This offseason has found me playing basketball in Melbourne, Australia. One of the perks of playing here is that the Australian Open is in my backyard! I'm a big tennis fan, and I have a lot of friends who share this interest so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to attend.
Because some teammates and I have an affinity for Oz and the U.S., we made a deal that we would wear American and Australian gear to show our support. Hey, world peace, right? So off we went, decked out in red, white and blue, ready to see some amazing tennis.
Our first stop was a match between Venus Williams and 22nd-ranked Ekaterina Makarova. The whole crowd was rooting for Venus, and even though I was wearing my Aussie sunglasses, my American pride was really starting to come out. Venus looked good in the first set but then gave up the next two sets. It was a great match to start off the day.
We then abandoned our shady seats and gathered around the practice courts to watch Novak Djokovic. This is the guy who owns one of the best restaurants I've ever been to, so obviously I was eager to see him. I hear he's pretty good at tennis, too. Everyone from the tennis grounds rushed over to see him, and it was standing room only in the 100-degree heat. Fortunately, I've been blessed with some height so I was able to take good pictures and provide much needed shade to other viewers.
Roger Federer was coming on to practice next so we opted to stay and watch him. He is just so incredibly skilled. Even when he hit tennis balls to his fans, his accuracy was impeccable. This was the part of the day where I started to freak out. Here I was standing 10 meters away from one of the best tennis players in the world. I still can't believe I saw him in person!
After spending way too much money on overpriced but stylish gear, we decided to finish our day by watching Serena Williams practice. She was preparing for her first-round match against Ashleigh Barty, a 17-year-old Aussie. Serena has so much power it's ridiculous. She was hitting balls at her male practice partner like it was nothing. I'm pretty sure I'd run in the other direction if she were to serve at me.
In all, it was one of the coolest days of my life. When not watching in awe, I was soaking up how these champions carried themselves, how they prepared for their matches, how they treated their fans. They were all professional. They were all jovial. They all bled excellence and that was a pretty magnificent thing to witness.