The first day of a Slam is overwhelming enough as a sit-at-home fan. You grab your coffee, get your snacks, and plop down in front of computer and television to soak in the action over 12 hours on 20 different courts. If you're lucky enough to be a fan in attendance, you can exhaust yourself making your way through the crowds and trying to navigate the grounds, jumping from court to court, constantly wondering if you're missing something amazing happening where you're not.
But the first day of a Slam when you're credentialed media? There's drinking from a firehose and then there's drinking from Niagra Falls (gross, I know). Not only do you have all the action around you, you also find yourself in the midst of a bustling media room filled with journalists from all around the world (I happen to be smack dab in the middle of Germany and China), with players being rushed into and out of press conferences every five minutes, information coming at you electronically, aurally, and visually that you have to choose to either process or ignore, and the inevitable pressure you feel to live up to that 3x5 inch piece of plastic dangling around your neck. It's as though slipping that blue lanyard around my neck has miraculously elevated me into, like "a thing". People do a double take. You can see them wondering who you are why you're so important that you get to go behind those closed doors.
It's really weird.
So what do you do when you have all this access? Well, if you're an idiot like me, you shut down, revert, and find solace in what you know. What I know is that I love tennis. I absolutely love watching it. I love talking to other people about it. Sitting in a presser? Don't get me wrong, it's totally cool. But it never lights me up or gets me excited the way the actual consumption of tennis does.
So that's what I did today. I watched tennis. I watched from my station in the media center, I watched it courtside, I watched a lot of it. I undoubtedly annoyed the people around me as I laughed, guffawed, and oohed and ahhhed from my seat. I just can't help it. This sport does that to me.
It was a relatively chilly kick off to the Happy Slam, which was a bit unfortunate as it took a bit of the sunshiny summery goodness away from the character of this, my favorite Slam to watch. I've always been so excited for the Australian Open because it seemed so exotic. Sitting in the wintery confines of San Francisco, bundled up in sweatshirts and under blankets at odd hours of the night to watch the first Slam of the year take place under impossibly blue skies, bright sunshine, and with sweatstained fans milling about? I could smell the SPF through the screen and it smelled like happy.
But when it's a touch on the gloomy side and you see people wrapping themselves with their just-bought tournament towels and using flags as stadium blankets, well, it kind of changes the character of the place, especially in contrast to the past two days, which have been impeccably perfect.
The upside to the weather is that it makes watching the tennis so much easier. The grounds seem less crowded (emphasis on "seem"; I have no reference point as I've never been here before), and you can mill around without worrying about overheating, dehydrating, or burning to a crisp.
Of course, the flip side of this is when the weather turns a tick too nippy and you were the idiot who listened to all your friends and family who told you not to bother bringing a hoodie, jacket, or sweatshirt to Australia. Um, yeah, I was cold for most of the day in my jeans, flip flops (sorry, I refuse to call them "thongs"), and long sleeved button up. With no time to run to a store to buy a hoodie (is there a GAP in Melbourne?) I spent part of the afternoon investigating my on-site options. Those options are basically either a $70 tournament track jacket or a $265 Lacoste hoodie. As I'm not dying of hypothermia yet, I chose to keep myself warm by doing a "Please God, Let The Sunshine Out For The Fortnight" dance for most of the afternoon and evening. At least it kept me warm. We'll see if the gods answer me tomorrow.
Here's a quick rundown of what I saw today:
- Moose practicing in a red shirt that made me sing "Andy In Red" for most of the day until that stupid-ass "Firework" song blasted in the AO store while I was looking at jackets.
- Ryan Harrison on his cell phone, sounding very very very down about his straight set first round loss.
- Paul Annacone walking the halls with a smile after Fed demolished Kubot.
- A freshly shorn Sergey chewing gum and inspecting his biceps.
- Petko "aufing" out loud and "come on-ing" to the crowd.
- Mardy Fish abandoning the sockless look, presumably because he is now skinny enough to pull socks up over his calves. He's apparently lost weight or something.
- Justin Sands waiting inside the credentialed area, waiting for Bethanie to finish her press so they could figure out what to do with the rest of their time in Australia.
- Jamie Hampton almost hitting Elena Baltacha on a thwack to the backstop. Both Bally and I think it was intentional.
- French fans turning up in numbers to cheer Gilles past Rendy Lu.
- A gaggle of young Serb fans lining up for Court 18 to see Viktor and Janko and disrupting play in the ongoing match.
- Fans sprinting like maniacs, weaving their way through the crowds to try and get Nole's autograph after an evening practice.
- Baltacha in tears as she walked back to the locker room after she won.
- Sania putting on a hitting clinic for about an hour and reminding us that yes, she was once a Top 20 player.
- Caro's ugly dress. Venus' horribly designed dress. You have a zipper penis, Venus. That's what you have.
Much of the day, really, was spent scoreboard watching from my little cubicle, clicking around to watching different matches as the scores got interesting. That sounds like a complete waste considering the fact that I'm on-site and can, you know, go actually sit courtside and watch matches. But until I get my bearings and have a clearer plan with respect to what I want to do while I'm here, I guess I'll just stick to what I know.
And what I know is how to sit in front of a computer and enjoy tennis. Which is to say, my first day at the Aussie Open was absolutely perfect.