Tennis Down Under

February 13, 2015

Amanda Nagy

Oberlin’s tennis teams visited and played a match at the Sydney Olympic Park.
Photo credit: Oberlin Athletics

The men’s and women’s tennis teams traveled down under for a winter term to rival other winter terms: up-close access to the Australian Open.

Throughout January, players experienced the best of everything in Melbourne and Sydney, including matches with Australian teams (their first time playing on red clay tennis courts), day passes to watch the Australian Open, which is held annually in Melbourne at the end of January, and a training session with tennis analyst Craig O’Shannessy.

Off the courts, the teams enjoyed visits to sprawling street markets, sight-seeing at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, encounters with Australian wildlife, and beach lounging and surfing lessons on the Melbourne coast. Some took the opportunity to complete individual winter term projects or fulfill a personal quest to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef.

The women’s team blogged about their journey. Their itinerary began in Melbourne on Day 2 of tournament action at the Australian Open. Some team members were lucky enough to catch a few minutes watching Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Maria Sharapova on the practice courts. After an exciting day at the Open, the teams played at a local club on the harbor of Williamstown. “It was a productive first practice, but it was definitely tricky getting used to the heat and the wind,” says second-year Emma Brezel.

After a two-hour match, the teams took a bus to the beach to see a presentation on tennis strategy and the mental aspect of the game delivered by Craig O’Shannessy, the lead analyst for the Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association tours. He was on site writing previews and match analysis for the Australian Open website during that time. “Craig was extremely insightful, and by breaking down tennis into numbers he helped us look at tennis from a much different perspective,” Brezel says.

Later that day, the men’s and women’s teams played matches at another local club, this one with red clay courts. “It was really interesting to play on red clay, which is a much different surface than the hard courts we usually play on. We had an awesome time playing with and meeting local kids, many of whom are planning to play college tennis in the States,” says Brezel. “After a couple hours of matches we ended our long day with a barbecue at the club. It was a really awesome way to start off our playing in Australia.”

In the heart of Melbourne, the locals were consumed with the Open. “We traveled to lunch at an outdoor cafe in our first visit to Federation Square in Melbourne's bustling city center. After strolling across the bridge and taking in the remarkable skyline we came upon dozens of Melbournians in the square watching the Open on a jumbotron in bean bags and beach chairs,” says first-year Jackie McDermott. “After lunch, some of us joined the locals watching afternoon matches, while others enjoyed strolls along the Yarra River.”

Afterward, the women swapped out their street clothes for tennis whites and headed to the historic Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, former site of the Australian Open and several Davis Cup matches. “Kooyong features clay and grass courts as far as the eye can see. Oberlin alumnus Bob Moses ’61 and his friend Maurice Broom, who himself played in the Australian Open Juniors, were our gracious hosts for our first time playing on grass. Maurice even gave us a few serve pointers and made us serve with our eyes closed to remind us to keep our motions consistent,” McDermott says.

Second-year Anna Treidler and third-year Alexandra Kahn traveled a week ahead of their teammates. Treidler stayed in Melbourne to explore the city’s abundant street art, which has become an internationally known tourist attraction. She used the experience for an individual winter term project to analyze the art as a way to learn about the culture and politics of the city.

Treidler says she spent hours wandering up and down alleys filled with vibrantly colored graffiti. “I signed up for a street art tour lead by an eccentric and hilarious street artist. He took us on a three-hour walk around the city in which he showed us many of the important alleys, told us about prominent artists (many of which he knew personally), and explained to us the history and politics of much of the art. I could not have imagined how immense and impressive the body of work in Melbourne is.”

Kahn, an environmental studies major, researched a scuba diving adventure in the Great Barrier Reef. “I’ve grown up in and around the ocean, and snorkeling through coral reefs is one of my favorite things to do in the universe. The idea of coming half-way around the world and being so close to the biggest reef but not being able to see it would have driven me absolutely crazy.”

So, before she embarked on her trip, Kahn took an intensive introductory scuba diving certification class. She went on a three-day liveaboard trip in Cairns. She says swimming beneath the ocean with a rainbow of corals, fish, turtles, rays, eels, nudibranchs, and sharks was awe-inspiring. “The Great Barrier Reef is absolutely magnificent, and for me to spend some time not looking down on it from above, but being right in the thick of the action, was phenomenal.”

On the last full day of their trip, the teams took a grand tour and played a match at Sydney Olympic Park. Third-year Erin Johnson stayed an extra day to visit the Australian Museum in Sydney. “My favorite exhibit was on the Aboriginal peoples of Australia,” says Johnson, who is majoring in anthropology and biology. “I am fairly familiar with indigenous peoples of the Americas but did not know anything about those of Australia. It was really fun to compare and contrast the historical and cultural differences between the two.”

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