East Melbourne, Australia
My year off folder was once full of ticketek email receipts, but now there are just a few left. One of those is for a three-day pass for the tennis slam, though, and I’m off to days 1-3. I opted to pick up my ticket from the office in town, rather than at the venue, which was easier but the queues at the site weren’t big so I didn’t save much time. After a short walk from Flinders Street, I joined a massive queue for entry, but then someone threw a switch and we moved almost at a run and were all inside within ten minutes – bag check one word summary: cursory.
I had a vague plan. Both plucky Brit girls were on separate show courts first up. I was faced with the Rod Laver arena as soon as I walked in, but couldn’t work out where everything was. Strolling around I found show court 3, where Robson was due to play, and thought that would do, but eventually I made the effort to get to show court 2, for Watson, figuring she had a better chance. I spotted a radio seller and was on the verge of ignoring her when I saw they were only $5, unlike the $20 at the cricket. I took the gamble – AO radio does not appear to employ Sodding Mercer, so all was well.
I picked well, court-wise. Watson lost the first, battled through to take the second after a period where, despite the overall quality increasing, neither player could hold serve before finally fighting but losing in the third. Second and third matches up involved Aussie men, so the cheer section at one end could get even livelier. They’d already raised laughs – in between matches they started a Mexican wave, less witless for there being no actual sport on at the time, then a slow-mo and hyper speed version. Briefly while players warmed up, they got a ‘backhand, backhand, forehand, backhand, forehand, forehand’ commentary, much funnier than it might sound, with a sneaky ‘winner!’ slipped in.
Second match was Mahut vs Aussie Ebden. The latter came bombing out with crowd support and broke serve, holding his from then on to take the set. The second was more competitive but went to Ebden again, and the crowd were happy. Mahut found his range to take the third and whitewash the fourth, but Ebden had perhaps relaxed when that set had gone, conserving energy for the push he made in the last, taking a win. Two good, hard competitive matches. Robson had lost in an hour or so, and that court was into its fourth match.
After six hours of tennis, many courts were now on their last match, here we hadn’t started the third. I decided to move, to see about a Russian on court 15. That worked well-the last two matches on my show court were straight set wins. On the way to find the Russian I passed Robredo vs Rosol, with the latter a break up in the third. Looked compelling, and was. Rosol won the third to go 2-1 up, held a break for most of the fourth only to lose the tie break from 5-1 up, then again took an early break in the last, lost and regained it, thought he’d won the match on his serve only for the umpire to spot an official’s out-raised arm, initially call for a first serve, then change his mind and call for second. Neither player was overly impressed, but Robredo – the only player I saw wearing sunglasses – found enough to win 8-6. Rosol shook his opponent’s hand and turned away from the umpire.
I found the Russian out on the furthest flung court, 15. I thought he might be overly verbose, but he was Tursonov. The match was a pretty standard win for the Russian, against the American, Russell. He, like Watson, seems to be carrying some extra round the middle – either racket swinging builds up sticky-outy stomach muscles, or the lesser lights of tennis haven’t bothered with core exercises yet. At times there were fewer than 100 people watching, but it was a lovely end of day wind down in the last of the sun, after 7pm, with the MCG as a backdrop. Play continued on centre and Margaret Court, but I passed the last match still in play, Kubot vs Davy Denko. The former had been noisily supported throughout by four Poles, I hope he stopped at the end to thank them even though he lost. Thwarted in trying to watch that match by standing on the two rows of seat at the court opposite, I watched the end of Djokovic’s win on the screen and made my way out.
Today was cool in the early morning, almost chilly for the first hour but hot once the sun came round to my shady spot. Tomorrow will be around 40 degrees, which will be brutal for us spectators.