Would you believe that by complete coincidence I found myself in Melbourne throughout the Australian Open! I’m not renowned for being a huge tennis fan, but coming from a sports-crazy family it’s fair to say I haven’t had any option other than to follow the sport over the past few years! That, and the fact we now have a British player capable of winning grand slams.
It was never in ‘the plan’ to be in Melbourne for January, but if you’ve been following my travels over the past three months you’ll be aware that the plan was very vague to begin with! And what little of it there was has not been adhered to. So rather inadvertently I found myself in the city hosting the first tennis grand slam of the year.
On Friday 23rd January it just so happened that Andy Murray’s third round match was going to be played on the Hisense Arena, which for the first time could be accessed with a general admission ticket. So after a little consultation with The Famalam back at home the night before about whether it was worth spending $44 on (well DUH! Why was that even a question of mine?!) I rocked up to Federation Square on the Friday morning to buy a ground pass.
Federation Square is pretty cool in itself anyway, but throughout the tennis tournament it’s been decked out with a giant screen showing the main matches, deckchairs, a few umbrellas and nice big fans blowing out cool water on a hot day. After purchasing my ticket I made my way to the park, following the pedestrian route along the Yarra River, which flows through the city, being sure to admire the view along the way…
After getting through security I almost had to pinch myself at the day ahead of me – I was at the Australian Open! It almost looks silly written down, it’s such a simple thing after all as the tickets were so cheap and there were thousands of others there as well experiencing the exact same as myself. But nevertheless I found I couldn’t help but smile as I walked around the park in the glorious sunshine with that big inflatable balloon feeling in my stomach.
(Side note: There is the potential for me to look like a bit of a weirdo doing this. Since I left I have completely dropped any qualms I had about doing things on my own, which if you know me well is a Big Thing. I’ve eaten at restaurants, been to the cinema, shopped and even been to the girls bathroom by myself! And as a result I’ve developed that wonderful ability to chat to whoever I darn well please, smile at everyone and not really give a monkeys about what people might think about me as a result. It’s quite liberating I must say, you should try it sometime!)
As Andy Murray’s match wasn’t until mid-afternoon I filled up my morning with various matches on the show courts, including a doubles match involving Andy’s brother, Jamie Murray.
This is where I also spied Judy Murray for the first time that day…
(I realise I could sound like some crazed Murray family stalker right now, I’m not I swear!)
One of my favourite features of the park was The People’s Court – where any Tom, Dick or Harry could take the opportunity to play at the Australian Open.
All matches were umpired fairly by an actual umpire, the scoreboard featured the competitors’ surnames (which was a little confusing when watching a husband and wife compete against each other) and there were seats alongside for any potential spectators. Needless to say the quality of tennis was nowhere near the standards being displayed on other surrounding courts, so it was hardly pulling in the crowds! But I thought it was a lovely touch 🙂
With Andy Murray due to play around 3.15pm-ish (emphasis on the ‘ish’) I made my way to the Hisense Arena around 1pm, knowing there’d be crowds aplenty to watch that match so I was adamant to get a good seat! This proved to be a very wise move, although it did mean having to endure the match between Irina-Camelia Begu and Carina Witthoeft. I’m not the biggest fan of women’s tennis I must say, I don’t know what it is about it but it just seems to bore me a little, and doesn’t seem to have that competitive spark and energy that men’s tennis boasts. But the match did give me the opportunity to practice my photography skills for the next match…
Just before the Murray match I thought it a good idea to go to toilet, just to be sure I didn’t miss any of the action. I’d befriended the girl sat next to me – a fellow British backpacker – who promised to keep an eye on my stuff and seat while I popped out. In theory this was all a really wise move, as the stewards would issue anyone taking a toilet break with a pass that allowed them back into the arena for 45mins after they’d left. However, to put it politely it seemed that plan had all gone a bit tits up due to a massive lack of communication between the organisers. After relieving myself and indulging in an ice cream I joined the queue to re-enter which was alarmingly long – clearly everyone had had the same idea as I did! Naturally we were all very keen to get back in as soon as possible so as to not miss anything, only to be informed by the stewards that our passes that we were all desperately clinging on to in order to gain priority from those in the general admission queue were no longer valid, and did not guarantee us our seat.
As you can imagine this did not go down well, so much so that the police had to be called! The whole situation made no sense, because for one thing we’d all left our stuff inside the arena! I suddenly realised I’d left all my stuff bar my purse with a stranger! Whoops!
The biggest advantage of being alone at this point was I had no one else to worry about. After guzzling down my ice cream I swiftly wriggled my way to the front of the queue and managed to squeeze my way through the barriers. I then (rather cheekily) played the “I’ve come from the other side of the world to see Andy Murray play” card to one of the stewards, fluttered my eyelashes a bit and finally found myself back in my seat for the beginning of the match! And I’m happy to report that my fellow British backpacker friend had not only kept my seat for me, but she’d also not stolen anything from my bag! Win!
So after that slightly dramatic episode it was time to watch Andy Murray in action…
I spied on Judy Murray a bit more…
…And laughed a lot at these guys…
I won’t give you a blow by blow account of the match, it’s safest if I stick to travel blogging rather than sports reporting I think! But Murray won, and we were all very happy about it! 🙂
Andy Murray’s match was to be followed by what all the Aussies had been waiting for that day – the showdown between two of their players Sam Groth and Barnard Tomic. The stadium was packed out and the atmosphere was electric, with the Australian fanatics leading the crowd in a few national tunes.
Despite having absolutely zero interest in this match I stayed for the first set. The tennis itself was a bit dull – Sam Groth has a ridiculously fast serve, and Tomic isn’t too bad either and so it became a battle of aces, which I had absolutely no desire to watch. I try and live by the saying “always leave a party while you’re still having fun”, and so that is what I did. I attended on the day that marked three months away from home, and I can’t think of a better way to have spent it! 🙂