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Melbourne - View from the Stands


Well as you may be aware, I just got back from 2 weeks in Melbourne where I went to some of the Australian Open. I went with my parents and brother and we got a deal where we had 2 tickets for Rod Laver Arena for each of the 1st 5 days. This allowed us to see the day session on centre court and go to any outside court at any time. Our seats pretty good, not far behind the player's box and right next to the seats reserved for players. Didn't see any big names sitting there, but I think some did go for the night matches. If I go again next year, I might try to get a similar deal but for the 2nd week instead, more on that later.

The trip started on the 13th of Jan, at 4am when we had to get up to go to the airport. There was a pretty early tennis feel about things when we got to Auckland Airport to find Fernando Gonzalez and Nicholas Massu further ahead in the queue to check in. They were both on our flight along with a few others I didn't recognise but appeared to be tennis players, possibly juniors or doubles players who got knocked out of the Heineken Open the previous day. I actually ended up almost next to Gonzalez in the line for customs at Melbourne Airport so I already had an autograph before I had really got to Melbourne.

Day 1 I went with my mother. First up was Lindsay Davenport against Aussie girl Casey Dellaqua. It was a pretty dull, 1 sided match although Davenport didn't play particularly well. Certainly didn't look like a world number 1. I didn't realise how exceptionally tall she actually is until I had seen her in person. Next up was one of the best matches I saw, David Nalbandian against Thai Dannai Udomchoke. It was expected to be a straight sets rout and looked that way as Naldbandian took the first 2 with ease. I actually left after the 1st set for a walk around and had a look at some of the outside courts where I found Thomas Johansson coming off a practice court so got the autograph. I went back in time for the start of the 3rd set and the Thai player managed to take it, I think in a tie break, then he took the next set with ease to force it into a 5th. Everyone was urging him on but in the end Nalbandian had too much class. It was a great 3 and a half hour match. Finally, it was Sharapova against Kloesel. It was good to see Sharapova but boy does she grunt! There has been a lot about it in the press, but take it from me, everything is justified. Its unbearable to be there in the crowd for 1 of her matches. Plenty of people just left. She may be good to look at but I can't really say I'm a fan, much prefer the likes of Henin and Hingis. Anyway, as expected it was a pretty quick 1 sided match so when it finished we went to find a decent seat on Margaret Court Arena as Time Henman would be playing Tursunov there at 7.30pm. We got there to find Henman out practising so watched for a little while and when he finished he came over to the side and signed a few autographs for some British fans so I ran over and managed to get it. There was just over an hour until the match so my mother saved the seats while I went to look at some other courts and watched the end of the 3rd set and the full 4th set of James Blake vs Acasuso which Blake won in the 4th set. That was a great match to watch, there was 1 awesome point where Blake got lobbed, ran back and did that through the legs shot which lobbed Acasuso who ran back and did the same shot but it hit the tape and didn’t get over the net. So Blake won just before 7.30 and I got back in time for the Henman match. It was an electric atmosphere with about a 95% British crowd. Henman was coming from behind all the way in the first set but somehow took it 7-5 then deservedly lost the next 2. He stormed to a 5-1 lead in the 4th and looked sure to take it to a 5th but somehow managed to lose it 7-5. It looked like he let a couple of games against the serve go to save energy to serve it out, but he failed to do so. A poor first round exit. I was sitting literally a few seats away from the players seats where Henman’s family were sitting, and Andy Murray joined them part way through the 1st set and left towards the end of the 2nd, presumably to get a decent sleep before his match the next day.

Day 2 it was my father and brother’s turn to go and they got to see Federe, Mauresmo and that superb Hewitt-Vik match, of which I saw the end of on TV. That was probably the best day any of us got.

Day 3 I went with my brother and first was Ljubicic against Kohlschreiber in a pretty dull one sided, hit from the back of the court sort of match. Next was probably my favourite woman player, Justine Henin-Hardenne against Hana Sromova. It was actually quite a good match, until Sromova got injured half way through the 2nd set and Henin took it in 2 sets. Finall it was the big hitters, Andy Roddick against Weslie Moody. Although Roddick took it in straight sets, it was quite an entertaining match with a number of good points. Roddick’s serve really is frighteningly quick, you really need to see it live to get the full idea. We watched a little bit of Robredo vs Tursunov on Show court 2 and then left as my brother didn’t feel very well. I would have liked to stay for Johansson-Malisse which ended up being a 5 set thriller, but oh well, saw it on tv.

Day 4 was again my brother and I and it started with Aussie Sam Stosur against Ana Ivanovic. I didn’t expect a great match but it was quite decent with Stosur taking it in straight sets. Next it was the big one, Roger Federer against Florian Mayer. During the first set when they gave score updates from outside courts I discovered Andy Murray was playing in the doubles and had it been a poxy match on Rod Laver, I would have gone to watch, but I didn’t really want to leave Federer and centre court to see Murray get thrashed on court 21 to be honest. Mayer didn’t actually play too badly but Federer was simply in another class, I even managed to film his match point ace with my camera. Finally it was Kim Clijsters agains Men Yuan of China. Clijsters looked the best of all the women I had seen play and had it not been for the unfortunate injury in the semi, she probably would have won the tournament.
It was a pretty early finish on centre court with 3 straight set wins so we had plenty of time to wonder round the outside courts. We decided to watch Olivier Rochus and Xavier Malisse in doubles and we were literally courtside. It was a court that didn’t have a stand, just a row of seats on either side so we were almost on the court. Everything looks so much faster when you are that close and it was good to be able to hear everything the players said. Malisse was serving poorly and at 1 point he smashed his racquet against the back boards and another time he said “I can’t get a f***ing serve in!” to himself. Another time when Malisse disputed a line call, that did look to be a wrong call from the linesman, Malisse said to the umpire “That’s the 2nd one he’s missed, can you take him off?” which drew laughter from the small crowd. Rochus was also quite entertaining, often joking with the linesmen etc. It was a pretty good match with the Belgians winning in 3 sets. They must have been pretty dead after Rochus had a 4 hour 5 setter in the morning and Malisse had a 5 setter the previous night. They both stayed behind afterwards and posed for photos and signed loads of autographs so I managed to get a photo to back up my claims of being an inch taller than Rochus. After that match we watched Haas v Goldstein, another dull 1 sided straight setter.

Day 5 was my parents turn to go and they saw Davenport, Sharapova and Roddick.
I decided to go again by myself on the Tuesday of the 2nd week and got a ground pass for all the outside courts. Saw a couple of legends doubles matches involving Roy Emerson, Todd Woodbridge, John Fitzgerald, Wally Massur and Kim Warwick. I even managed to get a ball that a linesman lobbed up into the crowd after the Woodbridge match. I also saw Bjorkman/Mirnyi vs Paes/Dam. After that match I went for a walk around to see the Vodafone Arena and the outside courts around there where I hadn’t gone on the 3 days of the 1st week and it was lucky I walked over there as Davenport and Henin were both out practising and I managed to get both autographs. The final match I stayed for was Bupathi/Hingis vs Bjorkman/Raymond in mixed doubles which Hings and Bupathi won in 3 sets (well not a 3rd set, it was a new rule where it was a tiebreak to 10 points instead of a 3rd set). It was a really good match and a good atmosphere with a number of Swedes there for Bjorkman and Hingis the crowd favourite. I have always been a Hingis fan and tried to get the autograph at the end but she only signed a couple and ran down the tunnel. From what I could gather from other people, someone had called her something unpleasant and that’s why she ran off, and it did appear as though she threw a pen back at someone which is a bit sad.

All in all, it was an awesome trip. I think I did quite well with the autographs getting Gonzalez, Johansson, Henman, Rochus, Malisse, Stosur, Davenport, Henin-Hardenne, Tony Roche and Wally Masur. My brother even got John Eales (rugby legend) who was in the crowd on day 2.
I definitely recommend going if you have the time and the means to do so and you don’t even need to get tickets for Rod Laver. You can get a ground pass which gives you access to every other court and you get big names on Vodafone and Margaret Court. The ground pass in the 2nd week only cost me $17 Australian , which would be roughly 7 pounds for those of you in the UK. That’s nothing when you consider I Paid $60 NZ, or about 3 times that to go to the Heineken Open in Auckland.

I really hope to go again next year. I’ll have to find someone to go with first though as I don’t think it would be much fun going on holiday by yourself. Might be a hard job as I don’t really have any friends interested in it, so who knows… Anyway, great trip.

I haven’t really organised my photos yet so once I do I will post some, maybe I’ll start a new topic just for photos.
Sorry this has been so long winded.
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