I have always loved watching tennis, especially the grand slams. There’s something very special about a 128 person main draw and the ability to say “Round of 16” as often as you like. Play is positively mesmeric and there’s a definite cheekiness to watching the Australian Open from the air conditioned comfort of one’s living room as the poor players swelter it out on court. I have been to the Australian Open a couple of times. A festival completely dedicated to tennis, with so much to do you don’t even meed to watch a match if you don’t want to.
Yes the Australian Open is a grand slam of grand and happy proportions. According to Forbes, the Australian Open is often referred to as the “Happy Slam” perhaps because players, press and spectators have such a good time and perhaps because Media members are given a bottle of whiskey with their credentials.
Everything about it is big. The temperatures are big though The Australian Open’s Extreme Heat Policy only goes into effect once the temperature exceeds 40 C (104 F) and the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature reading exceeds 32.5 C (90.5 F).
The attendance numbers are big. Around 720,363 spectators poured through the gates in 2016, breaking the previous mark of 703,899 set in 2015, to watch the women’s and men’s singles draws, women’s doubles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles, the wheelchair competition as well as fierce competition for the boy’s and girl’s titles. And of course, the prize money is big. The total prize money for 2017 comes in at a record $50 million AUD (about 36 million USD), a 14% increase from 2016.
There’s a big music program, sponsor tents where people queue for hours to be sold to, the obligatory face painting so everyone can be ” fan ready”, corporate entertaining and big food trucks from the big names. Even Masterchef’s George Calombaris is serving modern Greek through his Jimmy Grant brand.
There are even more big statistics. A team of 20 Yonex stringers will restring up to 5500 racquets over the three weeks of qualifying and competition. And they’ll be doing it with cow’s guts. None of this synthetic nonsense. In the cloistered world that is elite tennis, dried and stretched cow intestine is the undisputed king of strings.
I am, however, quite transfixed by the big number of tennis balls used at The Open. Players will work their way through over 48,000 of the little yellow fellas. That’s a lot of balls in anyone’s language. The used balls are sold on site to start another life. Though one wonders what that other life could be….
cmaecocycle notes Australia imports more than 14 million tennis balls each year, and that most end up in landfill or left to slowly disintegrate. Say cmaecocycle, recycling tennis balls is the go. Consider cutting out small holes and slipping the tennis balls over the legs of chairs or walkers to stop them damaging floors or to reduce noise.
For those needing a back massage, they suggest placing a tennis ball on the floor, lying top of it and rolling around. You could squeeze an Aus Open ball regularly to strengthen your grip or cut the ball in two along its seams using the pieces to get a better grip when opening jars. Tennis balls have even been used to construct furniture.
cmaecocycle also reports that tennis balls can be ground up to make rubber flooring. They cite US not for profit Green Ball as working on a range of durable uses for old tennis balls including tennis courts. Green Ball is also trialling the incorporation of intact tennis balls into concrete slabs and walls. Better yet, tennis balls can even be re-pressurised to give them back their bounce and boing, extending their useful lives and reducing the need for new balls.
One could always recycle, upcycle or unicycle tennis balls for furniture, and with Pantone selecting the colour Greenery as its 2017 colour of the year, we are sure to see a bit more of that option on the pages of the home decor magazines.
Yes, there’s a myriad of uses for the humble tennis ball, including using it as a gift. Who wouldn’t want a canister of pristine neon yellow balls with the added bonus of pulling off the lid to enjoy that most satisfying of hissing sounds. And if you’re going to gift it, you need to wrap it, which is where my gathered wrap, tennis whites tissue paper, and colourful grosgrain ribbon comes in. Just like a Grand Slam, wrapping tennis balls(though not 48 000 of them) is positively mesmeric.