Doubles Heaven

March 14, 2011

Rafa’s given us the lowdown on why Indian Wells is such a doubles treat, aka Olympic Practice Ground:

Q. What do you think about the fact that you’ve won this tournament in doubles and the Bryans have not?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am better than them. (Laughter.)
That’s not the case, no? So the thing is probably I have the best partner of the world, yeah. I have a fantastic partner. Marc, he has amazing talent, and when we play together, we have a lot of fun.
You know, I would love to play more tournaments doubles, but for me is impossible for the calendar and everything. Is too much.
But when I have the chance, I play. I played this year in Doha. I normally do in this tournament because is a long tournament and I have a few days in a row that there is a lot of – with the super-tiebreak helps a little bit to the players, but can have more chances to keep helping the players to play more and more doubles.
Because I think if the best players of the world play doubles, is a very good fun for the crowd, and for us, too, because we play a little bit more relaxed. At the same time, we practice, you know. If we have more facilities, is easier to practice playing doubles and is better practice playing doubles than practice only on the practice courts.


An Australian Girl in Paris – Part Un

June 9, 2010

An Australian Girl in Paris – Part Un

Readers of this blog from the January era may recall the thrills and adrenaline experienced every year by myself and my tennis-watching partners in crime, L and M. We stake our claim on Melbourne Park early in Week 1, and by the end of Week 2,we’ve camped out in style and made our way into every court, stadium, nook and cranny.

It’s the dirty time of the year, and I’m on Fabulous Tour of the Universe TM. Which meant only one thing: travel needs to be arranged with tennis in mind. While setting up shop in a sports bar to watch tennis with litres of beer and friendly bartenders has worked until now, for the final weekend of Roland Garros it was time to take it up a notch.

It was time to go to Paris, and view La Vie En Paree. I had to know the important things about the tournament: How much does a beer cost? How pretty are the uniforms? Where are the practice courts and which is Rafa’s favourite? Most importantly, where are the toilets?

One of the most striking things about attending a tennis tournament is the colour. Tennis has embraced fluero colours more than most sports – they’ve got the Day-Glo yellow tennis ball, the flashy fashions on the field – I mean, court – and the sweet hues that rival any Pantone book on the purple Hartru of Indian Wells, the blue Plexicushion of Melbourne Park, and of course, that glorious red dirt at Roland Garros.

The most difficult task, of course, was to attend a tennis tournament without constantly comparing it to my spiritual home and tennis birthplace, Melbourne Park.

Which didn’t suit me when I exited the train at Bois De Bolougne and was bowled away by the colour differences – instead of bright blue and orange, I was faced with luscious dark green, from the trees that line the streets leading to Stade de Roland Garros to the leaves that hang over the walls of the courts. Complemented by the Roland Garros red, the burnt orange clay colour that accents all the logos and shows up brilliantly on the court. The cream of the officials’ uniforms, the muted tones of the Haagen Daaz logo, all scream French, classy, cool and collected.

Arriving at Roland Garros on Friday, I noted the streams of people leaving the stadium but knew that there was still close to a set of tennis left to complete for Jurgen up against my boy Rafa. Turns out the ticket box was closed, tickets can’t be reused, and I was close to tears. Until some well-practiced high school French came to my rescue, and suddenly I had evaded several black suited security guards and was in the holy grail, the region of Roland Garros.

Passing by the Haagen Daaz girls selling ice creams and the everpresent gangs of roaming ballkids, I was in the main circle area between Court 1 and Phillipe Chatrier, where a big screen broadcast of Rafa and Jurgen was in progress. Let’s be honest. I can’t say I saw much of the tennis. There were French men in their jeans, blazers and loafers, lounging around with women in sundresses and cardigans. The volunteers and workers in their cream silky dresses with burgundy sashes and ballet flats stood guard at the entrance to the court with men in cream trousers (trousers are the only word for these) with very RogerWimbledonesque cardigans. Everyone in sight is eating a baguette or smoking a cigarette – usually both. The colours are vivid and dazzling. I’m stunned by the bright green and cream, but what I really want to see is a dark red clay court.

So once the match is over, and Rafa lets Jurgen know who’s boss, I’m negotiating the steps up to Court 5 and photographing the clay through the holes in the cyclone fence. I want to touch it, feel it, even taste it, Francesca-style. I’m in Roland Garros, babies.

Even the rubbish bins have my name on it.


On This Day…

June 1, 2010

It’s been one year, to the day.

On this day, one year ago, we were reeling from a change in the natural order of things. It was this day in 2009 that the world order changed and we were unsure how, or why, or who had allowed such a thing to happen.

Rafa was losing a tennis match. He was losing, a tennis match, on clay. He was losing, a tennis match, to a formerly barely-known top 50 player, Robin Soderling. He was losing, a tennis match, on clay, to Soderling, in his own backyard and living room, at Roland Garros.

We cried. We held hands in solidarity and took to Twitter to ensure it was real life and not a parallel universe. We changed livestreams in hope that we had ended up in a livestream wormhole but were found to be firmly within reality. We ranted on Facebook and spurred a Roger/Rafa debate of epic proportions among the tennis watching laymen of the universe. We fell asleep at 3am, clutching each other with tears and disbelief. It was 2009, and the Rafa era had shifted.

So on this day, being that it was before the Twitter days, I thought I’d show you an (edited) version of what the girls from Court Thirteen were up to, on my facebook page. EnYoy.

Rishe does rafa have a booboo tummy or something?
June 1, 2009 at 12:58am • Comment • Like

Mushka me thinks maybe
perhaps he has pain in his most famous ass?

June 1, 2009 at 12:59am •

Freda i think the wedgie pulling is a compulsive thing.
ROGERRRRRRR
June 1, 2009 at 1:01am •

Rishe im looking for dodgy random pubs with foxtel
June 1, 2009 at 1:02am •

Mushka world number one mallorcan adonis has earned his right to pull wedgies. rogers compulsive tucking hair behind ears into headband routine is resemblant to maria shrieka sharapova….go figure
June 1, 2009 at 1:04am •

Rishe hahaha freda and mushka, rafa vs roger… bring it on!!!!!!
June 1, 2009 at 1:04am •

(Please note the remainder of the Rafa/Roger debate has been removed as it is not vital to this conversation. I also want to protect my friend Freda’s credibility as a human being.)

Mushka ive virtually infected my laptop with viruses trying to find a LIVE STREAMING LINK THAT DOES NOT PAUSE EVERY FIVE SECONDS
June 1, 2009 at 1:06am •

Rishe soderling fifty friggin four winners, ouchhhh
June 1, 2009 at 1:08am •

Rishe ok i found a link but its insanely slow and commentary in portuegese.. apparently the US isn’t showing the match live either so 17,210 viewers are all watching this dodgy link from peru…
June 1, 2009 at 1:16am •

Leah oy va voy
rafale rafale
if you dont win fete toni might have to give you a spanking, on your famous ass!
June 1, 2009 at 1:21am •

Rishe LEAH PESHA… u made me cry
June 1, 2009 at 1:23am •

Rishe leah welcome to the world outside my limited profile
June 1, 2009 at 1:25am •

Leah shplikering?
June 1, 2009 at 1:26am •

Rishe potentially two games from the biggest upset in history… I THINK SO!
June 1, 2009 at 1:26am •

Leah i just got my tennis tummy ache..
June 1, 2009 at 1:27am •

Rishe THEY JUST CALLED FETE TONI “UNCLE TONY” ON RADIO
June 1, 2009 at 1:28am •

Rishe AGDSGKSADHGLDSAGHLKSDHJGSDLGSDKGHADLGHSDLKGAHSDGDSGDS
June 1, 2009 at 1:29am ••

Mushka sympathetic nrvous systems is out of control
June 1, 2009 at 1:30am •

Rishe ok good i think rafa has the set
can i go toilet now?
June 1, 2009 at 1:32am •

Mushka u’ll have to kick leah off and beat me to it!!
June 1, 2009 at 1:32am •

Mushka DAMN
FIVE ALL
toilet postponed
June 1, 2009 at 1:33am •

Leah get with it rish
5-5
June 1, 2009 at 1:33am •

Mushka cause u had a bad day (8) say what u liiike and how does it feel one more timee?
June 1, 2009 at 1:34am •

Leah lol
just heard you guys running upstairs
was like facebook live
June 1, 2009 at 1:35am •

Rishe can u hear me laugh w hen u say something funny?
June 1, 2009 at 1:36am •

Rishe rafa keep slooking at fete toni naughty naughty
June 1, 2009 at 1:37am •

Mushka hahahah
time for prayer ya recks?
June 1, 2009 at 1:37am •

Mushka ok i dont know what to do now
out of witty comments….
rafa rafa RAFA
WHAT ARE U DOING!
June 1, 2009 at 1:40am •

Mushka THEORY – all the players i chose to ‘follow’ in that box on rolandgarros.com are all out….and rafa is hanging by a thread…..
June 1, 2009 at 1:41am •

Leah yeah, ana ivanovic GONE
June 1, 2009 at 1:42am •

Leah ooh ooh
its my fav
JUICE
June 1, 2009 at 1:42am •

Rishe THAT’S MY BOY!!
June 1, 2009 at 1:43am •

Mushka what type? orange? apple?
June 1, 2009 at 1:43am •

Rishe this would be amazing tennis to watch right now. forget the result i wanna see the shots!!
June 1, 2009 at 1:43am •

Mushka love the french
“trente – quinze”
June 1, 2009 at 1:44am •

Mushka TIEBREAK
June 1, 2009 at 1:45m •

Rishe sHIT.
June 1, 2009 at 1:45am •

Mushka cant breatheeee
cant breaaaaaaaaaaaaht
June 1, 2009 at 1:45am •

Leah he is yellow he is blue
he is about to say boo hoo
June 1, 2009 at 1:46am •

Leah go loser go
June 1, 2009 at 1:46am •

Rishe is this a match point tie break?
June 1, 2009 at 1:46am •

Mushka YESS IT ISS
if soderling gets up a break!
June 1, 2009 at 1:47am •

Rishe OUCH
June 1, 2009 at 1:47am •

Mushka k time to get into the same room and hold each other children…
this is no time for being separate
unity, come on
June 1, 2009 at 1:47am •

Mushka stupid crowd
“roobin”
June 1, 2009 at 1:48am •

Leah fault… make it a double
June 1, 2009 at 1:48am •

Rishe my room
now
June 1, 2009 at 1:48am •

Leah just heard mushka go
so i guess im up
June 1, 2009 at 1:48am •

Mushka GET HERE LEAH!
June 1, 2009 at 1:49am •

Mushka im in full fight flight General Adaptation Syndrome arousal stress response
June 1, 2009 at 1:49am

It’s been 365 days of tears, tension and difficulty, until only one month ago, the joy returned to our lives. Rafa will be avenging that merciless slaughter on Phillipe Chartrier this time last year. And all of us Rafalovers, throughout the world, will watch, and smile, and clap our hands with joy. And let us say, Amen.


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.

C’MON SAMMY!

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?


Eleven Months

April 19, 2010

For eleven months, we’ve been tearing our hair out, and wondering, WHY?

We’ve been remembering back to that dark and dreary night, June 1st 2009 to be precise, and thinking maybe that sinking feeling we had back then was real.

We’ve been watching him bounce back, then fall back down again, to bounce back, and then choke. With each tale of being “with colm”, and “finding my confidence”, we wonder what happened to that cocky little boy who was so sure of himself once upon a time.

He didn’t want the “pression” on him today, but he made it anyway – perhaps with thanks to the “pression” on Nando, who showed us that it’s true what your high school teacher told you – too much tension will make your  neck sore, and breathing and relaxation exercises are pivotal when doing your final exams. (Or, you know, competing for your first Masters 1000 Tournament. Same difference.)

HERE IS THE KING.. He probably has clay riding inside his undies at this point and by the looks of this pic, I reckon it would have gone inside his ears by then too. But seriously, after an eleven month drought of seeing any positive results on what you’re meant to do best – would YOU care?

Kudos to Nando for making it this far – I think it’s an amazing effort and each of the guys got what they deserved. Nando’s back in the top 10, though how long he can stay there is anyone’s guess with all the activity happening between 8 and 12 these days. And he made it to his first Masters final, which proves he ain’t just a pretty face – or a fabulous underwear model.


ClayTastic Bromance

April 18, 2010

Some of you may have noticed that I prefer not to post on tournaments I can’t actually attend. And being that my usual tournament attendance is on the limited side of only one, despite some exos bumping up this year’s frequency I’m still milking the same set of pics/videos from way back when.

Of course this just means you have something more to look forward to because there are still hella heaps of juicy pics and vids from Jan that have only just made their way back into my hot little hands.

However I do want to take the time to comment on the epicness of the week that has passed, and the joy that it foretells. Clay season has arrived, and with it, we are up for a claytastic bromantic time tomorrow with a Rafando final that promises win-win for many of us tennis nerds, particularly those I am familiar with in the Twitterverse.

It also means its time for THIS

Fixating on 8:35 and 8:52 is encouraged.

VAMOS!



Purely Gratuitous

February 2, 2010

I can’t remember what else I did on this day… except see Rafa. A lot. And talk to him. Not that he answered. And feel like I was ten metres away from him. Which I was. Lucky I know heaps of Spanish, like vamos. And lucky the guy sitting next to me at MCA had taught me how to pronounce it properly. Like, Bamos. Did anyone else know that?

Nothing like a good old bum pick before you ascertain your rulership over the universe.

Who else was playing that day? Oh yeah… Anyone wanna see a pic of Karlovic? What’s that? Can’t hear anything… Oh well here it is anyway.

Check the long midday shadow situation.

And Isner too. Though Muzza did kill him, I do like the guy. The man is like a tree. Karlovic is a crane. There’s a difference.

We even made it to see ARod and Gonzo and sing our best chi chi chi le le le. Not sure why I haven’t got any Gonzo pics.


Moments of Joyness

February 2, 2010

Well its once thing to hang up your sunhat (yes, I did purchase an Australian Open branded sunhat on one emergency sunny afternoon) and say, tata to a summer of tennis, it’s time to reset our body clocks and watch random overseas tournaments on livestream with Portuogese commentary. I mean, I will most certainly be falling into that category in a week or so.

But for now, we’re Aussie girls, and we don’t get tennis very often. (Watch us count the days to Davis Cup against – that’s right – Taiwan – in March.) So we’re going to milk this a little while longer, with a few more recaps and photos from the summer of tennis.

It doesn’t feel like only three short weeks since the girlies and I loaded up on sunscreen, confirmed our (MY!) credit card details on Ticketmaster and packed our everpresent “tennis bags” for what promised to be an awe-inspiring summer of tennis.

Here are some of our favourite moments from what has been an incredible whirlwind, of train rides and ticket “appropriation” and umpire chasing and sunburn and phone-charging in RLA concourse and toilet queues and big screen cheering and Aussie Aussie Aussie and hot Spaniards and live bands and IBM Slamtracker and EPIC EPIC TENNIS.

It started out with Hit for Haiti, where we remembered just why we love this sport, even if we only get it once a year. It was described so perfectly by one of the tennis writers I read avidly but who’s name I can’t recall, who reminded me it serves those tennis geeks among us who just love to remember that these people actually have, you know, personalities. And stuff.

Hit for Haiti

The teams squaring off on each other...

Kim & Andy

Kimmy & Andy

Team FabulousSo we had Kimmy and Andy sizing up Rafa, Novak, Serena and… who’s that in the yellow? Why it’s L L Lleyton… Awkward, anyone?

It has been uttered, perhaps blasphemously, that Hit for Haiti was probably the best part of the whole two weeks. I’m inclined to agree. Here’s hoping they do the same every year.

What else happened during the week?

– We nearly melted from the rain, and we got to know Little Bernie just a wee bit better….

Day 1 brought all the rain... and the dressed up awesome people of Australis to MCA.

We became riveted by the racquet stringers in the middle of garden square

And watched “our Jelena” crack it, despite being surrounded by a Stadium full of Love (true story).

On Day 2 the sun was shining, so we abandoned our post in the RLA concourse and went out to find adventures. Which we did. For example, one particularly hot, Spanish adventure on Court 16, who proceeded to sign LP’s tennis ball binoculars, my AO program, and essentially our hearts for good.

And our favourite celebrity on the circuit….. FETTE TONI!!

Some of his mates joined him too.

We watched the Magician’s Swan Song…

Caught up with Target-wearing Casey

Sang “we just had a barbecue noweh, noweh” and other assorted Greek favourites with Marco

Located our favourite umpire…

And watched Soda Water get bitten by of all things, a Granola Bar!! Happiness and Joy!

Found some hunky Spaniards on Court Fourteen, always a favourite location:

And most importantly, harnessed the power of DAVAI MIKHAIL to prevail over intense fifth set cramps.

To be continued


Better late than never – Day 2 recap

January 21, 2010

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.

Next attempt:

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?

Clearly not.

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.


Halfway through Day 2…

January 19, 2010

Check out twitter.com/rishegee for pics and updates…

and just so you all know… I have Rafa’s autograph. Yeah. That’s right kids.


%d bloggers like this: