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?


January 31, 2011

There’s one thing to have lovely seats, and get to watch fabulous tennis up front, and dance around with the Serbian army.

But the beauty of a slam final is all the other people who stand up and take an interest, because it’s a Slam, and it’s a final. And those people, who dot the audience, are sometimes of the famous persuasion.

So we decided to pap them.

I have now buried all journalistic integrity and will share with you accordingly the fruits of my surreptitious iPhone use combined with deftness and dexterity with my point and shoot. Excuse the fuzziness.

Celeb spotter extraordinaire, LP spotted Eric Bana in the crowd. Having a lovely chatskie with Vince Colosimo.

Before all that happened, of course, this lady arrived.

Molly was there too… but I was actually papping the Serbians at the time.

Alicia looked lovely.

And shared secrets with the lovely Renae Stubbs, also in the same row.


Who else? Oh yeah, just a player box filled with the most awesome Serbs you’ve ever met.

And Ana.

Yeah. That’s called papped.

View From The Top

January 30, 2011

Soon we’ll be heading down to our spiritual home, that lovely place we spent so many days and nights over the last few weeks. It’s pretty and blue and full of little hidey holes where fun times can happen. There’s that back end towards Hiisense, on Court 22, where the practices happen and the umpires stroll and the Serbians win on Court 18. There’s the other back end near my favourite court, Court 13 and her sister Court 14, where qualifiers and top seeds battle it out in the first few days and even the security guys can’t recall who is playing next. There are the concrete pot plans, where many a crazed fan has climbed for a better view of the practice courts. And there are the little trees where you can dash for a bit of sun or rain shade, depending on Melbourne Mother Nature’s whim of the day.

There are the big screens of Grand Slam Oval and Garden Square, and the joyous beer taps of the Heineken Garden and Jacob’s Creek Wine Bar. The fancy corporates keep to their side of Margaret Court Arena and the unwashed plebs, aglow with face paint and wrapped in flags, queue up to fill up their water bottles on the concourse outside Rod Laver Arena.

It’s Melbourne Park, my lovelies, and I am so sad to farewell it tonight.

Pics: Court Thirteen aka Mine.

How To: Behave in the Player Box

January 30, 2011

Over the last two weeks, R and LP’s tennis adventures have included a considerable amount of time perusing the player boxes of Melbourne Park. We’ve parked ourselves in the miniscule 3-seat-wide, 3-row-high strip separating the two on Margaret Court Arena; surreptitiously crept up to the rows behind Team Djokovic on Hiisense; craftily selected back row seats in RLA based on the views of Tio Toni and Team in their box; and even found ourselves sandwiched between coaches, trainers and significant others completely by chance on far-off outer courts and Show Courts 2 and 3.

Combine this with a significant amount of television watching during the year, and we’ve got the player box behaviour down pat. Leah summarised it quite well for me the other day, and made sure to perform appropriately during the Legends Doubles match on Rod Laver the other night. Making a beeline to where we were certain Ana had sat, contemplating stealing the skanky towels and selling them to some scary Ana fan (even though they more likely belonged to a sweaty Serbian team member rather than the lady herself), the lovely LP sat herself down and showed us how it’s done.

Clap politely.

Fist pump after exceptional points… Or, you know, give signals that LOOK like fist pumps but indicate…

And text.

And, you know, sit around and look pretty.

Note: That was Ana’s chair.

Your job is easier

January 18, 2011

Like any good exho featuring the hilarious antics of Andy Roddick (I’m actually being serious), there comes the predictable umpire/linesman ribbing, and today was no exception. Andy was insistent on proving that the linesman’s job is easier, and even had him come up and serve for us.

Between tennis players posing as catwalk models (Caro), in the photographer’s pit (Nole and Rafa), calling lines (Vika and Andy), playing soccer (Nole and Muzza), being a proud father (oh wait… that’s Lleyton), and even baseball (Andy), the guys tried to prove to us again and again that they’re good for anything but playing tennis.

But we know the truth, sez we. You kids are tennis players, and here’s the Class of 2011 picture. Stop giggling.

Rally for Relief Stars

Like any good wedding photographer, I did the bit where you zoom in bit by bit.


Courier, Lleyton, Rafter, Murray, Ivanovic

Courier’s sad because he’s not with his best mate “Rog”. Why does he call him that?

Vera, Caro, Rafa, Andy Roddick, Kim

Ah, the racquet clutch. Perfect defensive position without looking too “arms-crossed” in an awkward situation. Like when you and your numerous “classmates” are forced to lineup for a cheesy pic. Why clasp each other’s stomachs and kiss on cheek politely if you can’t even put an arm around for a photo op?

Roddick, Clijsters, Henin, Federer, Stosur

Obviously, Roger has the friendly arm-wrap down. Dammit. He’s touching Sam. HE’S TOUCHING MY GIRL!

Tennis stars at Rally for Relief

the family all together

Looking gorgeous and playing gorgeous tennis vs looking at gorgeous pictures? My job is easiest.

Oh No. They Don’t Show This Stuff on TV. :(

January 16, 2011

After escaping the skirmishes of the #fangirlstampede, we were ensconced in our front row seats in Rod Laver – yeah, no biggie – and had two hours of time-killing ahead of us.

Lucky we had the shirtless – and surprisingly fit – Lleyton to entertain us, ripped torso atop wobbling hips, and the always lovely Tomas Berdych.

Lucky we could see….ooooh oooh wait, whoozzaat? It’s Roger Fedeerrrreeerrrr. Yeahhhhh Federrer. Heee’s like, oooh, you know, the gr8est tennis playaahh evaaahh. Whooooo. Federreeerrr, come here, ROGER!

We did a good job applauding all those glorious winners… The ones made by his hitting partner, of course, who we later confirmed was Richard Berankis. Good work.

And then finally – FINALLY! – this man came on court, and we could settle down into the smooth tones of his rich voice, announcing in my very favourite way, Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to Rod Laver Arena!

And the party began.

Can You See Anything From the Back Row of the Australian Open?

December 22, 2010

Yesterday, this was one of my search engine terms:

And my heart just went out for the poor soul who typed that into a search engine and came across, of all expert webpages, my humble little site.

So let me honour this lovely visitor by divulging everything there is to know about attending AO, and let quell his/her fears in one word: YES.

Yes, you can see from the back row in the Australian Open. Yes, you can see from pretty much anywhere you get seats, even the nosebleeds. Excepting Hiisense (not a favourite of mine, with a few awkward spots blocked by railings and whatnot), you are basically guaranteed a great view wherever you sit.

Don’t believe me? Allow me to show you:
Australia Day at the Australian Open 2009

That, dear friends, is the view we had from the corner of Rod Laver Arena on Australia Day, 2009. It was retirement day; when first Vika Azarenka decided to get sick halfway through kicking Serena’s ass (even extracting some profanity, we love a code violation from Alison Lang); then La Monfils couldn’t make it past bestie Simon due to a bum wrist. The final match of the day was Nadal/Gonzales, and there’s nothing a like bit of “chi chi chi, le le le” to make the nosebleeds feel as good as the box. Honestly, we saw great, and I just want to tell this lovely visitor of mine that he/she is in for a fabulous time. In fact, we were next to a little camera in that back corner, and from then on any shot on TV reminded us that it was coming from “Our Camera!”

So do yourself a favour and get over there. Or have I not explained myself clearly enough?

Battling Withdrawals: 10 Ways To Pretend You’re At The Tennis

February 4, 2010

So the AO’s over, but you’re all sad like me and can’t believe summer of tennis is over. All is not lost. Get your favourite tennis match queued up on TV, and enjoy the AO experience.

1. Pack your bag

There’s no couch sitting without it. You will need sunscreen – lots of it – water bottles, but of course no glass or cans. On  your way to the couch, allow yourself to be intercepted for a “bag check” by a dimwitted guard who will ask you casually for cans or glass without actually looking. Or worse, someone who insists you empty your carefully packed bag from top to bottom, including your picnic pasta salad and little jar of olives (this did happen to a group of old ladies behind me). Moving along now.

2. Scan your ticket.

Oh wait, you haven’t got an at home ticket scanner. Here’s the analogy, then.

Go to your front door. Ask a random stranger to attempt to open the door ahead of you, using the key to your neighbour’s house (i.e. tomorrow’s session not today’s) and inserting it the wrong way (scanning barcode wrong way up). After twenty five tries and half an hour, give him your key and squeeze in behind him.

3. Time to watch your tennis match.

I know you’ve got a comfy leather couch at home, but now

is not the time. Find a nice solid board – something guaranteed to leave your ass, even the “most famous” of asses, in absolute agony by the end of the day. If you’re a prima donna, you can find a piece of foam – ideally emblazoned in a bright blue corporate logo – to cushion your tushy. This only applies if you’re about to watch a lame, grown up audience match. If you’re planning on joining the party on Margaret court arena, there’s no cushy tushy for you or you’ll be laughed out of the Freakinator section.

4. Feel like a drink?

No worries. First, fill up your fridge with freezing cold beer. Put a lock on the fridge. Add a contraption that only allows you to get a beer if you wait for 26 minutes out front and insert seven dollars of hard earned cash. Beer must be poured in a leaky plastic cup which is completely spilled over by the time you get to your destination. You can sit on the couch with your half full cup of beer knowing that each sip equates to approximately sixty three and a half cents. If you want a snack with that, add another forty two minutes to your wait time, and make sure you pay a minimum of two dollars thirty per bite. It’s the only way.

5. Need the bathroom? Wait. Wait.

Wait. What are you waiting for? Changeover, of course. This, of course is the time that the game will go to seventeen deuces before you can walk out. Go to your bathroom. Then wait. And wait. And wait a little longer. After fourteen minutes in line, you can go in, but make sure there are liberal amounts of unidentified liquid on the floor, crap all over the seat toilet paper everywhere (bonus points if it sticks to your shoe), and none in the actual cannister. No liquid soap either. On your way out, make sure you bump into someone on her way in – sisters can be borrowed as props.

6. Simulate sunburn.

Stand in front of a hot oven for thirty minutes. Sixty or more if you’re game. Rub your skin with sandpaper. Try to make your burnt, raw skin feel better with a tiny dollop of aloe vera that wouldn’t cover a baby’s bum because you’re rationing the stuff. Watch it peel for the next two weeks. That’s right. Two weeks. (Mine is peeling as we speak).

7. Player Stalking.

Go for an hour run up hills, weaving through people, down stairs and across crowds. Make sure that your target isn’t certain – this is because you’ve caught a glimpse, or heard from someone, who heard from someone else, that someone you love is on the other side of the park.

Run for your life. Get there and there is a crowd of a hundred people. Stand on top of a concrete pot plant and nearly break your neck. Catch a glimpse – it’ll look something like this – and declare yourself happy and all your wishes fulfilled.

For extra points, find a glossy magazine that you in no way want ruined or damaged. Try a mint first edition of Great Expectations, but a signed AO Program will do. Insist on holding it out at a certain angle, on a certain page, for a full fifteen minutes, exercising your triceps and squashing any thirteen year old who gets in your way. Lose your precious Nole-fingerprinted Sharpie in the process.

8. Nailbiting.

Get really involved in a five setter. Intensely involved.

Then watch the clock tick over past 12.10 am. That’s it folks – you’ve missed your train. Now you might be at home, but if you want to live the experience properly, it’s not just about toddling into your bedroom when it’s over. You have one of two options:

9. The joys of public transport.

As soon as the clock strikes midnight, make a run for it. Brace yourself for change of ends, then run for your life. Hail the tram out the back, or if you miss it, race as fast as you can, listening to your thongs flip flopping against your sweaty feet as you race past Lexus Centre, Hiisense and MCG carpark. Get to the station and feel your legs seize up on you as you try to climb that last bit, the ramp, while you hear the train honk and know that it’s pulling away from the station.

10. Taxi rank.

Think of the longest queue you’ve ever been in – airport security before a public holiday, maybe? Multiply it by ten, then change the people to the kind waiting outside a club on a Saturday at 3am. Make everyone exhausted, drunk and sunburnt. Wait. Wait. Wait.

That was my attempt at therapy.

But no… bring on the hard seats, the long lines, the toilet queues and the never-ending shuffle inside RLA concourse… bring on the noisy Hellas and the fabulous freakinators in MCA, the nosy corporate attendants and the tired ticket scanners….. the chattering fuchsia-clad ballboys, the towering Russians and flag-clad Serbians, the wannabe wags in homemade singlets and sparkly banners, the foreign coaches wearing passes proudly stalking the grounds, the ITF officials strolling around in fluoro yellow, the dancing penguins in Grand Slam Oval, the “programs programs” kids out front.



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.

Further moments of joyness, with some nailbiting thrown in

February 2, 2010

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.

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