A Day At The Tennis

Note: some of the things that I’ve put in this report may not be in the right chronological order. Six hours in the hot Melbourne sun means it all kind of blurs together.

Tennis is one of those sports that one person sees as astonishingly thrilling and the other sees as excruciatingly dull, and both of them are just as valid. Where a tennis connoisseur would marvel at the 84-game battle between Ivo Karlovic and Horatio Zeballos, the longest game in Australian Open history[1], someone who isn’t interested would decry this as incredibly boring – who would want to watch five hours of people hitting a ball back and forth to each other?

While I acknowledge that tennis can be boring, I’m firmly in the thrilling camp, and which is why I was excited to get two ground passes for a day at the Australian Open, courtesy of my grandfather (who’s been driving there for my entire life[2]). Mum asked me if I wanted to take a friend, and I nominated my mate Riley (hello there, if you’re reading this).

Over the course of a sleepover at my grandparent’s house, there were plenty of preparations made. I printed off a schedule and a map, packed a bunch of food and sunscreen, received a generous donation of $30 from my grandmother (I owe her $2.40), and at about 11.18am on Sunday morning, set off to pick up Riley.

After a hassle with the Apple Maps directions (they were all good, but my communication of them wasn’t), we picked up Riley at 11.30am, made idle conversation for a while, and drove to Lilydale station. We caught the 11.59am to Flinders Street, rode to Ringwood[3], got out, got on a bus, rode the bus to Box Hill, got out[4], got on another train, and disembarked at Richmond at about 1.30pm. Walked down the ramp from Platform 9, turned left[5], went along the tunnel and made arrangements for where we would meet my grandfather when we were done. (We had to meet near the National Tennis Centre at 7.30pm). He went to go do his driving responsibilities, and Riley and I were on our own.

We walked along Olympic Boulevard towards the entrance, crossed over past the Eastern Plaza Entrance, went past Hisense Arena, turned right, scanned our tickets, and we were in!

We could go to every court except Rod Laver and Margaret Court, which left us our share of 66 matches on 14 courts. First off, after looking at the sights on Grand Slam Oval for a while[6], we walked to Court 19. We were waiting to see how long it would take until the junior girls’ doubles match I had bookmarked to visit –

[3] Bianca Vanessa Andreescu / Carson Branstine (CAN/USA)
v
Aleksa Cveticanin / Seone Mendez (AUS/AUS)[7]

– would start. It wasn’t on, though, so we watched the game before that for a short while.

(W) Michaela Haet (AUS)
v
Hurricane[8] Tyra Black (USA)

It was interesting to watch how the junior players played in a very similar style to the seniors, even if the angle we were watching from wasn’t the best (there were a bunch of poles in the way). We watched Haet get the break before going off to look at the sights of the Open. And get food.

There were plenty of food stalls, which was a good thing. The bad thing was that it was all pretty overpriced. A bit of looking found that the cheapest we could get a 600ml soft drink for was $5.60[9], so I bought a Lift at that price. It was certainly better than a 425ml Frozen Coke for $7.30[10], which we both wrote off as too expensive. Riley went to buy a $6.30 hot dog, but he had apparently dropped a $2 coin from his pile of money, so I had to give him some.

The tennis wasn’t the only entertainment on display, as the two of us watched a pretty impressive breakdancing exposition near the hotdog stand. Of course, a grassy area may not have been the best idea to do it, as, to quote a fellow onlooker, “he’ll be so itchy in about ten minutes”.

Once this was done, we went to court 19 and saw the start of the doubles match involving the young Canadian[11]. It was a good match for the twenty or so minutes we watched it, with the North American team coming out on top, and we left after that.

In a break, we looked at the schedule, and saw what could possibly be the coolest name in tennis history: Maxence Broville[12]. Frenchman Broville, with his doubles partner Vlad Andrei Dancu (itself a cool name), would be playing against an Australian duo[13]. He was going to be playing on Court 5, so we stopped to have a look at how the matches on that court were going.

At that point, we were on the third match of the day for Court 5 –

Jack Molloy (GBR)
v
Alexandre Rotsaert (USA)

– so we decided to watch that for a while. I was standing right on the edge of a court for about a minute, before one of the security guards tapped me on the shoulder and told me to get back[14]. After that, Riley and I lay there for a while in the blazing sun.

Once we got up, we made the most of what was probably the best thing at the Australian Open on the day – giant fans all over the place that sprayed air with a mist of water over you. Literally every 20 minutes, we went off to the nearest one of those.

At this point, we wanted a place to chill, so we went in the New York Streets area of Grand Slam Oval[15]. We sat in the shade listening to music, and then sat on a couch in 47[16], and then decided to go back into a fan shop, to see if there was anything I’d rather spend $20 on than a program.

There, we did find an awesome t-shirt for $20 (if you want to see pictures of it, it’s on my Twitter account), but I decided that a program would be better than that[17], so I picked up a program and the complimentary AO Daily that came with it[18]. Flicked through it for a while, and then dashed off to Show Court 2, since Riley was interested in seeing some mixed doubles.

Here, we were able to see

(W) Samantha Stosur / Samuel Groth (AUS/AUS)
v
Pauline Parmentier / Nicolas Mahut (FRA/FRA)

This looked to be good, simply because it was a mixed doubles team with both players having the same name.

We watched the Australians close out the first set, with Sam Groth the star of the show for two reasons. Firstly, he absolutely gunned it serving for a while, at one point reaching 220km/h[19]. Secondly, he had a bit of fun whenever the ball was called out, but still in play – once by turning his racket around and trying, unsuccessfully, to hit the ball with the handle; once by heading the ball, soccer style, to a ballkid[20].

We left at the end of the set, and spent most of the rest of the time wandering around Grand Slam Oval. We went to Court 5 to see how it was going, which was up to the next match.

Siddhant Banthia / Kaya Gore (IND/TUR)
v
Federico Iannaccone / Len Schouten (ITA/NED)

Clearly, Molloy-Rotsaert had taken a really long time, and this match looked like it was going to as well. We ducked in to a nearby fan shop (much larger than the one near the entrance/exit), and I decided to spend $20 of my own, hard-earned, money on the cool t-shirt. That decision made, I changed in a toilet, and Riley and I decided to have a little bit of fun in the Ballpark, which is the area that Tennis Australia decided to make to suck in the families of young children. We went in line, jumped on the trampoline, and dashed off to Court 19 again.

Moerani Bouzige (AUS)
v
(W) Tao Mu (CHN)[21]

Here, we watched the end of a match between two players who had the same t-shirt and same skin tone[22]. Bouzige, who had won the first set, took to battling Mu in a tiebreak. Mu vaguely resembled Nick Kyrgios, with loud outbursts on half of the points. In an evenly-contested match, Bouzige ended up prevailing 9-7 or thereabouts.

Since my legs hurt and I really didn’t feel like walking all the way to Court 5 again, I got Riley to check how the doubles match there was going – and the second set had just finished, with a match tiebreak. We decided that our quest to see Maxence Broville was not going to come to fruition[23].

Since it was late, we spent a little bit more time getting dangerously close to the mist fans on Grand Slam Oval[24] before going back to where we had to meet. My granddad met us there, said he was going to get food and we should go see where he was going (we couldn’t get in, due to a lack of accreditation[25]).

His directions weren’t very clear, though, so we ended up going back and waiting for him there. He bought us juice, chips, a meat pie, and dim sims – a smörgåsbord[26] of food, which we ate while waiting for the train.

I got to bed a little after 10pm, by which point I was tired, sunburnt, and had a pain in the legs. But it was an awesome day at the tennis.


RESULTS OF MATCHES WE SAW

  • (W) Michaela Haet (AUS) d Hurricane Tyra Black (USA) 6-3 6-4
  • [3] Bianca Vanessa Andreescu / Carson Branstine (CAN/USA) d Aleksa Cveticanin / Seone Mendez (AUS/AUS) 6-3 6-1
  • (W) Samantha Stosur / Samuel Groth (AUS/AUS) d Pauline Parmentier / Nicolas Mahut (FRA/FRA) 6-3 6-4
  • Jack Molloy (GBR) d Alexandre Rotsaert (USA) 6-1 5-7 6-0
  • Siddhant Banthia / Kaya Gore (IND/TUR) d Federico Iannaccone / Len Schouten (ITA/NED) 6-7 6-2 [11-9]
  • Moerani Bouzige (AUS) d (W) Tao Mu (CHN) 6-4 7-6

RESULT OF THE MATCH WE WISHED WE HAD SEEN

  • Maxence Broville / Vlad Andrei Dancu (FRA/ROU) v (W) Alexei Popyrin / Campbell Salmon (AUS/AUS) 6-7 6-3 [10-8]

[1] This is the record for most games in a match, not the total length of it. The 84-game match succeeded the 83 games in the 2003 quarterfinal, where Andy Roddick beat Younes El Aynaoui 4-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19, for the longest match by games. The length record is 5 hours and 53 minutes, in the Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal final in 2012.

(Because you guys are the sort who would like information like this, the women’s time record is 4 hours 44 minutes [Francesca Schiavone v Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2011 fourth round], and the women’s game record is 48 games [Chanda Rubin d Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-4 2-6 16-14, 1996 quarterfinal]. The longest match, for both records, was the John Isner v Nicolas Mahut game in the first round of Wimbledon 2010. The match lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days, with Isner winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.)

[2] His favourite story from his fifteen years of driving is when he had the evening session on one night in 2008 – that happened to be the night where Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis traded shots until 4.34am. Because of the rules, he had to wait until two hours after the evening session was finished to leave, so as he was trooping out, the people on the morning session were walking in for the day.

(Another stat for you: until Saturday night, the 11.47pm start to the match was the latest in Australian Open history. It was overtaken by the 11.58pm start of the match between Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Gasquet.)

[3] After putting a photo of me and Riley on Twitter, I received the text message from ALDI Mobile that I was out of data. Since my terrible phone would connect to the Australian Open Wi-Fi, but not give me the sign in screen, that meant that you all had to miss my no-doubt insightful Twitter throughout the day.

[4] Due to works on removing level crossings, there will be interruptions on the Lilydale and Belgrave lines throughout January.

[5] This was a change for me. Almost literally every time I’ve gone off to Richmond Station, we’ve turned right when we got down the ramp (because we’ve always been going to the MCG), but this was different.

[6] At some points, the Australian Open seemed more like a music festival than a sporting event. Riley and I joked about looking out for drugs on the ground.

[7] I’m aware that this seems like a pretty random match to look out for, but pretty much every match we could have seen was a junior event. Also, Canadians are pretty cool.

[8] Yes, her name is actually Hurricane (well, Hurricane Tyra technically. One would hope that she goes by Tyra at school).

[9] The irony of this was that Riley had wanted to buy a drink at Box Hill station, and he had chalked it off as too expensive from the vending machine. It was $4.50.

[10] For context, you can get a larger drink at Hungry Jack’s for $1.

[11] Who, by the way, has family who emigrated from Romania.

[12] To be technical, it’s Brovillé, but the English-speaking writers of the schedule hadn’t put the diacritic in. (That’s his picture in the featured image.)

[13] Writing this report, I noticed that one of the Australians was called Campbell Salmon. That would have been a match of magnificent monikers, had we gotten to see it.

[14] I can understand what I was trying to do, but I was a little bit annoyed. No words were exchanged between us, because I didn’t want to be the annoying teenager who got kicked out.

[15] Reading the AO Daily that I got there, Grand Slam Oval was designed so you could ‘visit all four Grand Slams in a day’. Different areas were labelled The English Club, the Paris Quarter, the New York Streets and the Melbourne Gardens. It’s, as I said earlier, like a music festival.

[16] This was a store where you could buy sports caps. They marketed AO 2017, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball League.

(Of course, you could only get caps from San Antonio, Golden State, Chicago, Cleveland, the primo teams. The least well known team there were the Milwaukee Bucks, but I wanted to go really out there. How about making a cap for the Minnesota Timberwolves?)

[17] But not for long, as you’ll see later.

[18] I’ve been getting programs at sporting events for as long as I can remember. It started in July 2009, when the seven-year-old me scored the Western Bulldogs losing by a point to Collingwood in the AFL Record. Since then, I’ve collected several dozen AFL Records, the ABC Cricket Book since 2010-11, the BBL Guide whenever I’ve gone, various other guides, and, in five out of the last six years, the Australian Open program. Most of these I haven’t paid for, I’ve gotten them thanks to my granddad. But there are exceptions (the AFL Record for the preseason, and now this). By the way, I was disappointed in the latest program for the AO. In the last years, it’s had the top 100 ranked players, for both the men’s and women’s, and every past champion. Now it only has the top 40 and the champions from 2016. It’s still pretty good, and has a nice and meaty stats section.

[19] Stosur was no slouch at serving either, and served out the set, including an ace or two.

[20] You could alternatively go with what Riley called them throughout the day – green ninjas.

[21] This match wasn’t originally going to be played on Court 19, but presumably the matches on it finished early. Or the matches on Court 20, where Bouzige and Mu were going to be playing originally, were taking a long time.

[22] Unlike the match between Daria Gavrilova and Timea Bacsinszky, they had different shorts.

(How does Microsoft Word not take Timea, but accepts Bacsinszky? It’s weird.)

[23] We’ll just have to look out for him when he gets a wildcard to Roland Garros.

[24] I’m sure the only real danger was of getting a soaked face, which happened to me a few times.

[25] Who knows, maybe by next year’s Australian Open I’ll be in as a journalist?

(Tennis Australia, call me.)

[26] Linguistic nerdery here – my dictionary says that smörgåsbord is Scandinavian hors d’oeuvres. Hors d’oeuvres, as well as being delightful to say, is the plural form of hors d’oeuvre, which is defined as “an appetiser served before a meal”. My dictionary also has a list of Swedish words and translations into English (plus French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Yiddish), and smörgåsbord can be split into two parts – ‘smörgås’, which is sandwich, and ‘bord’, which is table. Therefore, smörgåsbord literally means sandwich table. The practical upshot of this is, to truly be a smörgåsbord, it needs to have sandwiches.

(Believe it or not, I can go much further into nerdy digressions like this.)

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One comment

  1. Hi Nick,
    I just read your piece on the Australian Open when you went with Riley (very slack of me I know as you wrote this awhile ago) but I had to tell you I loved it.
    Informative, humorous, and very colourful with discriptions of both the venue and games. I will have to save your blog to my phone so I can read it more regularly.
    You have a definite talent for sports journalism. Anyway can’t wait to go and read some more of your things, thanks again
    Love Ellen 🎾

    Like

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