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Just a Perfect Day at the Australian Open 2000 in Melbourne

January 17, 2000

Close your eyes and imagine what your ideal or perfect day or night would be in tennis? Well if you are a die-hard tennis fan then this is exactly what the opening day of the Australian Open 2000 was to be on Monday!!!

A Perfect Day…

First of all if the first feelings when you arrive in Australia are without a doubt of "Time-Zone Hell" For back home in Los Angeles it is still yesterday and everything is back to front, i.e. breakfast feels more like dinner and evening meal times bring about cravings for scrambled eggs, bacon and toast!!

When you travel in a taxi, the driver is sitting on the right, yet he is driving on the left. You almost meet an early end when you step out on to a sidewalk and because you instinctively look to your left you narrowly miss being struck by cars swerving to avoid you coming from the right!

The currency also takes a while to adjust to. There are no dollar bills, only dollar coins. The 50cent coins are double the size of the dollars and when you give a dollar for something you are really only giving about 60cents back home!

Back home it is classed as wintertime, here although it is January it is summertime! You can never predict how much of a summers' day it is going to be as the weathermen on the local news make predictions based on temperatures that rise all the way up to 35!

Bearing all of these unusual aspects, you soon find a rhythm and acknowledgement that this is although a big city one that trundles along at a leisurely pace and no-one seems to be in any kind of rush and there are no car horns beeping at you or people pushing you to rush.

This is a place that takes your senses in a gentle way and you cannot but help feeling a sense of relaxation wash over you as the warm winds that consistently blow around the tennis courts where the final Australian Open championships of the 20th century get started. In tennis terms this the fist Grand Slam of the year 2000, is something quite indescribably unique.

A Perfect Day…

It is 8.30pm, but there is still daylight and through the open-topped roof there can be seen clear blue skies with a smattering of white clouds. Then the formidable figure of Pete Sampras walks into the main stadium for his match on this opening day.

This man who hails from Los Angeles, who grew up hitting tennis balls on the hard courts of Palos Verdes and who considers Rod Laver as his mentor ever since that day when the then 11 years of age Sampras hit with Laver. Who would have imagined back then that the 11-year old Sampras would today be chasing a record breaking 13th Grand Slam Title? This is an achievement that his idol Rod Laver never managed to reach.

For Pete Sampras is a player who has his whole career been a pupil to the game, a player who respects and immerses himself in the history of the game always thriving to improve or to break more records. As he steps into this arena he seems to take a quick glance around at his surroundings, for this stadium had the previous day been named after his idol. Justifiably he maybe felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up or maybe he had a brief feeling of nervousness.

The Rod Laver Stadium was already packed with eagerly awaiting spectators who had previously helped to cheer on their fellow countryman, Richard Fromberg to victory and causing the upset of 6th seeded Swedish player Thomas Enquist, so they were ready after their short break no doubt refreshed by the chance at downing a few Fosters to watch a match between Pete Sampras and another Australian player, Wayne Arthurs. They may also be holding onto the slight chance of seeing another upset.

The climate was perfect, eerily as if there was a person adjusting the controls on the climate to make it so that it was neither hot nor cold, merely just comfortably enough to play… A Perfect Day…

Similarly to the match between Martin / Black, this match was to be very unique and special, although for many different purposes, this was going to be A Perfect Day for tennis…

You have to understand this, these two players, Sampras and Arthurs do not merely strike their serves, they launch missile type serves of around 125mph, and they hardly ever go below 110mph, not even on their second serves. It has been said that the reaction time for a player on such serves is between 00.04 and 0.005 of a second! All through this night match they consistently hit these serves in what seems to be effortlessness.

This is taking into consideration that the courts have just been resurfaced to aid in the rearing of the new Aussie servers that are so fast that maybe the European clay court players have probably already booked early flights out of Melbourne! This made for match-up that may never again be seen or experienced in this sport.

This is what A Perfect Day in tennis adds up to…

(1) The match lasted a total of 1 hour 39 minutes. There was never a baseline rally exchanged throughout the match, not even one!

(2) The maximum shots struck in a single point were 6, and that was once, in a match won by Sampras 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. Pete Sampras only converted one break point in each set. Sampras also managed to win a staggering 92% of the points when his first serve was hit in. He also managed to only drop 2 points on his serve in the opening set, and those were in his first service game!

(3) How best can anyone describe the intensity and consistency of both players' serves?

The Answer: The reaction that came from the crowd when either a lines-person or a ball-person was struck by one of these missile like serves, the packed arena of 15,021 would let out a resounding groan that spoke and described this in volumes.

Speaking of the Aussie spectators they were amazingly Aussie, they gave their countryman all their support, even when in the closing stages of the match it was plain for all to see that Sampras was too superior to Arthurs, they still managed to add some humour to the day.

A fan even managed to celebrate a wonderful winning shot by Arthurs with a trademark comment of support, "You're all over him now mate." The whole arena erupted in laughter, even Arthurs joined in, even though he in a losing effort he seemed to sense that he had played a big part in something quite special. The spectators also showed immense respect and appreciation for the majestic and athletic performance of Pete Sampras.

Was this to be the start of many tennis Perfect Days, for arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all time?

We will have to watch as this story continues to unfold…

Based on "Few Sprinkles on Just a Perfect Day in Melbourne By Bill Dwyre, Melbourne

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