NOTE: While in Melbourne, I am working as a tournament correspondent for Tennis Grandstand. The following article was originally published in tennisgrandstand.com and can be viewed here.
Attending the Australian Open takes endurance – for long, unpredictable days and especially for the heat. Of course, fans have it a little better than the players who are unable to duck into air conditioned shops and enjoy ice cream to cool down a bit.
The 2012 Australian Open is no different. The heat has been unbearable and the crowds noticeably larger during the first few days, but fans have been rewarded by fantastic tennis and lots of drama.
A grounds pass is definitely the way to go when attending the first week of any grand slam, but the setup here is ideal. It’s very easy to watch player practices as they are spread out all over Melbourne Park so you get great access to the players. While the schedules aren’t posted anywhere, the Aussie Open twitter account is very good at tweeting who will be where at what time.
Many top players were practicing with each other this week: Petra Kvitova and Zheng Jie, Jelena Dokic and Shahar Peer, John Isner and Sam Querrey. The element of surprise when wandering the grounds is great – one never knows which players will be around the corner if you’re happy to bounce around between courts instead of focusing on one match.
Many top players tend to practice on courts 16 and 17 which are on the Hisense Arena side of MelbournePark. This is quite a walk from the courts on the other side of Rod Laver, so fans must often race back and forth to catch matches and practices. No wonder the frozen Coke drinks are so popular!
We’re nearly through two full rounds of tennis, and the biggest shock so far was definitely Sam Stosur losing on Tuesday to Sorana Cirstea. The newspapers on Wednesday were not kind but hopefully Bernard Tomic’s big wins will keep the Aussies happy. Day three had a few surprises on the women’s side as two ladies who did well here last year were both upset. Francesca Schiavone of Italy lost to her countrywoman Romina Oprandi and Peng Shuai of China was knocked out by Czech Iveta Benesova. Ironically Schiavone and Peng are doubles partners this year so perhaps they’ll have a better run in that draw.
A few dramatic five-setters kept the nightlife going at Melbourne Park Wednesday night. John Isner and David Nalbandian battled for more than four and a half hours before the American won 10-8 in the fifth set. The match had some major controversy over chair umpire Kader Nouni not allowing the Argentine to challenge an Isner serve (which was proven to have been out) at 8-8 in that final set. This will surely be a huge talking point for a few days and was a sad way for Nalbandian to exit Melbourne, possibly for the last time.
Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgololov took his match 8-6 in the fifth over Tobias Kamke of Germany; Nicolas Almagro also won in five but bagelled Grigor Dimitrov in the fifth.
The most intriguing match for Thursday is surely that between Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick. Neither are in their primes but the Rod Laver Arena night crowd should be in for some great fight between these two old rivals.