Tales from Brisbane
Happy new year bitches. Long time no blog.
As some of you might be aware, I kicked off 2014 by heading to Brisbane to bask in the sweaty glow of Turderer, and the final loss aside, it was a glorious week. One that had me itching to log onto wordpress and start tapping away again. And ain’t that one of the most liberating feelings in the world.
1. Sensational sports headlines went up all over Australia today: Ashes Whitewash! Hewitt beats baffled Federer! Let’s party like it’s a new millenium!
Theoretically speaking, there is of course no shame in losing to Lleyton. Even as a tour veteran with a bionic foot, Hewitt remains a smart, strategic and persistent player, and more crucially yesterday – not one to falter on key points. In his three set victory over McFudd, Lleyton played some of the most inspired tennis we’ve seen from him in years, and his victory speech showed just how much a title in Australia meant to him at this stage in his career, a poignant moment for fans on both sides of the fence.
Whenever I look at Lleyton these days, I’m surprised by the capacity for a person to simply grow up. The Rusty we saw yesterday was passionate and determined as always, but compared to the slightly crass, me-against-the-world boy that took over the tennis world for a brief interlude between Sampras and Federer over a decade ago, Rusty has evolved into a real statesmen of Australian sport. His statement in his victory speech about his role in helping Australian tennis revealed a sense of responsibility beyond what this country could ask of him.
2. While I can’t begrudge Hewitt such a marvellous win to cap off a day of Australian sporting glory, I can (and will) unleash my fury on Federbear for a set of the most horrendous tennis I have ever seen from him, or from any player at the Brisbane International all week.
For the first set and a half, Turderer played like he was suffering from morning sickness – his serve was ineffective, his groundstrokes missed by metres, his decision-making on court was tentative and uncertain. It all came together like some sort of sick, compelling horror movie that made you cover your eyes and peek through your fingers at the same time. For the better half of the first set, many – myself included – thought he must be injured. Because the alternative – that he was simply being a shithead – seemed too remote a possibility.
By the end of the second set however, Federer had reverted to a pattern of play circa 2009-2010, which is to say there was a whole lotta clutch serving and not a lot of breakpoint conversion. At the start of the third set, with Hewitt struggling to maintain his level, Turderer had seven chances to break. All of which remained roads not taken. At serving at 1-2, Federer’s ill-judgement on court continued as he left a Hewitt return unplayed, thinking it was heading out. The shot dropped in squarely on the line for 15-30. Three shots later, Hewitt was up 3-1, an improbable victory materialising into reality.
3. Positives for the week for Federer: good serving all week, plenty of match play in singles and doubles, charmed the pants off the entire tennis-watching Australian population, excellent coordination of twins’ outfits.
There appears to be still some kinks to be worked out with the racquet, but overall, Woger seemed to be responding positively to it. Brisbane makes it the fourth tournament in a row where Federer has made semifinals or better, which is to say that the worst of 2013 is now behind us. I’m not sure Federer is anywhere close to slam-winning form right now, but given the right draw, defending his semifinal points, thereby giving himself a fighting chance to get back into the Top 4 by Wimbledon seems doable.
4. I was going to write about how peerless Serena Williams is, but it seemed like I would be wasting my breath stating the obvious. Maria Sharapova played some of the best tennis I’ve seen her play against Serena in recent times, particularly given she has had four months off. Yet still, she walked away having won zero sets, and suffered the indignity of Serena’s hilariously patronising “she played SO. WELL” post match interview.
5. Since we’re on the topic of Brisbane, it was my first time going to a small (non-slam, non-Masters) tournament, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in a city otherwise known for being mildly “bogan” and having a track record of electing craycrays onto the Australian political landscape (for Aussies: click here for one of the more satisfying moments of the night).
The transport was convenient, the organisation seamless. The stadium and grounds were small but intimate. We lucked out on seats and scheduling all three days that we attended, with highlights including seeing four former/current World No 1s back to back in one session on Thursday, and of course the Serena/Masha non-rivalry in action in the women’s semi on Friday night.
The tournament experienced the Federer Effect this year, with each of the days we were there selling out, and the atmosphere – particularly we we were sitting next to the Fanatics – reminded me of why this country hosts sporting tournaments LIKE A BOSS.
If you were to go to an Australian tennis tournament outside Melbourne, this would be the one.