06 Feb Melbourne, Australian Open Conference (January 9th-18th 2017)
What a fabulous Australian Open!
I just came back from down under and it is Thursday February 2nd…
The tournament is over since a few days.
We all know that King Roger took the Trophy home and everybody is hyper excited about this happy ending.
Will he be winning another Grand Slam?
Nobody knows but, be quiet, wait a second.
Please raise your hands, if you said during his first round match against Jürgen Melzer: “He will be first place in this Grand Slam, for sure”!
I was one of the fortunate people to be a spectator during that night session match – bye the way, thank you very much Tennis Australia for the tickets of this incredible event.
And I was one among many people who said after he was 7-5 2-0 up and suddenly lost the second set: “he won’t be able to resist for 7 consecutive best of 5 set matches.
He will reach 3rd round max.!”.
My doubtful knowledge of tennis has been in fact confirmed not even 2 weeks later during the epic finals against Rafa.
Before leaving, I was unexpectedly calm.
No overexcitment: at the end it is just a bus with a couple of wings sideways.
The flight to Australia is always long, you know, but this time everything is extremely fast.
Very quick boarding procedures in Milan to Dubai and I meet by accident my friend Roberto.
He’s a great guy, he owns a high-tech company, plays good tennis even at the age of 81 (sorry, 51).
He will spend 10 days in Thailand with his girlfriend.
He always takes 10 days off in January every year.
Delicious lunch – my colleague does not agree – and super comfortable trip aboard our two floored Airbus A380.
The plane is great from outside, but no room for my legs and very uncomfortable position for the outlet. My computer only works with electricity, battery is dead, and the guy sitting on the aisle is a bit irritated by my movements.
I planned to work intensively for the entire flight… the good intentions evaporate soon cause this other guy (“Snowden”, great movie) and the above mentioned Roberto make my trip a very techy one.
The stop over in Dubai is a bit quick: we leave late from the gate, we have around 45 minutes to catch the connecting flight to Melbourne.
So, no time to make pictures at the boarding.
Just running and go through.
I still want to work, but all of a sudden, something unpredictable happens: I fall asleep.
I sleep for a few hours, I am very tired, but the pillow saves me from having my head cut in Melbourne.
Finally, I can work on refining my presentation.
We will present on Friday, we have time.
In fact, the presentation is more than ready, I have been rehearsing it for many and many times with elite players, adults and my sons.
I feel secure, but it is a 30 minute presentation, you never know.
It is dangerous, because too short: everything can happen, something goes wrong in the first part and… yes, that’s it! It is over.
You start your delivery with a bad impression, you finish even worse.
Presentations are never perfect, especially the ones on-court when you concentrate on processes. So, you have to minimize losses.
Back to the flight…
I like science-fiction. The movie “Gravity” accompanies me for this 12 hour transfer: it is a good movie, to be honest. I like these changes of paces in the plot, sometimes slow, then suddenly faster, reminds me a tennis match of his Majesty.
5 Minutes to go…
And… here we are in Melbourne.
No problems with the australian customs, we are here for the conference, nothing to declare, don’t need the dogs for us.
Ok, we have been prevented by Tennis Australia: no transportation to the hotel, too late at night.
Ok, I see a car of the tournament and super, they pick us up and give us a ride to the hotel.
The Hotel is closed when we cruise in, it’s 11.05 PM.
I convince a guy who is walking down the street to make a phone call with his phone to the night lobby service.
I take the guy’s phone and the concierge says: “We were expecting you not before tomorrow”.
“Ok, here we are and we want to sleep tonight”.
The concierge, after her lack of memory, remembers there would be a couple of Italian guys arriving that day…
“Just put the code on the machine and the room keys will drop down automatically”.
The magic of numbers.
Keys in my hands, let’s go upstairs.
After 48 hours we finally are on our beds.
It’s 3.35 and I wake up.
I am too excited.
I stay in bed until… I can.
Which means 6.30 AM.
I am not a late-starter.
Day 2 of our australian campaign opens up with one primary goal… get the accreditation to the conference.
I remember last year.
With 36° C and humidity up to 98% it was quite complcated to get the badge.
It was our first time last year: we ran around the entire facility for at least 2 hours.
We finally get it at 12.30.
We first got a sticker (45 minutes after the start), and then had to find the right accreditation booth.
We were ready for the conference and for the shower as well.
Enough with the accreditation for the moment.
Take a look at our hotel.
The hotel has no swimming pool, no spa, no fitness… So, first impression is not that great considering that last year we had a super fantastic hotel with “everything”, in the middle of Chinatown.
After all, our hotel is super.
Located like 10 minutes walking from the facility, the hotel has a charming bar just around the corner, 50 meters away.
Look at that.
My colleague falls immediately in love with the waitresses, I tell him, “don’t do it”, otherwise you would be obliged to learn some English and settle down here”.
in any case the food, the atmosphere and the welcoming are absolutely extraordinary.
We stay 7 days in Melbourne, we have 6 times breakfast there.
Aggies is closed on Sundays.
Back to the accreditation for a second.
Take a look at the guy below.
This year was completely different.
To get our badge we take 2 hours (same as like last year), so the situation basically does not change of one bit timewise.
But Elia, working for Tennis Australia, has a meeting with usa t 10.00 in front of the Hisense Arena (see below) and she guides us around to visit the facility explaining us everything about the conference.
Temperature is acceptable, so, we are not shower ready this year.
It is even cold for the season.
Mystery of the weather.
Elia is absolutely fantastic and tells us: “Speakers deserve to be treated this way”.
This is actually our “Welcome to Australia”.
Quite different from the “Welcome” we received at the airport last night.
Don’t forget that Australia is an Island (ok, I don’t consider exceptions) and what goes inside remains inside.
Europeans are afraid of everything and you can imagine the reaction of my colleague while seeing these signs.
Hopefully nothing happens.
Elia makes the whole conference for us unforgettable.
And this what she “illustrates” while we are waiting for our badges.
The view from the bridge leading to the Australian Open facility is stunning.
Everything looks light blue here in Melbourne Park, the courts, the banners, the logo.
What about the new logo?
It used to be this
…and this logo was so popular and used for so many years that when you see this other one
…on a rubbish container, walking on the streets, almost everywhere,
…and in any possible version.
As follows just a few examples.
Fuzzy yellow ball logo
you finally get used to it:
“It is a great logo!”.
The logo is clean and simple and that light blue is everywhere.
It makes you think of the ocean.
The graphic designers have done a great job, even for the effects rendered on the AO application, wow!
The conference starts on Thursday and takes place mostly in the Hisense Arena.
These courts are a lot more than a tennis field.
I show you the Hisense Arena, but I can talk about the “Rod Laver Arena” or the “Margaret Court
You have rooms inside, you can host events like dinners or lunches and is equipped with a retractable roof.
The conference is held inside, but when the tournament is on, the roof is open.
Same story for the Rod Laver Arena, which is the Centre Court for us Europeans.
Tennis Australia made the welcome to the italian guests even cozier.
What about this banner for my last year’s performance?
Another “must see” of this incredible facility is the National Tennis Center.
It is not only a “state of the art” facility with hard indoor courts, hard outdoor courts, red clay outdoor courts and is normally used to train the current and next generations of australian elite players, it’s simply a modern building, beautiful to watch.
The NTC is used during the tournament as secondary players’ lounge for the players: they can work out, have breakfast and lunch, check scores, rest and of course play.
During my stay in Melbourne I discovered that one of the indoor courts of the NTC is even equipped with Hawk-Eye.
Just in front you have the room of GIG, a permanent research centre about what’s measurable in tennis, like stats, racket customization aso.
REALLY GREAT STUFF.
Machar Reid, who works for Tennis Australia and is Professor and Researcher in Perth for the University of Western Australia and whom I know since maybe 10 years says:
“It is something unique”.
He is right.
I even find the machines of a dear Italian friend of mine, Gabriele.
He is everywhere.
Even the hashtag of the AO is everywhere.
We take many photos with this hashtag behind us, but can not publish them, cause this is a serious blog.
The Australian Open as a tournament has many “unique” things, as a matter of fact.
On Saturday’s, just before the tournament starts, it’s “Kids’ Day”.
Other tournaments have this as well, but the Kids’ day at the Australian Open is magical.
You have almost 20 thousands kids with their parents (equals at least 40 thousand people) who want to play tennis on the same courts of the pro players.
It is fun and colourful.
If your kid wants to play tennis, he can do it until 11.00 AM, but he can also have fun with the other games.
There are concerts and animation events: you can shake hands with Po of Kung Fu Panda 3.
It is the ideal day to have your kids made up or to make them draw while you want to have a walk with your wife or be alone and just enjoy the beautiful sunny day of Melbourne.
There is a big area for kids within the facility, and this is permanent.
Then, there is the Kids’ day show.
The event is not for free and it starts at noon: pro players like Federer and the best Australian guys are there to make it fun for the kids.
You would ask about Melbourne by night.
Bad news guys, conferences are not for this.
At 11.00 PM you are already in bed, when you wake up next morning at 5.30 AM.
We have two dinners offered by Tennis Australia and they are undoubtably fantastic.
But I don’t want to let you down.
Here below you’ll find a few pictures about Melbourne.
If you plan to go to Melbourne, don’t hesitate to try the Australian pizza. Only In Melbourne live 75 thousand Italians and you can find the pizza everywhere.
Close to the AO go to Tazio, you will speak Italian with the waitress. She spends one year in Australia after she graduated in languages.
It is great to see that young people, despite of what older generations think about them, are so hungry.
If you are in Chinatown, look for Tony’s.
Have a 20 minute walk, it is not directly in Chinatown.
You won’t speak any Italian, but Tony’s father was born in Naples and settled down in Melbourne in the sexties. In the restaurant, You will find pictures of the famous italian actor Totò.
But please don’t waste any time, order pizza, at least 18 inch big.
If you like pizza full of topping on it, that’s the place to be.
Time goes by fast and our time in Melbourne is over.
Packing is always difficult, our bags look like we should stay here forever.
Hectic time before leaving.
We show up at the hotel 4 hours and half before take off.
The receptionist at the hotel tells us the invoice is ready… it is ready, but wrong by the way.
She needs to change dates… after 37 minutes of invain waiting I decide to leave, she will be sending the invoice with more ease in the next hours.
I change my stuff in a bathroom at the airport and all of a sudden it’s 9.30 PM.
We eat a sandwich and are ready for the flight to Dubai.
I am so tired that I get lost in the Airport, they are calling our boarding and I almost panic.
The 2 floored guy, the same Airbus A380, is waiting for us, and the flight back to Milan is great for sightseeing.
No pictures about landing in Milan.
No phone batteries anymore.
I am dead.
But I feel great.
Super edition 2017 of the Australian Open!