Down Under Day 2: God’s Gift to Women.
As soon as the OOP for Day 2 was out and Roger Federer was playing, the Day Session tickets for Rod Laver Arena sold out. In vain, my friend and I tried online, called the ticket centre, and visited the ticketek office, but there were no seats to spare for us pair of frazzlers. So we gave up the quest and got ourselves 2 ground passes, intending to catch a bit of Gulbis v Monaco.
But fortune favours the persistent. Hoping for some last-minute pot luck, we decided to line up outside Rod Laver Arena with around 20 other desperate Federer fans for any late tickets in the reserved section. After almost an hour of waiting, a ticket office personnel informed us that some seats have been freed on the lower deck next to the media section, and we were welcomed to take them.
So we happily purchased an upgrade, and snuck into our rather magnificent seats at 3-all first set. Just in time to see Roger Federer lose the next 3 games and drop the set 4-6.
It took all the dignity and self-respect I had not to throw my shoe at him.
For all his lack of temperament, Igor Andreev has a certain … Nadal in him. There’s the fact that in the 3 times they’ve played, Igor’s always been able to take at least a set off Roger, and has never appeared to be intimidated by the presence of God’s-Gift-to-Women. And then, there’s the forehand – unleashed with nuclear monstrosity and zero margin of error, pushing Federer well behind the baseline with sheer fearlessness.
Roger defended well throughout, but there can only be one result when the game is taken out of his hands and played on someone else’s terms: bald patches on Dootsie’s scalp.
While the second set temporarily appeased my nerves, the third set turned out to be the Sharapova-infested dystopia I never signed up for when I walked through the gates of Melbourne Park. After going up an early break, Roger attempted to serve out the match but won only one point. Serving to stay in the set 5-5, he was broken again with a string of horrendous errors.
Is there a worse sound in the world than a shanked forehand by one of your favourite players while your heart is pumping louder than Saturday night disco? At this point, everyone sitting around me was trying not to stare as I clutched onto my friend like a lunatic.
Meanwhile, pissy Fed was pure sex.
If only Andreev was anything like Rafa. Serving for the set at 6-5, Igor had a total of 3 set points to go up 2 sets to 1 on Federer – 3 second serves on the same side of the court. All 3 of them wide to Federer’s backhand. All 3 of them chipped harmlessly back cross-court into Andreev’s hitting zone.
All 3 of them shanked down the line by Andreev.
When Federer broke back that game and let out a roar that was mimicked around the arena, he also broke Andreev’s spirit. The tiebreak went in a flash, as Dootsie got up on her feet to give God’s-Gift-to-Women a standing ovation. Let’s all pretend that Roger saw it in his peripheral vision, and decided to reward me with a bagel.
As for Igor: close, but no premium Cuban cigar for you, sir.
It seems that the Australian Open is set on continuing to top itself with ludicrous scheduling. If Federer’s match was a full-house, then the night session featuring Hewitt and Molik was almost pathetic by RLA’s usual standards. It wasn’t that tickets weren’t sold, patrons just preferred to leave for the action on Margaret Court Arena, where Gasquet and Youzhny were putting on an orgasmically beautiful thriller. Not that I saw a second of it live, being stuck with good ol’ Rusty and Mollie.
But the Aussie patriots were out in full force last night, with Mexican waves, a few cheers that I recognised from my own high school days, and a rousing rendition of “Single Ladies”, complete with choreography.
Bolstered by the crowd, Lletyon Hewitt was as much in “full flight” as he’ll ever be, pummeling some poor Brazilian qualifier back into the oblivion where he belonged.
But Molik faced more of a tussle from Julie Coin, going up a set and 5-2 before choking slightly and letting her opponent flip the match. All credits to Coin, who had vastly improved from when I first saw her back in 2008 against Ana Ivanovic. She became much more consistent along the baseline once she got into the second set, and showed some surprising deft touch at the net.
Although Alicia will be disappointed with her loss, it was not a bad showing from her. She’s at least shown that she can play at a Top 100 level. But with an impending marriage and so much room to develop as a commentator and coach here in Australia, I just wonder if a comeback is worth the trouble.
And on that note, the rollercoaster ride that is Day 2 ended well past midnight into Day 3. Once again, I found myself crashing into bed, emotionally and physically exhausted, but completely gratified by the Federer scare and an evening of drunken Aussie camaderie.
Just for now though, I could do without both for the rest of the tournament.