Bring on live tennis in Auckland

Sabine Lisicki vs Yanina Wickmayer 2011 ASB Classic
Lucky me, I know the right people and got hired as Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland a few months ago. Auckland has long hosted ATP and WTA tourneys - we've had everyone from Rafa and Fed to Sharapova and Kournikova. Recent champs for the ASB Classic were Greta Arn, Yanina Wickmayer and Elena Dementieva, while David Ferrer, John Isner and Juan Martin Del Potro have held the Heineken Open trophy in the past few years.

The ASB Classic starts on 2 January and the men follow the next week with the Heineken Open. I'll be manning the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube accounts as well as the website content. I'll be at all player functions and press conferences so be prepared for lots of behind the scenes stuff.

Please follow the news on the ASB Classic and Heineken Open Twitter accounts as we countdown to big player announcements. Exciting stuff!

Will post links to the Facebook pages soon - website for the ASB Classic will be relaunching on Monday 3 October. Stay tuned!

US Open recap: And then the rains came

This year, I've sat through many, many rain delays. Queens, Eastbourne and Wimbledon set me up well for Days 9 and 10 at the US Open. I had been through the waiting games many times and as much as you can be frustrated, it just doesn't help. You just have to chalk it up to being part of the experience and make the most of it. And hope for the best!

So Tuesday 6 September was a challenge, and when I stepped out the door to head to the tennis it was drizzling and I could see clouds so just hoped it would all burn off. But then, it really started raining about the second I entered the gates. Ugh. I headed to the player lounge again and just enjoyed being there for a few hours but got bored so decided to go meet up with @MaggieMaggio who was holed up under Louis Armstrong. Maggie and @tennissmash write a great blog - check it out here. It was great to meet Maggie and swap tennis tales and experiences! Unfortunately, the rains weren't going anywhere so they called off play for the entire day around 1:30pm. Rats!

Of course, Day 10's schedule was looking damn fine but with forecasts just as dire I wasn't holding my breath. But Day 10 was my final day at the US Open so I wasn't going anywhere until the tennis was over (this, folks, is what addiction looks like!).

The skies were looking most unfriendly when I left my accommodation, and the scene inside the BJKNTC was not good. It just would not stop raining and so we would wait, and wait. I sat in the covered seating in Louis Armstrong for a few hours with @JBs10is who was so kind to me a few times during the US Open - lending me her Arthur Ashe ticket so I could see my faves! We hung out for ages gabbing away, and then the rains started slowing down enough that we moved to just behind the baseline in hopes we'd actually get some tennis. And we did - three games. When Andy Murray stepped on the court I couldn't actually believe we were getting tennis, and as we waited for Donald Young to arrive, I was following my Twitter feed and read about the developing issues on Arthur Ashe. Rafa had taken ages to arrive on court and kept Giles Muller waiting. Oh the dramas that would ensue!

So young Donald (heehee) finally took the court and we got some tennis! For, yeah, about 12 minutes. I would not see anymore live tennis that day - the day session was completely washed out, and watching the day unfold gave me a headache. There were very few updates from the tourney re play being postponed or cancelled. They just seemed to go mute (even in the player lounge there were very few announcements re the schedule). No more tennis would be played, even tho they sent Serena and Pavs onto court. It was a sad way for it all to end, but alas that was the end of my US Open 2011.

I caught up with @kelynsoong (who had a great gig working in the media centre) and had one last drink before slowly leaving the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre for the last time until who knows when. Bought a few more souvenirs and then as I headed out of the grounds it started pouring! Ah summertime in NYC.

All in all, despite my late arrival into NYC (thanks weather gods), and missing out on two more days of tennis (again, thanks weather gods) my time at the US Open was fantastic. Have to look at the big picture - was so unbelievably blessed this year to be able to go to all four Grand Slams so I am not going to complain about missing out of the five days of tennis I had taken from me.

How many days until the Aussie Open begins?

US Open recap: Monday 5 September

The calm before the storm(s). Monday was a lovely day for watching live tennis, but my mom had to fly back home so I didn't arrive on site until Serena vs Ana had already started late afternoon. I literally ran from my taxi through the gates and went to big screen to watch. No Serena - they were showing Nole vs Dolgo. So went to the Heineken Bar and they were also showing Nole. Well, I went to the player's lounge (I had tourney accreditation due to my part-time tennis job) and ended up watching the end of her match there. Not quite the same.
Later on, I met up with a few more Tweeps and watched Petko play Carla Suarez Navarro which was pretty lopsided but we had great seats in the Grandstand (love that stadium!) and the night sky was arriving and it was a beautiful night.

Caro was playing Sveta tonight but I didn't feel like buying an Arhur Ashe ticket so ended up watching it on the big screen. That area is one of my faves at the US Open - lovely fountains and lots of places to sit (take note Roland Garros). I had a fun Amelie Mauresmo sighting as she was doing some filming. Miss her!

As Sveta was playing, Amelie came to the big screen while Sveta started to crumble. Up a set and 4-1, it all came crashing down as it does in Svetaland. Through Twitter I've seen that Amelie and Sveta are friends (how much fun would it be to have drinks with them??).You could see from Amelie's face that she was bummed to watch it happen. So was the crowd, but mostly as it was getting so late and many people wanted to see Fed/Pico. What a late night it was getting to be and once Caro came back to take the second set I left. I knew how it was going to end.
Oh Sveta

US Open recap: Sunday 4 September

How can it really be over? As I try and recap my time at the US Open this year, it's hitting me how amazing our sport is. Sitting in Arthur Ashe stadium with my mother, surrounded by people wearing various Rafa tshirts - what a day we had!

We cleared the gate right at 10am, and watched Serena and Caroline Wozniacki practicing side by side. It was a stinking hot day so we didn't linger for long, instead choosing to head to our seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The night before, I went on Stubhub and bought very overpriced tickets to see Rafa play David Nalbandian. I love both these players so much and I was thrilled to get our tickets to see the match. Mom was beyond excited to see Rafa - she is still beaming a few weeks later!

The last time I actually watched Rafa play a match live was the Aussie Open QF vs Ferrer and that didn't end well. As much as I love no-longer-fat Dave, I wanted this to be a strong match from Rafa. But he did his best to keep us stressing. He got down an early break and Dave's famous backhand was strong. Rafa just wasn't looking as sharp and Dave served for the first set. It was a tense time, but Rafa would break and then take that first set in a tiebreaker. I felt for Dave - he played well in the first set and after losing the tiebreak it looked like he was just going to go away as the second set seemed to go by in a flash. Rafa would take it 6-1 and I thought it might be a bit anticlimactic then especially when Rafa went up a break in the third. It seemed an afterthought now that Rafa would win.

But serving for the match at 5-3, Rafa got broken and Dave levelled things at to 5-5. After a tense service hold Dave stepped up and I thought we were heading for another TB. But Rafa played a solid return game, and poor Dave double faulted down match point. Vamos Rafa! The two players shared a lovely hug at the net which was sweet.

The crowd support for Rafa was pretty unreal to experience - I love how much the tennis world has embraced him and appreciated what he's brought to the game. 
 Love that they play "Welcome to the Jungle" when Rafa takes the court....

Next up was Andy Roddick vs Benny and this one was boring tho I like both players well enough. It was a very one-sided first set and I was so hot and sunkissed that I took a break.

Other than watching Rafa/Nalby, the highlight of the day was a major Tweetup! A group of us arranged to meet after Andy's match so it was a huge pleasure to meet @linzsports, @bobbychin, @kelynsoong, @ovafanboy and others. It's always so much fun to meet Tweeps and ramble on about tennis.

Ahhhh tennis fans!

US Open recap - Saturday 3 September

Labour Day Weekend at the US Open! I grew up glued to the TV during the long weekend in the US and to actually be on the grounds during this time was amazing. I knew it was going to be busy as it had been hard to get any tickets and the gorgeous weather ensured the place was pumping.

Today was a superbly special day as my mom arrived into NYC late Friday night and now I was going to take her to see her first live tennis ever! We had a grounds pass for the day and Arthur Ashe night session tickets so was going to be a full day!

We started out with some doubles action, watching the adorable Jurgen Melzer and his partner Philipp Petzschner take on the Israeli due of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram. It was really fun watching my mom watch her first tennis match so close up. We ended up heading to Grandstand after a bit which is where we stayed for most of the rest of the day as what a lineup! Tommy Haas vs Juan Monaco! Jo Wilfried Tsonga vs Fernando Verdasco!

We got to watch Andrea Petkovic first and this woman is so growing on me. I think she has one of the best personalities out there and is so engaging. She looked great against Roberta Vinci who has had a fantastic year. After the win, Petko did her dance (which I admit to growing tired of) and flirted with MaliVai Washington. The crowd loved it!

Then it was time for the men. I was so stoked to see Tommy Haas - it's awesome that he's still hanging around as the crowd just loves him. My mom and I have always been big Tommy fans so it was a dream for us to both see him play what could be one of his last grand slam matches. Tommy fought well but Pico was better in the end and took it in four sets. But what applause Tommy got at the end - was a fantastic atmosphere and was one of my top moments at the US Open.

The next match: Jo Willy Tsonga vs Fernando Verdasco. Other than their appalling Adidas attire (why, Adidas, why?) these guys are such fun to watch. Tsonga is a character and well, one never knows what to expect by Fer. The Grandstand court was really excited for this one, but it wasn't as close a contest as we hoped - Fernando is just not in a good place and Jo Willy has had a great year.

We then raced to Arthur Ashe to see a bit of Novak Djokovic vs Nikolay Davydenko but we didn't stay long. The crowd erupted every time Kolya won a point but he didn't come close to threatening Nole much so we called it a night.

US Open recap - Friday 2 September

One of the disappointments about the US Open is the limited viewing of practice courts. I suppose if you haven't been to many tourneys it may not seem that bad but the way the practice courts are set up is not very fan friendly. Instead, they are set up are much more for the privacy of players and not for the enjoyment of fans. I guess we're spoiled at other majors which are very open and the views are mostly unrestricted.But alas, we fans will stand in a crazy crowd to get a wee peek at the top stars, so when I got to the grounds on Day 5 I watched Caroline Wozniacki having a hit in her Irish green tights.

I decided to start my day watching Benny vs Denny - Julien Benneteau vs Denis Istomin. It was such a stunning day and as I wasn't too emotionally invested in either player it was a nice relaxing match to watch. I ended up meeting up with the lovely @JBs10is who made my day by giving me her Arthur Ashe ticket so I could watch Rafa play. :) Twitter peeps are seriously the best and it's always so fun to meet up at tournaments.

After a quick peek at Marc! Lopez/Marcel Granollers's doubles win I said a quick hi to a few more Twitter peeps (@jusbjen @nycsandygirl @sapphireswell @avidyvette and @crysaleyesd), then headed into Arthur Ashe stadium to watch Maria Sharapova take on Flavia Pennetta. I love both these ladies a lot so was really excited about this match. I just never know which Maria is going to show up but given how well she's played as the year has progressed I still expected her to win.

Well, what a battle. Flavia was so much steadier than Maria but it was really back and forth. A lot is made about women not being able to hold serve but I think it often has more to do with the great return games many of the ladies possess. This match had one break after another and both players had so many chances to hold but it just wasn't happening. When Maria hung on to win the second I thought it was over, but wow Flavia held her nerve and broke Maria one last time at 5-4 in the third to win. The crowd seemed to me very much going for the underdog and I felt myself pulling for a Flavia win as well. And though she was helped by more Maria doubles, the way she cracked her return on match point was just awesome. What a win!
After the excitement of  that match, Rafa vs Nicolas Mahut was never going to be a thriller but as it was my first time watching Rafa in NYC it was still very special. I loved that the US Open played "Welcome to the Jungle" when Rafa took the court - wonder what he thought of it?

In the beginning, the match was exciting as it was clear right away how Mahut held serve so many times in that legendary 2010 Wimbledon match. He has a great serve, and was hitting well from the backcourt;  after starting well however he hit error after error so Rafa was winning with ease. Sadly, after losing the second set, Mahut retired with an ab injury. Bummer for him but after Rafa's tough first round match I was happy to see him with a quick win. He stuck around for ages signing dozens and dozens of interviews - always love how much he tries to do for his fans!

US Open recap - Thursday 1 September

The buzz at the gates of a Grand Slam is just exhilarating. As I got off the subway and walked over the bridge leading to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre it's hard not to get superbly excited and pumped for the great day of tennis ahead.

So as I entered the gates on Day 4, it was just awesome stuff. This is when I felt the joy overcome me that I had attended all four grand slams in 2011. What a year!

The rest of my recap from day 4 here.

US Open recap - Wednesday August 31

Due to the weather, I missed the first three days of the US Open which was not awesome but when it was finally time to head to NYC all seemed right in the world. On my flight, my airline changed my requested seat to put a family together, so to compensate me for my hardship (ha!) I got seated in the nice, spacious seats and had live TV! So I got to see Christina McHale take out Marion Bartoli which was a great way to spend my flight to NYC and really get me ready for tennis.

After being stuck in a queue for nearly an hour at Laguardia (hint for the future - book a taxi!) I dropped my bags at my accommodation and raced to Flushing Meadows. It had been a long nine years since I had last set foot on the grounds of the US Open and it felt completely new. But at first sight I got tears in my eyes when I laid eyes again on Arthur Ashe Stadium. I made it - fan slam!

I raced to Louis Armstrong to see John Isner play Marcos Bagdatis as it was the most interesting matchup left since it was about 7 or 8pm when I arrived. I had to queue for ages though as I arrived late in the second set which ended up going to a long tiebreaker won by John 13-11. John would pull it out in four and I rushed around to see what else was going on along the grounds. I made it to see the last few games of Ana Ivanovic/Nenad Zimonjic's mixed doubles match (they lost). There, of course, was a decent crowd standing around to watch. Of the little I saw, of course Ana was being picked on and nearly every shot was hit to her! I was astounded to see in person how tiny Ana looks - eat a cheeseburger Ana!

So it was a short first day at the US Open, but with seven days ahead of me I wasn't worried about missing tennis. Little did I know what Mother Nature was going to throw our way!

Grand Slam rankings

Having attended tennis' four Grand Slams this year, thought it would be fun to share my own ranking system for the slams. Feel free to argue with me but here are my opinions based on five factors: location, food, ticketing, prices and crowd.

Venue location
Being easy to access to me is a hugely important part of slam attendance and far and away the Aussie Open is the most convenient to get to. Yes Melbourne is the smallest host city of the four but Melbourne Park is in such a great location. From the main heart of the city, it's only a 10-15 minute walk and there are free trams from Flinders Station. Even when I stayed just outside the city, it was still a pretty short journey to the tennis. With the other three, yes they are big cities and you can choose to stay as close as you can, but I factor in how close the venue is to public transport as well. Even if you stay in Manhattan, Flushing Meadows is only 1/2 hour by subway and when you get off it's a lovely walk over a bridge and you're at the gate. Compare that with the French and Wimbledon, both which require a 10-15 minute walk from the closest subway stations.

1) Aussie Open
2) US Open
3) Wimbledon
4) French Open

Ticketing process
Being able to get slam tickets without pulling my hair out is pretty important, both before and during the tournament. There are always a few ways to make life easier: Aussie Open membership, the Wimbledon  ballot system, being a USTA member, etc. But for anyone who perhaps makes a later decision to attend a slam (after the ballot closes or public sales have already started) I think it's great if you still have an option that's relatively affordable. I also think having flexibility while a tournament is on is great - as tennis goes you never know which player plays on which day and which session so if you go a long way to see your faves it's great if you have a chance to get a ticket to see him/her.

Again, I tout the Aussie Open for its great processes. I've had years in which I bought tickets the second they went on sale to the public, and this year I did the membership which gave me early ins for buying a package. For both, I had amazing seats - second row at the net even during the 2008 women's semifinals when I bought them during public sales. However, when French Open tix went on sale to the public this year I went online and was #6400 in the queue. I'm not kidding. I waited and waited, and by the time I got in the only tickets left were the really crazy expensive ones. Wimbledon - well I didn't think I was going so I didn't go into the ballot. Therefore, my only options were to try online and queue.

The French and US Open both have official reselling websites which are great but the fees can be as expensive as the tickets. Still, it's great that you have a chance to buy tickets when the tourneys are already in progress. Wimbledon - ugh don't even start me on the queue. Yep, been around a long time, but for people from overseas it's a really unfriendly way to spend a night (or nights) and I felt physically ill from getting up at 3am to sit/stand in the cold, rainy open space for 7 hours before a day of tennis watching. Supposedly some tickets are released online the night before for the showcourts, but I tried again and again and got nada.

1) Aussie Open
2) US Open
3) French Open
4) Wimbledon

All slams allow you to bring food in, and at Wimbledon you can even bring in a bit of alcohol! The US Open says you can only bring in limited quantities of food but I had no trouble bringing any amount of food into each slam. In terms of variety, cost, value and taste I thought the food at Wimbledon was the best (though I had the worst coffee I've ever had in my life there too!). Sandwiches were good, good fish and chips and the pizzas looked/smelled decent. The prices and sizes were very good as well.

I think Aussie Open is next best - great sushi options, Asian dishes, salads, etc. I also though the French was okay - the morning donuts and coffee were a great start to each day (tho so unhealthy) and the baguettes suited me fine. The US Open food tho - ugh. Bland sandwiches, tasteless hot dogs and nachos that sounded like a good idea but looked disgusting. And yep, very pricey.

1) Wimbledon
2) Aussie Open
3) French Open
4) US Open

This is a harder one to evaluate as I think spending money on tennis tickets is always worth it (and why I will never be a rich person) and I try to keep food/drink prices down at the event.
In terms of value for money, the Aussie Open grounds passes are the best and US Open most expensive (better off to buy an Arthur Ashe ticket). I actually thought Wimbledon prices were pretty fair - for tickets and food (but start saving now if you want to drink a Pimms!) You can buy reasonably priced seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, but you'd be better off watching in a sports bar as the upper seats are just too far from the court. If you want to buy any closer seats you'll need a mortgage!

1) Wimbledon
2) Aussie Open
3) French Open
4) US Open

I'll rate the slams for two areas related to the crowd: the actual people in the crowd as well as how crowded the slams are. The French Open to me was the worst by far - the venue is far too small to accommodate so many people and it was very difficult to get into the outer courts. There's really only one main avenue to get people from one area to another and it gets beyond packed and was unsettling to get around at times. There were not enough public spaces so it was a mission to get anywhere - there's just one main big screen area with limited seats, and only one other area with tables for people to sit and eat. The crowd themselves - well I wasn't impressed. People near me in Suzanne Lenglen were smoking in the stands and ashing on the steps (classy) and I don't have anything positive to say about the crowd and their treatment of non-French players. It was no better in person than what I'd seen on TV.

I feel like the shape of Melbourne Park makes it feel like the biggest and therefore less crowded - it can take 10-15 minutes to walk from the far courts by Rod Laver Arena all the way to the back courts near Hisense Arena so there are a lot of spaces to fit everyone in. I find the Aussie Open staff and crowd superbly friendly - the Aussies are such great sports fans and even when I go alone I find people are easy to talk to and kind.

1) Australian Open
2) US Open
3) Wimbledon
4) French Open

So my overall rankings:
1) Australian Open
2) Wimbledon
3) US Open
4) French Open
So, there are my opinions - any big disagreements? Are there other factors you think are important to consider?

My roller coaster US Open

Greetings from LAX - what a crazy week in New York City at the US Open!

My 10 days at the US Open turned into just 4.5 thanks to the threat of Hurricane Irene and my last two days were essentially rained out which was certainly trying. Overall tho of course any live tennis is amazing so I'll focus on the positives.

I watched Rafa, Serena and Maria on Arthur Ashe Stadium. I took my mom to her first live tennis. I watched Rafa play Nalbandian live. I was there to see Flavia upset Maria. I saw some great matches on the lovely Grandstand and Louis Armstrong courts. I completed my 2011 fan slam!!!

I have spent 36 days watching live tennis this year, and given that's the number of years I've been on this planet well that's a pretty good year. 23 of those were at Grand Slam tourneys so I am not going to whinge about missing out on the extra days of tennis!

I did enjoy the US Open very much and definitely was impressed by the crowds, the workers and until Tuesday, the weather!
I plan to do a bit of a Grand Slam rankings when I'm over the jet lag and will do proper recaps of each day. Stay tuned!

Live from the US Open

Hard to even know where to begin. It's been nine years since I last attended the US Open and I couldn't remember much from that last visit.

At that time, I'd only been to one Grand Slam, but as I got off the subway and walked toward the East Gate entrance into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre, I was achieving something amazing - the calendar 'fan slam'!

I got pretty emotional - not in a million years did I ever think I would ever attend all four in a year.

As soon as I landed into NYC on Wednesday night, I basically dumped my bags and headed to the tennis to make up for the three days I'd already missed! I was amazed how busy the grounds were - yeah tennis is certainly alive in the US!

I only watched a bit of Isner/Bagdatis before heading to my accommodation - it takes a lot of energy to be at the tennis day and night for many nights in a row so decided to conserve a bit.

Yesterday, Thursday was a stunner and I started with the battle of the Jelenas (Jankovic and Dokic). The Aussie was up a break but by the time I came over she's lost it, and it was clear why. The girl couldn't buy a serve - in one game alone she had four double faults! Was too painful to watch so headed out of there after 1/2 hour.

Then it was time to check out the men - chose Tipsy vs Petzschner which was entertaining enough, particularly watching Petzs bark at himself!
Tennis fans are the best bloody sports fans in the world! This was proven to me again when the lovely @anna_tennisfan let me use her Arthur Ashe ticket to watch Serena! It was, of course, a complete one-sided affair but I so enjoyed watching Serena hit with such patience and depth, and just clock her returns and serves. Amazing.
I kept up the WTA action for most of the rest of the day: Sveta and Vika. Didn't quite last all of Vika's match but have a full week left so need to conserve some energy!

I've uploaded heaps of pics on my Facebook page, so please visit here to check them out!