Melbourne Archives

January 13, 2007

Hello, Melbourne!

After a short--one hour--flight, I arrived at the Melbourne airport. This was my first time there, as in 1998 I drove to the city from Sydney (through Canberra) and I left on a train bound for Adelaide. My driver from the airport to my hotel spent the trip telling me just how much better in every possible way Melbourne was than Sydney.

I am now off to the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club for the finals of the AAMI Classic featuring Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.



The Kooyong venue was the site of the Australian Open for many years before the shift to Melbourne Park in 1988. It's clear why the event moved: the club is charming, but the demands of a grand slam event outgrew what the facility could offer. The club is a great site for this exhibition tournament, though, which eight of the top male players use as a warm-up for the Open across town. I took the train from the city center and was deposited a stone's throw from the club. It was fortunate that I booked my ticket online the evening before, for this was the first time a session sold out in the Classic. I arrived as the third-place playoff was underway (Andy Murray beat Marat Safin in a first-set tiebreak and cruised to a quick second-set win). Though assigned an upper-tier seat, I finagled my way down low and spend most of the afternoon at the level of the first row behind court and thus captured these images at pretty short range.


The main event was the Federer/Roddick match. Roddick took the first set 6-2, and his groundstrokes were penetrating much deeper into the court than they had been in a while. This enabled Andy to come to net to knock off some easy winners time and again. I guess Jimmy Connors gets some credit for that.


Federer was clearly fired up for the second set and came out like gangbusters, quickly breaking Roddick and showing the smooth shot-making skill that has made him #1 in the world. He won it 6-3. Watching the Swiss player's game from this close, I was amazed at what he could do with a ball when he was in trouble. It's not that he can scramble to recover tough shots--other players such as Nadal are better at that--but rather the way he can take, say, a low short ball with no pace and deftly flick it on a sharp angle with even less pace for a clean winner. Most other players would struggle to do more than put that ball back into play! His touch is buttery.

The third set was hard fought, but Roddick's resolve carried the day, taking the decider 6-3.

January 14, 2007

Song Of The Day #14

This is Jem's cover of one of Paul McCartney's greatest solo works, "Maybe I'm Amazed."

Jem - Music from The O.C.: Mix 2

Technology And Travel

Having spent time in Australia on both my sabbatical trips, in 1998 and 2007, I was reflecting today on the differences between the experiences that have resulted from technology.

Certainly the Web and e-mail had become common by '98, but my access to them while abroad was pretty rare. Basically, I was dependent on Internet cafés to touch base with folks at home and catch up with sports scores and such back at school. I was able to connect perhaps twice a week, if lucky. This time around I am traveling with my laptop and have been able to get in-room broadband access at each of my hotels thus far.

Communications programs like Skype and iChat have made it practically free to stay in touch with people back in the States in real time conversations. This was unheard of nine years ago.

I've been able to entertain myself on this trip, both with with my portable DVD player and with television shows I downloaded to my iBook from my DVR before I left home. Even better, I've been able to keep up with recent shows that have aired while I've been abroad, such as episodes of The Office and 30 Rock, by downloading them via the iTunes Music Store. I am looking foward to staying up-to-date with 24 and Battlestar Galactica and Heroes and Lost when they resume new episodes, too. And I admit one of the benefits of being out from under the firewall of an academic community is unimpeded access to BitTorrent sites and other file sharing networks to get media.

Also, the iPod phenomenon has changed my interaction with my environment. I am able to wander city streets or cruise through stores to the beat of my own private soundtrack. I try not to use the iPod too much in this manner so I don't miss out on the local soundscape, but there are times it's nice to retreat into a familiar, comfortable song in a strange place.

January 15, 2007

Grand Slam Action


I am getting ready to head over to Melbourne Park for the opening day of the Australian Open. I was last here in 1998. The venue has a great layout and is very spectator-friendly. There's a good line-up on the show courts, but a lot of the attraction for me is the outer courts and the practice courts.

There are some interesting storylines building for this year's tournament:

• Can Federer continue his dominance of the major events and win a tenth Slam event?
• Can Nadal breakthrough in a major other than Roland Garros?
• Will Andy Roddick build on the momentum he established in the second half of
• Will James Blake live up to his seeding and get past the fourth round for the first time in Melbourne?
• Can Maria Sharapova win a second major in a row?
• Will Kim Clijsters add another Grand Slam title to her resumé in her final year on the tour?
• Can Amelie Mauresmo defend her crown?
• Will Serena Williams be a factor again at this level?

Song Of The Day #15

Here is "Bright Lights" by Matchbox Twenty.

Matchbox Twenty - More Than You Think You Are

Day One Of The Aussie Open


The tennis is clearly the center of attention in Melbourne for this fortnight, even more than is the case in London or New York (I have yet to be in Paris during the French Open, so I can't speak to that). There's front page coverage in all the nation's newspapers. The city clearly is bending over backwards for the visitors attending the tournament: a ticket to the Open gets you free tram rides throughout the city to get to and from the event!

Feature Matches


At Melbourne Park, the big names on Rod Laver Arena were Amelie Mauresmo, Roger Federer, and Marcos Baghdatis. Mauresmo cruised, Federer kicked into gear after a tight first set, and last year's finalist Baghdatis prevailed in four sets over another former runner-up, Ranier Schuettler.

I also spent a lot of time on the outside courts, too, watching the likes of Richard Gasquet and Paradorn Srichapan compete and seeing Carlos Moya, Rafael Nadal, and Lleyton Hewitt practice.

The layout of the facility is very spectator friendly and the addition of Vodaphone Arena--new since my last visit here in 1998--makes it a much more expansive venue. I didn't see Roddick's match over on Vodaphone, but he rallied from a set down and 2-5 to win in four, with some verbal fireworks aimed at the umpire along the way.

Though it was warm, it was overcast for much of the day, which made it much more comfortable for players and fans alike.

January 16, 2007

This Show Is Growing On Me


While waiting for the new season of 24 to be posted on iTunes Music Store, I have been catching up on epidoses of 30 Rock, a show which is getting better and better by the week. Alec Baldwin is brilliant in his role as the overbearing G.E. executive in charge of programming and microwave ovens, and the quirky minor characters are getting fleshed out nicely too. Though this show is not yet in the league of The Office--which also started slowly, as I recall--it's picking up steam.

Song Of The Day #16

This cover of "(What A) Wonderful World" is from Art Garfunkel's 1977 album Watermark. I can remember hearing it for the first time on the radio many years later. It features the striking harmonic blend of the voices of Paul Simon and James Taylor with Garfunkel.

Art Garfunkel - Garfunkel - (What A) Wonderful World

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?


Top seed Maria Sharapova played in the first featured match on Rod Laver Arena today. If today's form is any indication, the young Russian may have a rocky road ahead in this tournament. She eked out the win, 8-6 in the third, after surrendering a 5-0 lead in the final set. But along the way, she sprayed balls all over the court and hit two of the shakiest second serves and the absolute worst overhead shank I've ever seen from a pro player (the ball landed a foot in front of her!). Sharapova's victory was more the result of her opponent--Camille Pin of France--choking when she served for the match and was as close as two points away from pulling off the upset.

A Scorcher

As temperatures soared past 35°C (95°F) in Melbourne, the combination of heat and humidity forced the Australian Open to invoke its Extreme Heat Policy, which meant cancelling the start of any new matches on outer courts. (Matches already underway would be played to their conclusion.) The two main show courts each feature a retractable roof, which meant I got to watch the roof of Rod Laver Arena slowly close over the course of about fifteen minutes; I was amazed at how quiet the process was. Once finished, the atmosphere of the court was entirely transformed for the Nadal and Clijsters matches that followed. It felt like an indoor tournament, as the lighting and even the reverberating sounds of the match were significantly different. It didn't seem to matter at all to the top players, though, as both Nadal and Clijsters cruised in straight sets--the latter with a double bagel! As a spectator, it was surely more enjoyable to watch the tennis from air conditioned comfort.

Golden Globes

I just finished watching the telecast of the Golden Globes Awards, which was reasonably entertaining. I haven't seen Dreamgirls, but I did see Babel last week and I guess these two films were the big winners of the night. Ugly Betty is a show I've never seen, either, but it's hard to believe it's better than The Office. Helen Mirren took two statues for playing the two Queens Elizabeth--an impressive accomplishment. Anyway, being able to see the show made me feel a little bit like being at home.

January 17, 2007

Song Of The Day #17

A one-hit wonder from the 1970s: "Magic" by Pilot.

Pilot - Best of the 70s

A Quiet Day In Melbourne

I didn't attend the tournament today, but the coverage is extensive on both Channel Seven and one of the Fox sports channels here in Australia. Today was overcast and MUCH cooler than yesterday's sauna-like conditions. I explored the downtown area leisurely and generally took it easy. Tomorrow morning I fly to Perth.

About Melbourne

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to As Far As You Know in the Melbourne category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Marlborough, MA is the previous category.

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