Gilles Simon’s flapping lime-green shorts.

January has to be the best month to visit Melbourne. Quite often, the sun is shining, birds are singing. There’s cricket at the MCG, photography exhibitions along the river’s edge, and, more importantly, The Tennis is on.

The Australian Open is the kick-off for a year of international tennis, and the streets are full of fans in various stages of sunburn, clad in sports paraphernalia and body paint, especially if you spot a herd of Croat guys, shirts off and bodies covered in elaborate red, white and blue heraldic flags.

The fashion is on the field, as well. Long black socks, pulled up to the knees (in 40-degree heat), are a definite statement at this year’s tennis, the Williams sisters’ outfits always are under heavy scrutiny, and it was a bit of a shock when French player Gilles Simon strutted his seemingly fragile little legs, clad in apple-green floppy shorts and shoes whose reflectors glittered and flashed as he dashed across the court, losing by the slimmest margin to Roger Federer the other night.

  Riveting sports TV: Czech republic’s Barbora Zahlavova
Strycova has a drink…

The fashion doesn’t always inspire passion: my heart went out to the ballkids (who fetch towels and balls for the gods of world tennis). WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CLOTHES? The poor kids. They run, jump, slide and watch attentively, and their reward? To be clad in the nastiest bile yellow, teamed with shorts in a soft 80s grey, which does nothing for anybody. Add to this the bright blue centre court and the TV lighting, which turns white skin tones to a muted canary yellow, and it’s a visual dog’s bowl out there.

Bright ballboys.

Thank god the tennis was so good (though seeing the perpetually sullen Australian child-woman Jelena Dokic defeated once again by a unseeded, thigh-strapped and strapping Czech, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, made no-one happy).

In the subsequent men’s singles match, the crowd called out between points: ‘Allez Simon!’ or ‘G’arn Fedo!’ (Federer has a loyal Australian following), as the crowd munched on $6 bags of Maltesers to keep its strength up during the five hours of tennis.

The ever-dapper Federer changed his shirt twice during the five sets of tennis, whipping it off quickly and discreetly. The ever-watching cameras and crowd were always ready, wolf-whistles ringing out across the stadium whenever they spotted a glimpse of flesh. Well, it’s not every day you get to whistle a man who has earned $61 million in tennis alone (not counting, of course, his lucrative advertising gains).