Friday, 10 March 2017

The Grand Slam Plan - Why they call it the Happy Slam

It's our last morning in Adelaide and we're up and off early to the airport. Despite a serious amount of luggage re-jigging, I am still the lightweight traveller and my fellow traveller is still over the limit so we swap a few items into my luggage - why are we travelling round the world with a roll of sellotape? Anyway all is sorted and we are in plenty of time for our 10 o'clock flight.

Landing in Melbourne we are met by our limo driver who, it transpires, comes from Turkey. Happy chat until we get on to the subject of Greece at which point, our driver lists all the ways that Greeks are inferior to Turks - right down to making baklava. Ridiculous!

We are staying at the Langham and it is VERY nice. We are ushered into the Club Lounge as our room isn't quite ready where we meet the managing director of the hotel. He is mates with our friends in Sydney and he kindly made us very welcome indeed. We had missed the Murray family and entourage by 24 hours. Not many players stay at the Langham but Murray likes it here and he was described as 'gracious' by our host.

Once we're settled in, we hit the streets and after a walk round Collins and Flinders and we take a look at the street art on Hosier Street - artist paint new graffiti every day and the tribute to the Bourke Street killings is especially poignant. Then we go back across the river to the Hockney Exhibition. This is an exhibition of his recent work, much of which has been done on iPhone and iPad so you can see the pictures develop before your eyes. Another Yorkie conquering the world.

Dinner is in Meat and Drink, just along the Yarra riverfront from the hotel. Now that I am an official wine buff, I'm tasting and sniffing and sipping various different Shiraz which go perfectly with a big steak. And, tomorrow is the start of the big tennis adventure and I am so excited!

A new day and two things happened before 8.00 this morning. One very good and one less so. So the bad news first... "Ouch!" My beloved's foot has swollen up like it did a couple of months ago and he is in pain. His walking at the start of the day was ok. But by mid-afternoon he was in a lot of pain. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

The other thing was that I went for an early morning run which took me to Melbourne Park where the tennis is. It's so near the city centre (as is the MCG) that we can see the Rod Laver Arena from our bedroom window. I stopped at the entry to Melbourne Park and spoke to Terry (my new best friend by the way) who was one of the volunteers. I explained that we had come from the UK hoping to see Murray in the Men's Semi Finals but, as that was not to be, we wanted to see the last remaining Brit, Jo Konta, play Serena. We only had ground passes for today so could not get on to the show courts which are, of course, ticket only. No problem, he says, just go to the ticket office and change them. So an hour later, with ground passes and Big Foot's credit card, I return to Melbourne Park. Again, no problem, ground passes refunded against tickets in Rod Laver for the day session which is not only Konta/Williams, but also Dimitrov/Goffin. Seriously, can you imagine that at Wimbledon?!?

So after breakfast I return to Melbourne Park for the third time that day, gave Terry a cheery hello and we headed into the Aussie Open proper. Could any tennis event be less like Wimbledon? Plenty of room to move around, no massive crowds, no queues at food stands, deckchairs in front of big screens and everything is very chilled. Our first port of call after a long cold one is a girls match where a plucky Brit loses to someone ranked lower than her (ah, normal service is resumed...) and then into Rod Laver where Serena is warming up against Jo Konta. I would have expected the crowd to be pulling for Jo as she was born in Sydney but Serena clearly has a global fanbase even if I'm not a member. She does all the usual stuff, making her opponent wait after changing ends, faffing about on her service. Anyway she wins though it was closer than the score suggests. No more plucky Brits in the draw. Then after a brief pause for another cold one, it's Dimitrov and Goffin. Dimitrov is not nicknamed Baby Fed for nothing - his backhand is a thing of beauty and I am now officially a fan. Can he beat Nadal on Friday - well, doubtful, the way Nadal is playing but it will certainly be worth watching.

By the time we leave the tennis, my beloved is seriously hobbling and his foot is massively swollen. I think it's gout which he strenuously denies so we look for a water taxi to take us back to the hotel. It's a twenty minute walk but less than 10 minutes by boat. But the water taxi isn't there but there is a trishaw. A sturdy fellow offers to take us back to the Langham for twenty dollars and despite in imbalance in the back, we're off. Well, hats off to this guy, he has to give it his all in a very low gear to get us up the hills but on the flat and downhill we absolutely fly along with some theatrical weaving-about for comedy value. Home safe and with the resurgence of Rafa and Roger, I feel I am in a pre-Novak/Andy time warp. Bit weird really but I will be surprised if these two don't match up in the final.

Happy Australia Day! Except that it's a bit overcast and spitting with rain. So much for not needing a cardigan on this trip! Anyway, superb early morning run past the many boat houses on the Yarra (rowing is clearly a very big deal here) and over the bridge and back past Melbourne Park, pausing to say hi to Terry.

Back at the Langham - definitely one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in - the Big Foot does not look good and he's in pain so we opt for some water-based sightseeing, heading off down the Yarra on a 1924 river cruiser. We were hoping that Melbourne from the water would be as stunning as Chicago but that proves not to be the case though it's entertaining watching the Aussies setting up their Australia Day picnics on the side of the river. We think we do picnics - well, we are amateurs compared to this lot and the parks are equipped with electric bbqs so you can just rock up and cook your food.

On our return we are met by friends all the way from North Rigton who are also in Australia to do a grand tour. They are driving from Melbourne to Perth, making our drive down the Great Ocean Road look very modest by comparison. Their's is over 2000 miles! Lunch is deemed to be a five hour event  though I am steady on the wine because I do not want to fall asleep during Roger and Stan. We finally pack up just before six o'clock and wearing my AO t-shirt we head to Melbourne Park. We need plenty of time because the foot is massively swollen and the twenty minute walk is not feasible. We get the water taxi and zip zap, we're there in ten minutes.

We actually get to the Rod Laver arena so early that we see Rod himself being awarded an Australia Day honour. And then it's the big match. The roar from the crowd when Roger Federer, alias GOAT* walks on court is huge and actually Stan Wawrinka gets a similar sized roar but once play begins there's no prizes for guessing whom the crowd is supporting. The match is incredibly tight and though both players take medical times-out (Roger later quipping that he only took one because Stan had!) no one would bet against this being a five setter. The tennis is sublime and it's a truly stunning match including a hot dog from Federer (he didn't win the point but it was very entertaining) and a total racquet smashing from Stan. (His mother needs to have a word with him about that).

By the time we set off home it was nearly midnight. There were no water taxis or trishaws to be had and, surprisingly considering it was Australia Day, the bars and restaurants were closing up so we walked/hobbled back to the hotel. What a great day! I love Melbourne!

*greatest of all time

No comments:

Post a Comment