Tag Archives: John-Patrick Smith
I have always loved tennis. It probably sprouted from Wimbledon always being on in the background at home during the Championships and the hypnotic draw that the dull thud of a tennis ball on a racquet creates. From there, I would always yearn for us to play tennis at school during the summer months, but my school seemed to place much more importance on athletics, which I really had no interest in. A couple of friends of mine encouraged my interest in tennis during my teenage years and even let me hit a ball with them a few of times.
My interest, however, really was in watching rather than playing, despite a couple of summers of coaching and casual games with friends and family members. Every year when Wimbledon came around, my whole attention would be on the tennis whether I was watching it at home on the TV, at school on a live stream or following the Twitter feeds whilst out and about. An interest that started with Wimbledon soon developed to span all of the Grand Slams and impacted some of my fictional writing too.
The first year I really followed the Australian Open was in 2013 when Andy Murray reached the final for the third time. I’d followed Murray’s success almost constantly that year, along with the rest of the British public, willing him to get the country out of its tennis depression. I remember staying up until the early hours of the morning keeping track of the match and finally going to sleep after he was defeated by Novak Djokovic in four sets. I didn’t follow tennis as much during 2014 as it was a pretty hectic year from me; more responsibility at work and then moving to Australia meant that I didn’t have time to follow tennis thoroughly and therefore only paid attention via Twitter.
During December a friendship with a professional tennis player, John-Patrick (JP) Smith, reaffirmed my interest in tennis as I was able to watch him during the Wildcard Playoffs at Melbourne Park. A couple of friends had also approached me as someone who would come to the Open with them, as it was too hard to miss when living only 10 minutes away from Richmond, where the tournament is held.
One thing I have been impressed with since the start of the Australian Open is the sheer amount of Australian tennis players taking part. In the main draw, 10 Australian tennis players started out, and while one only made it to the second week, I think this speaks volumes of the wealth of tennis brilliance that will come from Australia in the coming years. The UK could really take note from Australia in the quest to produce players of a high enough standard to enter Grand Slams.
I made a decision to attend the Open at the end of the first week as there would still be a lot of big names in the tournament and not all necessarily playing in the main arenas, where I, as a poor traveller, would be unable to afford a ticket. I instead opted for the 3-day ground pass, which allows you access to any of the courts other than the Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas.
To be honest, the first day was fairly intimidating. After watching JP and his doubles partner Omar win their first match, the heat of the day was beginning to get to us slightly. We therefore took cover in a nearby tent and rehydrated before making a plan as to who we would watch next. The problem with this was that all of the courts were in brilliant sunshine and because of the number of Australians playing that day; all the courts were essentially full with spectators.
We spent some time in the Garden Square where there is a big screen set up, which plays matches from the main arenas, just like Henman Hill at Wimbledon. Murray was playing, so we were content with sitting there for a while before making our next move. I wasn’t what we would call ‘enthused’ by the half of the draw we could have watched that day as there were a lot of new names there. We actually called it a day pretty early and I made the ten minute journey home, out of the heat and into my house where I could watch the matches unfolding in the main arena.
Day 4 (my day 2) was much more promising as John Isner was up on Show Court 2 at 11am, the first match of the day. Since winning the longest match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, I’ve had a soft spot for him. Isner beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in four sets, sending him through to the third round. Later that day, on the same court, I also watched Ferrer win against Sergiy Stakhovsky in four sets along with a women’s singles match. Being able to watch top ten players at the Australian Open was one of my highlights.
The next day was even better. JP and Omar were first up on Court 6; playing against Jamie Murray and his doubles partner John Peers. This was rather a conflict of interests as I had to decide whether to support a fellow Brit or back the Aussies. The underdogs won my support but unfortunately lost the match against the no. 16 seeds.
It was Friday at the Open and Day 5 so things were getting interesting. So many punters were coming through the doors and people were clearly desperate to get the best seats in the house. I thought it best to make my way over to Hisense Arena as soon as possible so that I could at least get a seat in time for Andy Murray’s match against Joao Sousa. Before their match began, there were two women’s tennis matches taking place. I’m not usually a fan of women’s tennis but watching it at the Australian Open gave me a better appreciation of it.
The arena filled up during the afternoon, not only due to Murray’s match but also because, later that evening, there was an all Australian showdown to be played between Tomic and Groth. I was joined by two middle-aged Aussies who had links with the Australian Tennis League and they provided me with interesting conversation throughout the match as well as inviting me to join them again at the Open on the following Monday.
Murray won in straight sets and I left with the crowds to make the short journey back to my house to tune in to the evening sessions on Margaret Court and Rod Lever.
Overall my three-day experience at the Australian Open was the best I could have hoped for and living so close to Richmond madeseem as if I was always in the thick of it. I must commend the organisers on how well they accommodate the punters and feel as if the other Grand Slams could really learn something from the ticketing system. I would recommend investing in a ticket, even if you are not particularly interested in tennis as the atmosphere and quality of tennis is enough to make you a complete enthusiast.
I really admire Melbourne for its sporting events, not only for the importance of AFL, but cricket and soccer also play an important part in Melbourne life. For anyone living in or visiting Melbourne, I would encourage getting along to some sporting events; find a footy team and really gun for them (ehm… Geelong), watch cricket at the MCG and get involved with the crowd at a Melbourne Victory match.
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