aRafaelite’s Australian Open diary: day 3

Saturday 23 January – The Sense to stay on HiSense.

A shorter(?) blog today, as it doesn’t feature Rafa, or not the real Rafa anyway… He was probably on a practice court somewhere, but I’m not buying into this skulking round entrances thing when I could be watching proper matches. Maybe next time ;) and yes, I’m enjoying this so much there will be definitely be a next time! I’m missing Rafa news though – I haven’t had time to read all the write ups of his last match, etc. You lot probably know more than I do.

First up, was breakfast with xta (another Nadal News reader) somewhere not too far from Melbourne Park. Lovely to meet another Rafa fan who is also less about the bod than the tennis / role model. I’m not saying that our conversation didn’t touch on anatomy at all, but I guess I’m not the kind of Rafanatic who sweats all the details (unless he’s just lost unexpectedly in which case I can obsess with the best of them)! Met a lot of women on the tram on their way to watch Verdasco, and were prepared to camp out all day at Margaret Court Arena to watch his match (scheduled third). Was tempted to join them, but also wanted to see Carla and she seemed less likely to get through her match. The weather was freezing and drizzly this morning, so I decided to skip the first match on HiSense in favour of returning to the hostel for warmer clothing. Back at HiSense just in time for…

1pm, HiSense – Carla Suarez Navarro v. Serena Williams

The first set was a bagel but the last game was unbelievable. Carla took Serena to deuce 13 times. I think the last game was probably longer than the preceding five put together! The second set was closer, but Carla was basically outgunned. Certainly not outmanoeuvred, but that’s a lot of fire power Serena’s packing. One shot she hit I swear was hit as hard as Gonzalez. Mine was only large Spanish flag I could see in the arena, so I waved it extra hard, smiled and gave her a thumbs up every time she looked in my direction (which was quite often given I was her only clearly visible supporter, although there were some more behind her chair) and added my cheers to the few other Spanish supporters scattered around. Most of the crowd was behind Serena. I’m an older sister so I sympathise with Venus, can imagine what it would have been like having to cope with all those tantrums. In the post-match interview, Serena mentioned Venus taking her aside before the match and telling her how to play Carla (who beat Venus at the AO last year). It clearly paid off, but that last game of the first set was a real cracker. Probably the best single game I’ve seen so far. When Carla brought out her best, it drove Serena to screams of frustration. Worth following, that Miss Suarez.

3pm, HiSense – Novak Djokovic v Denis Istomin

Nole looked taller than he does on TV. His shoes had something glittery on the side, his racket sparkled, and so did his tennis. He seemed really tight at first and nearly lost his first service game, but he played some brilliant tennis. Istomin didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, but somehow managed to win a game in the first two sets and actually broke Nole’s serve in the 3rd, but to no available, To his credit, when he realised he had nothing to lose, he pulled all the stops out and just went for it, and probably won himself a few fans along the way. Good for him. There were a few Serbian flags around, so I had a bit more competition this time, but I had a great seat, only 4 rows back from the court, and after some carefully timed waving (he’s looks more focused on court then he looks on TV, but maybe that was just today) I actually got eye contact! Ole for Nole! I’ve always though he looks rather gangly and uncoordinated on TV, but in real life he looks agile, fluid, and the rotation in his body when he hits a big forehand is amazing. Amazing touch as well with drop volleys and slices. Over the last few days, Nole has impressed me most with his versatility and arsenal of shots. Apart from that erratic tendency for his game to suddenly, with no apparent reason, crumble away.

As with Rafa last night, I really noticed the sweet sound of the ball off his racket, and an altogether quite pleasant grunt from time to time. I was also close enough to be able to see the sweat glistening on his neck and read his name on the back of his pants when he bent over. Granted, his arse may not be as nice as Rafa’s or Fer’s but surely having your name on your backside is just asking for a playful smack?! Not sure why he needs his name on his pants though… I mean it’s not like he’s Fer, and swapping girlfriends all the time ;) I’m sure his long-term GF can remember his name!? Anyway, it was quite tempting… that’s all I’m saying. Nole’s been growing on me for a while, and certainly impressed today.

It was all over rather quickly, so I was looking forward to joining the hordes of women on Margaret Court Arena lusting over Fer… but unfortunately his opponent retired after a thrashing from Fernando in the first set, so that was all over before I could get there *sulks*. He’s up against Davydenko next. The scheduling fairy better be kind to me and let me see the match.

Because I’m not that keen on Hewitt, and not yet being an Aussie am not culturally obliged to support him, I decided to go to the ticket booth and ask if there’s any way I could surrender my Rod Laver ticket for tonight in favour of a HiSense ticket. Despite the fact it states on the tickets that this is not possible, it does turn out to be possible, and not only am I now armed with a ticket to see Tsonga v Haas followed by a doubles exhibition match featuring Henri Le Conte and Pat Rafter, but am almost $50 better off (because that’s the difference in ticket prices)! Could you ask for any more?!

9pm, HiSense Arena – Tsonga v Haas

Delighted I was able to exchange my ticket. Not the best seat, but not a bad one, and some great tennis. I love Tsonga, he’s up there in my Top Five with Rafa, Fer, Fena and Nole, somehow staying marginally ahead of Tommy R and Daviiid. I can explain all the others, he’s the best, he’s the hottest, he’s the funniest, he’s the smartest, he’s the classy one, he’s the scrappy one, but Tsonga? I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I like about Tsonga. I just do.

He’s a big guy. Even alongside Haas. He’s very easy on the eyes that Tommy H and he wiggles his backside in the most delightful way while he’s waiting to receive that if you haven’t noticed before (I hadn’t) then you need to look out for the next time you see him play. But he also has this kind of David Hasselhoff quality about him, that I find slightly off-putting. I get behind Tsonga even more than I expected to at the start of the match. Possibly because the Haas supporters are loud in a bullying kind of way, so that those of us yelling “Allez Tsonga!” can barely be heard. Great atmosphere though. Unbelievable. Right from the early stages of the match. This is what I expected the crowd to be like for Rafa’s match on Rod Laver last night – not so flat that simply smiling and waving and sticking a flag in my hair would get me on TV. Beginning to prefer HiSense over Rod Laver… not sure what it is… less corporate tickets, more tennis lovers? Something about the stadium that gives it a more casual, friendly feel? I don’t know. But the atmosphere at the Tsonga v Haas match is fantastic, almost as good as at the Gonzalez match [apparently the heightened secuity yesterday had to do with some of the Chileans trying to bringing flares into the match].

And it turns out to be a great match too. Both players playing great tennis, making ridiculous shots, retrieving balls that seemed to be winners, turning defence into offence in an almost Nadal-like manner. Great stuff. First set Tsonga, second Haas, third Tsonga and Haas is up a break and about to serve for the fourth set, and I’m sure we’re going to five, when Tsonga goes on a tear and doesn’t look back. He wins the match in four sets shortly after I lose all feeling in my fingers and stop tweeting so I can sit on my hands to keep them warm. There’s a cold wind blowing in from the Southern Ocean, and it’s been years since I’ve been anywhere this cold. They say that Melbourne is the city of Four Seasons in one day and, for someone like me who lives in the Tropics where in summer (that’s now in the Southern Hemisphere) it’s rarely below 25C even at night, it’s hard to get used to these sudden changes in temperature. I’m completely underdressed for the match, having accidentally left my rain jacket back at the hostel, and shivering with cold.

Consequently I was faced with the tough choice of staying later to watch the incomparably funny Le Conte and deadpan Rafter and risking potential hypothermia, or going back to a nice warm hostel and a hot drink before bedtime… I decided to compromise and and stay until 10:30 and try and get back to the hostel before the kicthen gets locked at 11pm.

11:15pm back at the hostel

Congratulating myself on switching my tickets – Baggy retired (not yet sure why) against Hewitt after the first set, so they had a very short session on Rod Laver – TV coverage switched to HiSense so as a bonus we got Courier interviewing Tsonga at the end of the match. Also glad I decided to stay for at least part of the exhibition match. Henri Le Conte is a very funny man, and Rafter deadpans beautifully. It was hilarious. Their two Aussie opponents played the stooges very well. The fans who stayed really got into it, with Aussie girls yelling “Show us your balls Pat!” and so on. I remember I have an Aussie flag to wave alongside my French one and then also remember the Aussie scarf in my bag – wish I’d discovered this earlier, it took the edge off the cold wind a little. Henri was wearing a bright orange shirt, and at one point a man yells out “Hey, Henri, orange doesn’t suit you!” Henri strode over towards the man looking threatening ;) I decided to join in and yelled “Yeah, leave the orange to Rafa!”. Play resumed, and the chants of “Let’s go Rafter!” changed to “Let’s go Rafa!”, and Henri started adjusting his socks and pulling at the back of his pants before his serves! :D Flash forward – Rafa 30 years from now ;)

Pictures from Day 2 & 3:

I stayed till 10:30, laughed my head off, and despite being almost frozen at this point, was sorry to leave such hilarity. I got back just in time to get some hot water from the hostel and decide to go jump into bed and send this off tomorrow instead.

5 Responses

  1. Isabelle says:

    So happy for you having such a great time and am so enjoying your writing! Loved the account of Rafter becoming “Rafa”, too funny. Great photos, thanks!

  2. CC says:

    Pic #8 and #9, oh la la… Many thanks for them! :)

  3. Suzanne says:

    Before Rafa there was Rafter. A gorgeous, gentle, serve-and-volley, interesting, funny, generous, and every other positive thing I can think of, man. I never see him at the Oz Open and often have wondered if he goes. I know he’s still crazed over “his sport” but he also likes surfing a lot too as well as golf (although I heard that he’s cut back a lot on golf so he can hang with the wife and kids more). Anyway, thanks for the report on Pat. I sure would love it if Rafter could spend a little time with Rafa and give him some net pointers. No one ever touched him in his era at the net game. I know he very much enjoys watching Rafa play, simply for the joy of the game. Sorry for the blathering, but I really just wanted to thank you for your “vignettes” on your time spent in Oz. Keep having fun and don’t forget the sunblock!!! If you see Pat again, give him my regards!:)

  4. sia says:

    So much fun aRafaelite … really enjoy reading your diary. Love to hear about all the players in action. Love the Nole bits and the photos.

  5. nic says:

    Haha, love that you caught a pic of Tsonga doing the victory dance slo-mo for Jim. It was absolutely hilarious. Love his character, he’s got the sweetest smile.

    And of course love the Rafa public service shots. Oh yessiree, he sure is looking fine. Thanks for the account of your day. So much fun!!