The weekend that was ended at 1.30am on Monday morning.
The four-part act of sporting theatre unfolded across various time slots and four different locations; in fact with the 1000 start to the second day of the Women’s Ashes Test in Canberra on Friday and the crazy early hour finish to the men’s singles final in Melbourne it felt like it never really stopped.
The crowning moment for me was draped in the national flag. Finally we have an Australian Open singles champion again. Not just any champion either. The universally admired and also feared (by her opponents only) Ash Barty. Her compact, strategically organised and mentally watertight game (not to mention sensational serve) couldn’t be broken down by anyone this past fortnight. When Evonne Goolagong Cawley stepped out to present her with the trophy on Saturday night the feeling couldn’t have been any better. Naturally at these moments, one is drawn back in time for a moment or two. Can it be more than forty years since I sat up late to watch Evonne defeat Chris Evert in the Wimbledon singles final? No remote for the TV then and one of those old bar oil heaters to quell the early morning chill.
Sunday morning dawned with a partially formed test match in progress at Manuka Oval with time for a bit more reflection. It was at this very venue (this time more than thirty years ago) that I took my first tentative steps into cricket broadcasting. On a very basic phone line set up on an actual card table (borrowed from the ACT cricket association) we broadcast a second eleven game from side on. Nowadays there’s a modern broadcast tower for the media at Manuka. But that only gives these memories more of a pioneering feel.
This Manuka test was brilliant with every possible result alive at the start of the final over, thanks to an intuitive declaration from Meg Lanning. The game eventually and very tensely finished as a draw with a lot of people thinking ‘we need to see more women’s test matches’.
When an Australian last won the women’s singles at Melbourne, tennis had a level of exposure equal to the men’s game. It’s a good thing that this is now the case with women’s cricket as well.
Then there was men’s cricket on Friday night, with the finale of the somewhat overstretched and diminished BBL 11. The Perth Scorchers recovered from 4–25 to post a winning total of 171 against the Sydney Sixers. It’s a bit sad when the Big Bash finishes, it feels like a marker that back to school is imminent, another summer holiday has passed into history, as the music clips and fireworks of the BBL has become a backing track to the summer. The cricket grounds are quiet for now.
I feel the same way about the final match of the Australian Open, the men’s singles final. Nadal and Medvedev were nothing short of brilliant. This year the final went longer than a big bash game and finished at the Wimbledon-like hour of 1.20am. No heaters needed to stay warm though, it’s the end of January and the high season of sport is over. So much new material to ponder and memories and associations to reflect upon.
It reminds me of what it means to be a sports fan. Let’s see what next weekend brings…