Thursday 16th January
I checked out of the hostel and made my way to Sydney Airport to meet Victoria and her friend Jess before we all took a flight to Melbourne. The opportunity to attend sporting events during my time travelling in Australia had appealed greatly and having seen the Ashes three years ago this time I wanted to see the tennis. Victoria had been able to get us tickets for not just one day but for four and these were for a mix of day and evening sessions. I was buzzing.
After an uneventful flight we arrived in Melbourne which was in the middle of a heat wave with the temperature hitting over 40 degrees Celsius. The heat didn’t feel as bad as I expected when we got outside the airport and after catching the shuttle bus we made the short walk to our hotel apartment. After a quick change we went on the hunt for the electronic Myki card that is needed for all public transport around the city. After the 3rd or 4th Seven-Eleven we finally found one that either had them In stock or where the machine wasn’t broken.
Cards purchased we caught the tram to St Kilda where we would spend the afternoon on the beach. The tram journey felt quite long and it was a bit uncomfortable due to the heat though we did at least have seats. We were planning on meeting Vic’s other friend Justin and he had suggested a number of bars. She read them out to me and Jess but we were equally unsure what would be best but a guy nearby over hearing our conversation told us to head to “Republic”.
Eventually we arrived in St Kilda and decided to get some food though perhaps because of the heat I didn’t feel as hungry as I thought I was though the portions were big. Justin was experiencing transport issues caused by the extreme heat so we headed for the beach.
Vic and I went for a swim and Jess a paddle. I still had my underwater camera from Moreton Island which had 6 potential photos left so we tried to get a couple of under water pictures together. Unfortunately because it was only a disposable we wouldn’t have any idea until the photos are finally developed. Despite there being a bit of cloud cover blocking the sun it was still very hot and I felt as though I was totally dry after 10 minutes.
We met up with Justin and headed for a bar called the Vineyard to get some cocktails. I got a very spicy Bloody Mary which normally I would have loved but on a warm day probably wasn’t the most sensible choice. Justin headed off to meet some friends and Vic Jess and I headed back to the hotel before going back out to Federation Square so that we could watch some of the tennis on the big screen.
It wasn’t as busy as I expected and despite it now being dark it was still very warm. We saw the end of two matches before the main game of the evening from an Australian perspective as Nick Kyrgios the last remaining male hope for the locals was playing Benoit Paire. It was getting late by the time the match began so we had to decided to stay for the first set then depending what was happening to watch the rest back at the hotel.
After a tight, enthrallingly first set where the young Australian who had won the Boys tournament only last year played superbly and with great determination to more than match his French seeded opponent. Kyrgios finally took the first set in a tie break so we quickly headed back so we would see how the second set unfolded. He won that in a tie break as well and there was real belief amongst us that he could make it. Unfortunately he seemed to pick up an injury due to cramp and eventually lost the 3rd set before fatigue set in. The experience of Paire in such situations also became more evident and he showed no mercy winning the 4th and 5th set comfortably to win the match.
Friday 17th January
We woke up and having brought a few supplies for breakfast the day before enjoyed some croissants with ham cheese and tomatoes. It was scheduled to be around 43 degrees Celsius so on Vic’s advice I had put my water in the freezer and it was suitably frozen. First we headed to the supermarkets to get some lunch but the early heat was playing havoc with my appetite so I was happy with us just getting snacks.
We walked down to Flinders Street and caught the free tram that was operating to the tournament. When we got on it wasn’t overly busy however by the time we got to near the arena complex it was packed and if there was any air conditioning it was struggling badly and not overly pleasant.
We arrived at the Hisense Arena just in time for the first match of the day which was a ladies match between Kerber and Risks. Walking up the steps and in to the arena it was a relief we were in the shade however it still felt very hot. The heat made it difficult to concentrate on the match details and In truth I don’t remember to much of it, though Kerber seemed to win fairly comfortably in 2 sets. I just found the whole experience of actually being there very exciting.
Jess Vic and I seemed to lose Justin on our exit so we got a few pictures in the surrounding outside area. This included a room which had been set up to look like the post match press conference room and where it was possible to sit with a replica trophy. Jess and I then made our way to the Margaret Court arena where more by chance we bumped in to Justin. There was a queue to get in but there were a lot of empty seats. The problem was they were in the blazing sun.
We had gone to the court to see a men’s doubles match where two Australians Chris Guccione and Thanasi Kokkinakis were competing. I know I have never endured such heat, it was extreme and the arena shape probably only helped to amplify the heat by keeping it in the cauldron. The ice in my water bottle had well and truly melted and if anything was now becoming warm.
As for the match itself the Australian duo battled well and it looked like it was all set for a first set tie break before Kokkinakis dropped his service game. Jess, Justin and I made a escape seeking the air conditioned bar area of the Hisense arena. We were watching a match on the TV and then I decided to have a lie down. Eventually Vic rejoined us and we had our snacks before heading back to our seats to seeing Berdych vs Dzumhur. Reentering the arena it was like opening the door to an oven and feeling that heat hit your face but rather than closing the door you proceeded to enter the oven. Even our seats which had been in the heat were now scorching hot.
Dzumhur was from Bosnia and had progressed through qualifying. He also seemed to have a small but very lively fan base who were standing up and chanting so the atmosphere felt more like a football match. He battled well in the first set and at one stage I thought he was going to break the Berdych serve but he didn’t and instead was broken himself to lose the first set. It was very hard to concentrate are on the score and during the second set I thought it was 3-3 when it was actually 4-2 to Berdych who won that set and the 3rd set 6-4.
After leaving the arena we realised we hadn’t taken the exit for the trams so instead enjoyed a pleasant walk along the Yarra river to Flinders Street station where we caught the train to Southern Cross station close to our hotel. We were all feeling rather affected by the heat but the initial plan was still to head out again. However eventually a decision was made to stay in where we played a scrabble type game called bananagrams before going to bed.
Saturday 18th January
Whilst we waited for Victoria’s other friend Lucia to arrive we confirmed the schedule to see who would be on court including Andy Murray who was going to be in action against Lopez from Spain. Victoria and I therefore decided to use some face paint for the occasion as whilst she had a soft spot for Murray she also liked Lopez and so decided to support him during the match. The efforts by Lucia to paint two Spanish flags on Vic’s cheeks and to cover my entire face with the union flag were stunning.
I was surprised at how little attention people paid to me as we walked down the street and it wasn’t until we were on a crowded tram that I received a few comments. Apparently I looked ‘scary’ though as Vic said that was good as it would help to intimidate the opponent. The weather was a lot cooler than the day before and as I’ve not acclimatised I actually felt cold even though it was still just over 20 degrees Celsius.
We took our seats in the Hisense arena where I watched the end of the first set between Jankovic and Nara before heading off hoping to see two British men (Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins) in action in a men’s double match. They had won the first set and lost the second so I hoped to see the 3rd however there was a big queue to get in. There appeared to be a few seats but people were only allowed to enter when ends were changed and eventually the Steward made a decision not to let anyone else in until the end of the match. This ended up being much quicker than I expected as the Brits suddenly collapsed and lost the final set 6-2.
I started to head back to the Hisense arena when I saw Vic and the others heading towards me. We had hoped to see Sloane Stephens on Margaret Court but there was a queue to get in and apparently all the seats had been allocated. We then headed back to Court two where I’d just come from as two Australian women were in action in a doubles match. It was at this point I realised it was this match that had caused the crowd which prevented me seeing the game I wanted to.
Instead we went to court 3 to see a men’s single match between Robert and Klizan. Whilst both were unseeded Robert appeared to be in control winning the first set 6-0. We arrived and stayed for the second set which was a lot more competitive though eventually Robert comfortably won the tie break. I later realised he was the opponent of the Andy Murray match which we now made our way towards.
We arrived back at the Hisense arena where a ladies single match was still in action and I was surprised to see Radwanska was a set down to Pavlyuchenkova. Perhaps our arrival signalled a change in fortunes, at 2-0 down she won 6 games to win 6-2 before winning the 3rd set by the same score. At one point Pavlyuchenkova called for the trainer but she battled on however perhaps this was the reason for the sudden decline and apparent one sided nature of the match.
Finally it was time for the Murray/Lopez match. Vic and I headed to the front to get some pictures together as did Jess and Lucia. The atmosphere was quite good and there were a group of guys in kilts though mine and Victoria’s faces seemed to grab the most attention as one lady wanted a picture of us together.
Murray was first to serve and after a long game was eventually broken though he then immediately broke the Loprez serve. It seemed like we would be in for a close and long match. The rest of the set went with serve and it was Murray who finally won the tie break and one point during the set Victoria got a video of me shouting “Come on Andy!!!”
Murray seemed to play better in the second set though Lopez still hit more winners he just also made nearly double the number of unforced errors. Murray broke Lopez to win the second set 6-4 and the 3rd set was even less competitive in terms of score as he won it 6-2. However in both these sets there had also been some long rally’s with good shots from both players where a matter of inches or even millimetres on at least one occasion could have changed the outcome.
We left the arena and after getting some jumping pictures outside the Rod Laver arena headed along the Yarra River to do the same route back as the previous day. After a quick shower and drink Justin and I headed off to watch a Twenty20 cricket match between the Melbourne Renegades and the Sydney Sixes. Sydney had a number of current and previous Australian test players I recognised including Brett Lee and Steve Smith though the English bowler Chris Tremlett wasn’t in the match day squad. I have to admit I don’t think i knew any of the Melbourne players with the exception of Muttiah Muralitharan but as they were the home team I felt I should support them.
The match was a lot tighter than I expected having looked at the table and whilst the run rate of the Sixes was higher the Renegades had lost less wickets and a couple of boundaries would change the whole match. It wasn’t a totally dramatic end as in the final over Brett Lee was bowling and he kept the run rate down so that with 2 balls left the Renegades needed 10. The penultimate ball went for 2 so the game was as good as over, though the batter hit 6 on the last ball to make the final score look a lot closer than it really ever was.
I had wore my Watford shirt so that I could continue my plan to get pictures of it at different sporting locations and got some pictures at half time. There was also a motorcycle stunt event at half time whivh was very entertaining and despite the ground probably only being 1/4 full the 14,000 strong crowd seemed quite enthusiastic. The atmosphere can’t really compare to a football match as there was no chanting but it was still lively as the DJs played rock songs to a ‘air guitar’ big screen competition when ever there was a break in play.
Justin had met some of his friends at the entrance and as we were all hungry headed to China town to get food. It was however 11.30 by the we got there and most places including the dumpling house we planned to go to was closed. Eventually we found somewhere and got a selection of different foods. It was gone midnight by the time we left and I decided to call it a night. Vic, Jess and Lucia were playing various charade games on an iPhone app so I joined in. There were a number of different options including “Act it Out” which was particularly hilarious.
By the time I went to bed it was nearly 2am and the Watford vs Bournemouth match was just starting. I fell asleep with my phone next to my face and when Justin got back half an hour later I quickly checked the score. I woke up again about 5am and saw the match had ended 1.1 which I was initially disappointed with but then I saw we’d had a sending off and Almunia had saved a penalty so I went to sleep content.