My week in Melbourne after the Aussie Open was awesome. The Melbourne cafe culture and open until dawn bars suits me. I'd pack a backpack every morning, step outside my North Melbourne hostel, and just start wandering. Sure enough, I'd find something to my liking and settle down for some reading and writing. I was planning to stick around for a week and a half and just soak in the city.
That said, I think I knew the minute Sam lost in the third round to Kvitova that I would be heading to Hobart for Fed Cup. First, it was in Tasmania and I had heard nothing but great things about the scenery there. Second, between her early losses in Sydney and Melbourne, I just didn't feel like I saw Sam play that much tennis in Australia. So two guaranteed matches against top-ranked players in Fed Cup with Stubbsy playing her last Fed Cup match? Done and done. Next thing I knew I was on a plane to Hobart.
Besides, I think I needed to go to a tennis match as a fan before I left Australia. I started out as one in Perth, screaming my head off for Ana, Nole, Andy, and Robbie, then sat silently in Sydney and Melbourne. So let's get it all out of my system in the small and quiet confines of the Doman Tennis Center, a 2500-seat facility that has views of the mountains and the sea. It was really beautiful and a perfect venue to take in this top-flight action. At $60 for a two-day pass, I felt like a thief. $30 to watch Sam play Flavia? Jarka play Fran? Fran play Sam? Jarka play Flavs? Stubbsy play...anyone? Cue up Jane's Addiction.
How cute is it that Alicia was there? She's getting married next week but wanted to come and support Stubbsy.
At this point, everyone knows what happened. Jarka kicked it off with a huge win over Fran...
...only to see Sam drop her rubber against Flavia. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT SAM DO. It's fucking Swiss-precision-clockwork. You know wasn't precision? The lines-calling all weekend. Absolutely horrific.
The next day, Sam and Fran engaged in their RG final rematch and saw the weather go from cold, to windy, to rainy, to sunny, to overcast in the span of 30 minutes. The weather in Australia has been unseasonably cold and I couldn't help but imagine how beautiful the Domain Tennis Center would have looked under the proper Aussie skies. Then I remembered that I would probably melt into a pile of Sam-loving goo and I hugged my North Face fleece closer and reminded myself not to complain.
Anyway, Sam would lose to Fran in three tough sets as the Roo looked on. Perhaps my favorite moment of the match was Stubbsy yelling to Sam "Come on, Sam. You have to trust yourself. Trust yourself." WORD UP, STUBBSY.
Thankfully Sam was in a pretty chill mood afterwards. She returned to the court, cheering on her teammates from the sideline, taking autograph requests, chatting with her family, who came to Hobart to cheer on the team, and otherwise having a good time.
Once Jarka lost the tie was effectively over. But it was Stubbsy time. I honestly don't think most of the people in the stands knew it was her last Fed Cup match but I was impressed by how many folks stuck around anyway. Those who did got quite a show as Stubbsy played a tough three-setter, saw her serve for the match in the second, have two match points, only to eventually lose in the third. A really tough loss to go out on, but at the same time, it was a good quality match that showcased everything that was Stubbsy.
Stubbsy was intense, she was popping off and muttering sarcastically, and since I snuck down to sit closer to the court, I could hear everything. I could even hear Sam getting a kick out of all of it, throwing in a sarcastic cheer every once in a while. After Stubbsy missed an easy overhead, Sam smiled a broad grin and as Stubbsy walked to the baseline, Sam let out a "Excellent, Stubbsy." I kind of need to podcast this because it's the sarcastic inflection that was pleasantly surprising from a kid everyone tags as super-boring. On another point, after what felt like 10 deuces, Sam made Stubbsy crack a smile by yelling "Come on, Stubbsy! Close this one out!" Sarcastic Corgi FTW.
Yeah, the line calling was bad all weekend, and as the sun was setting during the dead rubber, it got worse. The linesjudge was clearly asleep on this point, and Stubbsy went a bit ballistic, much to Sam's amusement.
That's Stubbsy still fuming at the call. That's Sam laughing.
After Rodio and Stubbsy lost, then Tennis Australia crew came out to give Stubbsy a proper farewell. I have the whole thing recorded but can't seem to get it uploaded here in Sydney (they cap your wifi by time *and* bandwidth). I'll get it up when I get home (heh) but it basically involved some really nice words from Nicole Bradke, then a speech from Stubbsy that she cried through. She talked a lot about Sam and how it was amazing to watch her develop into a top 5 player, she welcomed the new Fed Cuppers, thanked Alicia for making the sacrifice of being there, and spoke a lot of the memories she'll take from Fed Cup, which she truly loved it. It was all very sweet and very heartfelt.
One of a kind, right there.