Service with a smile at the Brisbane International
SPECTATORS of sporting events such as the Brisbane International tennis tournament, whether it be live or on television coverage, see the highlights of the players hitting it out on court.
However, it's not often that we are given an insight in to what happens behind the scenes. Have you ever thought about all the planning, preparation and organisation that happens before the players can even take to the court? Consider all the things that have to be done in order for the players to have the best experience possible.
The opportunity to walk through the underbelly of the Queensland Tennis Centre gave me a glimpse of what is involved in hosting an event such as this. It's apparent how hard Brisbane International 2017 singles champions Grigor Dimitrov and Karolina Pliskova have to train to become the victors of a world-class competition like the BI. This year's tournament boasted five of the world's top 10 women and five of the top 10 men, providing fans with top-quality tennis.
Sitting courtside gives the spectator a sense of being a part of the action but this is the end result. What we see is the final product of the players' hard work, along with that of their coaches and support crews.
It's the little things, however, that happen off court in the lead-up and throughout the event which actually allow these athletes the opportunity to perform.
Walking from the locker room to the Queensland Tennis Centre's Pat Rafter Arena, players stride down a corridor lined with large photos of past champions, giving a sense of what can be accomplished.
The route takes you past rooms where technical crews are busy ensuring everything runs smoothly, such as in the Hawke-Eye room. It's here that staff help deliver the sophisticated ball tracking technology to identify whether a ball was in or out, enhancing the game for players and fans.
For elite athletes fitness and diet are paramount - it can mean the difference between winning and losing. Therefore organisers must ensure the players' needs are catered for.
A fully equipped gymnasium is set up for pre and post-match warm up and warm down and a restaurant is created to provide food that meets each individual's dietary requirements.
Then there's a tennis player's most important piece of equipment - their racquets. From time to time they need a re-string so this is also accommodated for.
The re-stringers are kept busy during the week making sure the on-court weapons are correctly strung.
Speaking of on-court, there's the officials and ball kids who keep the games ticking along.
When professional tennis players step out on court they have a number of officials determining every decision that needs to be made.
Line and chair umpires are essential and the logistics of making sure each court is covered is another huge job on the list.
And we can't expect a professional tennis player to have to collect the tennis balls themselves in order to be able to start a point so there's all the ball kids to train and organise. Then there's the towels used by players and bottles of water provided on court. Ever wondered how they magically appear?
An army of volunteers work at these events to make sure everything runs smoothly. There's the car drivers who take players and their entourage to and from their accommodation and the tennis centre, court services who manage on-court needs of players, and patron services who take care of the fans.
All this is what tournament director Geoff Quinlan suggests makes the Brisbane International so attractive to players.
"It's not difficult to get a positive response from players about coming to Brisbane as the tournament has a good reputation. The amenities make them feel comfortable and well looked after,” he said. "We do everything we possibly can and go above and beyond to service the top class field that comes to play.”
The realisation is that the Brisbane International has once again been a huge success and this is down to all that happens behind the scenes.
A stroll down memory lane
IT IS touted as Australia's new world city, but for me Brisbane is my old hometown. The place I spent my youth.
A recent stay gave me the chance to share some of my teenage experiences with my 17-year-old daughter, who is soon to become a resident of Queensland's capital.
We spent two nights at Mantra Midtown, in the heart of the central business district - a central spot from which to visit many of the attractions and places I used to frequent.
As we walked down Queen Street Mall I was able to point out some of the stores still operating 30 years on and reminisce about other places that no longer exist. We stopped in at Jo-Jos, a restaurant on the corner of Queen and Albert streets. It was the place to meet in the '80s and still seemed popular.
After enjoying a hearty breakfast at 127 Bar and Bistro next door to the hotel, we took an early morning walk in the City Botanic Gardens along the Brisbane River. This was another great experience. It has been many years since I set foot in the gardens and it made me realise I didn't take advantage of the wonderful green space all those decades ago.
The sky line may have changed but the beauty of Brisbane city hasn't.