The approach of the Australian Open carries a different meaning to those living in colder winter climates. Mild climate residents, despite their location can not quite get it. Those who live in cold locations like the American northeast understand. The first Major brings a unique collection of feelings to tennis fans who live in a bitterly cold January.
As the putting away of Christmas cards and decorations of the holiday season give way to checking the credit card statements and desperate hopes of hanging onto New Year’s resolutions, cold weather tennis fans turn a frigid eye toward Melbourne. It is not just the pending return of the world’s best to the stage of a Grand Slam. It is the sunshine during our limited light days, the heat readings while our phones say 13 degrees Fahrenheit. The slightly disorienting feeling of seeing the atmosphere of a summertime major from our winter and saying “it would be great to go there someday.”
A few of us even check the availability of tickets for the matches that begin in few weeks on the AO website, why? We are not exactly sure. Some type of curiosity. We know we aren’t going to all of a sudden call in sick from work, skip our kid’s basketball games and zip off to Australia…Still, we check. Wow! There are some still available for the night session of Day 1…someday.
Our outside court nets are down. The cement is covered in snow. Despite being freezing in our tennis bubble, our inside court hours are booked and held rigidly because we know the next contract group will be there on the hour, hovering. We know because we do the same, holding our hour or two a week tightly, while thinking of a place 10,000 miles away.
About two weeks ago, right around New Year’s, we began to check the calendar, “exactly when does the AO start again?” The question led us to hit the websites, to check the dates, to ignite the anticipation. “Who is playing in Sydney anyway, is Djokovic there?”, “Is that one before Auckland? Same week?” “I can’t believe he got back to number one in the world again…yes I can.”
We check, look at draws in the tournaments leading to Melbourne and wonder whose game has been improved since the season closed in November. For some reason, we also add Melbourne Australia to the weather app on our phone, as if knowing the temperature there will somehow make it warmer here. We know it won’t. We still do it. 87 degrees right now! A cold drink in the stands at Melbourne Park sounds fun. Is it somehow better than Flushing Meadows in September? Hard to say from here…someday.
Now that it is closer, our anticipation grows. “Is it going to be Federer again? That would be 3 in a row, right?” Amazing, that guy. “How about one of those young guys, Zverev? Khachanov?” Maybe, but that is not the point. Right now, it could be any of them, it could be watching a match in the qualies, the doubles. It doesn’t really matter; what matters is that it will be one of them and all of them. We will be able to glean a few hours summer each day, albeit on ESPN. Brad Gilbert, Darren Cahill and the rest of the familiar voices back in our basements while still a world away. Maybe there will be a new one of those Melbourne tourism jingo commercials that gets in our heads. The screen showing the greatest players while also reminding us of what we are missing.
Our skiing and hockey loving friends do not quite get it. The golfers do, but their sport runs on a different rhythm, all Majors played in our warm weather. That is what makes the Australian Open different for cold weather January people. It is not just the sport, though we can’t wait to watch. Nor is it just the location, though we would love to go. It is not just the stars, though we hope for an epic Nadal-Federer semi or the emergence of a new charismatic superstar. At the same time, we feel for Andy Murray and his pain, despite all his riches and success. It is the combination. The juxtaposition of what is on the screen versus what is outside our front door. The enjoyment of the event mixed with wish to be playing tennis 85 degrees instead of watching others in 85 degrees…someday.
In two weeks it will be over, champions crowned and “The Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific’s” of 2019 will be history; but we will be two weeks closer to our own time on the courts in the heat. In just about a day the chair umpire will announce “Ready….Play”, we are ready to watch, ready for the world’s best tennis, and ready for summer.