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Andy's Australian Open Column 4 - The Melbourne Age
Ever since I first came here, I’ve always had great support in Melbourne. This year, I’ve got even more now that Alice Springs is backing me. It is all part of an initiative started by the tournament: they have teamed up all the players with different towns and cities around Australia – and Alice Springs is my city.
I didn’t actually know where the place was and then when someone told me that the temperatures there can average 50 degrees, I thought that sounded pretty brutal. I don’t think I will be going there for a while, not after all the heat we have had in Melbourne this last week. But I met some kids from there who came to the tennis the other day and they seemed to really enjoy themselves. Apparently, the local cinema in Alice Springs will show the semi-finals and finals so everyone can watch me if I get that far. I think that’s a great idea.
The crowds at each of the slams is different. I’d say here, in the evenings a lot of people have had quite a few drinks so they say funny stuff when you’re on the court and they create a good atmosphere. There is no music or anything at the change of ends so if you have people chanting and singing and stuff, you can really hear it all.
There are people from all over the world who come here. The Serbians make loads of noise and they always come out and obviously support Novak. There’s a lot of Brits; there’s people from all over the world come to watch here. Most players, especially the further you go in the tournament, will get pretty good support which is really nice.
At the French Open – they’re a tough crowd. If they like you, they’ll get behind you but if you throw your racket then they don’t like you and they’ll whistle and boo you, even if you’re from France. They’re tough and they like good etiquette on the court. I’ve been booed quite a few times as I have a decent record against the French guys.
Wimbledon is, I would say, the quietest of the slams, particularly during the points. You literally hear no sound at all. But, then, the noise on Centre Court is completely different to all the other slams; it has a different feeling. It’s special because that noise you only hear at Wimbledon, you don’t hear it at any of the other tournaments, not even the events outside of the slams. It’s a different atmosphere. It’s like all of the focus is on the court.
The US Open is kind of like a concert, really. There’s loads of noise, there’s distractions, there’s videos going up on the big screen and they’re always zooming in on famous people and whatnot. The people are going nuts and dancing and all sorts. So it’s more of a show, really.
Here, there’s a group of four guys who come to most of my matches. They came the first year I played and since then, we just always sorted them out with tickets because they seemed like they were pretty passionate and creative. They came up with some funny songs and they obviously enjoy it so we’ve been helping them out with tickets for the past six or seven years.
Most of the songs over the last few years have been the same so when I’m playing, I hear them start each song but I don’t really hear the end of them. I think they need some new material because they’ve been using the same songs for a while, so I’ll be waiting for them…..
I’ve heard that this year there is a guy who dresses up in a kilt and plays the bagpipes down by the river on the days I’m playing. He even has a cardboard cut-out of me standing beside him. He’s Australian and he says he likes me and he likes the bagpipes so that’s why he does it. I love bagpipes as well. I wonder if he’s allowed to take his bagpipes into the ground if he comes to the tennis?
I always try and sign as many autographs as I can for the fans because I remember what it was like when I was a kid, going to Wimbledon and wanting to get autographs from the top players. But a lot of people ask you to sign their skin, like their neck or arm and stuff – a little strange but each to their own.
Sometimes you get a few presents from fans and the weirdest ones are when I’m in China, Shanghai specifically. Once I was given some “Angry Birds” costumes, ones made for dogs, to take home with me (I’ve got two dogs). Another time someone gave me a pair of tiny, tight pants. Like, underpants, but extra small. You’ll be happy to know I haven’t worn them!