We had every intention of packing in some tourist sites while we were in Melbourne, you know, museums and stuff, but after a long day and late night at the AusOpen, we slept in later than usual and spent the day instead repeating the enjoyable amble through the laneways that we did last year with Alex and Diana. We did a little big-city shopping and bought a new pair of sports and bird-watching binoculars to replace our beloved Leicas that succumbed to the marine environment, and I bought a decorative pillow cover that spoke to me last time we were here but that I refrained from buying because my default position is Self-Denying Tightwad. Aw, loosen up, I told myself. We’re on vacation. (I’ll pay for this later. Literally.)
It’s been years since we’ve been in a place where we can follow our favorite sports on TV, let alone live, so we were just as happy to spend the day walking around then retiring to our room in the evening with takeout food and watching whole tennis matches on TV in air-conditioned comfort. It may not seem like a vacation to most of you, but for cruising boat dwellers, it’s heaven.
It would be hard not to be excited about being back in Melbourne. After all, it’s an artsy but funky town with the Australian Open Tennis circus setting up shop and we’ll be sleeping in the same bed for three nights in a row. Last year while shuffling with the crowd out of Melbourne’s Formula 1 racetrack Marce said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to to do a day at the Australian Open next year?” And here we are, tickets in hand, fabulous boxed lunches from Melbourne’s incredible Queen Victoria Market, and a map of the free tram line.
With tennis it’s strictly a “pays your money, takes your chances” proposition. After all the injuries who knows who will show up for the quarterfinal match Tuesday night? However, being the experienced grand slam tennis buffs that we Escapees are, we came armed with a day pass which gives us access to everything but the big time Rod Laver Court where we think, with a little luck, we will be watching Rafa this evening.
I admit it took a little while to orient ourselves using the little free map which didn’t seem to match reality, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Let’s just say there were a lot of lost souls wandering around and most of them, like us, were looking for the mysterious #18 practice court where in just under an hour RF, yes Mr. Federer to you, will be practicing! Close up. Just, you know, shagging balls, close up.
Oh my lord, Escapees, how many miles, I mean kilometers, we hiked in the afternoon Aussie sun. When asked, the typical Aussie bloke would say, “No worries, mate. It’s just ten minutes over there.” Well we weren’t born yesterday and we know that ten minutes Aussie is a half hour for us. But we never found over there over there.
In our travels back and forth across the tennis center we started to notice a lot of people were clinging to seat cushions advertising a bank. Oh my god, Marce, free swag! So we added scoring the free blue and white cushions to the mysterious #18 practice court. Every person we asked said, “No worries, mate, she’s right over there, ten minutes and she’s yours.” Well, we are the Schulzes and grand quests are in our DNA. Did you know this place is so big it even has a kiddie park with a its own zip line? After extricating ourselves from the sticky cotton candy crew — of course they don’t call it that — I sat down in total frustration. Roger must have already started by now and the cushion pushin Sheilas were as elusive as practice court #18.
Wait a minute. There’s a huge crowd over there. “Where?” says Marce. Over there under the bridge, not ten minutes away. Pardon me, might I ask where did you get those cushions? Over by the front gate! As I started to hobble over I saw a small blue sign which read Court #18. And there he was, RF himself. Just shagging balls. You know, as you do.
We watched several stars past and present, Johnny Mac, Martina, Berdych. We lazed on lawn chairs by the fountain, ate some Haagan Das, watched a women’s doubles match, a boy’s match, bought a tee shirt.
We found our seats for the evening session up in section Nosebleed right next to the stairs that looked more like a ladder than stairs, for the main event. Rafa was Rafa but to our eyes he seemed a step slow and by the fifth set he had to withdraw with a torn muscle near the hip. Tough to watch.
We saw some great tennis and to end a perfect day we got totally lost in the dark on the way out and had to talk our way back into the park to carefully retrace our way back to our original entry gate and the tram home.