Tennis: My big day out at the Open

To anybody who saw Dan Silkstone’s ‘Around Melbourne Park in Six Hours’ report in Saturday’s Age my effort might seem like a pretty feeble imitation, but here goes:

My day at the Open on Friday kicked off with Peter Luczak and an Oz of Indian background called Rameez Junaid play German Phillip Marx and Slovak Igor Zelenay. The fact that Looch was the only one of the quartet I had heard of did not help: after a set and a half it was quite obvious that this was the last Marx Brother’s day at the races, and after his brave but doomed effort against Rafa in the singles on Tuesday Looch’s 2010 Open was over.

Then it was off to SC2 (which Silkstone dubbed ‘the court where they put anybody you’ve heard of but aren’t interested in’) for the tail end of local veteran Rennae Stubbs and partner Lisa ‘Everybody Loves’ Raymond’s clinical demolition of Molik conqueror Julie Coin and her Canadian partner. Both losing doubles pairs made the serious error of being stranded side by side in mid-court no-man’s-land far too often – about the only thing I remember from tennis lessons at high school

Finally, some singles action as Fernando Gonzales struggled to gain ascendancy over yet another unknown, Evgeny Koralev of Uzbekistan, before winning in five. Half way through set 2, when Kora (already a set up) broke Gonzo again, I headed for Court 3 where Dame Kiri, playing well and having acquired her own Aussie cheer squad, saw off Italian Roberta Vinci in two tight sets. Of course, Murphy’s Law being sacrosanct, I blew MCA just in time for Gonzo to roar spectacularly back into his match.

Then back to MCA as Gael Monfils and the Incredible Hulk, John Isner, faced off. Isner may be a King Kongesque 100 kilograms and 200 centimetres but to assume he is slow or lacks touch would be foolish in the extreme. He blasted Monfils off the court in the first set, displaying power and a surprising deftness at the net. He does play these ugly-looking double-stiff-arm forehands which may be centimetre-accurate but lack power compared with his free-swinging single-handers. His late-match stamina was never really tested because Monfils, always an unconvincing big-name performer, was able only sporadically to match Isner for speed or consistency and in fact was first to succumb to the conditions. He always has been a tad annoying, has the Monf: too full of the joys of spring, all Fonz impressions and beaming pearly whites when it’s going well, then sulky foot-dragging petulance when it isn’t. Today, seeded 12, he lost badly to seed 33, a pasty-faced 16-stone first-time Oz Open entrant, in extreme heat. His career may be at the crossroads.

From there, caught in the queue outside for the end of Gonzo-Koro, I saw Marian Bartoli get absolutely ruined by Zheng after winning the first set, then saw JMDP’s plodding progression against Florien Meyer on the big screen. Waiting for Cilic v ‘My Friend Stan’ Wawrinka to start on MCA after Isner’s deflation of Monfils, suddenly the 37 degree heat hit me and it was time to hit the road. ‘Aussie Kim’ v Petrova started as I turned into Toorak Road from St Kilda Road; set 1 was in the bag before the Tooronga Road railway crossing, less than 5 kilometres away.

Quite an interesting day but the Silkstone court-hopping approach has its drawbacks, especially trying to get back into close matches towards the end. Getting back into Isner’s match, for instance took half the third set. If I go in again I might need to start doing what anybody with brains did a couple of years ago when Nonsense Arena was included in the day-pass: take up your seat and, like Gael Monfils on a bad day, just don’t move.

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