Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 1: Australian Open

Monday, January 15, 2007

Day 1 of the 2007 Australian Open began at 11:00 a.m. with matches on 16 different courts. On Sunday, shortly after I arrived, I bought a grounds pass which allowed me in to all the courts except Rod Laver Arena (see photo above), which was where Amelie Mauresmo vs. Shenay Perry played the first match of the day.

Although the Tennis Center opened at 10:00 a.m., I decided not to go in until later since I planned to stay through the evening matches. The evening matches featured Serena Williams vs. No. 27 seeded Mara Santangelo, to be followed by Marat Safin vs. Benjamin Becker (no relation to Boris, but I think he had a win over Agassi in 2006).

Knowing how to dress in Melbourne was a challenge in itself. It was supposed to be rather hot (30 degrees C., which translates to high 80s F.) and people had told me to be sure to wear lots of sunscreen, a hat, and cover up as much as possible. I couldn't imagine wearing clothes that would cover me up if it was going to be that hot. But it did not take long for me to realize how hot it would be after sitting in the sun for the first set of Vince Spadea's match against Igor Andreev. Spadea won the first set 6-2, although it looked at first like Andreev would outhit him. I am not sure what the final score was because after the first set, I decided to check out Vodafone Arena to see if I could watch some of Roddick's match. When I checked earlier, Roddick was down a set and 2-4 in the second, so it looked like he could have an early exit. Fortunately, he had righted himself when I checked back; he was up two sets to one and 3-1 in the fourth set. Unfortunately, there were no available seats in Vodafone, so no one was permitted entry. But since there were some good matches to follow, I decided to queue up for the subsequent matches after Roddick's match finished. Apparently, there were still too few seats available, so we were later informed that we would not be allowed in even after his match ended. That was when a curious bit of timing occurred--the kind that never ceases to amaze me. As I was standing in line, speaking to an Aussie couple behind me, three young tennis fans walked up to us and asked if we would like their re-entry tix to Vodafone. They had been inside for Roddick's match and were given the re-entry passes which would allow them to go back in to the stadium, but they had decided they did not wish to do that. Instead, they asked if we would like to use them. As a result, we didn't have to wait in line, but could go right into the stadium and find seats:-)

The match after Roddick's featured an American, Jill Craybas, who defeated Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2005, against Nicole Vaidisova, the 17 year old phenom from Czechoslovakia, who made it to the semis of the French last year. Both players hit a high number of errors, but fortunately for Vaidisova, she outhit Craybas in winners, and that made the difference, as she won in three sets. The next match pitted No. 4 seeded Ivan Lubjicic against another American Mardi Fish. I was interested in that match for several reasons-it was out of the sun, I had seen Fish in several other matches on t.v., and the Croatian contingency had proven to be rather rowdy (I need to talk to Antonia Meek about this:-). In fact, shortly after I had arrived at the Stadium, before I had decided which match I would watch, I heard several groups of young men chanting in their native languages. One group had red and white checked shirts that looked like the Croatian flag. They seemed to be facing off against a second group that was chanting (I later found they were from Slovenia). As they got closer to one another, the chanting grew more intense until someone in one group launched a plastic bottle toward the others. After three more bottles exchanged sides, the security stepped in to separate the two groups. Apparently it was reported on Australian t.v. as rioting, although I would say that those reports were a bit exaggerated. Still, I would be interested to know how it was covered on U.S. t.v. if anyone happened to see it (probably at 3:30 a.m.).

The night matches were great, although Marat Safin seemed less than inspired. Still, it was nice to be inside Rod Laver Arena to sense the crowd excitement. I actually missed the first three games of Serena's match, since I had gone to find something to eat and people were only allowed into their seats during the changeover. I was able to watch the first three games on the t.v. monitor, and thought Serena looked a bit tentative. Inside the stadium, I had a great seat, Row H, and a wonderful view of the play. Serena just seemed to get stronger as the match went on, and she ended up winning in straights. After the match, she was asked if she had any more Australian Opens in her future; she said that was why she was here. It would not surprise me at all to see her go deep into the tournament if she continues to play the way she did tonight. As for Safin, they described him as the "enigmatic Russian," and that pretty well captures how he played in the one set I saw. He has such talent, but Becker clearly outhustled him and broke late in the first set to win that one.

All in all, there was some great tennis, perhaps more unforced errors in some cases, but still a great day of tennis. Gotta run, so good day to everyone!


Megan said...

Good Day eh? The culture is beginning to have an impact already :) I did happen to catch part of a Serena match on ESPN a few days ago. I do not recall whom she was competing against, however, she was wearing a bright green tennis outfit....which leads me to my next comment.. what in the heck was she wearing? By now I'm thoroughly convinced that she is wearing what she is wearing for the "effect." But hey, if it works, it works. Hope things are well! It sounds like you're in heaven and enjoying every bit of everything there! I'm glad :) I'll write more later

aussietennis said...

Hey Megan,
It was a good day all right. I almost missed your comment, but thanks for adding it. About the green outfit, I think it looks very good live. In fact, I like the design of this outfit best of any Serena has worn. The media has played on the color, however by saying Serena is "back in the limelight." I think her reason for this color is that it includes Australian colors, so it is fan friendly. The Australian fans really seem to like Serena and are pulling for her too, so I like that. Anyway, looking forward to your further comments:-) Cheers!