Australia Day, 2009

March 24, 2011

On January 26, 2009, my sisters and I gathered in Garden Square to watch a tennis match – as we do.

We found ourselves surrounded by Australians, supporting the Australian playing tennis – as they do.

We watched our Aussie girl battle, battle battle, up against one of the best players in the world – as you do.

And we screamed, cried, shrieked, cheered, drank, cried, screamed, until she eventually succumbed to this player, ending a fairytale quarterfinal run.

The Russian girl apologized in her post-match interview, “I’m sorry I had to beat the Australian!” She smiled. “Hopefully, next time you will be supporting me!”

As the story had it, she had Aussies supporting her plenty more in future. That girl was Dinara Safina, and the Australian was Jelena Dokic. After their epic quarterfinal in the 2009 Australian Open, they both went in different directions that ended somewhere similar.

Dinara went on to win a slew of titles and achieve the number one ranking, before being practically carried off the court in the same venue, one year later. Following the crippling back injury that stalemated most of her career in 2010, she’s slowly trudging along the comeback trail.

Jelena’s celebrity ebbed and flowed. Following the golden run of 2009, she slumped once again, picked up a few times, and found herself yo-yoing between injury slumps and attempted comebacks, challenger wins and qualifying cop-outs. In 2011, the comeback trail was hers to blaze.

A few weeks ago, everything changed for both these girls. Jelena took her first title in nine years, the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. An inspiring moment, to be sure, and one which heralded an upcoming season to bring gratification to the most whiplash-weary Dokic fans.

Safina, too, started showing signs of life. After admitting she contemplated retirement as recently as January, the former Number One has shown signs of life, with an excellent showing in Indian Wells last week – including an upset over Australian Top 4 seed, beloved Samantha Jane Stosur.

Fans peeking through a curtain six months ago who would have seen the next two pieces of tennis news would’ve shaken the streets with joy over these headlines:

– Dokic on a hot streak; qualified for Miami Masters

– Safina back on track, playing well again.

Up against each other? Not so much.

I won’t be watching – what’s up with the Miami tennis not being televised until the first weekend? – but livescoring as I gallivant the icy, haily, snowy streets of New York. Mantra: COMEONEJELENACOMEONJELENACOMEONJELENACOMEONJELENA. It’s a wintry mix right now, but to me, it’s Australia Day 2009 all over again.

 


Watch out, FIFA Scouts

March 22, 2011

When you watch as many post-match pressers and read as many tennis profiles as I do, it’s easy to start assuming that tennis is kinda the uncool little-brother sport to it’s cool-big-brother sport of football slash soccer. Many players admit to wanting to play football when they were younger, some dropped out in order to make room for tennis, and there are still a few who readily acknowledge they would’ve preferred to be better at their bigger, glitzier, shall we say more-universally-renowned big-bro sport. As a hardcore tennis fan, this is when it’s apt to grin smugly that “we” got that dude who looks rather dashing with an unclad torso in “our” camp, even though he clearly wants to be bromancing it up on a muddy field with twelve of his equally dashing European-or-South-American-but-either-way-from-a-hot-looking-country mates.

Luckily, some tournaments let our boys release that inner energy, and that’s why last week at Indian Wells the grassy turf killed about seventeen birds with one stone, giving the boys a chance to get kickity and the girls a chance to watch. (Credit to C Note for doing an amazing job stalking – I mean, blogging – and keeping us posted with the soccerhotness.

Now we’ve moved on beyond a few minutes of boys kicking around a tennis ball at the end of practice, Melbourne-style, or some serious grassy matches, a la Indian Wells. In Florida, the childhood fantasies get indulged and your favourite specimens of men-with-unclad-upper-torsos will be showing off their goods – for a good cause.

I know I’ve made this sound trivial, but it’s not, so let me go on: This is really all about Japan, and the ATP guys have gotten together to raise money for the victims of the disastrous earthquakes and tsunami of the last week. This is not the first time this sporting organisation has gotten together to raise funds for relief to those hit by natural disasters (see: Haiti; Chile; Queensland) and it’s a very special thing to see. This week in Coconut Grove, Florida, an ATP all-star team of tennis players will be bringing their soccer skillz to the stadium so you can all throw your cash at them and make sure it goes to help the people of Japan. Who need it. Really bad.

According to Nole, who, let’s face it, is teacher’s pet of the ATP at the moment:

“I am very concerned for the people of Japan and think it is only right that we do whatever we can to help those in need,” Djokovic said.

“I would love to see all of Miami support both events by showing up Wednesday, March 23rd at the Ransom Everglades High School soccer field at 7:00 pm to cheer on your favorite team and attending the dinner afterward.”

More facts:

The match against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers will take place at Ransom Everglades High School (3575 Main Highway), a couple miles south of the tournament in Coconut Grove at 7:00 pm. A dinner and auction will follow the soccer match at an undisclosed Miami location. Info at http://www.GR8Miami.com.

Confirmed ATP Players
Novak Djokovic (Team Captain, obvs)
Kei Nishikori (Japanese rep, vital)
Rafael Nadal (Little boy’s dream, couldn’t be left out)
Andy Murray (Nole doesn’t leave out his besties)
Fernando Verdasco (Too cool for the tennis court. Also, looks good shirtless)
Feliciano Lopez (See above).

Also included are other fine graduates of the European summer outdoor training scheme and unclad torso specimens:

Richard Gasquet; Viktor Troicki; Marcos Baghdatis; David Ferrer; Jurgen Melzer

Kick away, lovely gentlemen!


State of the Nation: Tennis

March 22, 2011

For those of you who aren’t perpetually linked in to the world of tennis via a plethora of fancy tools that your parents call “hi-tech” and you call “my life, dammit”, you may not have had the same last several weeks as the rest of us, watching a little piece of yellow fuzz being hit back and forth by exceptional characters clad in various fashions showcasing specific examples of the amazing strength of the human body. Such shenanigans were going on in the state of California, in a little-known place just off Palm Springs, called Indian Wells.

Indian Wells is supposedly an oldies resort, where tennis courts and golf courses stretch on for mile after green mile, overlooked by the oh-so-purdy snow-capped mountains in the background. As players converge on this little spot of the California desert in the beginning of March for the first Masters Tournament of the season, it’s all about seeing just who’s held up since the last time the boys and girls got together in Melbourne: Will the up-and-comers (hi, Dolgy, Bernie, Milos, yeah you) live up to the hype? Is Novak Djokovic really on fire? Can Roger Federer cash in his superannuation yet? Does Caro really DESERVE the Number One ranking? (Yawn.) And, more importantly: How fat is Fernando Verdasco? Does Jada need a haircut for those cute blonde curls? Are all Serbian fans really that awesome? Will John Isner EVER get the girl?

The questions of tennis fans never cease, and we tend to have the important stuff covered: Food, fashions, children, celebrity friends, rumoured relationships, bromances with other sports, how men look with their shirts off. Tennis journalists, on the other hand, and dabblers in the sport we like to call “casual fans”, all have just one question, constantly, and damn it does get boring:

OMG, So, Like, Do you think, like, Roger Federer, isn’t he, just the BEST EVER? *gush* Followed by: How about that Nadal dude? What’s wrong with Andy Murray?

And lately, if you get just the right sort of tennis fan: “What’s up with Djokovic? He won the Australian Open, hey?”

And the zinger: “So are Federer and Nadal over?”

I love reading responses to this question because everyone pretends to know and no-one really knows and the fun part is, we’ll never know, until it happens, and THAT’S WHY WE LOVE THIS SPORT SO MUCH.

We love sport BECAUSE it’s unpredictable. Because there is no way of knowing what’s going to happen next. Because tennis, of all glorious wonderful sports, is so wondrous precisely because you can be staring three match points in the face at 5-4 in the 2nd set only to have it turned around to face ANOTHER match point in the tie-break to TURN IT ALL AROUND and win the goddamn match in the third set and then WIN THE TOURNAMENT. Because when your friend texts you to find out what time you’ll be done watching the tennis and you say “I don’t know” it’s because, You really don’t bloody know.

And that’s why it’s awesome.

We don’t know if Nole will end the year number one, or Rafa, or even (please not) Roger. We don’t know if Nole’s luck will snap, or he’ll finish Miami with the hard-court-major-trifecta (Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami) and get the longest streak ever, or take over Number One by riding through clay season.

Or if Rafa will join a soccer team tomorrow and Roger opens a day-care center and leave the rankings open slather for the rest of the top 10. Andy Murray could win the next fourteen slams after this, and everyone will laugh hysterically at the hiccup of the first few slam finals he was in.

I’m happy to say that the Indian Wells results were true to life, in my humble, stream-watching-incessantly-tweeting opinion. I *do* think Caroline Wozniacki deserves the Number One spot, and I’m glad she proved it. I *do* believe Novak Djokovic is on an unbelievable hot streak and the better player of the big three – as he so proved to us this weekend. Having those two as our champions this weekend says something about the state of the nation in sport – and having two kids who are both pretty awesome, as far as kind, generous, funny (ok, only Nole, but Caro does give good tweet when Jisner is around), good-looking ambassadors to a sport that needs a bit of marketing help – is a total plus. As for what happens next? Who the hell knows. But I sure as hell can’t wait to find out.

THIS SPORT IS THE BESTEST, YOU GUYS.

Because no matter what happens tomorrow, I know I’ll be sitting somewhere in the world – whether in a hot and sweaty bar in Thailand, on a laptop in my apartment in Brooklyn, in an Irish pub in Spain, or courtside at a Grand Slam – and waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.


On Top Of The World

March 22, 2011

Yesterday, Novak Djokovic proved he’s on top of the world – and, without a doubt to most – the best tennis player in the world right now. He did what we love to see, taking out Federer and Nadal in the same tournament, and extended his winning streak to 18-0 in the season – that’s 20 if you add in some fun times on a packed arena in his home town, Belgrade last year. He’ll get on the wikipedia page for tennis match streaks when he hits 26 – so, Miami, anyone?

Today he showed his domination by going – where else? – but the top of the world. Rather, the top of some pretty meadows and hills, but dammit, it took guts. And only with the confidence you’d have being Novak Djokovic right now would you actually attempt such a thing.

Though, looking at the cables attached, I’m thinking it’d be a similar experience to hangliding or paragliding. Which, as someone who has skydived one awesome time, doesn’t seem to be *that* big a deal. Yup, that’s me asserting my street cred for you, right now.

This is why my sport is so much better than yours. In case I haven’t made that point about nineteen million times over the last year and a bit of blogging.

Oh tennis.


Can’t Wait for Casey

March 18, 2011

According to the fabulous Linda Pierce of The Age, there’s a certain special someone on her way back to a tennis court near you.

Casey Dellacqua, best-known for her Target-clad hometown run in the 2008 Australian Open, is finally coming off injury #2, not exactly fun when it’s the second time in nineteen months your body’s decided to pack up on you. Instead of rushing into the Aussie Open, where we all pretty much love her after the beauty of her 2008 run, Casey kept up with her training and rehab, which hopefully means she’ll stick around a little longer this time. Very smart, because while a hometown crowd at the Australian Open is fun, isn’t another five years or so of your career, well, funner?

Casey’s been on the board for the last month or so, playing the Australian challenger circuits at Burnie, Sydney and Mildura, and there are still a couple more to go before she heads to play with the big boys and girls. This isn’t the first time I’m thanking heaven for protected rankings, but dear G-d this is a good time to do so. The article mentions Wimbledon, and not sure if that means she’ll be heading over for Clay, or starting at Wimby and going on for the rest of the US swing. Either way, it’ll be so damn good to have another girl in our stable.

Despite the fact we’ve missed having our girl on court, Casey was kinda, well, happy to just be Case:

”For the last couple of years I’ve been just Casey Dellacqua, and not really Casey the tennis player. I have to get used to now being a tennis player again, because I think I got into the reality of life and what normal life is … but the time’s going by, so I want to get back into it. Tennis is what I want to do, and I have to get used to just being back on the road, being out of my comfort zone a little bit, but I’m sure it won’t take long.”

Jelena’s back. Casey’s on her way. Can I get a woot woot, Aussie girlie tennis fans?


Matte or Dewy?

March 18, 2011

This video is wonderful for many reasons, including the view of Indian Wells, a tournament that is growing on me to the extent I’m considering planning a nice little tennis holiday next year this time. It’s also got a Hi from Kei, and if you look ruhlly ruhlly closely at 3.08, a pretty lady in a ponytail who may or may not be Ana Ivanovic warming up.

How much would you give to be the makeup artist so artfully patting gel in Delpo’s spikey ‘do…. Or spongeing Tomas with what we can only assume would be foundation of the dewy type. I’d recommend a liquid-to-powder formula, personally.


Doubles Heaven

March 14, 2011

Rafa’s given us the lowdown on why Indian Wells is such a doubles treat, aka Olympic Practice Ground:

Q. What do you think about the fact that you’ve won this tournament in doubles and the Bryans have not?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am better than them. (Laughter.)
That’s not the case, no? So the thing is probably I have the best partner of the world, yeah. I have a fantastic partner. Marc, he has amazing talent, and when we play together, we have a lot of fun.
You know, I would love to play more tournaments doubles, but for me is impossible for the calendar and everything. Is too much.
But when I have the chance, I play. I played this year in Doha. I normally do in this tournament because is a long tournament and I have a few days in a row that there is a lot of – with the super-tiebreak helps a little bit to the players, but can have more chances to keep helping the players to play more and more doubles.
Because I think if the best players of the world play doubles, is a very good fun for the crowd, and for us, too, because we play a little bit more relaxed. At the same time, we practice, you know. If we have more facilities, is easier to practice playing doubles and is better practice playing doubles than practice only on the practice courts.


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