Of course, I naturally wanted to see if I could do a bit of trading whilst there and see if I could grab a bit of free money! It never fails to amaze me the amount of money that traders leave up well after the point has been decided, some of it totalling enormous individual chunks that I can only think must be controlled by a bot that needs further programming work. Either that or someone with more money than sense or a drunk Russian oligarch. Either way, if you can court-side, there is a lot of money to be made from clueless / slow punters. So I attempted to nab me a piece of the pie.
The problem is, the authorities are wise to court-siding these days and officials at ATP events are taught what to look for. Namely, someone who is busy fiddling around with their phone instead of actually watching the game (though the two Chinese girls sat next to me chatting throughout the match would be top of the list if that was the only criteria!), or with their hands in their pockets looking disinterested whilst everyone else is applauding. So I imagine suspicion would be easily aroused. The difference at the O2 Arena to most events though, is that the crowd is in darkness whilst only the court is lit up - so it's very hard for any stewards to see anyone acting suspiciously unless they are close to them. And when you have an enormous 15,000+ people, that's almost a needle and haystack situation.
I decided to get straight in there and test things out in the opener; a doubles match involving Dodig and Melo v Fyrstenburg and Matkowski. The immediate problem is that you have to use the original Betfair interface to trade with - something I haven't done for years as I use AGT Pro's ladders. So fiddling around trying to quickly place bets on Betfair's slow site without one-click bet placement is a bit of a nightmare, especially when you are trying to be discreet. Then you've also got the fact that in the dark, your mobile phone shines bright like a beacon - although in my whole day there, I didn't see a steward or anyone official looking anywhere near where I was sitting. It's such a vast arena, I think it would be perfect for court-siding but for one tiny little problem..............reception is poor. Well, at least it was on my phone but I saw tweets from people on my Twitter timeline who were in the arena, so it can't be that bad!
Anyway, I gave it a shot but connection wasn't happening. But it is fairly obvious to note that:
a) You have a couple of seconds longer than TV audiences to place your bet
b) There are people scalping with fast pics who would be your competition, so you still need to have fast reactions, know the markets and know what you are doing
c) There are still people stupid enough to leave their money in the market, even allowing for the few seconds disadvantage they have.
The one game which slightly disappointed was Del Potro v Djokovic. Not because the players didn't make you gasp with their speed, agility and accuracy but because it lacked variety. Unlike the Federer game or the doubles match between the Bryans and Rojer/Qureshi (which was the game of the day and if you ever go, make sure you do the full session and don't ignore the doubles matches), it was all a bit predictable and one-paced. Fortunately though, the crowd provided some entertainment, as sat literally 2 seats directly behind me, was the most vocal person in the whole 17,000 crowd! This "wag" thought it would be hilarious to shout "DJOKOOOOOOOOO!!!" randomly during quiet moments at the top of his gruff European voice, which wore thin after the 15th time. But the great thing he did do was allow me to shout "OLEEEEEEEEEE!" in response to his "BA, BA, BA, BA, BA, BA, BA, BA-DA-BAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" - so fulfilling a dream of mine! Actually the real dream is to be the one trumpeting ""BA, BA, BA, BA, BA, BA, BA, BA-DA-BAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" but you either need to be hammered or French to do this without feeling a complete tit (especially if no one responds with "OLEEEEE!!"
All in all, a terrific day out and I urge you all to attend if you can because it won't be around in London forever and when it goes, it won't be back for a very long time. The O2 is a brilliant venue, it's well organised, lots of great places to eat and drink (though £5 for a hotdog is extortion where I come from!), the court when it's lit up, with the crowd in darkness, has to be one of the best spectacles in sport (it looks so sharp and crisp and creates a unique atmosphere that TV doesn't do justice). I was in the cheap seats up at the top and even there, the view is not compromised and feels like you are on top of the players. I took some photos for the blog but as you can also see, the camera on my phone is as bad as the internet connectivity!
Federer - Gasquet
Djokovic - Del Potro
Trust me, you feel much closer than these woeful pics show. I never see the point in taking photos at sporting events. We've all seen it on TV. "Here's a shot of Roger Federer playing tennis". Yeah, I already know what he looks like. Unless his shorts have fallen down or he's attacking a line judge, I'm really not fussed. Anyway, these prove I was there at least!
As anyone who has watched live tennis will tell you, you appreciate the speed and strength of the players a lot more in the flesh. The courts don't seem so slow either. I also found it a more enjoyable experience, as I wasn't constantly thinking about entry and exit points! In fact, I lost track of the scores on many occasions as I was too engrossed in the players and the environment. There's also a couple of practice courts in the O2 where you can watch players warming up just a couple of metres away. Here you get a great feel for the size and skill of the players. Watching Radek Stepanek and Leander Paes doing net volley drills is genuinely one of the most impressive things I've ever seen! So get yourself down there in 2014 and make sure you have a good mobile phone - there's fun to be had and money to be made.............