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.

xx doots


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22 responses to “Down Under Fall Out: Hot or Not?”

  1. TopSpin says :

    Great post.

    Completely agree with you re: Venus and Clijsters, though I have to say, Venus’ QF against Li Na was one of the most attrocious matches I’ve seen a top seed play at the Slam level (ditto Li Na) – i’m almost fine with her not delivering on my hope to see her win a Slam on a surface other than grass – but performances like this do worry me.

    Oh and you missed out Vika who once again ran into a red hot Serena in the semis – not my fave player but I suspect she might have made the final playing anyone else

    • TopSpin says :

      Vika played Serena in the QF – but you already knew that

    • dootsiez says :

      Yeah I know which match you meant of course. I was there!

      Venus v Li was indeed a shockingly bad match, right up there with Davydenko v Verdasco as one of the worst matches of the tournament. But the atmosphere was fantastic as the match got competitive.

      I know Venus’ form was horrifying in that match, but considering I thought she might’ve lost to Lucie Safarova first round, she already exceeded my expectations.

      And I missed out on Vika because I was unimpressed with her.

      Vika v Serena AO 2009, v Safina RG 2009 and now v Serena again AO 2010 – all three matches, she bolted out of the gates with such gusto, and then ran out of gas half way through the second set only to lose the match. That annoyed me.

  2. Mia says :

    We won’t begrudge you your celebration, Doots. We all still are basking in the afterglow. But please put up that picture for Friday — yes, am talking about that wonderful play of light and shadow on a shirtless Federer.

  3. JFK says :

    I’m wondering what you think of Sharapova? Do you think she belongs in the ‘step down’ category? I’m worried about her ever winning a slam again with that serve 😦

    And also, I’m still confused how Djokovic is #2 when he hasn’t made it to a GS final in 2 years. How is he ranked higher than Del Potro who won the USO and Murray who just made it to the AO finals?

    • dootsiez says :

      Djokovic is ranked higher because he played more tournament and matches than anyone last year. Especially post US Open.

      I didn’t include Maria with Dina and Ana for one reason – she has proven she’s got the mentality. As for her game, I’m not so sure right now. I hope she deals with the serve.

  4. elf princess says :

    What is to become of Mandy? So happy about Fed’s win but sorry for Mandy at the same time.

    • flo says :

      Murray needs to make that 1st serve more reliable (was in the 50s the whole tourney and he made the finals with that!), second serve quality maybe. I guess he’s never going to develop the power or technique to generate winners easily against the top bunch, what with the slow courts.

      I mean he got what he wanted against Fed, bh to bh rallies and he couldn’t get much advantage out of that because: a) his ball is not heavy enough to trouble Fed and b) Fed is defending his fh corner better movement-wise so he couldn’t go up the line or at least wasn’t willing to.

      Anyway, even with just an improved consistency on serve it should be enough. And if he can get the clay game then it really could suit his game considering his game is more about teasing unforced errors and structuring points than anything else.

      #1 Fed’s win but a close #2 is the season premier of Lost. Yes!

  5. pban says :

    Every year I just wish Fed to win Wimby simply because it means everything to him. Anything else, I promise myself would be a bonus…..I agree with you Doots Ishould keep the moronic expectations to myself and just enjoy the ride while it lasts.But what will I do about my kingsize frazzles every time a slam starts and Wimby I have no idea how I get through that fortnight alive and have done so for 6 years(except 2008 of course 😦 )

  6. FortuneCookie says :

    Great post! 🙂
    Gotta agree,the 08 pack like Dinara/JJ/Ana are driving me mad,I just don’t take any notice of their results anymore!It’s annoying not seeing them capitalise on the talent they have time and time again,I think Ana’s in the worst situation of those 3 though…
    And as for the rankings,if Fed wins Indian Wells or Miami or something then the Sampras no.1 record is pretty much in the bag no?But it sucks about Rafa,and for Vera who is down to 14 I think,so there’s A LOT riding on Indian Wells for their rankings,and Ana too,surely if she doesn’t defend her final then she’s gonna nosedive in the rankings?
    And in your break,don’t forget Federporn Friday,not that you ever would obviously 😉

    • dootsiez says :

      ^ Fed said at the start of the year that he’ll put a bit more effort into some of the smaller tournaments, so we’ll see, shall we? It seems that he’s still down for Dubai and Estoril, neither of which he played last year.

      Not that he’ll necessarily win either of those titles. Or even that I care if he wins those.

      After Qatar/AO, I’m ready to take a Serena Williams attitude on him.

  7. Q says :

    Absolutely agree with the Cilic and Djo evaluation! And it IS sad to see Rafa drop out of no.2 – but I have no doubt he’ll comeback. It’s really hard to make correct predictions, but I’m willing to bet Cilic for one future slam title and top 3.

    P.S.First time leaving a message ’cause I’m just too happy for the 16th. Just LOVE your blog (started following just before last year’s Roland Garros), emotionally AND intellectually satisfying.

    • dootsiez says :

      Hi Q,

      Welcome out of lurkdom!

      I agree – it’s difficult to make predictions at this stage, but Cilic is definitely one of the guys of the future. He’s peaking a little late for his generation as well, considering he’s about the same age as del Potro. Not unlike some other Swiss guy we know.

      I dunno how he’ll be on clay or grass, but I think he’ll be a force to be reckoned with by the US Open.

  8. whynotme says :

    Great wrap-up! How do you always find the time for all of this?!

    Agree on the No 1s reigning superb. I was really surprised that right before the tournament nobody picked Fed as a possible winner. I was lowering my expectations as a self-preservation process, but you wouldn’t expect these so-called ‘experts’ to do the same! Or maybe they’re just all hardcore Fedfans trying to jinx the whole field by picking Murray & co as winners instead of Fed LOL

    About the calendar Slam, I don’t think he’ll do it, and I don’t care if he doesn’t. If he wins RG, then I may reconsider my position since it would be his best chance ever, but even in that case I still think it’s going to be REALLY hard.

    I’m on the Cilic bandwagon too! His game is really pleasant to watch, and it’s strange but he reminds me of Fed in more than one aspect. His defense-to-offense game is very Fed-like, his demeanour on AND off the court is the same (relaxed, never panics, speak fluent English, etc) If the future of tennis has to be about tall guys, please let it be Marin and not Delpoop!!

    As for dystopia….. I hope Rafa doesn’t fall even lower in the rankings! Not only because Rafa is one of my faves, but also because a Fedal QF at RG would KILL me and my poor nerves!

    And I can confirm that the Australian Open is really the best slam concerning the accessibility and facilities. Seriously I’m still pulling my hair out after trying to buy those RG tix, the system is lame, the website kept being down, and it’s damn expensive!! Don’t know how much it is in Australia, but here I paid 128€ for 2 tickets on the cheapest category in Chatrier, and for the 1st 2 days (not even the QFs or something). The final is 80€ I think (but I coulnd’t buy tix as it was sold out by the time I managed to enter the website -_-) And Wimbly seems even worse!! I wanted to go there this year as it’s really easy to go to London from Paris, but apparently you had to enter ‘public ballots’ in December!! Crazy. To sum things up: you’re lucky! 😀

    • dootsiez says :

      Wow, 128€ for 2 Day 1 tickets. Round 1 and 2 tickets here for Rod Laver Arena are $55, which is about 30€.

      I want to go to Wimbledon this year too. I’ll be in Switzerland mid-July, so I figured I might fly to London early, but I missed out on the public ballots too! 😦

      Luckily, Tennis Australia and my tennis club have their own ballots. I have to find out more about it, but hopefully I’ll be able to get a ticket.

  9. whynotme says :

    ZOMG you’re so lucky!!! I’m deperate to go there, as I couldn’t last year, but I never imagined I would have to take care of Wimbly tickets before the year even started!
    Unfortunately I’ve never heard of ballots with the French tennis Federation… Do you know if there are any other way of getting tickets ?
    And wow Switzerland, that’s great! Is it work-related or will you have the time for some sightseeing? (Basel…? Wollerau? lol)

  10. Jack says :

    I like Clijsters too but I don’t think shes a tennis great. The thing I don’t get is that the commentators call Clijsters a tennis great but why don’t they call Sharapova one too?! I’m not saying she is a tennis great but if theres reason for Clijsters to be one, surely there is reason for Sharapova too. I mean she’s won more Slams than Kim. Plus, no offense, but the people Maria have beat in a Slam final (Serena, Justine and Ana) are much tougher than Wozniacki and Pierce. Plus she won 3 slams by the age of 21, and if it weren’t for the shoulder injury, I think her tally would be higher now.

    Sorry for putting my Masha-tinted glasses on but I sometimes feel she doesn’t get the credit she deserves for what she achieved in her career.

    Same goes for Venus lately. She may not be playing top tennis consistently anymore but she definetely is a tennis great. For me, she was the best grass-court player of the last decade and I’m tempted to say she was the second best player of the last decade. I just feel when she’s playing at her best, she’s pratically unbeatable.

    As for Djokovic, I can see him staying at No2 until the clay court season begins. But I can’t see Rafa getting back in the top 3 until after RG. He has a lot of points to defend so I just hope he fends off Del Potro for the No4 spot.

    A Fedal SemiFinal is bad enough but I definetely don’t want a Fedal QuarterFinal. And I don’t think the RG organisers would want that too!

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