02 March 2011

Retrospective Aussie Open 2011 adventures

I doubt I'll be able to attend nearly two weeks of a Grand Slam anytime soon, so I need to help myself remember what it was like to attend 13 days of the Aussie Open.

Day 2 - 18 January 2011

As I booked my flight on the Saturday before the Aussie Open began, I had to depart Auckland at the ungodly hour of 5:45am, meaning very little sleep. I knew I would be a bit delirious later Tuesday night but I went to bed late Monday after watching Day 1 night session action on both my TV (Henin vs Mirza) and laptop (Wickmayer vs Groth).

I am such a tennis geek that I want to be at the gates when they open - doesn't matter if it's the first day or final day of a tournament. So I was bummed when it took a wee bit longer to walk to my backpackers from Southern Cross station, but I found it, dumped my bag and headed to Melbourne Park. At this stage, I hadn't eaten anything and it was lunchtime in New Zealand so I was dying for food and a cup of coffee the size of my head.

But my will was stronger than my hunger pangs so I got to Melbourne Park not long after the gates opened. Every time I get into the grounds and see Rod Laver Arena I tear up. I still remember my first visit in 2000 - I couldn't believe I was attending a Grand Slam tournament. Now, despite attending five slams and one Olympics I still get butterflies in my tummy and tears in my eyes when I first enter the grounds and today was no different.

It's fitting that the first player I watched practice was Great Aussie Hope Sam Stosur. I'd seen Sam play Serena Williams at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but Sam has become a completely different player since then. In the absence of my fave Serena I would have been thrilled had Sam won. But anyway, I watched her warm up briefly but I wanted to get a seat to watch Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan play Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland to start my Aussie Open.

Kimiko Date-Krumm
The ladies played on one of the outer courts but this one had quite a lot of seats on both sides of the court. I was stoked to get a decent seat and was so excited. Kimiko is a player I remember in the 90s but her comeback in 2010 was amazing and she is just adorable, impressive and a role model for 'older women'. She's 40! And last year had some great wins over Sharapova and Safina to name a few. Aga is also someone I'd wanted to see - she's one of those players who's been around #10 in the world for ages and I can never remember what keeps her there. I also root for her because she's Polish and that's where my Granny's family came from.

What a fantastic match to start with - we had polite Japanese fans trying to outcheer Aga's rowdy fans. We had Aga's controversial medical time out and well, we had the infamous racket decapitation:

I took a break during this match to check out some practices: Davis Cup hero Viktor Troicki, Maria Sharapova, Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Marcos Bagdatis were even practicing on the same court. I watched Tomas Berdych for awhile then met up with @kathearts to watch Alize Cornet take on big hitting American Coco Vandeweghe. I've always had a soft spot for Alize but I was keen to check out Coco - she certainly wallops the ball but she's pretty emotional on the court and she lost quickly.

Former finalists Bagdatis and Tsonga
It was then time to watch more practices: Jelena Dokic, Nadia Petrova, Dominika Cibulkova, Julia Goerges. Seriously - what a first day! I saw a happy Lucie Safarova leaving her doubles win, watched Mirjana Lucic battle Sorana Cristea then it was time to see what Robin Soderling was all about (and time to sit down!) I got bored quickly there, so I went to see Melanie Oudin losing to Klara Zakopalova and was stoked to watch Jamaican/German Dustin Brown practicing. How that man can play with such massive dreadlocks is a mystery to me!

I can't believe I saw all those players on just my first day, but that's the beauty of attending a slam during the first week.

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