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.


And The Crowd Goes Wild

January 19, 2011

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.

The crowds.

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.

Tsonga on Margaret Court Arena

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.

And finally…

A packed house at 1am on Rod Laver Arena getting behind our man Lleyton Hewitt. I hate when matches are called “thrillers” and “epics” but usually because I’m jealous I wasn’t there. This match had everything: The ancient rivalry, the two big players, gorgeous tennis and a passionate, formidable, fired-up crowd. And the essential RLA late finish just made it all the more Aussie. And similar to the Tomic loss at 2am last year, we all went home unhappy. And then waiting in long taxi queues in the freezing.
Because that’s what we do, tennis fans.

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