I'm always amused that it took me a week of having no internet in January to become a tennis fan but that's exactly what happened exactly a decade ago and continues to be a tradition. January, to me, has always been about hazy summer days and the rhythmic beat of tennis balls striking hardcourts constantly emanating from the TV. If the year had a 'free trial' month, January is it.
If you're lucky to catch Melbourne on a kind summer day (read: <35C) and even luckier to find some shade, the top of the bridge overlooking the practice courts is the place to be in the afternoon - moreso than opposite in the stands where you can observe people draping towels over their heads in the relentless glare of the Aussie summer sun. You may have to elbow your way through a throng of crowds but if you have a zoom lens and a fiercely guarded position up front, the harsh sunlight against the geometry and blue of the courts is a photographer's dream.
We managed to catch Andy and Carla Suarez-Navarro practising on Court 16. Unfortunately, no Roger at his scheduled practice - though I felt much worse for the fans who had been waiting in the sun - and were still waiting when we eventually gave up. Hope they had a Rod Laver Arena ticket too.
I'm not dedicated enough to stand in the sun for hours, in hopes of an autograph or selfie. I am, however, dedicated enough to draw some of them (+ Rafa, who I didn't end up bringing, on account of his heartbreaking first round exist) and shamelessly wave them in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
I managed to grab 3 seconds of fame on Channel 7's broadcast as a result, apparently! If any of you can find a full recording of the Federer/Goffin 4th round match, send it my way please - it appears to be the only match that hasn't been uploaded by the usual suspects on Youtube ; _ ;
This visit to the Australian Open to watch a 4th round match is something I've talked about and then put off for almost half a decade. In a stroke of luck from a ticket we picked on a whim, I'm glad I managed to tick off a bucket list item to watch Federer play, live, in a Grand Slam. The atmosphere in Rod Laver Arena is truly something to experience live. You notice small things like the marks on hardcourt where the balls have struck ground, and where the players have skidded across the baseline. A 200MPH serve blinks past in a clap of racquets, and there's nothing quite like the sound of thousands of people holding their collective breath.
I may have opened Pandora's Box, with this visit. Find me next year (maybe).