Monday, January 30, 2012
Love in Melbourne and not the just tennis kind
Over the last fifteen to twenty years, I had pretty much lost my interest in tennis, both as a player and as a fan. I watched and played a lot of tennis in college and in the few years following that. I remember the great battles of the Borg/Connors/McEnroe days, rooting for Johnny Mac. Sure he whined too much, but I loved his passion for the game and the flair with which he played. To paraphrase a line from Hunter S. Thompson, he played like a man trying to control an inner frenzy. Once Mac faded from the scene, to be overtaken by Ivan Lendl and then Pete Sampras, no one came along that really made me want to follow the game again. Sure there were some good female players, but I would usually watch their matches for all the wrong reasons. My interest in tennis could be rekindling now that we’ve seen Melbourne and gotten immersed in the Australian Open.
From the very first moments we got off the plane in Melbourne, it was obvious the Aussie Open was going on. Signs and banners were displayed throughout the airport and along the streets, especially in the Central Business District, just a few blocks from Rod Laver Stadium. As we walked toward Kings Domain for the car show on Aussie Day, I noticed an information sheet posted outside a booth selling items from the Open. It listed the matches that were going on that day, and the headliner was Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer. I mentioned to Annie that it might be fun to catch that out at dinner or back in our hotel room. Going to the match in person would have cost us at least $500 and that wasn’t going to happen. We got back to the hotel room after dinner in time to catch the start of the match, and enjoyed watching two of the greatest players of this era go at it. I was naturally attracted to the way Nadal played and happy to see him prevail. His game reminded me some of McEnroe, in part because of the fact that they are both lefties, and also because he can pull off some amazing shots, just when you figure he’s about to lose the point. Marley followed the match pretty closely with me, knowing the rules from having played so much Wii tennis. Ben, who is really into sports these days, especially NFL football, struggled with the whole points/games/sets/match concept. I was unable to explain, even with 30-plus years of tennis watching/playing experience why you earned 15 points for the first two points of the game but just ten for the third. It almost makes it less of an incentive to continue playing. You figure, I’ve worked hard, run all over the court like my hair is in fire and been rewarded fifteen points for each of the first two points of this game, and now, you’re telling me if I do that again and manage to win the point, I only get ten?? No thank you, think I’ll take a nap.
The buzz of the tennis tournament was still present on the tram as we headed to the Queen Victoria Market, not far from the CBD. It’s a massive set-up, covering several city blocks, with food stalls offering fresh meat and fish and breads, as well as vendors selling all kinds of belts and shirts and shoes and trinkets.
One of the vendors had some Major League Baseball jerseys, including a #44 Reds Adam Dunn road jersey. The price was $45 dollars and considering how long it’s been since Dunn played for the Reds and the historically lousy season he had for the White Sox in 2011, I probably could have gotten it for much less. But then, I would have had a #44 Reds Adam Dunn road jersey, and who needs that? Certainly not me, and apparently no one else.
We were jonesing for some more mini-golf, and we saw an ad for a course advertising Glow Golf in an area called the Docklands. All we had to do was figure out which tram to take to catch the tram to that area, about which we had read good things. Having gotten a little directionally disoriented inside the cavernous market, we were huddled over a brochure that featured a Metlink map, trying to figure out which way to go. A woman passing by, with no prompting from us, asked if we needed any help. After we told her of our predicament, she kindly pointed us in the right direction and which tram to look for and what signage we would see and we were on our way.
The Docklands is a beautiful waterfront area, featuring some restaurants, ice cream shoppes, and stores, most of which are in a complex called Harbour Town. There’s no red and white lighthouse like you find in Hilton Head, but there are plenty of stores on the two levels, along with some salons. In one of those, Marley and Annie stopped to get pedicures, so Ben and I took a stroll toward the Glow Golf. As luck would have it, there was a game room right next door, so we engaged in some heated Air Hockey games, followed by a few turns on a NASCAR game.
Showing that all that time spent in our basement at night and on the weekends has not been wasted, Ben got the all-time fastest time on his game. I told him I was afraid that he would say in ten months that had been the highlight of his trip. Once we left Melbourne, however, and headed along the Great Ocean Road and pulled up to our cottage outside the coastal town of Lorne, I knew that wouldn’t be the case.