Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Viv's Spectator Slam, Part 1
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Viv's Spectator Slam, Part 1 09/29/2007 - 9:00 AM

[Hey everyone - I'm proud to announce that long-time Tribe member Viv completed the "Spectator Grand Slam" this year, managing to attend all four Grand Slam events in 2007. What follows is her first hand report of the first two legs of the trip. Unlike Rafael Nadal, she had no problems bagging the Australian Open, and unlike Roger Federer, Paris turned out to be a piece of cake. Part 2 will follow next week.  Feel free to use this entry as a Saturday match-calling and Crisis Center post. Well done, Viv - you're on the fast track to being named the TennisWorld GSOAT! Have a great weekend, everyone - Pete]

Tennis is, by far, my favourite sport. My first memories of watching it on television date back to age 7, when I watched Tracy Austin win the US Open in 1979. One year later, I followed the celebrated men’s singles final at Wimbledon. However, I knew little about the game until, immobilised in a plaster cast after surgery and with precious little else to do, I watched the entire fortnight’s action from Wimbledon in '85. From then on I was hooked!Viv

Fast forward to late last year. My mother was entertaining thoughts of going on a long-haul holiday during the winter, and asked if I would like to accompany her. We were considering various destinations when I suddenly had an idea and suggested we go to Melbourne. At first Mum looked puzzled, as if to say “Why Melbourne?” Then the penny dropped and she smiled knowingly.

We set out from a dark, cold and wintry Dublin to the home of the Australian Open. Being at the first day of the tournament reminded me a little of what it used be like being back at school, the first day after the holidays. With the resumption of competition following the short off-season, there was a distinct air of anticipation, excitement and expectation about the coming year - a sense of renewal. Matches and results from last year were already consigned to history and a new, fresh chapter was about to begin.

I was initially concerned that Mum, who does not follow tennis very closely, might get bored during the holiday. I need not have worried. She seemed to enjoy herself immensely, reading the official tournament magazine late into the night, expounding her opinion of several players (one of whom she met while shopping in the city centre). She also surprised me some evenings (like the time I was watching Roddick v. Safin) by turning up unexpectedly, armed with a grounds pass and bound for the outside courts.

I enjoyed the relaxed, fun, and friendly atmosphere at the Australian Open. One of my most memorable moments occurred on the second day of play, when the extreme heat policy was implemented. Never before had I experienced anything quite like that unrelenting heat – it felt like the sudden blast of air that hits you immediately on opening an extremely hot oven. We hung around the complex until late that night, clocking up something like thirteen hours on-site. That was the day that we watched what I thought was the most memorable match of all those we saw Down Under; the dramatic Rochus – Guccione encounter in which the Melbourne crowd tried its utmost to cheer its home favourite to victory.

Pete arrived on the second Monday of the tournament. He had mentioned at the blog that he was going to try to meet up with me. Unaccustomed to fraternizing with tennis writers, I thought this might prove quite tricky at such a huge event and thought it best to be on the alert. So I went along to one of the booths and hired a pair of binoculars (no, I am not a stalker). Naturally, it wasn’t as complicated as I had anticipated. But as I was scanning Laver arena looking for him, I didn’t realise that he was actually calling my mobile phone. In compliance with the umpire’s instructions, I had left it on silent mode in my bag. Luckily, I got his message a bit later on.

Not long after returning home, my thoughts increasingly drifted to Paris. Originally, I was not enamoured of claycourt tennis. I would watch it, but didn't not really enjoy it. I always associated it with interminably long rallies and immense frustration. Over the last ten years however, two factors made me change my attitude: Gustavo Kuerten and the predominance of the allcourt game. I had never been to Roland Garros and I found myself itching to go. Fortunately, I had a willing volunteer travel companion in my younger, Francophile sister, Jean. She stepped up and announced that she would gladly accompany me to the City of Light. After some last minute consternation when La Poste lost my registered-post ticket application, we took off for a three-day sojourn to the French capital.

We managed to fit quite a lot of tennis into a relatively short stay. We hopped on the navette (shuttle) that stopped near our hotel and soon found ourselves in the middle of a rather jostling crowd waiting to gain entry to the complex. The grounds of Roland Garros are wedge-shaped, with the No. 1 and Chatrier courts at one end and Court Suzanne Lenglen towards the opposite end. We were on Lenglen for our first day. The opening singles match featured two players destined to enjoy great success in ’07, Ana Ivanovic and Anna Chakvetadze. Mum’s friend, Mr. Baghdatis, was up next, followed by what turned out to be, as the French say, “le match choc du jour”: the blockbuster encounter between Novak Djokovic against Olivier Patience. This was another great example of an absolutely gripping "home-favourite-almost-beats-the-odds-against-a-top player" matches, reminiscent of the Guccione-Rochus match. 

We left feeling drained but exhilarated after that match and repaired to a restaurant across the street from our hotel. One of the waiters apologised to Jean for not having the beer she ordered and made a big ceremony of suggesting a suitable but unnamed alternative. After he finished his lengthy, descriptive monologue and uncovered the bottle, we laughed when we saw that what he was offering her was…… a Guinness.

We were a little more organized the next morning (i.e. I dragged myself out of bed faster than the previous morning) and set out earlier in an effort to beat the crowds. We did manage that, but only due to the kindness of an usher who allowed us go through the turnstiles ahead of a few thousand people!

The number of player sightings we made around Roland Garros amazed me. Returning to our seats on Chatrier after a break, we went through the corridor along Tribune B and it was almost like a Who’s Who of tennis. At one stage I, literally, bumped into Martina Hingis. Most surprisingly, this was not a restricted access area.

A visit to Paris would not have been complete without a notable dining experience.  On our last night of the trip, we went out to dinner to a beautifully converted former train station with TW's 2006 poster of the year, Mariej, and her sister. It was a special occasion: the first time I met any of my fellow Tennisworld readers. We were delighted to meet the girls and had a great evening with them.

We spent our final day wandering around the outside courts and watching some of the Nadal v. Hewitt fourth- round matchup on the giant screen at Place des Mousquetaires. Marie, her sister, their Dad and Pete all joined us for coffee between matches. Sadly, it was soon time for us to leave for the airport. We had a frightening transfer journey in which the driver and our two fellow passengers were at each other’s throats arguing which was the best route to take. I was utterly convinced that we were going to crash -  such was the speed at which we were going and the erratic nature of the driving. I was very glad to get home in one piece.

Having been to two of this year’s Slams, I was determined that the adventure should not stop there. . .

To be continued. . .

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Posted by tina 09/29/2007 at 09:38 AM

Oh, Viv - quelle jalousie totale! I've been to three of the four, USO countless times and Wimbledon twice - but every year when I watch the Australian, I think "Man, I gotta get to that one - it's summer down under!" Anything to chase sunshine.... Ok, 2008 is out for my own spectator slam, but I'll be your "competition" in 2009, I swear!

Been singing loads of Irish songs lately - I'm on a real "Tri-Colour Ribbon" jag. And of course, "Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free" from The Fields of Athenry.

At Wimbledon in 1996, I spotted Sampras walking around "backstage" with his bags and whatnot, followed by agents, etc. None of the players bothered to look in his direction, I had to laugh.

Posted by Schwab 09/29/2007 at 09:41 AM

First semi in Luxembourg is over where Hantuchova had double digit aces and a lot of winners against Bartoli. When Marion broke Dani to get back into each at 3-2, Dani steps her game up and closes out each sets(and match) at 2. Dani did a lot of drop shots in the first set with success but it got her in trouble when she was up 3-1 in set 1. In set 2, Marion broke Dani again to close within 3-2 with precise shotmaking but when Dani broke her, Marion was deflated and did not threaten Dani again.

Congrats Viv for winning the calendar Grand Slam.

Posted by Tari 09/29/2007 at 09:58 AM

Hello, Viv! What a gorgeous pic of you on Rue Vivienne! :)

This was a joy to read...I smiled all the way through. Your Mom is incredible! And of course, Jean is too. She's so sweet. What great memories...I'm envious too, of course. Can't wait to read more...

Posted by fl 09/29/2007 at 10:46 AM

Great post! Am looking forward to part2.

you are so lucky! being a medical student, which means a complete dearth of holidays, i've only ever managed to squeeze out time for a couple of round-2 singles matches at roland garros.

Posted by temes 09/29/2007 at 10:58 AM

No need to brag. Hmph.

Posted by Schwab 09/29/2007 at 11:43 AM

Well, Ivanovic closed out Zvonareva at 4 and 2. Vera and Ana held their serve the entire first set until Ana executed a break at the end of the first set with her main weapon, the FH. Once Ana broke Vera, 2nd set was only a matter of time before Ana wrapped it up. Will be back with my prediction once the singles at Mumbai is over .

Posted by GSte 09/29/2007 at 11:45 AM

Great post Viv! Congrats on seeing all 4 slams! That's quite a feat!

Schwab, I didn't see the Hantuchova/Bartoli match, but I think of the top players, Bartoli is the easiest to ace/hit winners against. Since she plays with 2 hands on both sides, is not very tall or fast, I think she'll lose more often than not to big hitters indoors. I think Ivanovic should beat Hantuchova in straight sets in the final.

Posted by JR 09/29/2007 at 12:17 PM

Great food for thought, and dreams!I hope you’ll conclude with some practical tips for each slam. Can you just show up and buy tickets for each day’s session? Are tickets sold for a particular court? Which courts were your favorites? What is the situation for practice court viewing? Etc, etc.

Posted by Schwab 09/29/2007 at 12:28 PM

Sunday predictions:

Mumbai - Gasquet in 2 over O Rochus
Bangkok - Tursunov in 2 over Becker

Luxembourg - Ivanovic in 2 over Hantuchova
Guangzhou - Razzano in 3 over Obziler
Seoul - V Williams in 3 over Kirilenko

Posted by abbey 09/29/2007 at 12:30 PM

viv, i'm sure everyone here at tw's dying of envy right now.

and you're right, why stop at two? can't wait to read the final installment.

congrats, on your slam!

Posted by AmyLu 09/29/2007 at 12:32 PM

Viv, thanks for sharing! I'm incredibly jealous, but I enjoy experiencing all the Slams vicariously through you. :-)

Posted by Ruth 09/29/2007 at 12:46 PM

What a wonderful experience your tennis year has been! It was great to meet and chat with you and Jean in NYC...and you didn't seem a bit tired after having just completed the last portion of your Spectator Slam. :)

Posted by Ruth 09/29/2007 at 12:50 PM

The semis in Korea have been over for hours, and Venus, who has been dominating in her matches, will meet Kirilenko in the final.

Posted by RedClaw 09/29/2007 at 01:23 PM

More, more! Yay! Mmm.
Definitely jealous, but it's a lot of fun to read about.

Posted by roGER 09/29/2007 at 03:00 PM

Great article - thanks!

I've managed to visit three of the slams so far, although my hatred of long haul flights means I'm unlikely to ever savor the Australian Open, which is a pity.

Of the three, Wimbledon is still my fave, closely followed by the French. Sadly I found the US Open by far the worst, mainly because the fans seemed so clueless and the venue is so ugly (sorry tribe, nothing personal).

Like you I'm amazed at how accessible tennis stars are compared to comparable sports.

A treasured Wimbledon memory from 1987 is of Gabriella Sabatini apologetically pushing past me outside Court 3 with a focused looking Steffi Graf a pace behind her. They were on their way to a doubles match which we were able to enjoy a few minutes later.

Looking forward to part 2.

Posted by Servesmasher 09/29/2007 at 03:04 PM

Great post...I have a close relative who has been to all the slams except Australia. We are hoping to go sometime in the future. But this post was awesome though...this is why so many people love tennis!

Posted by beth 09/29/2007 at 03:06 PM

Viv - you lucky woman!
Your trips sound fantastic - and I loved reading about them!

Posted by Sam 09/29/2007 at 03:43 PM

Viv: Great piece - thanks for sharing!

GSte: Agree with your thoughts on Bartoli. I think she is susceptible to big hitters on any fast surface.

Posted by marieJ 09/29/2007 at 07:26 PM

viv and jean, i feel so guilty for not writing you since RG :(
when RG came along i was so excited, not only because of the great matches coming along but to get to see some tribe members, like viv and her sister and also pete and rosia.
we had plenty of nice chats and coffee breaks !
i wish i could go for a calendar travel slam like viv, but for the moment i'm just planning to go to bercy if mr rafael nadal grants me the favor to come to paris again this year...
i feel very lucky to have met so many tribe members without even travelling somewhere : everyone came to paris ! including ptenis last year ! what ? yeah, i know it's my turn to make a move, got it ;)
i'm thinking seriously to trade tickets from one slam to another : 2 1/4F from the FO for the same at the uso or wimby, paying the difference of the fare ticket if needed, RG is quite affordable ;)
next april be ready for the slam auction at TW ;)

ok, bed and pillow are waiting for a sleeping hug ;)

Posted by CL 09/29/2007 at 09:21 PM

RoGER - what a great memory!

Viv...I am so envious - but in a good way. :-)

Posted by Heidi 09/29/2007 at 09:31 PM

How wonderful! Don't forget to tell us at the end, Viv, whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing or whether you are now determined to do it over and over again.

Love the story of you bumping into Hingis. Imagine if she had had to pull out with an injury... wouldn't you always have wondered just a little if that was because of your collision?

Posted by kingandre 09/30/2007 at 01:51 AM

I had been to the bombay open matches yesterday. I saw the 2 semifinals that took place. I expected Santoro to give Gasquet a good fight but on this day Gasquet was just too good. I enjoyed watching gasquet.My aunt was amazed at seeing santoros game though. Gasquet really hits his b/h with stunning pace. Forehands were all loopy unless given a short ball. The earlier semis was between schuettler and rochus. This was a much more even match. Schuettler took the early lead in the first set on the back of some brilliant groundstrokes ,then rochus started wearing him down playing slices from his backhand. The momentum of the game completely shifted.Schuettler started missing many more inside out shots and rochus was much more consistent in the end. Rainer played brilliant angles though.Some of the shots drew a collective gasp. Brilliant tennis. I was a little sad that both of them had denied me watching hewitt play keifer but the match was decent quality.Then there is todays finals to look out for.Gasquet playing rochus .And rohan/aisam playing lindsedt/neiminen. The courts are brilliant.Stand is makeshift with trees all around.brilliant experience.Will send a bigger post once i get back to chennia

Posted by 09/30/2007 at 02:27 AM

Nieminen was in a food court yesterday.He looked very relaxed and friendly. Tennis players are very sociable.Some time back in chennai when i was a lot younger i saw chela practising in the outside courts. I went out and asked him for a photograph. He asked his hitting partner to take a photograph of ours and he gave a beaming smile when the photo was taken.It felt so good. Canas was also very pleasant.Nadal was most friendly.Last year in chennai he was a huge hit with the fans.Always playing soccer with his friend vidal and andreev.He was such a kid himself.Enjoying himself.I have been to live matches of quite a few sports but nothing compares to tennis.I felt taking the flight down from chennai was worth it the moment i entered the stadium.Now like the 4 slams i am one short of completing the indian slam.Kolkatta open is the only one left.The grand slams will have to wait for some time i guess.

Posted by temes 09/30/2007 at 08:10 AM

Schwab, seems you were right. Venus has beaten Maria K in three sets to win Seoul. Yey Venus!

Posted by Schwab 09/30/2007 at 08:19 AM

On to Tokyo for Venus with title in hand. Razzano won her first career WTA title in China today.

Posted by Nath 09/30/2007 at 09:12 AM

But it seems that Anna is in trouble now, what was your prediction - straight sets?

Posted by Mayor ghouliani 09/30/2007 at 09:32 AM

My poor dear Ana is getting taken to the woodshed by Olive Oyl
Will Dani get her 3rd career title today? This could be a turning point in her career

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 09/30/2007 at 09:35 AM

I swear this is the worst match I have ever seen Ana play since her debacle at the FO. Forgive me but Daniela needs to put on a little weight. That outfit that she on just shows up how skinny she is. Olive Oyl is right. Gawd.

Posted by Nath 09/30/2007 at 09:37 AM

Actually, it will be straight sets but other way around. What a pity!

Posted by Nath 09/30/2007 at 09:38 AM

Yummy Prince - where are you watching this match, what channel I mean??

Posted by Mayor ghouliani 09/30/2007 at 09:39 AM

Did anyone see Venus in those fancy duds she had to wear for the trophy ceremony? check it out here.
both players were required to wear them after the match

Posted by Mayor ghouliani 09/30/2007 at 09:44 AM

she's one athletic beanpole

She is the 'ANTISERENA'

Posted by temes 09/30/2007 at 09:48 AM

I think Ana is a better player than antiserena so she should win, something is wrong with her obviously.

Posted by temes 09/30/2007 at 09:52 AM

Seems Ana is finding her level. 3-3

Posted by Nath 09/30/2007 at 09:54 AM

Yess! She is back - 3:3 second set, she is not done yet. I wish I could watch it and not just follow the live score. But it is all about rugby today on sport channels in UK, or about cycling.

Posted by Mayor ghouliani 09/30/2007 at 10:02 AM

Ana seems to have a case of finalitis
the symptoms are : heavy feet, knocking knees, sweaty palms , unfocused vision, pouting, heart palpitations,racket flinging,nervous twitches,floating ball toss, and 'Montezuma's Revenge'...not to mention ;severe dropsy, tipsy and flopsy

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 09/30/2007 at 10:08 AM

The Tennis Channel - sorry was away from computer preparing breakfast

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 09/30/2007 at 10:13 AM

and she takes the second set 6-4 after being down 15-40 on her serve. she served a second serve out wide which sort of cramped Olive Oyl. Very good mental game.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 09/30/2007 at 10:16 AM

Someone needs to tell Barry Mackay to stop repeating the linespeople match calls - every time someone scores an ace, he says ace, every time there is an out call, he says that was out, every time there is a fault, he says fault. It is like he feels the need to repeat every single match call. Very irritating. And he, like every male commentator seems to think that Sharapova is the initiator of all things tennis. He stated earlier in the match that yes folks that is not Sharapova that you are looking at, that is Daniela Hantuchova. Same long legged tennis player but different person. I was like no he did not. Very irritating indivdidual

Posted by Nath 09/30/2007 at 10:25 AM

I cannot see the match - how is she now? Did she recover from the "case of finalitis"?

Posted by Schwab 09/30/2007 at 11:20 AM

Well, Ana overcame the "case of finalitis" winning the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Ana rallied from 3-love in set 2. When the score was 3-1 in set 2, Dani was serving but Ana hit 3 winners up the line and on 15-40, Ana hit a shot that was too low for Dani to handle at the net. In the 3rd set, Ana was serving (3 all, I believe) and appeared to hit a cross court volley out which would have made the score 0-30 but the chair ump overruled it and made the score 15-15 and Ana was able to hold serve from there. In Dani's next service game, the chair ump correctly overruled a ball that Dani hit out but the linesperson did not make a call. Too bad that Dani had a foot blister at 4-3 Ana in the 3rd.
Today is Ana's 3rd title for 2007 (Berlin, LA,, Luxembourg).

Posted by Ruth 09/30/2007 at 01:13 PM

YPF/Karen: The great job that Chanda Rubin has been doing alongside McKay mades it possible for me to accept or overlook those quirks of his that you mentioned. I haven't heard and enjoyed that former-player-perspective that Rubin is giving in her commentary as much since I last heard Navratilova doing the commentary for a match.

Posted by Codge 09/30/2007 at 01:30 PM

Viv -I'm a bit late, but thanks for sharing...
I truly enjoyed this post. Sounds like your Mum and sister know how to enjoy life.
Cleary you don't need to be an avid fan to enjpy the sport and the atmosphere.

I ran into a mother-daughter team at the US Open who were completing their grand slam as well.

Although they were fortunate enought to watch some of the most talked about matches of the year, it was clear the shared experience made the year especially grand for them.

Posted by Schwab 09/30/2007 at 04:47 PM

Agree with you that Chanda does a great job analyzing the matches. It was a joy to watch the semis and finals hearing her perspective on her experiences as a player.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 09/30/2007 at 06:20 PM

Ruth: Sorry about the delay in responding. Makes note to get second computer in house. Son doing assignments so hard to get on, but yes on Chanda doing commentary. Very analytical and I like how she corrects Barry without appear to do so.

Posted by FoT 09/30/2007 at 06:26 PM

Congratulations to Venus for her win! Yippy!!!

Posted by Ruth 10/01/2007 at 09:33 AM

I saw in the TTC schedule that this week they'll be showing at least one of the Lindsay matches from Bali. I'm counting on TTC to give us more live matches (and less of two-showings-in-one-day of the Natalie Dechy profile) as soon as their financial position stabilizes.

As long as I'm not hearing that the investors are rolling in dough while skimping on spending for live programming, I'm willing to be patient for a while longer as the network "grows" its base via moves like the recent arrangement with DirecTV etc.

And how about the new ad with Serena for that skin product? There's some video of her running on the beach that is just made for temes and my sons. :)

Posted by Snoo Foo 10/01/2007 at 10:43 AM

VIV! Well worth the wait! I can't wait for the next installment, although I may have to. I especially liked the part about the Sister Jean and the beer, cuz I really like Sister Jean, and beer. I'm going to call dear Marcos "Mr. Baghdatis" from now on, or at least until the thrill wears off. Cuz it's funny and it also kind of sounds like Mr. Bojangles.

Posted by harini 10/01/2007 at 12:32 PM

Viv, you've accomplished in a year what I want to do in my lifetime :) You give me hope that I can do the same one day haha.
That was great to read and it looks like you had a fantastic time!

I haven't been here in a good while. Life took over. I have to say I'm excited about the Davis Cup final! And I'm glad Tim Henman and the Brits won and have clinched a spot in the World Group. I'm going to miss Tim.

And hurrah for Gasquet and Tursunov! I hope Reeshie picks up his game and gets better in '08. I'm still hoping Federer will get the Year Slam, but well, I guess we shall see.

Posted by vanfan 10/02/2007 at 10:57 AM

Viv! A wonderful, thrilling read. And there is a part two.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

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