Down Under Fall Out: Hot or Not?
I’m in no hurry to get over the Australian Open, and since my last two posts were heavily focused on Fed-related trophy porn, I thought I’d wrap up the tournament with some thoughts on other players.
What say you?
Hot: No 1s reign supreme.
Undoubtedly the two best players of the noughties win the first slam of the new decade. What more can you say about them that hasn’t been said already? They walk the walk, and they talk the talk. They’re inimitable, insatiable. They’re the players we’ll be talking about in the next 30 years the way people talk about Laver, Sampras, Graf or Navratilova these days.
We can point to the Davydenkos and the Dementievas of the tour, who scored recent wins over Roger and Serena. But in the end, there’s a good reason why Roger and Serena have a combined total of 28 slams between them, while Davydenko and Dementieva share a shiny l’oeuf.
Not: Grandest of all slams.
Two weeks ago, many ‘experts’ were betting their house money on having 4 different male slam winners for 2010. Now the same ‘experts’ claim that Federer could win all 4 slams this year.
Remind me: didn’t we say the same thing about every Australian Open winner for the last 4 years? How did that work out?
Logically, the feat is possible, but realistically, the diversity, depth and athleticism of modern tennis make this possibility slim to the point of being negligible.
All I asked for at the start of 2010 was for Roger to win one slam. As he said in previous years, any year with a slam is a good year. Now that he’s got one, I’ll a bit greedy and hope that he stays healthy all year to break Sampras’ record of weeks at No 1, keep the semifinals streak going and win Wimbledon.
But honestly, keep the moronic expectations to yourself.
Hot: Chinese onslaught.
Empty stands at the Shanghai Masters last year should tell you how much the Chinese fans care about tennis sans Roger Federer. And are we really surprised?
Only countries with a history of tennis and good players feel a sense of “ownership” over the sport. Zheng and Li may not be future slam winners, but they’re trail-blazers. They pave the way for the seemingly inevitable Chinese onslaught in the near future. And why do we want a Chinese onslaught?
For one simple reason: more people watched the Australian Open semifinals featuring Zheng and Li than the entire population of Australia.
China redefines “mass appeal”.
Not: talk about redefinition, are we redefining ‘greatness’ here?
Don’t get me wrong. I like Kim Clijsters. Yet I couldn’t help but cringe every time she was mentioned as a ‘great champion’ in the same breath as Henin and Serena over the past fortnight.
Since when did Kim Clijsters become a tennis great?
Let’s not forget that until last year, Clijsters was a one slam wonder known for her inability to convert a victory on the big stage. Her win in New York last year was a truly inspiring story. And no doubt, she is currently one of the best players on tour.
But don’t kid yourselves here – this wasn’t some sort of a “champion’s return” to reclaim her rightful spot at the top of the game. Clijsters is a step above Svetlana Kuznetsova in anyone’s books, but she ain’t a Serena or Justine.
And by the same token, since when did Venus get completely left out of the “current greats” list?
Sure, her form isn’t fantastic right now, but the woman reached the quarterfinals without playing her best tennis and outperformed most of the other top WTA players right now.
As the winner of 7 slams and at least the third best female player of the last decade, Venus Williams deserves more respect in the media rather than this “what have you done for me lately” attitude from commentators this tournament.
Hot: Red Hot Cilic Peppers
If every slam had an “it” player, then the “it” player of the Australian Open would be Marin Cilic. Welcome to the top 10.
We saw a bit of everything – aggression from the baseline, at the net, solid movement, calmness and some nerves too. Not to mention- surprising eloquence.
Count me in on the bandwagon. I have a feeling this guy’s going to have Mandy’s number someday.
But next time Marin, perhaps you’ll learn to pace yourself more in the first week of a slam?
Not: The player that no one’s talking about.
Sorry Nole fans, I laughed when some commentators picked him to win the Australian Open pre-tournament. Based on what?
Sure, the guy cleaned up the indoor season, good for him. But who cares about the indoor season? Not when the likes of Federer, Nadal and even del Potro spent the post-US Open circuit looking burnt out, lethargic and completely lacking in intensity.
But that’s not the part about Nole that left me cold. When Rafa crashed out of the tournament at the hands of Mandy, Nole could’ve earned his No 2 spot with a win over Tsonga, his first credible opponent in the tournament after a string of cupcakes.
Instead, he cockblocked himself one last time and left his ranking up to Federer and Murray to decide. As Mandy lost, Djoko became the new World No 2 through the backdoor. Color me unimpressed.
Yes, I’m aware he had some health issues. But once upon a time, a boy also had wolf issues.
Hot: Step up.
My revelations of the tournament:
- Yanina Wickmayer (move over, Masha);
- Alisa Kleybanova (there is no better anger management than watching Kleybs club the bile out of a tennis ball),
- Nestor/Zimonjic (like I would ever pay attention to the men’s doubles semifinal if I wasn’t stuck ushering it. But boy, was I glad I watched it);
- and of course, John Isner, who continued to impress with his baby fat and sheer desire to step up.
He leaves this half of the globe with his first tour title in Auckland and his second consecutive slam fourth round. It seems that American journalists aren’t the only ones taking note of his entry into the top 20:
AMERICAN John Isner is shooting up the rankings – he’ll move into the top 20 after January’s ranking points are counted. The 22-year-old clinched his first tour title the week before the Open in Auckland, and some very important people took note. ”That was pretty cool,” said Isner, explaining how Roger Federer had stopped him in a Melbourne Park corridor to congratulate him. ”I didn’t really think he would even know, but he did. Any time Roger talks to you, let alone congratulates you, it’s pretty neat.”
Not: Step down.
15 months ago, Safina, Lady Jaja and Ana were on top of the rankings. They were the “right now” and future of women’s tennis. Today, they are three girls struggling to live with their serve, approaching their mid-20s with a total of 1 slam amongst them. With Serena looking ever so motivated and Henin back in the action, the window of opportunities has just about closed.
Kudos to all of them for going away every offseason to train and broaden their games, but the lack of game is hardly the reason they can’t win slams. At their best, JJ, Ana and Dina all have slam winning arsenals. What’s lacking is a correct balance between hot desire and a cool head.
What this says about them is that none of them know who the hell they are as a player just yet. Will they ever?
Hot: Happy Slam
I had the pleasure of chatting with some European tennis fans over the course of the last two weeks. Their comparisons made me realise just how affordable and accessible grand slam tennis is down under.
I give a lot of flak to our politicians for … being politicians, but thumbs up for continuing to invest in the sports precinct of this city. In a few years, there’ll be 3 roofs at the Australian Open, new indoor courts, a greater use of the space at Melbourne Park, and 500 more seats at a renovated Rod Laver Arena.
Not too shabby, I say.
Not: Cause and means
On the most part, Australia is a fairly multicultural society, but for some reason, tennis brings out the racial tensions each year. Croatian neo-Nazis were arrested on Day 2 with one person out of the gang found to be facing two murder charges. Chilean fans were ejected for lighting flares. The nephew of the Australian prime minister protested with a group in KKK costume against Australia’s racist treatment of refugees.
It’s another matter of cause and means. I believe that Australia’s treatment of refugees is an utter disgrace. Meet me on the Parliament steps. Meet me on university lawns. Meet me at Federation Square to protest the injustice.
But if I see you at the tennis ruining other people’s good times, I’m calling the security.
Hot: Records left standing.
With his Australian Open win this year, Roger Federer is more than 3000 points ahead of Nole, making it almost impossible to topple him before Rome. Roger needs to remain No 1 at the end of Roland Garros to break the Sampras record. It’s up to him right now to take care of his opportunities in the next 3 months and stretch that rankings lead. You go, Poopie!
Not: imbalance in our tennis universe.
I knew it was coming, but it still hurts a little to see Rafa at No 4.
We could have a Fedal semi at Indian Wells. We could have a Fedal quarter at Roland Garros if Rafa doesn’t manage to defend his points in the first half of the year.
To quote myself narcissistically, DYSTOPIA.
That’s it from the Australian Open guys. I’m taking this week as a “honeymoon week” to enjoy the Swiss 16, so don’t expect any coverage of the ‘Movistar Open’ or Zagreb.