Open Day at Flinders Park

by Rod Oaten

One of my favourite days of the sporting calendar is day one of the Australian Open. No-one’s been beaten, and from the the player with the lowest ranking, who dreams of a major upset, to one of the top dogs, everyone is in with a chance.

Unlike last year, when the weather was bloody hot, the forecast is for a cool day with the possibility of a shower or two. That must be a boon to the European players who have come from freezing temps.

I take my seat at the Margaret Court and see three players having a practice session, it’s still over half an hour before the first match, and I reckon its a great time filler to watch these players warm up. One of the players is Jelena Dokic who has apparently given her coach the flick and she is hitting the ball beautifully. She id due to play later in the day and I plan to see the match.

First game on the court is Parra of Spain, ranked 68, to play Schiavoi of Italy, ranked 7.  Parra is tall, slim and graceful; Schiavoi is a pocket dynamo who struts around with authority. Parra’s game is to hit the ball hard and flat using two hands both sides, whereas the Italian puts more work on the ball and chases everything like her life depends on it.  Games go with serves until the tie-breaker which the Spanish player wins. However in the next two sets the Italian proves too strong and moves into the next round.

The next game was preceded by variations on the Mexican wave, the normal one followed by a very, very slow one, followed by a speedy one that everyone enjoyed being in. Being in a small stadium as opposed to the MCG, there were no members so no booing!!!!

Hantuchova from Slovenia ranked 31 was playing Kulikou  from Russia who had the lowly rating of 114. But the lower ranked player held on to win in an absolute marathon match 7/6, 3/6 , 9/7.  It was bad timing on my part, I decided to check on another match mid way through this game and couldn’t get back into the stadium, so not only did I miss the finish I missed the whole Dokic game which followed.

Anyway, I went to see Li of China (11) against Arviossi from Sweden  (51). The Chinese women didn’t mind having a difference of opinion with the line judges on a few of their decisions and was keen to involve the central umpire but got no joy. The Swedish player couldn’t handle the power of her opponent and even though she had a small group of Swedish supporters, she bowed out. A few years ago the Open was dominated by Swedes, players and supporters. Maybe there weren’t many playing on day one or maybe tennis isn’t the big hit it was once in Sweden.

I found myself at Court 6, but not for long. Bartolli, ranked 17 from France, absolutely cleaned up Garbin of Italy (86). The French player jumped all over the court and her opponent 6/0, 6/0. Garbin had a really interesting serving style, keeping her arm extended on the back swing before hitting the serve. It certainly paid off for her she didn’t lose a game. The Italian tried everything, changing racquets, changing speed, being nice to the ball kids , but everything she did amounted to 0/0.

Next match was between two blokes who knew how to hit the ball. Wawrinka, a Swiss ranked 27, was pitted against Gabashi (78) from Russia. The Swiss was hitting cannonball serves consistently over 200 kph, and ground strokes almost as fast. The Russian was complaining about his footwear and much to the annoyance of the Swiss took an extra time out to mess around with the sole of his shoe. No luck for the Russian – he went out in straight sets 7/6,6/4,6/4.

A wander across to the other side of Melbourne Park to Court 18 where a Serb ranked 27 named Troika with a very large enthusiastic following was playing Tursunov, a Russian ranked 114.  The Serb had a great serving style, leaping high as he struck the ball. No speed machine on this court but they were above the 200kmh mark for sure. The Russian took the second set but the Serb was far to good in the last two sets of the match. Top marks to the Serb, after the match on the outside court he signed  dozens of balls, caps, shirts and had his photo taken many times. His vocal support group were rapt.

Last game for me was to see number 47 in the women’s ranking, a Slovenian named Heriog, play a Latvian by the name of Sevastoi, ranked 46. Both, as their ranking suggests, were very even and played some great rallies. Both sets were very close but the Latvian got up 6/4, 7/6.

By this stage I had been at the Melbourne Park for over 9 hours, seen fantastic tennis, watched great athletes and marvelled at their skill.  But even I get tired of too much of a good thing, so I found out that Dokic had won in straight sets and headed home. I will see and hear the rest of the Open on the TV and radio.


  1. Rod. I had the pleasure of (volunteer) driving Marcos Bagdhatis around in Abu Dhabi when he was here for the World Tennis Champs a couple of weeks ago. Really nice bloke, with some interesting thoughts on the state of tennis in Australia and kids in sport worldwide. I’m hoping he goes deep into next week and can recommend him to anyone without allegiances.

    I wasn’t a huge tenns fan, but seing the work these guys did and talking about it certainly raised my respect for these guys and gals…

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