Every summer that I spend in Melbourne contains at least one day at the Australian Open. Getting a Ground Pass during the first week allows access to Show Courts and for the first time this year, Hisense Arena. Previously, Margaret Court Arena was available to Ground Pass holders, with separate tickets necessary for Hisense Arena. In the early stages of the event, there are still many top seeded players scheduled on these outside courts so it is great value for money! Since the upgrade of Margaret Court Arena, however, this access has been reversed. I was initially a little saddened by this. I love the atmosphere of Margaret Court Arena. Sitting in the sunshine, watching the likes of Tsonga and Raonic from the intimacy of the smaller stadium is my idea of a good day out.
This year, I had to opportunity to spend two days at Melbourne Park and introduced two friends to the tournament for the first time. The first day, we bought Ground Passes and followed a carefully planned schedule to catch the best games possible. First we caught Dimitrov vs. Baghdatis on Show Court 3. It was a very competitive game and both players had quite vocal supporters. At one point, the chair umpire came down to particularly speak to some Bulgarian supports for being too disruptive. It seemed a bit over the top to be honest – they weren’t doing anything more than the Cypriot supporters really. I always hold that the crowd is one of the most entertaining aspects of watching live sport. Dimitrov managed to hold out Baghdatis in the end to proceed to the next round.
Heading to Show Court 2, we then watched Hewitt and Guccione play doubles. The Aussies were well and truly outplayed by their opponents but it was good to have the opportunity to watch Hewitt play live nonetheless. Once again the crowd proved entertaining. We even had some “Fanatics” close at hand who egged the rest of the spectators on with cheers like “You can’t stop the Gooch”. They even nominated some nearby teenagers wearing Australian flags as “honorary Fanatics” to help boost the numbers.
We intended to head over to Hisense Arena to catch the end of the Murray game and secure some seats for the upcoming Tomic match once the Hewitt/Guccione match had finished, however, it seemed that almost every Ground Pass holder (and perhaps some other attendees) had the very same idea. When we made our way over to the arena, the lines were streaming down the stairs, through the foyer, out the door and around the corner to the front of the stadium. Presumably, the wiser spectators had taken up seats during the Murray match and intended to stay for the Tomic game and the chances of enough people leaving to allow all the people in the line to get a seat were very slim. Given that Federer was on the brink of losing his match on Rod Laver Arena, we decided to ditch the line and watch the end of the Federer match on the big screens in Garden Square. This was much more exciting than waiting in line with little chance of getting to see any more tennis.
The second day, another friend and I “splurged” on Margaret Court Arena tickets. After a full day of spectating, I must admit, I created some what of a tennis monster out of her. For the rest of the tournament I received messages on a daily basis with updates and queries regarding the games that were on. She even managed to use the television in the waiting room at her work to keep up-to-date.
The first scheduled match was a Legend’s doubles match featuring the Woodies. I never had the opportunity to watch them play live in their professional careers so that was a thrill. In true Legend’s style, the game was far from serious and at one point even found three players down one end ganging up on Todd Woodbridge. I think Mark Woodford had given up on him since he missed several overhead smashes in a row. Quite by accident, we also got to witness the official opening of the newly finished Margaret Court Arena attended by friends and family and of course Margaret Court herself. Rod Laver was also present so it was pretty exciting to see some tennis legends in the flesh. My new-to-tennis buddy was surprised to find out the “Rod Laver was a real person”. Wow. Just. Wow. She’s a work in progress. I’m still grappling with the irony of a tennis player with the last name Court myself. I find it highly amusing.
Following that was the “Madisons” playing in the women’s tournament, which ended up being quite underwhelming since Madison Brengle seemed to have no answer for Madison Keys’ game plan. We made our way over to Hisense Arena (finally got some seats!) and watched the rest of the Raonic game. I’ve watched Raonic play before at the Australian Open and it’s incredible to watch such powerful hitting in person. Once we safely saw Milos through to the next round (with enough time for Brittnee to form a solid “crush” on the man) we wandered through the shops and stands (I had to be dragged out of the Lacoste store) before we finally headed home via public transport. Every time I stand on the platform of Richmond Station and look out over Melbourne Park (the home of soccer, rugby, tennis, cricket and AFL teams) I am extremely grateful that I get to live in Melbourne where it is so easy to feed my sporting obsessions!