No one but die hard fans are accepting the okey doke.
After admitting on court that she took a ten minute MTO because she was "overwhelmed" Victoria Azarenka changed her tune and said she "misunderstood" the question Sam Smith asked her on court.
The Economist , hardly known for sports commentary, has a major story about the event itself and the aftermath. Below is a summary.
In the wake of Ms Azarenka’s semifinal Pam Shriver, a retired American player, suggested that timeouts should be limited to game breaks directly before the service games of players claiming they are hurt. Since players usually feel greater pressure serving than receiving, the argument goes, timeouts are more likely to disadvantage the next server, which would discourage players from requesting them on spurious grounds. This might indeed reduce the strategic potential of timeouts slightly, but it falls far short of solving the problem. Players feeling nervous may still feel they have a better chance of holding their serves after a timeout, while a player in a dominant position can lose rhythm and momentum following a delay even when scheduled to receive.
Another proposal is to eliminate timeouts for non-acute injuries, and instead allow players access to unlimited assistance during the normal breaks that occur in matches, at change of ends and between sets. However, timeouts were instituted because sometimes players need treatment for periods longer than the normal breaks. This option risks the same adverse consequences as scrapping on-court medical treatment altogether.
Perhaps the most effective solution would be a point-docking system. If players forfeited just a single point per timeout, that would probably eliminate the temptation to cheat the system, since in tight matches, each point is immensely valuable. The ability to remain fit throughout a match is as just much a skill as having a good backhand. Playing poorly loses you points—so why shouldn’t, in a modest way, getting injured?
No athlete competes to come in second. In tennis players learn to smile and accept the plate while someone else gets the cup but natural competitors are never content with second place. The other comments Azarenka made during the Sam Smith interview was "I couldn't lose. I had to win." I'm paraphrasing but that is what she said.
Anyone who reads this blog consistently knows I've never been a fan of Azarenka and have always said she doesn't have the temperament to be a top player. She's moved herself up the rankings and has managed to keep herself at number one for a number of reasons but a leopard can't change it's spots.
There were milestones at this Australian Open: Novak Djokovic winning his third straight Oz Open, young Ana Konjuh of Croatia assuming the mantle of top junior girl, and Nick Krygios of Australia making a strong showing winning the Junior Boys title.
With the ongoing train wreck that is Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt in the twilight of his career I'm sure the people at Tennis Australia are glad to have not only Krygios but Thanasi Kokkanakis on the horizon.
Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden won the Mixed Doubles crown, another feather in Tennis Australia's cap.
Italy could still hold it's head high as the team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won the women's doubles crown.
Going back to the Juniors for a minute Australian Junior Boys team Jay Andrijic and Bradley Mousley won the title giving TA another feather in its cap.
As for Junior Girls doubles Canadian Carol Zhao teamed with Ana Konjuh to win.
There was Li Na not only twisting her untaped ankle but then falling on the court and the sickening vision of her head bouncing off the court and being grateful that her pony tail protected her from really serious injury.
Li was visibly dazed afterwards but went on to complete her match.
The other injury news was of course Serena Williams not only injuring her ankle during her first match but playing an ill advised doubles match against the eventual champions and who ended up hurting her back and crashing out of the tournament earlier than everyone expected.
Maria Sharapova once again had an easy path to the Quarterfinals beating up on people she should have and once again crashed out at the first sign of resistance from a seed.
There was the spectacle of Roger Federer cursing at a bemused Andy Murray who had to know at that point that he had the match won.
Tennis fans always associate the word "headcase" with WTA players. How else would you describe how Petra Kvitova has performed since her Grand Slam win? The Czech tennis federation has a lot of questions to answer about Petra's off court regimen including not scheduling time to practice in heat and humidity during the "off season" and keeping her in the Czech Republic playing indoor exhibitions. But isn't it time to start applying the word to players like Tomas Berdych, also of the Czech Republic? What about Juan Martin del Potro the Argentine who showed he has the game to beat the top players but rarely does?
A full list of Wheelchair and Quad winners is posted at the end.
But these are not the things casual fans know about the 2013 Australian Open. Yes Serena smashed her racquet to smithereens and Tweeted a picture of her monstrously swollen ankle making the conversation at my hair dresser quite lively especially when the ladies of the CBS gab fest "The View" talked about it. When a magazine like "The Economist" uses a lot of ink (real not virtual) to talk about Medical Time Outs in Tennis the first Major of the year did not achieve it's objective. When the number one ranked player of the WTA gets booed by the tennis savvy Australian fans every time she makes a mistake the WTA isn't being well represented by it's top player.
When I told Haruka that Azarenka had gotten herself in trouble again the first words out of her mouth were "That woman has no filter".
I'm as susceptible as the next person to being seduced by a charm offensive on behalf of a player. The image makers know how valuable it is for a top athlete to have a positive image not only with the press but with fans. Look at what's been done on LeBron James behalf. There are fans like me who appreciate the work that has to be done not only by the PR people but the athletes themselves to help change the public perception of them. But the athlete has to be aware that as soon as the game or the match is over they have to put the talking points they've been drilled on first in their minds.
There is also this question: If Victoria Azarenka was a man would her naked ambition be treated differently? John McEnroe was an obnoxious boor. So was Jimmy Connors. But they're revered. I ask this question even though I don't think I'll ever be a fan of Azarenka. It needs to be asked even though the criticism she's received is justified.
Was this a memorable Australian Open? The surface is still a problem that will have to be looked at yet again. The difference between the US Open and the Australian Open is that TA, unlike the USTA, accepts that there are always things that can be corrected and works on doing just that.
As I noted there were a lot of positive and memorable things that happened for tennis at Melbourne. The impact these events will have on the upcoming year won't be known for some time. Neither tour came out smelling like roses again lets wait and see what's going on in November.
Wheelchair and Quad winners
Wheelchair Men's Singles
Wheelchair Women's Singles
Aniek van Koot
Wheelchair Quad Singles
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
Michael Jeremiasz / Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Jiske Griffioen / Aniek van Koot
Wheelchair Quad Doubles
David Wagner / Nicholas Taylor