Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Day 10: Wednesday, January 24

"Good luck getting tickets in Rod Laver Arena for tomorrow."

[That was what the ticket salesperson said to me Tuesday night after I bought a grounds pass for today's matches.]

"I seem to have had some pretty good luck," I replied:-)

I thought of those words later Wednesday afternoon as I again sat in Row PP and watched the second women's singles quarterfinal match between Kim Clijsters and Martina Hingis. Admittedly, I did not get to see the first quarterfinal match between Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetadze, but I did get to see some pretty good doubles matches courtesy of my grounds pass! In fact, the first match I picked featured some of the best men's doubles players in the game--Max Mirnyi and Jonas Bjorkman vs. Mahesh Bhupathi and Radek Stepanek (he is engaged to Martina Hingis). I mentioned seeing Bjorkman Tuesday in a Mixed Doubles and he was even more spectacular in this morning's Men's Doubles. Perhaps that was in part because the "Swedish songbirds" were out in full force. They gave one of the finest performances of the tournament. About 16 members of the Swedish cheering contingency sat about three-fourths of the way up in the stands at Margaret Court Arena, just opposite where I sat. There seemed to be one designated cheer leader, who was about the size of Jared (before the Subway diet). He had on a yellow shirt with SWEDEN written in big letters, and he wore khaki pants with a beige baseball cap. He really got into the cheers, using great inflection, and moving his body forward as well as side to side for emphasis. The cheering squad could be heard after almost every point. If Bjorkman's partner, Mirnyi, missed a shot, the cheers were:

"Combien, Mirnyi, Combien!" (CLAP CLAP)
"Combien, Mirnyi, Combien!" (CLAP CLAP)

If Bjorkman and Mirnyi hit a winning shot, the chorus rang out with:

"That's the way, ah ha, ah ha, we like it, we like it..."
"That's the way, ah ha, ah ha, we like it, we like it..."

Some of the cheers must have been in Swedish so I couldn't catch everything that was being said, but I marvelled at how well choreographed every cheer was. It was very entertaining, and the tennis was not bad either. Of course, Bjorkman and Mirnyi won (6-3, 6-2), and fortunately for me, I will get to see them play again first thing tomorrow, but more on that later.

After the Men's Doubles match on Margaret Court Arena, I checked out one of the Women's Doubles quarterfinals that featured two teams from China. I remember being shocked several years ago when one of the Chinese Women's Doubles teams seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Olympic gold in doubles. At the time, I had a grad student from China who told me that the Chinese players were gearing their efforts toward the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As it turns out, the two teams that I saw today were two of three that made it to the quarterfinals, and I had seen the other team (Chan and Chuang) play previously. Since all three teams were in the same half, there is certain to be a Chinese team in the finals. The match that I saw today was between the Olympic gold medalists (Yan and Zheng) and another team of Sun/Sun. Both teams played very solid, fundamental tennis and I can see why they are doing so well in doubles. Each team plays well together, they cover for one another, hit good percentage returns, and do not make many unforced errors. They also do not try to blast their opponents off the court like some of the strong singles players do when they try to play doubles. I would not be surprised if we see Chinese women's doubles teams capturing a number of medals in Beijing. Oh yes, and Yan and Zheng beat Sun/Sun, 6-3, 7-6. I forgot to mention that when Chan and Chuang won the previous day, there was a Chinese man in the stands who yelled out: "Booyah! Booyah!" (If you watch ESPN Sportscenter, you are probably familiar with the phrase used frequently by Stewart Scott:-)

After the women's doubles, I decided to head toward Rod Laver Arena to see about getting a newspaper and to check at the Box Office about getting a ticket for tomorrow's semi-finals. When I did, I discovered that there was actually a ticket available for today's second quarterfinal (between Clijsters and Hingis) in addition to the Men's Singles quarterfinal between Nicolay Davydenko and Tommy Haas (GER). Finally, the 3rd seeded Men's singles player had made it in to RLA. I did not hesitate but took the opportunity to pay the difference and go for Row PP, as mentioned at the beginning of today's entry. I really enjoyed getting to see Clijsters and Hingis, again knowing that Clijsters was retiring after this year, and because it was an interesting match-up. Hingis played some incredible shots (drop shot, lob combinations, followed by put-away volleys). At the beginning of the first set, it looked like Clijsters might breeze through the match easily, but it turned out that Hingis took the first set, 6-3, before Clijsters came back to win the second. Hingis went ahead in the third, 3-2, but then Clijsters came back to win the third 6-3. Although it wasn't as draining as the previous day's match between Serena and Shahar Peer, it was long enough to satisfy me, so I decided to leave and maybe catch a bit of the doubles before heading for home earlier than usual.

Before I left, I saw that the No. 2 seeded Women's Doubles team of Lisa Raymond (USA) and Samantha Stosur (AUS) were playing against Cara Black (RSA) and Liesel Huber (GER). Surprisingly, Raymond and Stosur had lost the first set after they had jumped out to a 3-0 lead. They did come back to win the second, and when I got there, it was 2-2 in the third. From that point on, the number 2 seeds did not win another game, which disappointed me, since I had hoped to see Lisa Raymond play more. She is one of a rare breed of players who actually graduated from college, so I would like to see her be successful in the pro game!

It was a disappointing note to end on, and I could have gone back to watch the Davydenko-Haas match (which turned out to be a 5-setter by the way), but I just felt ready to go home. Before I left for the day, I stopped by to get what I figured would be a grounds pass for tomorrow. But I still asked if they happened to have any tickets for the women's semifinals in RLA. I had been checking frequently so didn't expect to find any good news when the ticket salesperson said, "As a matter of fact I do!" I could not believe my good fortune!

"Do you mind being in the sun?"

"No, of course not!" I said.

"It's actually a pretty good seat, Row L on the first level."

[YES!!! I don't even have to sit in Row PP!]

So, I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. Till then, cheers:-)!

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