When I was little I thought I wanted to be a tennis player. It seemed like the perfect profession, and it still does; you travel the world, play tennis, get sponsored by Nike and wear great tennis skirts with built in bloomers, custom sweatbands and slick pony tails, play tennis, get given new rackets all the time, play tennis.
My mum used to let me stay up late and watch the five-setters during the summer holidays as the games continued well into the early morning, and I couldn’t believe how late it would be as we watched Andre Agassi take over on the court. Jim Courier was always my favourite though.
My own tennis career didn’t go too far, I had a fleeting moment in the 12th pair on the tennis team in high school, flanked by a seriously clumsy partner. But nowadays, if there is one sport that I love watching it’s the tennis – the boys on the court in particular. I must admit, I am not an avid sporting spectator usually, but I love the tennis. There is so much visual allure in the game, it's hard and fast, and it extends beyond the court.
As such, I have recently reclaimed tennis as a social sport, spurred on (no doubt) by this pending international competition that graces our city every January. The Australian Open starts today and for two weeks Melbourne Park plays host to a competition of ball and racket that originated centuries ago, in a land where the courts are too icy to play at this time of year.
Every day for the next 14, around 60,000 people will attend the tennis. They will drink litres of water and beer, and eat an exorbitant number of ice creams, enjoying themselves while they battle the heat and the crowds to get a piece of the action up close.
The players will hit thousands of fresh new tennis balls (around 5000), which 300 ball boys and girls will chase, some of which will have been served at over 200 kilometres an hour. There will be disputes at decisions made by international umpires and the hawk-eye system as players battle for over US$1,197,739 in winning prize money.
And then, at the end of the two weeks, they will pack everything up and move on to the next city on the tour schedule.
But for those of you who will feel a little lost without tennis in the wake of tournament’s end, do not dismay, for there are a bunch of courts dotted across Melbourne where you can play your own game. Check out some of the local clubs nearby:
Fitzroy Tennis Club
Brunswick Street/St Georges Road, North Fitzroy
(03) 9482 3269
Within the idyllic setting of the Edinburgh Gardens – next to the bowls club, the North Fitzroy Courts are ontecar, so beware of red shoes and socks. There are eight courts here.
Court Hire: $20 per hour.
Carlton Gardens Tennis Club
11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
(03) 9663 7000
One of the cities oldest and most charming tennis clubs, situated in amongst a towering canopy of the Carlton Garden’s elm trees. There are four hard courts here.
Court Hire: $20 per hour.
Powlett Reserve Tennis Centre
Corner Albert and Simpson Street, East Melbourne
(03) 9417 6511
Offering court hire seven days a week, these flood-lit, synthetic courts are ideal for a wind-down match between friends after a hectic day at the office. Formerly the East Melbourne Tennis Centre, there are five courts for hire.
Court Hire: Starts at $22 per hour.
Kooyong Tennis Courts
489 Glenferrie Road, Kooyong
(03) 9822 3333
One of the oldest and most historic tennis venues in Melbourne (also one of the largest), ' The Spiritual Home of Tennis' - Kooyong is a must for those embracing their inner Agassi. 26 grass and 23 hard courts with hire reserved for members.
Fawkner Park Tennis Centre
65 Toorak Road West, South Yarra
(03) 9820 0611
Adjacent to South Yarra's scenic Fawkner Park you'll find the iconic Fawkner Park Tennis Centre. Accessible by tram 3, 5, 6, 16 or 72, there's six synthetic, flood lit grass courts for you to choose from.
Court Hire: Starts at $26 per hour.