The Story

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.

Tennis

Just do things that make you happy. It’s a motto I’ve been told repeatedly over the years and one that became the basis and inspiration of this trip. Obviously travelling around the world for half a year, immersing yourself in a wealth of different cultures, beautiful landscapes and exotic foods that are washed down with gallons of alcohol in the company of good people from every corner of our planet, would make anyone happy, but that wasn’t the basis of our trip. The basis of our trip, and therefore its whole itinerary, was based around one day. A day at the Australian Open.

I love tennis, and the Aus Open is one of my favourite majors, but not once, as I awoke early each year to watch the day’s evening sessions over breakfast, did I think I’ll ever have the opportunity to one day attend this great event. Last year I decided to create that opportunity and yesterday I attended the Australian Open.

Now if you’ve been to a major tennis tournament before, you’ll know it’s a lottery as to who you’ll see play. We opted for evening session on Rod Laver, the main show court, where you get one women’s match and one men’s. Obviously it’s the most expensive option but the one you want if you’re going to travel to the other side of the world to watch some tennis. Being the main court, and at prime time, you’re most likely to get one of the top seeds in both matches. As with all tennis majors, the players have a day break between each of their matches, so once the initial draw is made, it’s easy to work out what players you have a chance of seeing. Nadal, Federer and Murray ended being the top seeds who, if they managed to get through their first round matches, would be the ones playing on our day. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows there’s one name in that list that has a very special place in heart.

Roger Federer is the greatest sportsmen of all time and my hero, so it was him I was hoping to see play. My hopes were raised by the fact that every match he has played at the Australian Open in the last ten years have all taken place on Rod Laver. Alas, when the schedule for the day was released, it was Andy Murray who was chosen as the day’s headline act. I’m not the biggest fan of Murray, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by this selection. I would of much preferred it to of been Rafa, as he’s the only one of the “Big Four” I’ve never had the privilege of seeing play. There’s something about Murray’s style of play that I just don’t find entertaining. He’s not poetic like Federer, or has the shear brute power of Rafa, nor the mind boggling athleticism of Djoko. He’s a great player, who’s deserving of his achievements in the game, but when it comes to watching him play tennis, well, I’d just rather watch someone else play tennis. But this wasn’t the time to be throwing my toys out the pram. I should just count myself lucky that I was to be watching tennis on one of the worlds greatest courts. That’s enough, surely? It wasn’t.

On the evening of my last day at work back in London, I had my bag stollen. It had nothing of value in it but it did contain the printed tickets for the tennis. No big deal I thought, I’ll just head to the venue early on the day and get the box office to re-print me off some actual tickets. Easy.

Having my bag stolen has lead to me having the best experience of my trip so far. I turned up to the venue early to ensure I could actually get some replacement tickets printed. As the very helpful guy behind the counter was verifying my credentials, we got talking about tennis and how I’m a Brit who was disappointed that it was Britain’s Number 1 who I was the be watching tonight. “Who do you like then?”, he asked. After my never ending monologue of how Roger Federer could basically cure cancer, the guy asked me, “Would you like to see Federer?”. I was practically in his little ticket booth before he could finish the sentence. I assumed he knew some secret entrance into the Hisense Arena, the one Fed was playing, but the reality was there was still tickets available for that court, and good tickets they were as well. “They’re $64.” were the next words out his mouth. I’ve had the privilege of watching Federer a couple of times before, one of which on Wimbledon’s Centre Court a year he’d go on to win it, but watching him play in the major furtherest away from my home would be a dream. Myself and the ticket vendor both knew there was only one outcome to this interaction.

A prepubescent girl attending a One Direction concert would be the best way to describe my state as I found my seat only a few rows from the court. The great Stefan Edberg and the rest of Fed’s box were in touching distance. The closure of Hisense’s roof only heightened the atmosphere. The match only lasted just over 100 minutes but it was 100 minutes that defined my trip.

During a months stay in a country that’s renowned as being one of the world most expensive, $64 for less then two hours entertainment in an event I’ve already paid $85 to attend would come across a little decadent, but seeing as this is a trip where I’m doing the things that make me happy, having the chance to do the thing that makes me the happiest, well, that was just priceless.

Capitalism is not real; it is an idea. America is not real; it is an idea that someone had ages ago. Britain, Christianity, Islam, karate, Wednesdays are all just ideas that we choose to believe in and very nice ideas they are, too, when they serve a purpose. These concepts, though, cannot be served to the detriment of actual reality.

The reality is we have a spherical ecosystem, suspended in, as far as we know, infinite space upon which there are billions of carbon-based life forms, of which we presume ourselves to be the most important, and a limited amount of resources.

The only systems we can afford to employ are those that rationally serve the planet first, then all humanity. Not out of some woolly, bullshit tree-hugging piffle but because we live on it, currently without alternatives.

- Russell Brand on wanting to start a revolution
Over the years you get to see what a struggle life is for most people, how tough it is, how easy it is to be judgmental and criticise and stand outside of situations and impart your wisdom and judgment. But over the decades I’ve got more tolerant of people’s flaws and mistakes. Everybody makes a lot of them. When you’re younger you feel: ‘Hey, this person is evil’ or ‘This person is a jerk’ or stupid or ‘What’s wrong with them?’ Then you go through life and you think: ‘Well, it’s not so easy.’ There’s a lot of mystery and suffering and complication. Everybody’s out there trying to do the best they can. And it’s not such an easy business.
- Woody Allen
I made it! In all seriousness, this is probably only the third of fourth US final I’ve made to the end so this os kind of a big deal. Credit probably goes to some unbelievable tennis from Rafa. Never been the biggest fan but he’s more than won me over with his performance at this tournament. I said there’s no point him playing hard court this season with those knees. Boy was I wrong. Sublime.

I made it! In all seriousness, this is probably only the third of fourth US final I’ve made to the end so this os kind of a big deal. Credit probably goes to some unbelievable tennis from Rafa. Never been the biggest fan but he’s more than won me over with his performance at this tournament. I said there’s no point him playing hard court this season with those knees. Boy was I wrong. Sublime.

And here’s the annual ‘late night, laying in bed watching your hero at The US Open’ photo post. My future wife better like tennis.

And here’s the annual ‘late night, laying in bed watching your hero at The US Open’ photo post. My future wife better like tennis.

Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything - or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance.
- Thomas Pynchon
Say what you want about him when he’s off it, but when on a cricket pitch, there are very few who deserve more plaudits than this man.

Say what you want about him when he’s off it, but when on a cricket pitch, there are very few who deserve more plaudits than this man.