The Australian Open 2008

On the 19th of January, I left Sydney’s beautiful shores for a holiday in four parts: the Australian Open, the Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) conference,, and Kiwi Foo Camp. I’m in the middle of writing up about the conferences, so this is the first small blog entry in a series of four.

The Australian Open had upset-after-upset this year, being the first one in a very long time where neither the first nor second seeds made it through to the final. We had a five-day ground pass that we didn’t quite use all five days of, but still managed to catch a couple of fantastic matches on it:

  • James Blake vs Marin Cilic: all brawns and no brain. There’s so much to like about two big guys always serving stuff at over 200km/h, and the only tactic is to just hit stronger and harder than the other guy. (“If violence doesn’t solve your problem, you’re not using enough of it.”)
  • Hanley & Paes vs Bopanna and Ram: It’s amazing watching the top double seeds’ reaction speed at the net: you realise just how much innate talent these guys have, because no amount of training is going to make you that quick.
  • The Woodies vs Pat Cash and John Fitzgerald: I’m glad I got to see Woodbridge and Woodforde play at least once in my life. Now I’d just like to see a mixed legends pair of Agassi and Graf…
  • Rafael Nadal vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Ah, our precious semi-finals ticket. I expected this to be a three-set match; I just didn’t think it’d be a three-set match where Nadal lost. (When was the last time Nadal lost in three sets to anybody?) Tsonga was playing quite possibly the best tennis I’ve ever seen in my life. Even The Scud playing in his best form couldn’t have matched Tsonga that night.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Lleyton Hewitt regains a better reputation amongst Australians after this year’s Open, thanks to his marathon five-set win against Marcos Baghdatis that finished at 4:33am. It’s amazing how much the media can distort reality: most people forget that Hewitt was #1 in the world for two years running, before Roger Federer came onto the scene, and is probably Australia’s best player in the past thirty to forty years. Pat Rafter never made it to #1; Pat Cash never made it to #1. Arguably Hewitt created some of the controversies himself, but I’m still amazed that so many Australians hold serious animosity toward him.

Tennis is one of those sports where watching it on TV doesn’t give you any indication of just how fast the balls are flying around, how fast a 200km/h serve really is, how fast the players are moving on the court, and how fast they’re reacting. I’m very glad to say that two friends I went with to the Australian Open had never seen a live tennis match before, and both of them loved it.

As well as plain ol’ tennis, we did of course take in a lot of the Melbourne culture, visiting many of the fine cafés and rustic alleyways in the city, heading north to the Yarra Valley for a day, going to the markets at Southbank, and eating pancakes at Stokers. One highlight was seeing James Morrison and Deni Hines at the Palms in the Crown Casino. I think our little group of four at the Palms were the youngest people in the entire audience… by about a decade. Morrison’s amusing obsession with his new vocoder keyboard and Deni Hines’s majestic voice made for a fantastic night of jazz.

All in all, my little Melbourne holiday proved to be a ton of fun and be incredibly relaxing at the same time. This was all good days indeed, since I needed a ton of energy to survive through the next week…

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