Sunday 19th January
I had initially considered doing one of the free walking tours around the city because we had tickets for the evening session so the day was free to what we liked. However I also wanted to take my disposable camera to get it developed and the shop wasn’t open until Monday so I decided to postpone the plan. Victoria, Jess and Lucia planned to go shopping but I wasn’t so keen and neither was Justin. The heat wave was becoming a memory and with a cold breeze a day at the beach was out.
Justin and I had brought a big crate of beer and we still had a lot remaining. I also still had some cans of Bundy and Coke so despite it only being mid morning we decided to enjoy a cheeky drink whilst watching the tennis in the hotel and waited for some laundry to finish.
After watching Ivanovic defeat Serena Williams I noticed that there was a one day cricket match between Australia and England taking place and it was live on TV. That was my afternoon sorted. At one point the maid came round to clean the apartment and I felt a bit awkward lounging around on the couch while she spent nearly an hour making the place look like we’d never been there.
Eventually the others got back from their day of activities and in support of Australia’s last hope Casey Dellacqua against Eugenie Bouchard, Victoria and I had our faces painted by Lucia again. She did another fantastic job and decided to have hers done as well with Victoria doing a fine job under pressure and attempts by Justin to put her off.
We arrived at the Rod Laver Arena (the Australian Opens Centre Court) and got to our seats just as the players were coming out. A few rows in front were a group in fancy dress and they made a decent attempt at starting an atmosphere before other pockets within the crowd started to join in.
During the first set both players gave it everything, and just as one looked like they had the upper hand the other came storming back. At one stage Dellacqua had broken serve and only had to hold her own service game but she couldn’t and it went to a tie break. The crowd did their best to lift Dellacqua including my own fine attempt. “Casey Casey Casey”, (the other four shouting) “Oi Oi Oi”, “Casey”, “Oi”, “Casey, Casey, Casey”, “Oi, Oi, Oi”. The first half of the chant certainly sounded very effective and no doubt caused some looks due to it being said in a British accent.
The attempts by the crowd throughout the first set may have given Dellacqua that extra bit of energy and she managed to win the first set tie break. Unfortunately despite the match being a lot closer than the final score suggested she lost both of the final sets. A few millimetres the other way and Dellacqua may well have broken the Bouchard serve in the second set before her own was broken but it wasn’t to be.
I thought the defeat may have dampened the spirits of the local crowd but that wasn’t the case. The second match was Stanislas Wawrinka vs Tommy Robredo. A group of Swiss fans were standing at the back and suddenly removed their tops to spell out “Stna”. The group in costume noticed and started to chant “Swap around, swap around, swap around” and eventually the Swiss group realised they’d messed up their moment and had to shuffle seats to spell “Stan”. It was however enough for the majority to get behind “Stan” and to keep the atmosphere alive.
Vic and I believed this would be a good men’s game that might have the potential to ‘go the distance’ but “Stan” was hungry for victory and won the first set fairly quickly and comfortably. People had got behind both players, though mainly “Stan” with some fairly hilarious comments and chants being audible. I was surprised no one had shouted “Stan, Stan, he’s our man, if he can’t win it no one can” so took it upon myself to do the honours. This one actually caught on and was heard being shouted by another group later on in the evening.
There wasn’t any chanting or shouting during points, and there was nothing rude or disrespectful it was just fun and nothing like the hoity toity polite atmosphere of Wimbledon. Not that Wimbledon isn’t fun, the atmosphere is special in it’s own way and as Victoria said you could probably almost convince yourself you’d gone back in time there. The attempts by the umpire to quieten the crowd by saying “Thank You, Please” in their ever overly polite tones was slightly funny because as Justin remarked they probably just wanted to shout “shut Up!” The Swiss fans were however eventually told to put their shirts back on so clearly there were some boundaries.
I wanted the match to go to at least 4 sets, or for a few sets to go at least to a tie break so I switched allegiance to Tommy. He certainly tried to make the next 2 sets more competitive and both went to a tie break but he couldn’t win either set. Vic and Jess had made their way to the other side as there were a few empty seats in an attempt to get a signature. Vic was successful and got her ticket scribbled on/signed by Stan.
We made our way home by tram and ended up playing the Charades game again for a couple of hours until Justin and then Lucia who had an early flight the next morning called it a night.
Monday 20th January
I felt quite tired when i woke up even though I’d woken up a bit later than initially planned. I was also grateful Lucia had been so quiet when she’d left. I eventually left the hotel, making my way to the photography shop to get my film developed. The staff were very friendly and confirmed they could have it processed that day at no extra cost and would transfer the pictures to a usb stick if I provided one.
I then made my way towards the State Library to join a ‘free’ (you can pay a tip if you like) walking tour offered by the same company that hosted the tour of Sydney I did with my mum. First though I needed breakfast and seeing a subway deal of coffee and a sub for under $5 I was sold. I did however feel a bit guilty at not going to a cafe, especially as I believe Melbourne is the food capital of Australia.
The tour was great and luckily there were a few other solo travellers that were open to conversation. We started off seeing the area around the Old Melbourne Gaol before making our way to many of the areas I hadn’t thought to explore. This included a number of the shopping centres some of which were very ornate and reminded me of Leadenhall Market in London. We also went down a number of narrow streets where graffiti was legalised and one had recently been covered in black paint so that the process could begin again. It is fair to say I wouldn’t have seen any of this had I not been on the tour but if by chance I had I probably have appreciated it as much as I did.
We also went past more familiar land marks including the Great Exhibition Hall, the Parliament building and Federation Square before we eventually crossed the Yarra River where there was a nice view of the Melbourne skyline. The guide also pointed towards the Shrine of Remembrance and the Botanical Gardens. I still had 2 and a half hours until my photos were ready and whilst my initial plan had been to return back to the hotel and rest before our night session i thought I’d check them out.
It is fair to say I thought the Shrine of Remembrance was closer than it was from my starting position. I probably went a long way initially heading to Victoria Park as I thought it was there. There appeared to be a number of memorials however it gradually dawned on me these were not what I was looking for. It probably took 30 minutes to find it though I actually arrived at 2pm just in time for a 3 minute silence. This was a hourly demonstration using a spotlight to show how on 11th November each year a gap in the stone work allows the sun to pass along the memorial stone before lighting up the word “love” at 11am.
I then headed towards the botanical gardens just because I was in the area rather than having any real interest in seeing something in particular. I wondered around for a bit and it was very pleasant but it was probably something that was lost on me in terms of what I was seeing. There were signs saying turtles were nesting in the gardens and to watch out for them but I didn’t see any. After doing a loop of the lake I headed back towards the CBD.
I had planned to pick up a USB stick from the hotel but the photography shop was on my way back and whilst I was early I thought I would see if the photos were ready. I knew Justin had his laptop and that it would probably be possible to copy the photos from the CD to the USB stick myself. Luckily they were which meant I got back to the hotel earlier than planned.
After a quick change of shirts (the Watford shirt was now on in preparation for another sporting event photo) we went to get some dinner. After a quick drink on the rooftop terrace at the same venue we headed downstairs. Just as we were about to order we were told about the special deal. Meatballs with either Mash, Pizza or Pasta and a free drink. I was sold and so was Justin though he went for Mash and I went for Pizza (though received pasta – not that I cared).
During the meal Victoria announced the plan was to cycle to the tennis along the river which i wasn’t so keen on because I’ve not got on a bike since I was 12 when I had a bike ride I’d rather forget in Devon. However the more I thought about the more I thought I should give it a go. In the end Jess and I caught the tram but I told myself as I’ve skydived, I would cycle at the next opportunity which is likely to be Rottnest Island.
I think we were all slightly nervous about being late but we didn’t need to worry. Whilst Nadal had won 2 sets he had not done so comfortably and the match had overrun meaning the start to our session was delayed. He won the match just as we all met up again, and it might be of interest to some that the bike was the quicker form of transport. The delay to our session created a slight logistical issue for the organisers because there was no way of stopping people entering the concourse and a large crowd was forming. I need to add that all seating was reserved so there appeared no reason to be in such a rush especially as an announcement kept saying there would be a delay whilst the arena was cleaned and no time scale was put on that.
We therefore decided to finally check out the Heineken beer area which we’d not done on Friday because of the heat, been unable to do on Saturday because the queue was over 2 hours and not done on Sunday as we were running tight on time. Andy Murray was on the big screen and seemed all set to win a tie break to win the match when during the process of Vic taking a few pictures of me in front of the screen he suffered a mini collapse and lost the tie break and therefore the set. He also appeared to suffer a mini meltdown about a decision that had not gone his way and broke his racquet in the process.
We returned back to the arena and weren’t waiting much longer before we were let in. The first match was a men’s single game between Jo Wilfred Tsonga and ‘The Great’ Roger Federer. The stadium announcer listed all the honours for both players and when he did those for Federer I did began to wonder if we’d be waiting all night to finish. I wanted a long match and hoped Tsonga would be adequately prepared to challenge.
Federer was rolling back the years for most of the match and the result of the match was never in any doubt. Some of his shots were stunning and it was annoying just how good he was because it meant we didn’t get the close long drawn out match we had hoped for. Tsonga 0-40 down and on the verge of losing serve for the second time in the 3rd set let his frustration out on the ball and smashed it out of the stadium. It stirred something because he came back to win that game but he couldn’t break back and lost within a couple of hours.
The next match was Agnieszka Radwanska vs Garbine Muguruza. We .?had already seen Radwanska and as it was after the Federer match it felt a bit of an anti climax especially as we had hoped to see a variety of different players over the 4 days. A large section of the crowd clearly felt the same and about half must have left. This did however at least allow us to move to other seats around the court throughout the breaks in play in the final set to get different perspectives.
The first four games were close and lasted about 10 minutes each but eventually Radwanska broke and from then on the result was a certainty. At the end of the match we all hung our tickets over the side to get them signed/scribbled on by Radwanska. Initially i was missed but was successful when she came back the second time and I wished her good luck in the next match.
After leaving we Vic, Justin and I made our way to the bike station though there weren’t any available so we had to walk I instead. We were also feeling a bit hungry but Lord of the Fries that we had planned to go to was already closed. Eventually we managed to get something and headed back to the hotel and went to bed.
Tuesday 21st January
I had to repack my rucksuck as over the past 4 days I hadn’t exactly unpacked but had allowed everything to spill out. It didn’t take to long and at 10.00 we checked out and our bags were put in storage. Justin had to catch a flight but Jess Vic and I went to find breakfast. Unfortunately the place Victoria knew from being at the Melbourne cup horse race a few months earlier had closed due to a serious fire so we found some where else in the Victoria Arcade.
After that we headed to Federation Square to watch the tennis and Victoria and I took part in a pedometer competition which involved a series of mini cardio tennis related challenges. It was only a bit of fun with some other members of the public and whilst I put in quite a bit of effort I was still surprised when it was announced I had won by about 40 steps. I think this was mainly because on at least one occasion I’d had to jump off the stage to run after the ball.
We left Federation Square and I finally planned to cycle again. The bikes looked simple enough and Vic had said it was only 15 minutes along the river. I was quite excited about getting on for the first time in over 15 years and I thought it would be good practice for my trip to Rottnest Island where with no public transport the bike is the only option if you want to see anything. Quite quickly it emerged it wasn’t a good idea as Victoria was in a rush to get back to the hotel in order to get the flight and we therefore had to say goodbye there and I abandoned my mission.
It had been a fantastic four days on the whole but the end of the tennis meant the final stage of my journey was about to start which made me feel quite reflective. From the moment Victoria had confirmed the dated we had tickets for the tennis I had organised tours from Melbourne to Adelaide and on to Perth. When i looked at my itinerary at Heathrow back In October they felt so far away but now they were here.