Downtown Melbourne skyline

After being in Tokyo, Beijing and Bangkok, when arriving in Melbourne we seriously wondered where everyone was. No scooters or bikes to be seen anywhere and as matter of fact there where not many cars. We crossed the 6 lanes of roadway outside the train station and for the first time in 3 months we could cross the road other than at the intersection and we did not have to weave through traffic, because there was none. On the sidewalk no bikes, no scooters, no people. Our hotel was across the road from the train station, where in the other cities the train station was full of hustle and bustle and confusion, not here. After checking in we took the recommended means of transportation , the tram to Melbourne Park to pick up our Australian Open tennis tickets, the tram was free and just down the road from our hotel. We waited

A tram outside the central train station

about 15 minutes for the tram, got on, sat down, and in 15 minutes we were at the tennis center. We found the ticket pick up window at the main entrance and walked up to the no line window and showed my credit card and they gave me my tickets. We arrived in Melbourne less than an hour before that and we were standing at the main entrance of the Australian Open Tennis center with tickets for the next four days and a hotel room. Try that in New York City! This is pretty much how Melbourne is, 3 million people with no worries, mate. We looked around the tennis grounds, bought some AO souvenirs and trammed it back to the city center called the CBD. We got off at Federation Square and sat and watched Roger Federer’s second round match against

Jumbo TV at Flinders Square

Victor Hanescu on the outside Jumbotron with a few hundred other fans. .. a venue set up just for out door Australian Open tennis viewing. After realizing Hanescu had no chance to win, we wandered around the CBD, until sundown, it was 9:30. Hurray it was summer again. The sun set at 5 in Beijing. Summer in January. No more snow! It was dark at 10:00 and we decided to get back to our hotel to get ready for the next 4 days of the Australian Open.

Our first match was Jankovic/Bondarenko in Hisense Arena. Jankovic did not look ready for her match and Bondalerno did. Too many

Janovic worried

unforced errors by Jankovic ended her run.

Next up was Henin versus the hard serving, hard hitting Kleybanova. It

Bondarenko not worried

looked like Kleybanova’s power was too much for the return to tennis of Henin, but unforced errors crept into Kleybanova’s game to give Henin the 2nd and 3rd set in a scare. If Kleybanova would not go for broke on

Henin's backhand looks as good as ever

every shot she could go a few more rounds in the Slams. She has one of the biggest serves in women’s tennis.

One peculiar aspect of the AO is that all the seats in the arenas cost the

Kleybanova banging away

same. There are no box seats and no corporate seats. The person sitting in the last row paid the same as the person in the front row.

Murray played Serra next, and the match went the way of the Murray fans chorus of “ Que serra, serra, what will be will be, you can not beat Murray, que serra, serra.” Serra rallied well with Murray but Murray won all the big points, with big hits at the right time, but Murray did not look like the Murray that played Nadal.

We left Hisensa and went over to Margaret Court to see the end of the Monfils and Isner match. The rallies were so much shorter than the 3 matches we watched, with Isner controlling the points with big serves, 20 plus aces, big net play 35 out 50, and 70 plus outright winners, and Isner also controlled the match, winning the last two sets in thrilling tie breakers.

Azarenka power forehand

The next day we settled into our second row seats under drizzly skies and after some chanting by the crowd to close the roof, the roof was closed and the Azarenko/Garbin match started. Azarenko is a plenty talented young girl with big shots off both sides. I think next year at the AO will be her break out tournament, this girl has the game to win a slam. She powered her way through Garbin, winning the first 9 games. It could have been over in 45 minutes but the crowd gave Garbin a boost after she won her first game.

Serena Williams stepped up next to demolish Navarro. In 15 minutes it

Serena wins sitting down

was 5-0 and Williams had made no errors. Williams served the sixth game and it lasted 25 minutes, with Williams finally beating back 6 break points to get a 6-0 first set. The next set was sloppy but William’s play was enough for the 6-3 win.

We watched Serena’s next match with Azarenko on TV. Azarenko had the match in her hands with one set up and 2 breaks in the second set, but Serena’s resolve to get those 2 breaks back was all that Azarenko could handle. Shots that were inches inside the lines were now inches outside the lines, and Azarenko could not recover, giving Serena the match. A little more mental metal, and Azarenko is a slam winner.

Djokovic goes forward in the tournament

Next Djokovic destroyed Istomin in little less than 100 minutes . Istomin could rally with Djokovic but Djokovic has much more in his game than rally ball, and he showed it with blistering winners when needed. When on the defensive he could come up with a offensive shot, and his drop shot kept Istomin off balance, it was way too much for the less talented Istomin. It was not much of a warmup for Djokovic.

The last scheculed match of the day was with a 5’5”, fiesty Chinese women

Jheng speeds past Bondarenko

Zheng and Bondarenko, who already knocked out the former no. 1 Jankovic. The match was close but it was the speed of Zheng and her hard hitting ground strokes that squeaked her by Bondarenko. If Zheng develops a decent serve she can go further. A 85 mph first serve will not get her far, especially with the Williams sisters in the game. This win put her into the quarters her furthest advance in a Slam.

Del Potro reaches for every ball

The three matches for the day ended early, so a bonus match was moved to the Hisense Arena, Del Potro the fourth seed verus Clilic the fourteenth. Talk in Melbourne was this was del Potro’s tournament. These guys are tall and lanky and are speedy, which is unusual for their height. The first 2 sets were grueling shot exchanges with each getting a set. The first set went long with del Potro finishing strong with an ace and a 7-5 win, he looked like he was ready to dominate. Clilic took advantage of some del Potro errors and some

Celic running forehand

sluggishness toward the end of the second and Clilic barely won the second set. Del Potro called the trainer after the split of sets and looked out of sorts beginning the third. The set started even and with the Argentian and Croatian flags flying in the stands and foreign chants for both players during and after play started to get to del Potro. The crowd was real boisterous for both players. Del Potro called the umpire on several occasions to quiet the crowd and even made attempts himself to sections of the crowd to quiet down. The 3rd set went an hour and an half with Clilic dominating at the end with drop shots and hard pounding forehands. It looked like the end for del Potro. Then del Potro hung around in the forth set matching Clilic shot for shot and in the 11th game his forehand really found its range again and he broke Clilic at love and served out the fourth. You could tell both players had 5 set matches already and del Potro looked the more tired. Both started pounding the ball for early winners. It was a slug-fest for the fifth set. Del Potros forehand tired first and several strayed wide to break his serve. It was a 4 hour 30 minute win for Clilic. Clilic would go on to beat Roddick in another 5 setter, that I think emptied his tank and was unable to muster much against Murray in the semi, only winning the first set then slowly succumbing to Murray’s ball retrieving game.

One great score board item that the AO has that I have not seen in any other tournament is that when a player makes an unforced error, winner, or a ace the scoreboard immediately indicates how many each player has for the match under their names.

Tsonga was all energy

Probably the best match we saw was the Almagro/ Tsonga match.

A tough loss for Almagro

Tsonga took the first 2 sets in 1 hour. It looked like a easy win in the third but Almagro hung around long enough and kept firing hard pounding, beautiful one handed back hands up the line and cross court while Tsonga’s forehand started to go all over out of the court. Almagro sneaked into a fourth set and looked pumped up to make this a real match. It was close in the fourth as both players were hitting the felt off the ball. It was unbelievable how hard they were hitting. You can not see it on TV. Finally one of Almagros bristering backhands whet long for a Tsonga break and he could serve it out. Tsonga gave the break back and they headed for a tie breaker. The tiebreaker evened at 5-5 with Tsonga serving with neither player having’ an advantage. Unfortunately Tsonga’s second serve was called long and he had no challenges left. Almagro could not convert the set point but could later when Tsonga volleyed into the net for the set. Amalgro was really pumped up and so was the crowd. Tsonga never played a 5 setter and Almagro had a winning percentage. The fifth set was unbelievable tennis with either player tiring or letting up and still pounding the ball and covering every corner of the court. The crowd was loud and there was gutsy play making by both players. At 7-8 Almagro hit a rare and great drop shot that Tsonga miraculously ran down and hit a winner back that charged him up, jumping all over the court in excitement, that must have pumped him up for an ensuing 3 more winners to take the match after 3 ½ hours. It was some of the best hard hitting tennis you could ever hope for.

We watched the Federer/Davydanko match on TV. You have to give Davydanko credit for going for pure winners when the match was on the line against him. Several times he was not giving in but Federer proved he can get through anyone’s intensity.

The final was all Federer again. Murray did not bring his game he had against Nadal and you can not go in against Federer without your best.

I could go on and on about the AO, but time is limited. I wonder if Murray realizes how good a game he had against Nadal? Can he play that game again?  Will Nadal be the Nadal of a year ago, or are his knees going to shorten his greatness. If so how many more slams will Federer get then?  Who can stop him in the next couple years if Nadal is done.

If more of my expert opinion is needed ask in the comments section and I will answer daily. The AO was great, Flinders Square was great, and Melbourne was great. Now its time to move on to Kangaroo Island. One note about the weather one day it was 102 degrees then a wind picked up and in an hour it was 72.