|The Australian Open is truly the people's grand slam. Never saw a single celebrity through my binoculars. We were there on Day 5 and Day 6 and really exhausted from watching 16 hours of great tennis. Each day we picked up the match schedule ($3AUS) marked off what we wanted to see, then found a seat as close to the action as possible, which was often first row nearest to the players.|
|The ground pass tickets cost only $25AUS per day (at the exchange rate $1.98AUS=1$US) and which I bought over the internet. All we had to do was to stand in line, show an ID and pick them up prior to entry on the first day.|
|Perhaps because Leyton Hewitt and Mark Philipoussis were eliminated early on, the Aussie fans did not show up in large numbers. There were exactly four locals!|
The matches were held simultaneously in the Rod Laver arena, Vodafone arena, Show courts and several other courts. The arenas have retractable roofs. You could walk over and watch some of the players practicing, warming up. The layout of the grounds. was such that you could walk over from one end to the other in 5 minutes. Selected matches were held in the Rod Laver arena for which you needed separate slightly more expensive tickets, but there was so much going on elsewhere and because this slam was full of upsets it was as much fun in the Vodafone arena and show stadiums where we saw nearly all the finalists of all the events in just the two days we were there.
|11am 2/18 ShowCourt 1 Round 2 Mens Doubles
Ellis Ferreira (RSA)/Rick Leach(USA) def. Gaston Etlis (ARG)/Mariano Hood (ARG)
the extended third set 9-7 was a treat to watch with every point fought hard, and then they signed autographs. .
|1pm 2/18 Vodafone Arena Round 3 Mens Singles
Adrian Voinea def. Taylor Dent (USA)
Taylor has a serve and volley game and it was interesting to see the baseliner prevail in a thrilling 5 sets, they kept us in the scorching sun and we got burnt. I was hoarse rooting for Taylor. ( Inside Vodafone Arena)
|3pm 2/18 ShowCourt 2 Round 2 Mens Doubles
Michael Lodra/Fabrice Santora (FRA) def. Mahesh Bhupathi/Leander Paes (IND)
I could'nt believe they lost in straight sets! There were a group of Indians cheering for them in very feeble voices, which could make even grown up champions lose all inspiration. Anyway Lodra and Santora went on to the finals. From this stadium you could see the Melbourne skyline in the back.
|5pm 2/18 Vodafone Arena Round 3 Mens Singles
Thomas Johansson (SWE) def. Younes El Aynaoui (MAR)
This match was very characteristic of how Thomas won the tournament. Thomas lost the first set to someone who clearly looked like the better player. Younes was taller, more fluid in his strokes but Thomas ran down every ball, served some aces, did his favorite drop shots, and came back from behind to win the match. And then there were at least a hundred Swedes in yellow and blue led by one fatso with a canon throat. They chanted long rehearsed slogans for the Swede. Thomas owes a lot to these die-hard fans. Younes had his family in the players bench who were no match for the opponent's cheering squad.
|1pm 2/19 Vodafone Arena Round 3 Mens Singles
Roger Federer (SUI) def. Rainer Schuettler (GER)
Today we decided to stake out inside the Vodafone Arena. All the big name matches were scheduled here, and I was anxious that if I waited elsewhere and came back here, I would not be able to get in in time to see Safin play. Anyway, Roger was the favorite, and he did not disappoint. Since we had to wait 1 1/2 hours to get into the arena we did not see the entire match. If you ever get out for a pee or snack, you get one of these passouts that way you don't have to stand in line as long as you did when you first got in.
|3pm 2/19 Vodafone Arena Round 3 Women's Singles
Jennifer Capriati (USA) def. Eleni Daniilidou (GRE)
Eleni had a rowdy following and they yelled at the wrong times and got the referee a bit upset. So Eleni all charged up from all this cheering played a good second set and stretched it to a decider which was then easily won by Jennifer.
|5pm 2/19 Vodafone Arena Round 3 Men's Singles
Marat Safin (RUS) def. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
There was no question here who was going to win, Marat was my favorite for the tournament from the beginning. There was one pipsqueak who kept yelling "Come on Safin you can do it" even when he was 2 sets ahead and cruising. Somebody asked her to "Shutup". Just then Safin absent mindedly tossed a ball behind him and it hit the line judge and he was cited for unsporstmanly conduct. This ofcourse made Safin mad at the referee, because it was not intentional and he was not in any trouble that would want him to delay play to gain some advantage! The press had a lot to say about this diversion the next day.
|7pm 2/19 Vodafone Arena Round 2 Women's Doubles
M.Hingis (SUI)/Anna Kournikova (RUS) def. M.Maleeva (BUL)/A.Svensson (SWE)
This was not scheduled for this arena but with so many 5 setters happening elsewhere they moved this match to Vodafone, and there we were right in front. Safin's match had less people watching than this one! Suddenly, the stadium was filled with men and cameras and whistling. I regretted I did not have a zoom lens, but this is how I captured Anna from where I was. Martina and Anna practice like sychronized swimmers. They practice their rallies at the same speed, practice their serves at the same instant, etc. The Swedish fans of Asa Svensson were there in full force, but they were outnumbered by the rest of the stadium. Martina & Anna won the women's doubles title.
|8:30pm 2/19 Show Stadium 2 Round 3 Men's Singles
Wayne Ferreira (RSA) def. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)
This was the incredibly long match that was still not done when we exited the Vodafone arena so we went over to catch the final games in the deciding set. We saw some desperate scrambling from both sides in the last few points.
|Since this was our last day we saw more action Justine Henin vs. Nicole Pratt being played in the Rod Laver arena after dark. The night matches in the Rod Laver arena are displayed on the giant screen in the outside garden, and you can drink coffee, lie back on the grass, and enjoy the company of other fans.|
|Betting on players
As soon as we walked in we looked up the sportsbet shop and bet $50AUS 1-10 odds on Marat Safin to win the tournament, $25AUS 1-21 odds on Rusedski, $50AUS 1-4.5 odds on Roger Federer. Rusedski lost to a hen. Roger lost to Tommy Haas. Then I got a bright idea to buy a combo ticket for $50AUS 1-16 odds for Tommy Haas/Jennifer Capriati to win their respective titles. This way, if either Haas or Safin prevailed, I was still in the running, and I expected one of them to kick Thomas Johannson's arse in the finals. By the way these tickets provided more excitement than Webvan, Covad, ...all put together.
Thomas messed up my winning ticket $500AUS value.
|Getting to Melbourne, accomodations, transportation etc.
We used 120,000 frequent flyer miles collected since 1987 on TWA and American Airlines to get free tickets on Qantas from San Francisco to Melbourne plus two additional stops in Brisbane and Sydney before our return. Since we did not spend anything on airfare we decided to stay comfortably at the Holiday Inn ($180AUS/night) by the Yarra river near the Flint and Spencer Street junction. We took the free tram to the stadium from there.
Enjoyed great dining at the Conservatory in the Crown Casino (Pawan's treat), sat on the steps in the atrium, and watched the light show for a bit. Lost $10AUS on roulette. Taxi from the Holiday Inn to the airport was $42AUS. Then we walked and walked inside the city and bought some Aussie souvenirs.
The hardest part is that Yami now expects me to produce tennis like those people she saw!