Know your tennis crowd

Melbourne is abuzz with the excitement of The Australian Open. Well. Sort of. Channel 7 tells us it is, and Channel 7 is abuzz with tennis, and hilariously funny gaffs which allow Todd Woodbridge to liken himself to S.K. Warne (Todd Woodbridge is like S.K. Warne the way Maggie Thatcher is like Juliet Binoche).

Yes, Melbourne is buzzing in that South Yarra, Alpine-cigarettes, Tag-Heuer, small-dog-wearing-G-string, brown-thigh-emerging-from-LBD-in-Z3 sort of way.

It attracts a bizarre combination of people.

It attracts fob-chain wearing, straight-toothed, private school types who play mature-age tennis on Tuesday mornings, and their husbands(who play mature age tennis on Wednesday nights) in their best casual gear: dark cream to fawn Gazmans (brown belt) with maroonish monogrammed shirt carrying a smallish conference bag saying something like Architects for Aceh, First World Symposium on the Re-building of Aceh, Monte Carlo, Dec 31, 2009 -Jan 1, 2010.

Then there are the national zealots. They come in on the Lilydale line in the colours of their country: the red, white and blue that made Makybe Diva famous; the blue and white of Greece; the green and gold of Australia. They have deep voices which collectively sound like that old Ooga-Chucka song, only they’ve worked on their grunt a lot more. The zealots appear they are about to breed at any moment – possibly a master race of fence-graffiti artists and Mother and Red Bull drinkers.

Then there are those who love Rog and Rafa. Well, actually, they have the hots for Rog and Rafa. They paint Swiss crosses on their foreheads and have tasteful Spanish tattoos on their deltoids. They either have breasts bigger than Kimmy Clijsters and show them off in tight tank tops, or they come to the tennis (from Sydney) in white singlets and cut-off denim shorts.

Then there is the world-travelling tennis crowd. They own stuff around the world: oil derricks in the Steinbeck states; rubber plantations in rubber plantation countries; sports shoe factories in The Phillipines. These people are like something from a Peter Sarstedt song. They leave their hotel room to get a coffee in Collins Street and return with two gold bracelets, a set of opal ear-rings, a pair of designer koala-fur moccasins (in a labeled bag which itself is worth more than East Timor spends on IT), and a diamond-set memento from Bruce and Walshe.

Then it attracts yob punters like me. We know the only reason the good Lord gave us tennis was so we can bet on it. Because tennis is like being in a punting lolly shop. The ebbs and flows of a tournament, of a match, of a set, of a game, make for volatile betting markets.

And it is not over until it is over.

There is also the prospect of making long odds-on favourites good value by whacking about eight of them in a TattsBet all-up. The cumulative effect is magnificent. When you’re supporting the one on the tail-end and your $1.07 shot is giving you 10/1 (sort of) you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The world’s greatest exponent of the all-up is a Geelong-supporting woman called Beanie. I think it was 2009 when she didn’t put a bet on without having the final leg as ‘into Geelong to win the premiership’. This was very effective, as it turned out.

She likes handicap betting as well. And unlike me, she does not lay off. She is a true gambler: she just sees it through to the end.

I wonder how she’d go meeting some of the Sarstedt lovelies, and what the coffee-conversation would be like. (“And then Zagreb Dynamo came back from 0-1 to win 4-1 and I had them at $11.50 with the 1.5 start and then all I needed was for there to be more than 80 aces in the Roddick-Monfils match, and for Geelong to win the flag and I had stacks).

And then of course, there is Marcos Bagdhatis, who is a saint. St Marcos of Stalactites, the Doug Walters of tennis.

Yes, the tills are alive with the sound of punting. And shopping, and people looking beautiful.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Peter Sarstedt was the man who provided irrefutable proof that a great song (Where do You go to My Lovely?) can feature the squeezebox.

  2. I wonder if it’s a signature tune of Wally?

  3. It should certainly be in Squeezebox Wally’s top three, along with “This is the Day” by The The and the accordion version of They Might Be Giants’ “Kiss Me, Son of God”.

  4. The singer from The The also had a Oooga-Chucka voice. Chance or coincidence?

    Go the Butcher!

  5. I had my first tennis experience on Wednesday night and I loved it. Channel 7 need to provide a commentary free option as the crowd really sucks you. Spot on about the demographics as well. It really stuck out to me, but I have one question. Why do we have to be quiet? From 6- 7pm I was on the outer courts and all I could hear was blaring music.

    There was only one problem. I blew it big time with the bookie. I wanted Simon to take a set off of Federer but the only option was the exact number of sets. I foolishly took 4 sets but forgot to add 5 sets at 8/1. Big mistake.

  6. You got it JTH!
    We Ladies can’t resist Roger and Rafa (dont for get Roddick!)…what is it with the letter R? lol :P

  7. Peter Flynn says

    Somewhere I have a diamond-set memento from Bruce and Walshe. Oops. Let that slip. A yarn for another day.

    In my experience at other Grand Slams, no other patrons dress up in the ‘club colours’ like Aust. Open patrons do.

    Good night,

    Me and Chappy (my dog)

  8. Neil Belford says

    Finally Bagdhatis will be able to be correctly numbered under the Dewey system.

  9. David Downer says


    I’m about a fortnight in arrears here, but you’ve delivered some magic descriptives of tennis “fans”.

    For me, the “high maintenance” Aus Open punters seem a cross-breed of Portsea Polo posers and La Boheme opening night theatre-goers.

    I doubt many of them will keep an eye on the Santiago clay-court ATP tournament this week.

    And being at work during the day, thankfully I was spared from Hamish McLachlan revelling in his own awesomeness in the hosting chair.

    Er, end minor rant.


  10. Squeezebox Wally says

    Hmmm…. Just found this post. I must admit I have been known to drag out that haunting riff from ‘Where do you go my lovely” while absolutely stone-cold unable-to-walk-but-still-capable-of-knocking-out-a-tune drunk.
    “Tis one of my great joys In life, as a matter of fact.

  11. Pauline Haas says

    If you like, I could tell you my new multi theory about tennis players with Gs in their name.

    PS – Harms will be interested to know that Kosice won the Slovakian ice hockey league season again.

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