Tag Archives: Melbourne park
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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Being a traveller means that you may not always have money. I know this to be the truth, especially over the Christmas period when you take time off work/work in hospitality and therefore are given no work until after January when the world has recovered from Christmas over-spending. During this time, then, it is prudent to find things to do for free. Luckily Melbourne, being such a diverse and cultural city, has so many things to do for free when money is tight.
The first free activity is something I have touched upon a couple of times before; Geocaching. Geocaching is like a worldwide treasure hunt which uses GPS in order to locate hidden treasure in random places you may never have thought to look. The treasure consists of waterproof containers with trinkets and cards inside which you can trade. You can also leave the treasure untouched and simply fill in the log book with your Geocaching name. There is a whole online world devoted to Geocaching where you can record your finds electronically, post a new location or review a cache that you have been lucky enough to find.
The caches are rated from 1-5 in difficulty and the person who planted the cache will leave tips or sometimes obscure clues on how to find the hidden treasure. With the use of an app on her iPhone, Stef has found almost 100 caches all around the world and got Dayna and myself hooked on it when we were looking for something to do one day. We spent around three hours wandering around the South Yarra area finding just under 20 caches in one day. It took us all over the suburb and to some incredibly obscure places, including one cache that was disguised as a boulder in a rock garden.
I recommend Geocaching on a sunny day, and remember to take some hand-sanitizer with you as you may well have to put your hand in some pretty disgusting places. For more information on Geocaching, and to look for caches in your area, head to https://www.geocaching.com/play.
If you are in Melbourne during December and are interested in tennis, may I recommend the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs? This is an exhibition of Australian tennis players who are outside the world’s top 100 competing for a wildcard for a place in the main draw at the Australian Open. Not only is it a great way to showcase young tennis players, it also gives them a chance to play in conditions they may not be used to playing in, on the iconic Melbourne Park blue tennis courts.
The location of these playoffs great; with the city looming over in the background and within easy reach of the city by train and tram and the time of year means that the weather will be pretty fantastic while you watch. On the day of the final this year, temperatures reached 33°C, and for a match that lasted about five hours, that was some intense heat to be sitting in for that long. I would therefore recommend bringing as much water as you can carry along with sun cream and an umbrella under which you can take cover from the sun.
One place I would say is completely underrated in Melbourne is Port Melbourne beach. Many people talk about St Kilda and how much there is to do there and how great it is, but actually St Kilda is filled with tourists and the beach there isn’t especially good. In St Kilda, I find you can’t walk for all the tourists which means that you find much of your time is spent becoming frustrated by the crowd. Port Melbourne is closer to the city than St Kilda is and much less busy so a more enjoyable place to be all around. There isn’t a great deal to do there but when you are trying not to spend money, that’s actually a very good thing.
If you are willing to branch out a spend some money on food, Bay Street is packed with good restaurants and bars, including Hunky Dory, a fish and chip shop with an enormous selection of fish, salads and combo packs for you to choose from. You can dine in or out depending on your mood and it’s a great place for people-watching.
From my new place in South Yarra, not only are we quite near to the city, but we are also close to the river and several places between here and the city are not only free, but also quite good vantage points from which to see the city. The Royal Botanic Gardens are one such place. It seems that Botanic Gardens are an easy feature of most cities; they provide tranquillity away from busy city life, but also give a refreshing garden scape in the sight of the urban jungle.
If you are someone who likes to read, or like to look at trees (there is an abundance of trees), the Botanic Gardens are the place for you. They’re free to enter, have activities going on all the time and there are ample places for you to sit and read, contemplate or create. The Melbourne skyline is visible over the trees and creates quite an interesting contrast to the lush green plant life and landscapes. There is also an open-air cinema with regular screenings of new and old films until the end of March 2015.
All of these places are accessible by a short tram or train ride and therefore it shouldn’t cost you more that $7 to have a good day out – if you plan properly! If you have done anything for free in Melbourne which you feel is worthwhile, let me know in the comments below and I may just try it out.
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