We have landed safely in our final destination…New Zealand’s other island (ie, Australia). We have 2 things on our agenda during our time in Melbourne: to eat and to watch tennis (the Australian Open). Trust me when I say we have already succeeded in doing both well…and likely to excess!
We arrived in Melbourne early Monday morning with the plan to peruse the city a bit before going to see tennis on Tuesday and Wednesday. Well, when we learned that Lleyton Hewitt (Aussie veteran) was playing on Monday night, we changed those plans and dove straight into the tennis tourney and have barely come up for air since.
[If you don't like tennis, the rest of this post won't interest you. We'll write a separate post on Melbourne and/or food later.]
I feel pretty privileged to say that the first live tennis match that we’ve ever seen was Lleyton Hewitt versus Janko Tipsarevic (8) in the first round of the Aussie Open in Rod Laver Arena. Wow. While Hewitt lost, it was an exciting introduction to live tennis. The arena was surprisingly intimate, and it certainly was a home crowd. There were Aussie “fan”atics, dressed and painted in yellow and gold, with spirited chants and familiar cheers for “Rusty” (Lleyton’s nickname). Even Carlos Ramos (the reknowned chair umpire) seemed to acknowledge Lleyton with a a familiar attitude. All of this combined with a helpful net cord gave Lleyton every advantage possible. The level of play was exceptionally high for a first round match, but in the end, Janko came out on top. What a perfect introduction to the Aussie Open.
Tuesday’s action saw some close matches (Wozniacki vs Lisicki, Robson vs Oudin, and Raonic vs Hajek) as well as some thrashings (S. Williams, J. del Potro, A. Ivanovic). A highlight was our first row seats at the Robson/Oudin match on show court 3. We were certainly in the minority rooting for the American Oudin, as Laura Robson had a huge British contingent behind her. Much like the cheers for Hewitt, Robson had the crowd singing for her…including an impromptu “God Save the Queen.” Man I love sports…the atmosphere was just electric.
As for impressions of the Open, there are several notable items. First, this tourney is run very well…the grounds are remarkably clean, everything is well organized, and the atmosphere is very family friendly and festive. Everyone seems laid back and extremely helpful. And I’ve been impressed by the precision of everything, not just the punctuality and that they only let people in and out of the stadiums between certain points, but also the precision and dedication of the many ball kids and linesmen. They seem so young to have such responsibility. It certainly takes a village to run a tennis match!
Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised that we could bring in our own food, water, etc (everything but alcohol). I don’t know if this is how other grand slams are run, but it would have been easy for them to forbid outside food and drinks, so they would make more money. It’s refreshing this way, and we saw many Aussie families bring in packed lunches to share.
Well, that’s all I can think of for now. We’re now back in the hotel watching more tennis. I think we’re obsessed!