When Andy Gets the Memo

The last time I wrote a blog post, Andy had made it as far as the 4th round of Roland-Garros which, given his past run of form, was already pretty good in my eyes. ‘If only he can get to a round that has the word ‘final’ in it’, I thought, ‘that will give him a boost of confidence and shoosh the haters’. I was also trying to not get ahead of myself, and think that I’d get to see him when I ventured across to Paris for the semis. I didn’t want to be disappointed again.

Clearly, Andy was out for more than a wee ‘boost’. After winning his 4th round in straight sets against Russian Khachanov, he battled his way through a quarter-final against Kei Nishikori, a match I feared because of their previous encounter at the quarter-finals of the 2016 US Open, where Kei had knocked Andy out in an epic 5-setter. It wasn’t to be for Kei this time round though; the Murray-MacArthur forces were against him. Andy had got the memo; it was time for him to hang out with CatMac at a grand slam!

I mean, I hope I get to see him closer than this at some point in my life but for a semi-final at one of the four biggest tennis tournaments of the year, I can’t complain!

Andy came into the semi-final in almost miraculous fashion. His tennis hadn’t been that great, but he’d somehow found a way to frustrate and overcome his opponents. However, in the semi-final, he was up against seed number 3, Stan the Man from Switzerland, who had seemingly strolled into the semis on his favourite surface. I feared the worst. I was even more distressed when, at security, I had my Scottish flag taken off me. ‘But how is Andy going to know I’m there?’, I voiced to Viv, wishing I hadn’t worn it in patriotic fashion on the metro across Paris. Top tip for Roland Garros: hide your flags/take small flags/dress as a flag. I’m convinced my lack of flag affected the outcome.

Back to the match, Andy defied all odds and played some of his best tennis of 2017. He won the first and third sets and at one point, Viv whispered, ‘He might actually do this’, echoing the thoughts I was too scared to voice out loud. But again, Andy got the memo. He knew I didn’t have final tickets so rather than me being disappointed at missing an Andy-final, he decided to play really well in the semis and then take a bow out of the tournament. Ha, or not. Given the tennis that was played over the whole tournament, Stan earned the win, but Andy deserves so much credit for his persistence and determination. How on earth does a player have such a bad warm-up clay season, yet still get to the semi-final, and almost the final of a grand slam? That’s the number one player in the world, for you!

When Roland-Garros Is On ITV4

Somehow February turned into June and Roland-Garros, the second grand slam tournament of the tour, and finale of the clay season, is in full swing. Though it’s been a few months since the last grand slam took place in Australia, various tennis-themed headlines have distracted me from the grand slam drought:

(1) On 22 March, an hour long online queue led to me successfully acquiring tickets for the semi finals of Roland-Garros (was very late to work that day);
(2) A letter arrived through the post from Wimbledon in mid-March to say I’d been successful in the ballot, on my first attempt (March was an exciting month);
(3) My friend Sara took me to the Wimbledon Tour and Museum for my birthday one sunny Saturday afternoon in April (such a joy when Andy Murray is the current champion);
(4) The Great British Tennis Weekend in May saw me discover my local tennis club and start a beginners course (we weren’t taught tennis at school in Inverness, very deprived);
(5) Last week, I booked my flights to the US/Canada for my US Open tennis adventure in September (this birthday keeps on giving!);
(6) And of course there’s always my favourite Google search: Andy Murray. No jokes, my phone has decided, without prompt, to make this a favourite on my Safari homepage. It’s important to find out what the world is saying about my favourite player. Shingles? Oh no. Elbow injury? How unfortunate. 30?

Happy birthday, Andy!


It’s fair to say it’s not been the best season for Andy so far but it’s made me so happy to watch him fight through the opening rounds of Roland-Garros, and even more delighted that this viewing hasn’t been through refreshing an online newsfeed, as I had anticipated, but through live coverage, courtesy of ITV4. Who actually knew? Has this always been the case? Have I been depriving myself of the pinnacle of the clay season year after year? Thank goodness I discovered in time this year! In all seriousness, it’s like Christmas came early. Every day this week, I’ve been in work early, to leave early, to get home as soon as possible and dive my face in front of my laptop screen. I want to watch as much of this tournament as I can.

 


I’d originally considered visiting Paris twice during this tournament, to experience both the early rounds and the finals, and to ensure I actually saw Andy play (remember that time I went to Australia?…). However, work constraints meant this wasn’t possible, and with an American adventure still to finance, it was probably for the best. Instead, I focused my efforts on getting finals tickets and when tickets went on sale on 22 March, I successfully managed to get myself 7000th-odd in the RG online queue for tickets. Unfortunately, the final was sold out by the time the 7000 people in front of me had finished their online shopping, so instead I opted to get tickets for the two men’s semi-finals. Two matches for the price of one? Sounds like a good deal to me. Read more about my experiences of getting tickets for the grand slams here.

Viv, a friend from Japan, is joining me for the Parisian adventure which will see us hit up Roland-Garros in the flesh on Friday, go for a cheeky Parkrun on the Saturday morning and then hopefully, if I haven’t made up that this exists, watch the final on a big screen by the Eiffel Tower on Sunday. Only two rounds stand between me and an Andy Murray semi final – fingers crossed he gets the memo this time round!

The Wimbledon Tour

“Winning Wimbledon is the pinnacle of tennis,” Andy Murray had said shortly after winning his first Wimbledon title, 77 years after the last British man had achieved the same accolade. As a fan, and a UK fan at that, it’s no surprise that Wimbledon is held in the same high esteem by me as it is by my favourite tennis player. I re-watch the 2013 and 2016 finals on a regular basis in a way that I have never done for the 2012 US Open final or either of the Olympic titles that Andy has won. It’s all about Wimbledon. Given my adoration of the tournament, you can imagine my delight when Sara, a long-term friend from university, presented me with an envelope which contained ticket confirmation for a tour of the Wimbledon grounds and museum entrance. My favourite place in London? Today?

Is Andy coming, too?


“It’s funny,” I voiced out loud as we walked towards the Wimbledon grounds, on one of the sunniest days of the year so far, “This is one of my favourite places in the world, yet I only come here once a year.” Until I gain my Wimbledon member status, it’s unlikely that my visit stats will be changing much, though I do plan to double my record by attending the tennis twice this year. With my tour of the grounds now behind me, that brings me up to a projected total of three visits for 2017!

Some have asked if it is worth doing the tour/going to the museum if you’ve been to Wimbledon as a spectator. Or is it just for the tourists who poorly plan their London holidays to fall outside the 2-week window of the tournament? I’d say: if you love Wimbledon, and you love tennis, you’ll love this.

 

The Tour

On the 1.5 hour tour you spend time in the broadcasting house where you are taken to the BBC studio, i.e. where Sue Barker chats tennis and interviews players every day of the tournament. You’re taken to the main interview room where players are obliged to be interviewed after their matches, regardless of whether they won or lost, and you have a chance to sit on the interviewee seats and see how it feels. You also get to see where the players enter the grounds, and walk around other VIP parts of the grounds which you wouldn’t have access to as a regular punter. And the final treat? A visit to where all the tears and joy have surfaced: centre court!

There were a lot of fun facts on this tour and I came out of it feeling like quite the Wimbledon expert; I plan to voice them loudly when I’m in the queue in July so people give me tennis respect. If you intend to do the tour in the future, maybe skip forward to my museum spiel so I don’t spoil the learning process for you!

Cat’s fav facts. Did you know…

(1) Wimbledon, as we know it, started in a different location down the road, and as a croquet club. It was only in 1877 that the name changed to include (lawn) tennis, and then only in 1899 that tennis became the primary sport in the name. This is the name it has retained ever since: The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Frightfully posh.

(2) The grass is kinda a big deal. It basically takes all year to cut it back, germinate it, cut it back, let it grow, cut it back. This grass is nothing less than perfect for Andy and friends!

(3) Last year, there were 5 million hacking attempts on the Wimbledon website. Like, why? Guys, you can’t stop Andy Murray from winning Wimbledon by hacking the website.

(4) The BBC studio is one of 18 broadcasting studios in the broadcasting house, and the broadcasting partnership between the BBC and Wimbledon has been running since 1927, making it the longest broadcasting partnership ever. Wowee. Just as well though, I would cry if the BBC lost broadcasting rights; Wimbledon is nothing without Sue Barker.

(5) It only costs £95 to become a member at Wimbledon  – bargain! All you need on top of that is three letters of recommendation from current members, or be a Wimbledon champion, or be heir to the throne. So obviously I’m about to become a member any day now.

(6) Tim Henman was asked last year how he’d feel about Henman Hill being renamed Murray Mound. Tim said straight-up, no: “If Andy’s going to win grand slams, I’m going to keep my hill.” Or words to that effect. I end up calling it both so people have no doubt what I’m talking about. “Shall we go to Henman Hill/Murray Mound?” This is definitely a long-term practical answer.

(7) Since 1887, there have only been six Wimbledon tournaments where it hasn’t rained at some point in the tournament. 2010 was the most recent year for this. Let’s hope 2017 follows suit!

(8) Mind that time Andy won Wimbledon in 2013 for the first time and he jumped up into his box to hug his coaches, and Kim, and then he forgot his Mum? Good times. Well turns out that’s a tradition that harks back to 1987 when Australian Pat Cash won Wimbledon and shocked everyone by clambering over seats to celebrate with the people he loves. It’s not obligatory, mind. Last year, Andy was so overcome with emotion that he just sat down to take it in, and even his pal Djokovic decided to eat a blade of grass when he won. I mean, each to their own.

 

The Museum
The museum is an incredible historical resource, telling the story not just of Wimbledon but of tennis in general, and how it has evolved over the years. I’d say it’s up there with the Parlamentarium in Brussels as being one of my favourite museums of all time (those of you who were with me in Brussels know this is high praise!). You can pick up a headset from the shop upstairs or you can choose to tour the museum without – I’d suggest you pick one up and then and choose what you’d like to listen to. The museum is very interactive, you can test your tennis knowledge (go to the museum after you’ve done the tour of the grounds if you want to feel smart!) and about halfway round, there is the coolest virtual reality experience ever where you’re transported to various venues within Wimbledon and given 360 degree vision thanks to some snazzy camera work they did last year. The highlight of the museum, for sure!

In conclusion, this is a must for all tennis-loving, Wimbledon-loving fans. And pre: Wimbledon 2017 is the perfect time to visit – because it’s all about Andy!

You can buy individual tickets for admission into the museum, or you can buy a combined ticket for museum admission and a tour of the grounds. There are no tours between mid-June and mid-July. The museum remains open in the lead-up to the tournament and is open to ticket-holders during the tournament. A few days after the tournament has ended the museum opens again. Check out the Wimbledon website for everything you need to know!

A Postcard from Melbourne

Hello from Down Under! This is your favourite daughter writing. Somehow I failed to buy a postcard during my time in Australia so I thought I’d send you an alternative: a blog-shaped postcard. Mum, I know you’ve signed up to this blog meaning you’ll get an e-mail alert, so it’s almost like it’s being delivered directly to you… it’s just the rest of the world can read it too. Please inform Dad. And feel free to print this post out and stick it on the fridge alongside Kenneth’s boring conventional postcards.

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So, how was Australia? Aw, I’m glad you asked. The night I arrived in Melbourne, I wrote that blog post about how it didn’t matter that Andy Murray had gone out of the Australian Open because there were so many other things to look forward to on my trip. I think part of me was just saying that because that was the grown-up, mature approach to take. But my mature sensibilities were right: I had such a good trip!

My Airbnb hosts were very cool. On the first day I arrived, Phil said he’d show me round the area. I envisioned a walk around the neighbourhood for like, 10 minutes. No, no. We got into his BMW and he drove me around the city centre of Melbourne, showing me where the tennis was taking place, pointing out cafés, and then he drove me across the West Gate Bridge (a sizeable bridge) so we could cross back again and I could see the cityscape of Melbourne! Almost every evening, I’d come home and watch the tennis with Phil and/or his wife Lucy. It was random in the sense that I don’t usually expect to hang out so much with my Airbnb hosts but I loved having the company, especially on the days when I wasn’t meeting up with anyone else.

Speaking of other people, I met up with my friend Beni, who worked with me at Chevening in London, and we went to the tennis on the Tuesday. Such a different experience from Wimbledon! No queuing required – we literally rocked up at 11.30am and strolled on in. We watched a number of doubles matches on the smaller courts and then other matches on the numerous screens that are dotted around the grounds. I was impressed with the Australian Open in general – the (lack of) queue, the facilities, the screenage, the additional entertainment in the grounds  – they do everything very well.

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I also met up with Mairi for an afternoon in St Kilda. Mairi’s been here on the working holiday visa for the last year and is loving life. Moving to Australia did cross my mind during my week in Melbourne – I like the idea of living abroad again and apparently I have until my 31st birthday to apply for the working holiday visa! However, you’ll be reassured to know that your favourite daughter is probably too lazy to pursue this. Also, that journey is just way too long.

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I had some of the best brunches of my life in Melbourne. Check out this smoothie bowl I had at Matcha Mylkbar, an uber hipster café in St Kilda. I copied the description from the menu because I wanted to remember it forever: Amazebowl of matcha and coconut, avocado, spinach, coconut oil, coconut mil, strawberry, banana, coconut shavings, lime and coconut granola. Delish.

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You would have both loved the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. I wandered through them to get to the Shrine of Remembrance, in the south of the city, built as a memorial to those who fought in the first world war. The weather was just perfect and I seemed to have the gardens to myself. I’ve never really been that excited about botanic gardens in cities before but this visit really sold it to me.

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I’d been told by multiple people to try to get out to the Great Ocean Road while I was in Melbourne. Always keen to get out of the city, I scoured multiple tour company websites, searching for the best deal, before bizarrely opting for the most expensive day trip on offer with tour company Go West.

The Great Ocean Road is an Australian Heritage Site, renowned for its 243km stretch of beautiful coastline, with limestone cliffs, sea stacks, beaches and gorges making for a stunning route. The day trip was a bit of a beast – I met the bus at 7am and returned home about 9pm – but it was worth the commitment. We went koala spotting, had lunch on the beach, ventured through a rainforest, took a million photos at the 12 Apostles before finishing the day at a road-side McDonalds. Don’t worry, it was my only Macca’s of the trip. I made friends with a girl from Argentina who was around my age and whose dream it had been since a child to travel around Australia. There were also two girls from Fife in my tour group who had the ultimate Scottish accents – apparently I’m never too far away from home!

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The highlight of Melbourne was undoubtedly the Australian Open final which I’d timed so it would coincide with my last night in the city. What a way to end one of my favourite-ever city breaks! As hoped, post the Murray exit, it was a Federer vs. Nadal final and the atmosphere was incredible, unsurprisingly as they are probably two of the most popular tennis players of all time. I was enjoying the trending of #fedal, demonstrating how much equal love there is in the world for the two players.

I went into the match not supporting either player but supporting the concept of a 5-set match. My wishes were granted and I felt the £300-odd financial commitment for my finals ticket paid off. The quality of tennis was insane, with lengthy rallies and points played where we were just in disbelief that either player had been able to make the shot. It was so fun to watch the match alongside such a large and enthusiastic crowd, and to not have the pressure and stress of watching my favourite player. Still, I better see Andy Murray at one of the grand slams this year!

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Now isn’t this the most informative postcard you’ve ever received?

Until next time!

Catmac X

When Andy is Knocked Out Before You Get to Australia

It was just after 22:35 when our plane touched down in Melbourne. Copying the woman next to me, I got out my phone and took it off flight mode, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to check anything until I had Wi-Fi. That’s when a text message from my sister popped up: “Awwww nawww”, I read. Oh no, I thought. There was no way of knowing for sure at the time but I knew deep down my worst fears were true: Andy had gone out.

It’s now an hour later and I am lying on my bed in my hotel room beside the airport in Melbourne. “You’ve got friends and family here right?”, the jovial pick-up-bus driver asked me, after I’d explained the scenario. “You didn’t just come here to see Andy Murray, did you?”.

Thankfully, no. This is really disappointing, of course it is, but it does not mean that this trip has lost its purpose. First of all, it is a very lovely 20 degrees outside and I am so excited about embracing summer. Secondly, I am seeing a number of friends while I’m here who I never see so that’s always fun. Thirdly, I love tennis, and there are so many amazing players still in the tournament; Federer for the win? Fourthly, I’m still on holiday! This beats going to work any day. And however disappointed I might be, I’m pretty sure Andy Murray is feeling a lot worse right now.

Still, I hope he sticks around for the tennis banter cos otherwise my pitch doesn’t make sense. Two Scots, Andy; we’re in this together!

En Route to Aus

You always think you’re going to have loads of time at the airport, waiting to board your flight. At least, I always think this and then find myself frantically rushing about trying to achieve a million things in a half hour stint (pretty sure I’ve bought every adaptor in existence several times over; they just seem to disappear into a black hole). Yesterday was no different and though I intended to launch this blog whilst sipping on an iced coffee at Caffè Nero in Heathrow Airport, I am actually publishing this in Delifrance, Hong Kong airport the following day, having written up the post on the plane.

As anticipated, this week was long, challenging and so bitterly, bitterly cold, but I got through it and as I arrived home from work yesterday afternoon, I felt a huge weight had been lifted. No less because Andy Murray has made it through the first week! It’s hit home again this year how time difference has really limited my enjoyment of the Australian Open up until now. You wake up to match results. You view snippet updates on your Twitter feed as you commute into work (‘Has anyone else seen that Djokovic has just gone out?’ I wondered (almost) out loud, looking around at my fellow commuters as the bus rolled down Brixton Hill). You check-in briefly with the BBC commentary when you arrive at your desk. But by the time your caffeine fix has kicked in properly and you’re ready to face the day, Australia has gone to bed.

You can understand why I’m so excited to be able to view this tournament in real time. And if the second week is anything like the first week, it’s going to be an incredible week of tennis! My man Andy has won the first three rounds in straight sets, most recently beating Sam Querry, the man who knocked Djokovic out of Wimbledon last year. Fellow countryman Dan Evans, currently ranked 51 in the world, has shown everyone that his impressive play in Wimbledon last year was not a fluke: he’s already beaten Marin Cilic, the world number 7, and Aussie Bernard Tomic, ranked 27th, to join Andy in the fourth round – what a hero. Not forgetting Johanna Konta who is smashing her way through the womens tournament, most recently beating Caroline Wozniacki to ensure her place in the last 16. C’mon the Brits. Meanwhile, the shock of the tournament has been Djokovic going out in the second round, although perhaps less surprising really given his early exits from Wimbledon and the Olympics last year. As you can probably imagine, my initial reaction was a mix of joy, shock and disbelief, and I was messaging everyone in my phonebook to tell them (I really appreciate how many of my friends humour me and my tennis chat – thanks guys). Djokovic has been the reason why Andy has lost 4/5 of his Australian Open finals. Does Novak’s early exit finally pave the way for a Murray win?

The Countdown Is On

It’s Sunday night and all that stands between me and my first grand slam adventure is a five-day working week in the bitter cold of January-in-London. This week is going to be hard and I’m slightly concerned that potential stress will cause me to be ill; can I please have some time off work in aid of holiday health?

Hopefully the holiday prep will keep my spirits high. Being the extravagant present-giver-to-self that I am this year, I’ll be going to get me some tennis-themed nails later in the week; I’ll also be picking up my birthday-slam-themed t-shirts from a print design shop; and then I’ll be donning my pride and joy Scottish flag that’s due to arrive midweek. Sidebar: Why do I not own this already?

The tournament starts at 00:00 GMT, just over three hours away from now. Andy will be playing third on the Rod Laver Arena against Illya Marchenko, a Ukranian player, who he’s only ever played once before. The time difference means it’s likely that I’ll wake up tomorrow and know if Andy is through to the second round or not. Nervous? Errr, a little.

It was always going to be a risk booking tickets for a final where there was no way of knowing whether or not my favourite player would feature. My dates for this trip also mean that, in theory, Andy could be out before I even get to Australia. But if there was ever a season to take such a risk, it was this one. I’ve got a good feeling about this.