BRISBANE, Australia – We’ve seen it all for 2024 already – and on the second day of the Aussie summer, we’ve already reached peak ‘Strayan-ness.
And it’s not even 2024 yet.
During Dominic Thiem’s first-round qualifying match in Brisbane on Saturday, the stands were full – and there was an additional visitor.
An eagle-eyed fan sitting in the first row across the court from the player chairs spotted it, nestled amid a bunch of thick electrical wires on the outside of the court.
No one really did anything for some 15 minutes, except sort of try to spot it as play continued. At one point people started to disbelieve he had really seen it – until someone pulled out their phone who had managed to snap a pic.
But after Thiem’s opponent, Aussie James McCabe, rolled in the first set, things got crazy.
Here’s what it looked like.
First a tournament official came in and tried to spot it. She was on her ear piece and her phone a lot. But nothing was really HAPPENING.
Then the snake squad descended. Some of the volunteers gave Open Court a full briefing on the dangerous venom of a brown snake (there was no confirmation that’s what this was in the end, but that was the working theory).
As one volunteer put it, “the only good snake is a … dead snake”.
Another joked they probably needed Steve Irwin (may he RIP) after the first crew came up empty.
They knew that the fellow in the khakis and the long cane with the yellow wrap was a “snake catcher”. This is apparently a big job in this part of the world. And if you spot one of these buggers in your garden it can take weeks to get an appointment.
They spent significant time trying to poke the thing out, with the help of the guy who originally spotted it and his buddies, while the players stood around.
Eventually, the chair umpire made an announcement that play was suspended because of “an animal that had to be removed”. Perhaps he was told it could be very venomous, and didn’t want to alarm the crowd.
But the fans were all, like, “Oh yeah, we get one of those in our garden every now and again,”. And they crowded around and stood in the stands trying to catch a glimpse of the rescue mission.
People were crowding around with their phones, telling each other their snake stories. Literally like it was absolutely NO BIG DEAL AT ALL!
Bring in the SUPER CATCHER!
The first snake wrassler had no luck. He was helped by an assortment of very high-tech snake-catching equipment: a phone flashlight, an umbrella, a ruler – and multiple rolls of duct tape.
Duct tape is always useful in any emergency, as we know.
Then, another fellow with a tattoo around his ear showed up. And he looked like he meant business.
They got it once, but it wriggled away.
Finally, he got the job done – to a huge ovation from the crowd.
Seriously, he held the bag with the offending varmint high above his head like it was the Norman Brooks Trophy, with a huge smile on his face.
We don’t know if this crazy scene was an omen for the 2024 tennis season. But maybe it was a good omen for Thiem.
McCabe served for the match in the second set, and had match points. But somehow, Thiem turned it around and won in three.
It wasn’t looking that way for the first hour and half, that’s for sure. Maybe Thiem is a snake charmer and didn’t even know it.