A live experience: Rod Laver Night session QF - Andrey Rublev vs Djokovic

January 2023

This year we decided to travel to Australia again as the first post-covid family trip, with one of the highlights as to watch Australian Open! This time not watching the first week but specifically Men’s semi final. Long awaited and with covid uncertainty still (Australia requires 48 hours negative PCR proof 🥲), we made it to Melbourne.

Last minute purchase

After Rublev won that dramatic match against Rune in R16, I was thinking seriously if to get the tickets for the quarterfinals night session. I have grown into a Rublev fan over the years and I’d love to watch him live once. The doubt in me was I was pretty sure Rublev’d lose because Djokovic has been ruthless this Australian Open. Will you pay almost 2k hkd for one single session if at worst ending within 1:30 hr 😂 (Sorry Rublev but…)
No but! “Let’s Go Rublev”

Tram to stadium

Last time we experienced Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court, but they were R1 matches so they lack a bit of competitiveness. The most memorable was probably Ash Barty’s local army working on their veggie mite chanting😂
Around 7pm, we arrived at Melbourne Park with the free tennis tram 70a. Security check, bags check, tickets check - Here we go!

The match

Andrey served first for all three sets and seeing his serve in live action was lit! Especially seating at the angle of deuce court wide serve. Surrounded by a few Andrey fans but there were A LOT of Serbian flags and frequently chanting “Idemo!!” (Go!! In Serbian). There was a guy chanting Idemo in the style of echoing the “-mo” part until he ran out of breath, which was quite funny. Some people root for Andrey because they don’t like Djokovic (understandably) but I think they are genuine 😂 Some casual fans yelled “Go Ruby” at some point lol and starting a yelling fight with Go Nole’s army.

Only in live actions

On TV when the match is finished, the camera will only focus on the winner with all the winning celebration and stuff. Only with it live, I realised Rublev would also do the cross even if he lost. Also, the electronic line calling is in fact laggy AF. Often like with reaction time > +1 second which is absurd. You definitely see the ball out but the shouting comes lagged, not sure how the players think but as a spectator it’s quite annoying. Not the kind of surprises we need.

King of return and overall a good fight

As expected, Andrey lost. But watching the match live I felt like he really tried and put up a good fight. The opponent was just too good, and being able to keep your head down and keep going in this circumstance is remarkable. He was very self-contained unlike his 2022 season when he punched his own rackets to bleed during a match was not news. He had chances to break, but Djokovic was defending incredibly to a point it was annoying.
Most of the time you can tell if a ball is unreturnable, but in a Djokovic match (when he moves like a 18 yo), there is not such thing. No matter how impossible it seems, he can ALWAYS retrieve the ball and turn defence into attack effortlessly. Absolutely annoying but he is that good.

Post match

The amount of Serbian or Djokovic supporter was huge and after the singles match they gathered outside Rod Laver Arena chanting something possible patriotic or poetic. But there was an incident involving a group of people carrying banned Russian flags mixing into the same crowd in support of Russia.
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Fun facts

The roof was closed for the pre match ceremony (hall of fame statue opening) and it was quite a joy to watching the roof opened and the arena lightened up by the sunlight

Next match

The one we booked in advanced was men’s semi finals. Turned out the day session will feature Tsitsipas and Khachanov!!!!!!!!!! I’d love to watch a 5 set battle!

Appreciation for Andrey Rublev

Every player has their own strength and weakness. Being in top 10 means the player at least have more than one significant strengths. Some could be their serve plus forehand, or movement + serve and volley, or whatever. Rublev is a player with huge forehand and good serve. He is in the genre of hitting the ball as hard as he can. Relatively speaking, his game is very one dimensional. He doesn’t really have a plan B or second gear to go for if things aren’t going well.
What I love about his game is that he truly has been doing the best he could with his skills. It’s not like everyone is the gifted all rounder with fierce forehand, hand feels to the net, huge serve, heavy spin, defence, counter punch etc. He doesn’t have it all, but he is making the best out of what he is good at and pushing it to next level so that’s why he’s a consistent top 10 player. I love that. It is a fairy tale story to me.
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