Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jo Wil Jo Wil Tsonga! (Australian Open Day One)

Melbourne is brilliant.  I loved everything about it.  Of course, they had their best foot forward as the city is on world display for two weeks.  But they have it down.  Everywhere you turn there are volunteers ready to answer questions or give you a map.  Some of them are even dressed up.  The guy at the Yarra tram station had a wig, headband, short shorts and tennis racket and made a pretty good “funny” impression of Bjorn Borg.  Very entertaining.

First of all, I had no idea how close Melbourne Park, the tennis grounds where they hold the Australian Open, is to the CBD.  You can walk there.  But don’t worry because they also let you take the tram for free!  Awesome!

I told you, they call it Macca's!

Our trip was last minute as I tagged along with Sean on his business trip.  I felt really bad as he went off to work and I went off to watch tennis all day.  But I got over it. :)

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon. I decided to roam around downtown.  Like Sydney, Melbourne has a distinct European feel.  I loved Degraves Street.  It is an alley-like street with no cars allowed lined with cafes and restaurants, buskers playing The Tetris theme song on accordion and plastered with all kinds of street graffiti.  I thought it was great.  But I had seen it during the day.  Later that night, Sean and I were walking around and I said, “let’s eat at Degraves street”.  He said every time he walked by it looked really scary.  “What?”  “That’s crazy I was down it today.”  So we walk by and he was right.  It looks very different when everything is closed at night.  It closes in around you with a creepy feeling you might get mugged at any time.  Not that it would happen.  Sean had never seen it during the day.  Crazy!

Part of Degraves Street...during the day

Thursday I got a grounds pass and my ticket for Friday in Rod Laver Arena.  It’s a huge event but you can still usually walk up to the ticket office and buy tickets.  Wild but I was super excited.  Every hotel has photocopies of the next days schedule in the lobby so I was prepared.  I immediately headed to Margaret Court Arena to watch Jo Wilfried Tsonga.  He’s one of my favorites as he reminds me of my nephew, Kye.  They even have the same kind of celebration when they win something.  It’s funny.  

Jo Wil with a big serve
I got the seat I wanted and settled in to what would become the hottest day at this year’s Open.  This time I was prepared with lots of water, sunscreen, extra shirt, I was ready.  Well, I thought I was prepared.  

Jo Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga’s match was great. The french fans were crazy and absolutely my favorite of all the “crazies”.  They were so creative they made me laugh on almost every changeover.  The Australian Open is like a little carnival with tennis.  Especially during the first week. They have clowns, face painters, an area just for kids, the atmosphere is very festive and lends itself to people dressing up, cheering, fake tattoos, crazy hats, etc.  Very fun and very kid friendly.

Tsonga's French Foreign Legion

Tsonga fans had cheers for everything.  Some of my favorites:

(to the tune of Taio Cruz’ Break Your Heart)
Tsongas going to break break your break break your serve!

(to the tune of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab)
They try to get the ball past Tsonga and he said No, No, NO

(to the tune of Queen’s We Will Rock You)
Tsonga you’re a young man, hard man
Hittin’ in the streets gonna win a Grand Slam someday
You got mud on your face, but you’re no disgrace
Serving your ace all over the place
Jo Wil Jo Wil Tsonga Tsonga

They also did an entire rendition of "Do You Hear The People Sing" with a Tsonga flair. 

Very entertaining!

And they had regular cheers like:
Tsonga fans in the stands get up and clap your hands, clap, clap, clap clap clap

It’s hard not to cheer for Tsonga with these guys around!

Also, let’s talk about this thing with women grunting in tennis.  I’m all for exhaling during the hit.  Sometimes in the course of a match you may actually grunt because you are putting that much into it, but every hit?  I’m in Margaret Court Arena just outside of Rod Laver Arena watching Tsonga play but I’m hearing Victoria Azarenka grunt.  No joke!  She’s playing inside Rod Laver.  It’s that loud and ridiculous.  No one needs to be that loud.  Please someone, make the madness stop. 

I took a lunch break and tried to find some place with shade. They are very clever as all of the merch tents are air conditioned.  So, my safe haven was a place that was trying to sell me things.  I may or may not have looked at kids tees for ten minutes because they were in front of the blower.  I don't have kids. 

I then went to see one of my new heroes, Kimiko Date Krumm.  She is 42 years old.  Is she coaching, you ask?  Nope.  She was playing in 104 degree heat on an outside court and winning her way into Round 3.  She is awesome to watch but even more entertaining is the entourage that follows her.  There were 15 cameramen court side and even more in the stands. Not to mention the hoard of Japanese men and women cheering her on.  She was playing Shahar Peer from Israel.  The differences in followers was amazing to watch.  The Israelis would loudly cheer and yell things at all times of the match.  Some were rather inappropriate and actually made me mad.  Then a set of older Japanese ladies would counter with a cute, dainty cheer of, “Ki mi ko, Ki mi ko”.  I have said it before and I will say it again, I love the Japanese.  I could've watched this all day but I actually got too hot.  I don’t know how they were playing because I had to leave and get water.  I stuck my whole head under the faucet and I’d do it again.  I really would. 

Ki mi ko Ki mi ko
Date Krumm with the Melbourne CBD in the background
I ended my day watching Serena and Venus Williams play their first round match in doubles.  By now I was figuring things out.  I arrived early to watch Marin Cilic finish his match and worked my way into the shade.  That way I could watch the Williams match entirely in the shade.  Huge difference.  I’m feeling much better about what to do for next year.

Stand for royalty
Serena, best serve in the biz
You lookin' at me???
Another day, another win
I am amazed at the distractions these players can play through.  The big favorites have earned their way into playing in Rod Laver and Hisense Arena but everyone else has to work their way through the gauntlet that is the outer courts.  Cameras, people yelling, moving, and generally being idiots, wind, faster courts, hotter courts, no challenge courts, the list goes on and on.  Tennis really does have a “pay your dues” kind of hierarchy.  It’s very clear when attending the big tourneys like this.  But it also offers fans to get really close to players on their way up.  

Stay tuned for day two of my Australian Open Adventure...

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