The Versatile Gent was in attendance at Melbourne Park on Day Two of the 2016 Australian Open last week, to witness some of the finest athletes in the world do battle. Set in the last two weeks of January, the event never fails to deliver both in terms of organisation, class and spectacle.
Being my fourth year in attendance I was familiar with the layout of Melbourne Park and decided to check out some of the matches on the Show Courts, to soak up the atmosphere and the already increasing temperature.
Melbourne Park contains three main arenas (Rod Laver, Margaret Court and Hisense), along with 23 outer Show Courts. The Grand Slam Oval and Garden Square comprise cinema style screens, for when you need a moment away from sitting courtside, and the Heineken stage has live entertainment throughout the entirety of the competition, with some decent national artists including British India and the Rubens. With a recent $363 million upgrade of the venue, the entire complex is world-class and will remain home to the Australian Open for years to come.
Checking the schedule I opted to go and check out Show court 3, where world number 14 Milos Raonic (Canada) was up against world number 90, Lucas Pouille (France). Although Raonic managed to take Pouille in a straight three sets, there were some arduous rallies, giving the crowd some excitement for the second day of the Open. Afterwards I chose to check out one of the Aussie’s do battle, Mathew Ebden on Show Court 7. One thing is highly evident at the Australian Open, patriotism. Although the Australian crowd was behind him, he unfortunately lost in 4 sets.
While waiting for the Nadal vs. Verdasco match to commence on Rod Laver Arena, a Heineken was calling at the Garden Square. Although tennis etiquette is adhered to while spectating on the courts, the outer grounds feel more like a festival, with demonstrations, promotions, music, and an abundance of diverse food. Whether you’re a tennis fan or not, the Australia Open has something for everyone.
Stepping into Rod Laver Arena is always an incredible feeling. With a capacity of 15,000, the angle of the amphitheatre makes you feel close to the action, no matter where you’re seated. I happened to be midway, though it feels like you can almost touch the players.
Rafael Nadal, current world number five and Fernando Verdasco, world number 45 met at Rod Laver Arena in 2009, in an epic semi final that lasted five hours and 35 minutes. Nadal edged out his Spanish compatriot in a five set nail biter, which was the longest match in tournament history up to that date.
Verdasco managed to take the first set in a tiebreak, yet Nadal fought back and took the second and third sets. The fourth set again went to a tiebreak, of which Verdasco slightly edged out Nadal, taking it again into a fifth set decider.
As the fifth set commenced the atmosphere became electric, as both men wouldn’t give an inch. Nadal broke to go two up, yet it was Verdasco who clawed back into the match, eventually breaking Nadal twice to take it to 5-2. Nadal then served to stay in the match but it was Verdasco that couldn’t do a thing wrong. He broke again, to take the match in four hours and 41 minutes.
Whether it’s the first round or the finals, the Show Courts or Rod Laver Arena, one thing is for sure; the Australian Open never fails to serve up a fantastic day out.