Newspaper article International New York Times

Strawberries and Cream? No, Try Beer and Vodka ; for Many in Melbourne, Open Is the Best Place to Get a Drink and Socialize

Newspaper article International New York Times

Strawberries and Cream? No, Try Beer and Vodka ; for Many in Melbourne, Open Is the Best Place to Get a Drink and Socialize

Article excerpt

Unlike the formal Wimbledon, the Australian Open features a spot for the average Joe and Josephine: a beer garden.

Wimbledon has Henman Hill, hallowed ground where thousands go to watch -- nay, worship -- Britain's tennis greats. The Australian Open has a beer garden where many patrons barely noticed that Lleyton Hewitt, a local favorite, was battling to get into the tournament's second round.

"I turn around every 10 minutes or so to see how Lleyton's doing," said Prue Bauer, a saleswoman from Brisbane who was drinking wine and chatting amiably Tuesday night, with her back to beer garden's giant video screens. "See? He's doing fine."

Australia is one of the world's great sports-loving nations, and fans here cheer their compatriots with a gusto rarely matched elsewhere. But they also like their beer and socials. This tournament is widely referred to as the Happy Open for a reason.

A 10-minute walk or a five-minute tram ride from Melbourne's business district, the grounds for these two weeks of tennis also serve as a watering hole for members of the city's office crowd. Many arrive straight from work, stuffing ties into pockets and stashing work bags under tables after plunking down about $23 for a grounds pass. In the beer garden, performances by live rock bands compete for attention with the matches, turning the area into as much a music venue as a sports center.

Many of those interviewed Tuesday night said they were keen tennis fans, but acknowledged they were not following Hewitt's match closely.

"Look, you could have a ferret-racing competition on the TV here, and we'd all come anyway," said Michael Doherty, a teacher. "The weather's great, and there's beer, music and good people."

Granted, Hewitt has broken this crowd's heart many times. Although he has won two Grand Slam titles, he has never won the Australian Open. His closest call ended with a loss to Marat Safin in the 2005 final. Since then, Hewitt has not advanced past the fourth round in Melbourne, or past the quarterfinals in any Grand Slam tournament. For the past two years, he has failed even to survive the first round here.

The crowd who watched him play inside Rod Laver Arena cheered him lustily, but those in the beer garden barely noticed when Hewitt secured a crucial service break in the eighth game of the first set when his opponent, Ze Zhang, double-faulted. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.