It’s clear that the Brisbane International has grown in popularity over the years. It’s great for the tournament, and nice to see such huge support and interest for tennis here in Brisbane, but as a spectator, it can be such a pain. I hadn’t really found myself thinking about the good old days in the past, but today I found myself flashing back into time an awful lot, thinking of how back then, I could have sat anywhere I wanted to on an outside court, as long as there was still play going on in Pat Rafter Arena. Whenever you sit on small outside courts, there are always plenty of crappy seats, particularly anything that is blocked by an umpire's seat. Whenever I pick seats, it is always my main criteria - just anywhere without the umpire's seat in the way, please.
To accurately reflect the special circumstances under which I watched these matches, I decided to take accurate photos, rather than ideal photos. I could have of course zoomed in very closely, moved the camera up to avoid heads, waited for the players to be in the right position of the court to get the best shot. But photos are supposed to capture experiences, aren’t they, so I went for the more realistic choice.
Transport is always more relaxing when there’s nothing exciting on the schedule to start the day with, so I timed my arrival pretty well to get there close to the start of play. In the line-up, they were handing out free newspapers to everyone, which is a good deal. Almost everyone took one, but scanning around stadiums and seating areas all day, I hardly noticed anyone reading one. I guess it was all eyes on the tennis today.
I had some unfinished business to do from Monday. I went over to Tennis Central, as they call it, the entertainment area down the stairs. Before walking down the stairs, I stopped for a moment to take a look at what it looks like from higher up. It’s just funny how these things can appear to be more appealing to the eye the further away it is. As I walked down the stairs, the footing appears to be unstable and it’s clear that everything has been temporarily set up here. Nothing wrong with that, as it makes complete sense, but I was highly amused by the design of the pathways which lead to nowhere, so you have to walk through the artificial grass to get through to the dining area.
After taking a bit of time to figure out where to walk, I headed back to Pat Rafter Arena to watch Gilles Simon play against James Duckworth. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about that. End with Gilles Simon on Monday, start with him on Wednesday. If I didn’t know him any better, I could have thought that Simon looked like he just got out of bed. I was sitting in the back row, so there are some things I can’t see. But even from this far away, it’s easy to see Simon casually strolling around in between points. I wonder what it would be like trying to cheer him on, as a coach or fan. I wouldn’t bother to, because he doesn’t really look like he’d be bothered to step it up another level, unless if he was clearly losing.
From this view, I couldn’t really see what Duckworth looks like, so I’ve kind of made up a picture in my mind based on what I can see. I don’t have the ability to make up new faces, so I’ve decided that he looks like Sam Querrey without the cap from far away, and maybe made him look a bit more attractive or regular looking. From the start of the match, he looked very keen on putting in a good performance here. I liked the scorching forehand return winner in the first game. He broke serve in the first game, but it went downhill from there. He was the more aggressive player, and more adventurous in terms of shot selection, but the errors cost him the set, and perhaps he wasn’t really capable enough to try pulling off playing at this level, not that I would know.
As the match wore on, I started to lose interest. Simon was up an early break in the second set, though I did notice by the time I left that he was leaking more errors than usual. For such a one-sided match, it would have been nice if Simon could have shown more of his abilities, but he was as predictable as ever. Not taking a commanding position in the match, letting his opponent have a chance.
Sitting in the back row has a larger amount of distractions than anywhere else where the stadium is closed off from the outside. From here, I can smell food from the outside, which is a problem near lunch time. I can hear the sound of the Nova radio announcers who read out the schedule of play every 15 minutes or so. I can hear the sound of coffee being made. I decided I didn’t care anymore about the outcome, and the smell was luring me away, so I left for an early lunch break. The crowd erupted soon afterwards as Duckworth broke back.
It was not a great day for me. I spent much of the day being tired and distracted, and hardly ever getting a good seat. With Tommy Haas’ withdrawal, the court scheduling had been changed to move some Court 1 matches to Court 2. One of them being Radek Stepanek’s match against Jarkko Nieminen (see the photo for an idea of the crappy view I had to watch this match on). This match looked potentially interesting on paper, but the match-up wasn’t as interesting as I thought it might be. Stepanek didn’t mix it up all that much in the first set, resembling too much of a normal player for my liking. I tried to look closer, but as far as I could see, there wasn’t anything particularly clever in his play, a bit disappointing for such a deliberate player (he usually does everything for a reason). Nieminen hits the ball harder from the back of the court than from what I would have thought watching on television. He swings right through his backhand and gets a huge amount of racquet head speed on it.
Nieminen doesn’t look particularly expressive on his face, but he was frequently hitting balls into places in between points, throwing his racquet around, nothing too extreme for the most part. It’s very strange, because it feels like it’s coming from nowhere. About to lose the second set, he smashed a ball into the back fence without looking where he was going and nearly took out a ballkid. It doesn’t seem right that he gets a code violation for that, while Petzschner gets the same code violation for hitting a ball into the roof/court cover.
The second set, Stepanek was playing more intelligently, following up certain shots into the net. They weren’t noticeable net approaches. They didn’t come from completely opening up the court, so it must have taken a good eye and quick reactions to be able to pull off that kind of play. Nieminen was making a ton of errors, and watching live, it looks more appropriate that he would because he doesn’t hit the ball as safely as a lot of other players. It’s not as controlled and restrained.
Having watched that match with the umpire chair in the way for the most part, I was happy to be able to move on to watching Philipp Petzschner’s match against Santiago Giraldo. Surely with Jelena Jankovic playing at the same time, this would allow some additional comfort and breathing room in the stands. I arrived early with some women’s doubles still going on, and there’s this person sitting next to me taking an awful lot of photos of Carla Suarez Navarro sitting down cheering them on. I don’t know, it just looks a little stalkerish, though had I spotted someone I liked, I might have done the same thing.
I was a bit excited about watching Petzschner play. It’s always interesting to watch unique players live, or to have something in particular you can concentrate on, or notice. Giraldo on the other hand, is not one of those kinds of players. I watched him a few years ago, and I still can’t really recognise what he looks like, or the technique on any of his shots. But I did notice that he seems to have improved since then, and his forehand appears to be more of a weapon than it used to be.
Petzschner was fun to watch in the beginning. But you can tell he has a limited skillset. His game clearly revolves around his serve and forehand. His serve is huge. You can tell just from the sound that comes off his racquet, when he serves. His backhand slice floats across the court more so than the majority of players. Whether this is a positive thing or not, I don’t really know, but it looks artistic. Whenever he hits a forehand, he steps right into it, almost as if he was hitting an approach shot all the time. He doesn’t appear to have anywhere near the same level of consistency as most other players, as in, he doesn’t even attempt to have it. He prefers to play recklessly. Players hit to his backhand frequently. He slices it patiently crosscourt almost every time, and it’s like whenever he gets a forehand, he’s been waiting so long to get one, that he needs to rip it even if there isn’t any space in the court to justify doing it.
The matchup here wasn’t a good one. Clearly Petzschner’s slice backhand wasn’t being hit well enough, because Giraldo had plenty of time to run around and hit a forehand on the majority of them, while hardly making any errors. A player’s strength versus a player’s weakness. It’s clear to see who would win this battle.
After an underwhelming day of tennis, I decided to watch one more match, a rematch of last year’s match between Alexandr Dolgopolov and Igor Andreev, in very different weather conditions. Considering that I found it very hard to stay awake the previous match, it was probably helpful that I had a very strange older couple sitting next to me, who were commenting on everything. The lady was cheering for Dolgopolov so that she could watch more of the match, though it took her quite a while to figure out how to pronounce it, and what his first name was. Her husband cheered for Andreev, as a response to every time she yelled out, ‘come on Alex!’ Once they got into the third set, they switched roles, since the wife wanted the match to continue while the husband wanted it to finish. The husband kept saying, ‘More power, Igor!’ in this weird voice.
I also had to look through a fence for most of the match, since it was completely packed. It was nice to see two interesting players play against each other, something to admire from both sides. I started watching from late in the first set, and Andreev was definitely playing better than what I had seen from him in the past live. Clearly, winning in the qualies has given him some confidence in the main draw.
Andreev’s forehand is so much fun to watch live. It might appear to be one-dimensional on TV, but it just never stops getting exciting live. It draws gasps from the crowd, it looks and sounds like it’s dangerous enough to take anyone out, but it’s probably easier to defend against it than you would think. Or at least Dolgopolov’s backhand held up pretty well against it. Towards the end of the first set, Andreev was on this roll where he would hit all these forehands which were still in mid-air for the most part, until dropping right on the baseline at the last minute making it very difficult to return.
I was reminded again of how Dolgopolov is exciting to watch live as well, with his very energetic game and how he likes to mix it up constantly. Though in this match, it was Andreev doing most of the dictating. He should have won the match on his first match point, but he misfired a forehand long, while the rest of the tie-break seemed to be filled with tense moments containing long rallies, big forehands and excellent defending from Dolgopolov. Once Andreev had lost his opportunity, his game went downhill in the third set, playing nowhere near as consistently as he did when I first started watching. Occasionally he was still a threat to break back, but he couldn’t convert, so Dolgopolov went on to win the match.