This is my tennis story, which turned out to be not-so-brief. But I hope you enjoy it.
Twelve years ago I decided to attend all four tennis grand slam events the year I turned 40.
Which was this year.
When I set foot on Flushing Meadows on the first day of the US Open after having attended the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, I successfully achieved that goal.
I will never ever forget the experience, the people who supported me and the fantastic people that I met along the way.
This is the story of how my tennis fandom began.
Watching Pat Cash defeat Ivan Lendl in the 1987 Wimbledon final
I love watching tennis live, and on TV. My first clear memory of a match I loved watching on TV was when Pat Cash defeated Ivan Lendl to win Wimbledon in 1987.
In Australia the match ended in the wee small hours of a Monday morning. I had to go to school that day but I stayed up (with mum’s permission), as did millions of Australians, and I’ll always remember watching Pat win.
The victory was huge news in Australia. There was a federal election campaign underway to elect Australia’s next prime minister, and I remember seeing news that the current Prime Minister, Bob Hawk, stayed up to watch the match and it was great for his approval rating.
Going to Melbourne Park for the first time in 1989
In 1988 the Australian Open moved from being held at Kooyong to the current location of Melbourne Park.
At the time I was living about two hours from Melbourne so the next year, in 1989, I took a train with a friend to go to the Australian Open for the first time.
I remember how easy it was to come in via train to Flinders Street station, walk to Melbourne Park, buy a ticket and within a short period of time I was watching Stefan Edberg play live.
2000 – The grand slam plan begins
Since that first visit to the Australian Open in 1989 I’ve attended many live sessions and watched hundreds of hours on TV.
Now I never schedule non-tennis related activities during the last two weeks of January and the Australian Open is a “must-do” on my calendar. Every year my Christmas present to my mum and dad is Australian Open tickets and we spend a few top days in Hisense Arena.
In the year 2000 I had plans to meet friends in Gisborne, New Zealand, to be amongst the first people in the world to see the sun rise in the new millennium. I had been working in London and stopped in New Zealand on the way home. But then I arrived back in Australia without any plans for what to do next.
While I was deciding I watched some tennis on TV to pass the time.
I watched a lot of tennis.
Starting with the Hopman Cup and finishing with pretty much every session of the Australian Open that was shown on TV.
That was the year that I realised that the more tennis I watched, the more I loved it and the more I wanted to watch.
And that was the year that I decided that the year I turned 40 I would attend all four tennis grand slam events. At the time it seemed a long long way off so I had years to work out how I would make it happen.
2002 – Safin v Haas Australian Open Semi final
Lasting nearly 4.5 hours, this was the first really epic five set match that I saw live between two top players.
It was a hot night until a rain delay occurred when Haas was up at 2-1. The roof was closed so the match could continue, which changed the conditions and Safin came back to win 3-2. I really like Tommy Haas but as a huge Safin fan I was ecstatic about the turnaround.
This match fuelled my passion for watching great tennis live.
Since then I’ve bought tickets to a lot Australian Open men’s semi finals including Safin v Federer, Baghdatis v Nalbandian, Tsonga v Nadal and Djokovic v Murray.
2008 – Getting serious about the grand slam plan
In 2008 I had a job with a company that I really enjoyed but I had worked there for over four years so I decided it was time for a change.
At the time I was living in Melbourne and seeing Andrew (@Ballboy2012) who was living in London, waiting for his Australian work visa to come through.
I thought for a while about what I would like to do if I could do anything that I wanted.
I realised that I wanted to go to London to watch as much tennis as possible for a few months, including the French Open and Wimbledon. It seemed like a not-to-be-missed opportunity given that I could stay with Andrew at his place in London, and that would no longer be an option once he moved to Melbourne.
So that’s what I did.
We went to Paris, buying tickets at short notice for an early round of the French Open at a ridiculous price.
Unfortunately we also realised that Andrew is allergic to clay. Fortunately anti-histamines saved the day and we stayed together.
In 2008 the roof on Wimbledon’s Centre Court was under construction. I got an email alert from Wimbledon advising that some tickets in the back rows of Centre Court would be sold at 8pm each day for the next day’s play.
Given that I was in London I decided to get online and give it a shot. And that’s how we successfully bought tickets for Day 1 and Day 3.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was.
Perhaps not many people knew about the availability of online tickets that year. I can admit to feeling a little bit guilty thinking about how easy it was to get tickets, especially given how long people spend queuing.
Attending Wimbledon meant that I had been to three slams in 2008. I thought long and hard about trying to go to New York to complete the fan slam. But practicalities and the need to earn money took over so I returned to Melbourne to get a new job, determined to fulfil my quest to do the complete fan slam in 2012.
2009 – GrandSlamGal.com begins
In 2009 I started my own business helping small businesses with their online marketing. I learned a lot about blogging and decided to create my own blog about tennis. And so GrandSlamGal.com was born late in 2010 and here we are now, 270 articles later.
2012 – The fan slam year
This year has been unbelievable in so many ways.
For me, doing the fan slam combines tennis with:
- visiting four incredible cities
- taking photos
- writing about tennis
- and meeting awesome tennis peeps along the way.
So many people have been supportive in helping me achieve this goal and I will never, ever forget them, or the experience. I know I already said that but I truly appreciate the people helped make my fan slam happen.
I learned a lot this year, about the grand slam tennis tournaments and and about the cities where the tournaments are held. I really wish I known some of the things earlier.
And I’ve put as many tips as possible on this blog to help you if you’re planning to attend any of the tennis slams.
A lot of people have asked me if I’ll do the fan slam again. In future the answer is “yes” but it’s not practical in the short term.
My aim now is to go to the Australian Open and one overseas tournament each year. Hopefully in 2013 that tournament will be the World Tour Final in London. But for now, I’m looking forward to January, and enjoying all the Australian tournaments, particularly the Australian Open.
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