosphere at the Federer big screen. The MCA queues were so impossible that the girls at the door had to let people in individually as others left their seats. So I went for a stroll around Grand Slam Oval and tried to catch what I could – Andreev was doing unexpectedly well and there were signs of strain for the unflappable Mr Federer. I gave up though when I heard the girls had finally gotten seats in MCA. I’d get to see Marco, and Casey had won which made it a happy day.
The minute I got in I was instantly wishing I spoke Greek. Nothing like a hundred odd followers draped in blue and white chanting “Marcos Baghdatis” to inspire some ethnic envy! The Aussie Freakinators were still going at it from the afternoon’s Aussie match and the vibe was completely electric. Baghdatis just loves having his crowd at his feet and he milks it for all he’s worth. The Greek songs were sounding amazing and for the eightieth time I wished I knew even a little bit.
Luckily I was just across the way from Soderling v Granollers. Even though Ramos was on the chair, I honestly couldn’t stomach staring at Robin’s awkward, grinning face. The man just gives me the creeps. But lucky I was doing my tweet thing for @betfair_aus, and the fabulous RD_TennisTalk gave me a heads up that I was about to see something very special if I just ventured ten metres north.
And sure enough I did!
Let me flash back to a night some of you may remember – or it might have been day – a night back in June 2009. I was merrily doing my university assignment while listening to RG Radio and occasionally checking my Slamtracker screen. I didn’t really know who this Robin guy was, but I knew one thing, which was that Rafa is invincible. Having watched the AO 09 final, I really thought the crown had been passed on, and there was no stopping the Spaniard. To see him start losing was a shock to the system, and I think there was a point I thought I might be dreaming. I headed to Twitter – as always, my group audience is there for validation – to check I was seeing right. Yes, I was. I couldn’t find a good link to watch it onscreen, but hearing what was happening was close enough. Watching Soderling’s irksome, superlong runner-up speech at the final had me close to nausea and his post match comments irritate me to this day.
So I can’t say I was unhappy to see the Swedish cheer squad left speechless as the lovely Mr Ramos gave, “Game Set and Match, Marcel Gronnellers.” I think I may have cried… or at least hugged L in a very excited manner.
Now we were tired and hungry and had no idea what to do next. Like kids in a candy store with too much to choose from. We headed to the outside courts where we sat with the lovely Melanie Oudin, watching her do well in that first set before it all went downhill, eating dinner and checking out the rest of the evening’s schedule.
After that it was a whirlwind. I wanted to see Moya since the end was nigh, and check out Ferrero at some point as well. Dent was playing, as was Ginepri, and we passed by a fabulous final set between Koellerer and Veic. The guys were trading insults and the Aussie bystanders were three deep. One of my favourite things about the outside courts is the Aussie tendency to pick out anyone – any random player in the entire tournament – anglicise or Aussify their name, and pick them out to support them. Exhibit A, in 2009, had been our favourite, Dimitry Tursunov. Unhappy with our Russian nickname for him, Dima, the Aussies passing by had dubbed him “Darren”, or “Dazza” for short, and were making it known they thought Dazza was a top bloke.
Koellerer had taken similar honours and with his messy hair flying and aggro temper unleashed, the Aussies were roaring for their new best mate “Dan” all through the third set tiebreak and on to the last two sets – where Viec won, probably because his surname was unpronounceable to the self-proclaimed cheer squad.
We moved around form court to court, and then I chanced upon, once again, favourite umpire ever. This time we got to chatting, and let me just say that Carlos Ramos is just as lovely as he looks in the chair. Totally sweet, very nice and funny and really interesting to talk to. He discussed Agassi’s book with M, having both just read it, and gave us some insight into life on tour and working for the ITF. I’ve got to say it, I love the guy.
Moving to Court 14 where two Spanish players were in battle, I found we’d really hit the jackpot in terms of umpire stalking – here was Enric Molina, other favourite umpire of the tour! This time we got to casual chatting, where I let him know that he does great Youtube (you know he does…) and he was riveted to hear about the spectator benefits of visiting the Aussie Open.
It’s moments like that, sitting on Court 14, that I realise why I love the Aussie Open. There is truly nothing like sitting out on a far away court, with only two rows of chairs and a handful of spectators, watching the sun start to set and hearing the call of the line judge and the thwack of the ball. This is tennis at its best. It’s an international tournament and the outcome means so much to say many – yet right now, over here, in this little corner of Melbourne Park (and trust me, court 14 is a corner), it’s just this little point that matters.
It felt that way even more a few moments later, after Hernandez retired and the next match began. Having just returned to the court after a brief visit to quasi-countryman Robbie Ginepri (we’re half American, but whatever, don’t hold it against us), we found a chair umpire setting up shop but no players in sight.
“Any idea who’s playing now?”
“Umm, the Italian girl.. and that other one.”
Great! That was really helpful.
The lovely Mark from security was heaps more helpful. He happily confirmed that indeed, there had been an ‘altercation’ over at Court 10 earlier, when I had witnessed a stream of yellow clad jackets head in one direction – and that yes, the word ‘altercation’ is the one that is utilised by security professionals. He also confirmed that the inciter of the alteraction was likely to have been the same drunk guy who had irritated me earlier. There’s nothing like tying together a story’s loose ends! Mark wanted us to take his schedule, but since the court schedule had actually been rearranged, it didn’t help us much.
The girls had come on court, and weren’t being very friendly. Even when I shouted out, “What’s your name?” to the girl in the pink skirt she didn’t crack a smile. I wonder why! But L and I felt sorry for these two girls, alone on Court 14 with no one but a singular coach for company. So L picked green, and I picked pink, and we vowed to cheer those girls to the end!
Well, as far as we could. The scoreboard was finally updated and I used the wonders of modern Google Mobile to find out their names were Alberta (Brianti) and Varvara (Lechenko). Now, cheering “C’arn Alberta” isn’t too difficult to roll off the tongue, but try saying Varvara and you’ll get what I mean! Needless to say, we didn’t stay very long. Of course I couldn’t leave our two girls without some type of support, so two very kind Court Services kids offered to step in – or more like, I asked them, and made them promise they wouldn’t leave.
The idyll on the outside courts was over for us – there were still a few battles going on, and I found out later I had missed the ballkid peeing pants on court during Daniel v Falla, despite passing by hundreds of times during that match. But our time had come to see what we thought would be Gasquet finishing off Youzhny, even though as the granddaughters of Russian immigrants, we’re quite fond of letting a Russian song or two into the fray at sporting events.
We came just in time for the turnaround – Youzhny was wrapping up the third set and the calls of “Allez Richard!” were getting a bit much. The skinny teenager in front of me wanted tips on pronunciation of the very difficult European name Mikhail.
It’s like Michael, sez I. Michael, but in Russian. So, pretend you’re in Russia, and say Michael.
That didn’t work.
It’s like Mick. You know, Mick, the nickname for Michael. And then Ale, like, beer that you drink. Got it? So it’s, Mick, Ale. Mikhail. Right?
We got lots of “come on Michael!” a few “Youse-knee”s, and in general all types of cheering to get the Colonel back on his feet. But back on his feet he was, and we sat it out through one of the most exciting tennis matches I’ve ever been at.
First of all, there is no holding back the crowd at MCA. Rod Laver might be Centre Court, but he’s got nothing on lady Margaret, who was envious when he won a tea set and she only got a mere token after they won the slam together back in the day. Margie knows how to party, and the Aussies had turned around for the underdog as they characteristically do.
After the third set tie break, we settled in for what looked like it’d be a long night. The noise from RLA stopped and started as Alicia sadly cashed in her chips and lost all chances against Julie Coin, but once the match was over the crowd swelled again and Youzhny finished off the last two sets, with difficulty. We missed the last train, but what else is new when you’re at the tennis. I do think that something needs to be done in conjunction with Connexx – I mean Metro – and the Aussie Open but that’s not my dept – or not tonight at least.
I wanted to do you up an update on Night 2 but it’s already the morning of Day 4 and I need my beauty sleep. Match update will come, and so will pics.