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The Oddities From A Yank In Melbourne

General view ofn Rod Laver Arena during the final match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 29 January 2017. EPA/DEAN LEWINS



Melbourne’s Yarra River flows slow and brown. At its bottom, one sees rusting bicycles from which drunken Aussies have leapt or fallen, a smattering of beer cans which were the former phrase’s root cause, and a slew of slain tennis balls likely batted from the frame of a mid-practice Nick Kyrgios. Along the Yarra’s banks, a multinational crowd descends upon multi-ethnic eateries as multiple-personality-street-performers flaunt their foibles. Just up from the waterfront, Melbourne’s visitor’s center posits places like the Old Gaol (jail), the Public Library, and the Shrine of Remembrance as things to see. They fail to mention the strange symbol now visible in every storefront, pub, restaurant, pub, mall, did I mention pub, because the Aussies do – a lot! The symbol – ^o – carries a suggestion of Illuminati but all Melbourne residents know the real story. The Australian Open has begun!


Rod Laver arena has labyrinthine tunnels under its belly. They twist and turn like Roman roads and you can get so lost you might start to wonder whether the transport people have to take out a skeleton or two at the end of the tournament. Passing through the halls reveals much about professional tennis life. JW Tsonga waves at every security guard. Sam Querrey’s smile makes delicatessen workers blush. When certain elder, well-coiffed, ATP players enter the lounge, even the pros whisper with envy. Venus Williams stride covers twice as much acreage as Fabrice Santoro’s. If you do manage to escape the building, Melbourne Park is being transformed into a virtual Disneyland.


Via the genius of visionary leader Craig Tiley, the Oz Open now boasts a hundred-yard-long bouncy house maze, several concert stages, pop-up tennis courts and enough on-site food vendors to keep the Soprano’s cast satisfied. There are riverwalks and “guess how many balls” contests and I’m pretty sure I witnessed a UFC cage match this afternoon. It is 1,386 paces from one end of the site to where all of the fanfare ends, assuming you don’t have to break step to avoid the well-fed security guards and can avoid the stroller-pushing parents who’ve purchased tickets so “Jimmy Jr. the infant” can see Rog before the old guy retires. All of this is to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come for the tennis and want a little bit more. Quick note: turns out the UFC cage was just a couple of Rugby fellas working out the details of a lunch check with a one-on-one scrum.


At present, qualifying is on. With today’s rain, many matches are rescheduled for tomorrow. If the 15,000 children scheduled to attend Kids Day don’t leave too much bubble gum and blown snot on the courts, play will resume around 11am. I’ll do my best to report on it for you.

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