The Tennis has come to Town – Melbourne
People flock to Melbourne to watch the Open. After all what could be better than to chill in the Australian sunshine with a tinny in your hand crashed out in a deck chair (a good alternative if you can’t afford tickets to the arenas) and barrack for your fav player. The atmosphere is convivial and relaxed, the play is good, the fans can be very entertaining and the Australians one meets have a wry sense of humour and a readiness to talk to strangers that makes them some on the most welcoming hosts in the world. It’s a world away from Wimbledon. Which, it has to be said, is still my favourite tournament if only for the fact that the sight and sound of the plunk of strings takes me back to the still silence on hot summer days (yes England does have them) in which matches were played, the hush of the audience as they swiveled their heads from one side to side only interrupted by the occasional cough or the quickly smothered cry of a child and of course, the bowls of strawberries and cream that Wimbledon is famous for. It is the most prestigious of the tournaments, but let’s face it at – it’s very English and therefore ‘proper’ . Rules and regulations of how to act and behave are numerous and unbending for players and spectators alike and that does have its place in the world of tennis. How nice to be able to sit in peace without screaming girls fainting the moment their hero changes his top. How nice not to have constantly shift in your seat to let a constant procession of people walking backwards and forwards with drinks and food (which often gets spilt on you), how nice to watch the play without the interruption of people trying to get a shot of themselves on the screen by acting out, being over-enthusiastic or cat-calling smart-alec comments from the gods.
And so the Open has come to Melbourne. Yesterday I went on my annual pilgrimage into the city to watch and as usual had a great time. The lasting impression of the whole experiences was that tennis has become a noisy sport – both from the players and audience perspective. Sometimes it not even necessary to watch in order to understand what is happening. Let me demonstrate –
plonk, wooooooshhhhhhh, BANG, crowd goes wild = ACE
interminable sound of ball plonking up and down, crowd fall asleep and start snoring = player serving
screams from the audience, banners waving around with the words ‘Love It’ = male player changing his shirt
Banter from the audience which turns into abusing each other across the air space = play suspended for the moment
yes yesss YES YEEEES EEEEEEEEES, AHHHHHHHH, Aawwwwww accompanied by rhythmic clapping = replay of shot on widescreen to see if shot is in or out (this one was out)
Massive amount of cheering and clapping = ball hit into the air out of court, member of audience catches it and suddenly its a cricket game!
caw caw caw, screech, screech, screech, splat splat splat, nervous laughter followed by screams = sea gulls circling the open spaces and crapping on all below
Massive applause and yelling = the end of a really good rally.
sympathetic oooooooooooooooooo ahhh = out
hissesssssssss, boooooooooo = players throwing tanties on the court or as in the game last night = grabs towel from ball boy who is ineffectually dabbing at the shit on the court, wipes it up and then throws towel into the boys face.
Then there’s the players themselves
Apparently this is all about taking the energy, balling it into a concentrated force to improve the game = I mean seriously? All I know is that I find it intensely irritating and distracting. I even had to walk out of one match as the screeching all became a bit too much for me. Is it not more likely to be a tactic to put other players off their game? Umpires have been known to give penalty points for this behaviour so may be there’s something in it.
Despite all of the above the night was still filled with laughter and good-will and has not diminished my love of the game. It’s a shame there were no strawberries but at least I got a few Mexican waves in!