Monday, January 28, 2008
After A Slam and Other Random Thoughts
There is something about the end of a Grand Slam. The players have scattered to the four winds, some to play, others to work on improving their games for the next event in their future, others to contemplate their futures in the sport.
There is also a post Slam let down for those of us who follow the tennis calendar. There is the build up to the Slam itself – the pre Slam tournaments where both players and results are scrutinized by tennisheads so that predictions can be made, wagers, both virtual and monetary placed, and a fan can hardly wait for the fortnight tennis orgy to begin.
The Australian Open is particularly hard for fans in the States. I live on the East Coast of the United States and Melbourne Australia is sixteen hours ahead of my time zone. This meant living in a twilight zone where I was following matches taking place the next day while continuing at my full time job. Normal sleep patterns went out the window while I watched ESPN’s great coverage either on line or on television. Sometimes a nights viewing entailed doing both. Bed at or after 11p, normal rising at 4:30a, and sneaking peeks at matches that began at the quite normal time of 7:30p in Melbourne but at 3:30a where I live. For the Mens Final I took a long nap starting about 9p and woke up in time to see it at 3:30a. Once it finished I was wide awake and made it to 10:30a before throwing in the towel and going to bed. Habits of a madwoman? Probably. But I know I wasn’t alone in my insanity and that somehow makes it better.
What’s next for a tennishead? Tennis of course.
Guillermo Coria is starting his formal comeback at Vina del Mar in Chile. The women will be playing Fed Cup this weekend and the men will play Davis Cup the following weekend.
The French have had their tennis landscape remade. Their anointed one had to sit by and watch the after thought play his way into a Grand Slam Final. The French have to be salivating at their Davis Cup prospects now. Will Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pull French tennis out of the world of the beautiful and into the world of guts and glory again? Is he ready for that weight to be placed on his shoulders? Will Richard Gasquet, relieved of the weight, relax and play up to his potential?
Will the squabbling French women put their differences aside and simply play tennis to the tune of the Marseillaise for Fed Cup?
Has the duopoly indeed become a troika? Have we moved from the age of class to the age of crass?
Will the dismal play of the WTA be addressed by the powers that be or will all the focus continue to be on the Golden Girl? When will shrieking, squeaking, and hitting the ball into the net or spraying it wide be deemed unacceptable? When will women players emerge who capture the collective imagination of tennis fans and lead to the debates of the past? The only two genuine stars, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, are aged by tennis standards. The Golden Child is a superstar in the eyes of her sponsor but the decidedly under whelmed response of the Aussie’s after her win speaks volumes about hype and true super stardom. Chrissie, Martina, Monica, Gabriella, Steffi,
Billie Jean – these were tennis superstars. Fans still argue about them today. And they’re arguing about their tennis, not how beautiful they are/were. Will women emerge who really want it, who are willing to play their way into the fans hearts? Time again will tell.
The ATP product on the other hand rescued the event. The quality of play, intriguing and new match ups, and the possible return of serve and volley on the racquet of a young Frenchman makes the upcoming year exciting. There is no hype needed here. The play speaks for itself.
Surface wars? Traditionalists decried the change but Tennis Australia finally did what everyone else has done and adapt to the technology being used by the players today not twenty years ago. Scream all you want about Wimbledon being slowed down. You can't turn back time. The age of wooden racquets has passed.
Will the Chinese buy the Open from Tennis Australia and move it to Shanghai as has been reported with some alarm? Will business beat out tradition? Tennis Australia is addressing player concerns re the locker rooms and other facilities that said to be out dated. They’re spending a lot of money to do so. They are also looking at a Sunday start in 2009. Nothing like a fire being lit under one’s ass to get one moving is there?
Do the results of the Australian Open, where no number one or two seeds made it through to the semi’s except for the men who make up the duopoly, mean that there is a changing of the guard? Did the stars align in a pattern never to be seen again? Was the event a fluke, a one off that will not happen again? Who knows? I certainly don’t and I don’t care to give an opinion at this time. Let’s see where things are for the women and men who play tennis when Madrid and Beijing come around in the fall.
For this tennishead the Australian Open has done what it usually does and started the conversation for the upcoming year. The players, from top to bottom have been served. There is no Grand Slam event until Roland Garros begins. That should give us all time to rest, and contemplate the year that is to come.