QUEENSLAND, Austrailia (WHAS11) -- Moving to Louisville during last year's Final Four tournament taught me you can get to know the fabric of a town through their sports culture. So I took a break from exploring Melbourne to do what I actually came to the city for... well what my mom came for and I used as a reason to tag along. But I'm so glad I did because the Australian Open as an experience didn't disappoint.
We caught the women's semi final match between Azarenka and Stephens. After 20+ years of watching Rod Laver Arena on TV, it was a little surreal to see it in person. It seems massive on screen but from the stands its perfect. There are no bad seats in the place. Plus the grounds themselves are also really nice so there's a comfortable place to sit and watch the matches if you don't have tickets to get in.
I was surprised by how much the spectators were rooting for Sloane Stephens. The 19-year-old American had won a major upset over Serena Williams the day before but I figured everyone would be rooting for Azarenka given that she is the number one player in the world. The commentators claim its because Australians love an underdog. Maybe so, but I suspect they may have just wanted to see a good match instead of Stephens getting creamed... which is what happened. Boo I like her. We were also there for the drama when Azarenka took an hour long "injury" break just as Stephens started to play well. Doesn't seem like many people bought that excuse since she had no obvious injury and her story about what was supposedly wrong with her changed. It earned her some boos from the crowd and a bashing in the media the next day. She eventually won the tournament but the crowd wasn't too excited about it.
I didn't get to watch a live cricket match, which is what I hear Australians really get hype for, but watching the Open with a mix of Aussies and people around the world was a great time. I kinda think of tennis as a high brow sport with generally stuffy spectators who rarely stray from polite applause or disappointed grumbles during a match. But after a few hours of the beer garden I swear the crowd was more entertaining than the match. It didn't hurt that musician LMFAO (apparently Azarenka's biggest fan) was in the crowd rambunctiously cheering for his favorite player. I don't know if that's typical Grand Slam behavior or if Australia just has that effect on even the most conservative of spectators. Either way, another Australian Open just made the bucket list.