The family have now returned from the annual pilgrimage to the tennis in Melbourne. This is our fourth year at the first major of the year and it was memorable for many reasons, not least of which was the final day of our visit.
We were greeted with a few changes to Melbourne Park. There had been much confusion regarding the new entrances on the opening day with organisers issuing a statement that the new arrangements would ease access to the venue. Sadly this statement did not reach many punters on the opening morning. Arriving the next day armed with the knowledge that the normal entrance at Rod Laver Arena was relocated to somewhere near Flinders St we were unable to find said new entrance and found the old one was well and truly open. We later found the new entrance which involved a 900m uphill walk which passed the new concert stage. A shadeless paddock replaced the Heineken Bar presumably to placate the sensitivities of the gifted ones. Actually, Heineken had been given then flick altogether with Coopers the new beer sponsor.
The old bar was a ripper for patrons wanting to soak up the atmosphere of a big sporting event while getting soaked and not bothering too much about the coming and going on particular courts. Instead there were lame outlets supposedly with different themes that had bugger all people in them and similar levels of excitement. By contrast, the new kid’s area is terrific with multiple interactive activities and thousands of kids using them. If 10% of those kids take up tennis then it will be a great investment.
The tennis and Melbourne during the tennis is just one giant money gouge. This is just the norm these days however it is also a deterrent I’m sure for many locals. Prices for drinks, food (their description, not mine) and merchandise is pretty steep in anyone’s language. Unless, of course, you’re the editor of a certain footy writing site that had their nose in the trough at the President’s lunch. [Politely accepting an invitation to see Roger – Ed]
There are enormous numbers of overseas visitors in attendance. Every trip on the tram was filled with a colourful array of languages and cultures. Unfortunately there was little spatial awareness as those who wore a back pack in the listener will attest. I do find it odd that Chinese and Japanese people, who mostly live in very populated cities, have seemingly no capacity to navigate in crowds. Maybe it has something to do with what side of the road you drive on. Maybe it’s anxiety about being separated from their traveling companions as they do move in packs. Still, it makes for an interesting dynamic.
I’ve always believed that the cultural cringe is alive and well in Melbourne, particularly when it comes to sport. The Open brings it to the fore, especially in the media. Every interviewer asks the visiting players to say how much they love Melbourne and our tournament as if their endorsement justifies the self-generated hyperbole. I think when the former leader of the IOC called the Sydney Olympics the best ever there is now some clinging need for recognition of every event that is staged here. “Serena are you happy to be back in Melbourne? Of course I love playing tennis in 38C while some dolts yell out Oi Oi Oi”. I think the ever increasing prize pool indicates a lack of confidence that the tournament itself is big enough to get the big guns here. A bit like the Melbourne Cup. It shouldn’t need it, as the AO is great event.
I’ve never been to another tournament however I would be surprised if they could have a better group of volunteers than in Melbourne. The ball kids, guides and patron assistants are brilliant and a credit to the event. And take a bow Yarra Trams as your staff are incredible ambassadors for the town. Melbourne, and Australia, sells itself. It doesn’t need outsiders to validate it.
We were lucky to see some great tennis as the first week can sometime be cannon fodder for the top seeds. Not this year with the women’s and men’s top seeds bundled out and a couple of old blokes showing they still have bit to offer. Unfortunately, we were in attendance at the Kyrgios match. Anyone who was there was disgusted and the booing at the end was justified. It should have started in the fourth set. Whatever support he had left after previous indiscretions is surely gone now. He should have been suspended for twelve months at a minimum as the damage his attitude does to the aforementioned kids cannot be estimated. Hell, even Tomic behaved himself.
However sport is just sport as Friday’s tragic events put things into perspective. It was pretty close to home as my wife was on the corner near Young and Jackson as the perpetrator was doing burnouts. My son had just exited the tram at the Bourke St Mall when guns shot were being fired. Having been there several times last week it is astounding more people were not killed and horrific that any one was in the first place.
A tale of two cities. Vale the innocent.