Friday, January 30, 2009

Melbourne, January 31

Here we are in Melbourne at the end of the Australian Open. It’s truly a stroke of luck for us because we aren’t big tennis fans, at least not until now. We are here now because our Seattle friends Alan and Margaret had been planning a pilgrimage to this Grand Slam tournament to coincide with our time down under. They had to cancel, leaving us with a hotel room just down the river from the Machu Picchu of this sport – the Rod Laver Arena and the Melbourne Park tennis complex.
There are huge TV screens set up in public places downtown – plazas, malls – and hundreds of people sit as a community watching the play in silence, cheering or clapping at appropriate moments. It’s also been 110 degrees Fahrenheit three days in a row (think, summertime in Las Vegas except the city is not set up for this kind of weather, with train tracks buckling and massive power outages). The longest and hottest heat wave to hit Melbourne in 100 years, they say. It’s beastly hot. Great weather for staying indoors and watching “the tennis” on “the telly”.
But yesterday we braved the heat and experienced the tournament live and in person. Our first major tennis tournament watching Venus and Serena Williams winning the women’s doubles – with the roof closed. Later, with the roof open, the 5 hour, 14 minute semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasca, the battle of the Spaniards, an absolutely riveting match, with Verdasco matching Nadal point for point, set after set...


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