Before we launch into the tennis season, I have to get over my feelings about the Australian Open.
I’m almost ready to get on with the rest of the tennis season. TennisTV.com will crank up next week with online coverage of the women’s event in Paris and the men’s event in Rotterdam meaning that I can now say goodbye to TVAnts peer to peer pirated broadcasts which never worked anyway because I was too lazy to upload any footage of my own. That’s why it’s called peer to peer: you get back what you give.
Our writer Mike McIntyre will be in Dubai covering the women’s event this month when he’s not snowboarding down the indoor slopes at Dubai’s ski dome or, who knows, riding up a glass elevator to share a Turkish coffee with Dubai resident Roger Federer. We’re pretty excited about that, but first I’ve got some leftover feelings to spill.
Last Sunday Melbourne time wasn’t the first time Roger cried after the final at the Australian Open, but it was slightly different this time. They weren’t tears of joy on the shoulder of the legendary Rod Laver, they were tears of despair as his shot at the “greatest of all time” appears to be slipping away.
Give a slight nod to the new Plexicushion courts that were slow enough to produce one of the best clay court-like semifinals of all time between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco. Rafa’s epic 2005 final against Guillermo Coria in Rome was the longest match in that city’s history and it was 5 hours and 14 minutes long – yes, exactly the same length as the Rafa-Verdasco match. But no one will remember that.
Because first it was grass as Rafa snatched away Roger’s Wimbledon crown last year, and now hard court. One more slam title than Pete Sampras or not, it won’t matter, because Roger couldn’t consistently beat Rafa on either of his two favorite surfaces. I’m telling you, it may be killing Roger, but it’s killing me too and I couldn’t help being a bit snarky as Rafa fell to the court in victory.
When my lovable Arizona Cardinals lost the Super Bowl later that day, at least I could kick my inflatable referee punching bag across the room. All I could do about Roger losing was accuse Rafa of taking drugs. How does this guy do it? Steroids? HGH? EPO? How can he play a 5 hour and 14 minute semifinal, have one less day of rest, then watch as his opponent is the one who fades in the fifth set?
That doesn’t matter either because Rafa is slowly taking over the world tennis tour. Can he win the calendar slam? Oy, I hope not. Local sports shows are actually beginning to talk about tennis again because we now have a bona fide rivalry. We have five set matches between the two best players in the world and that’s what people want.
Oh, and personality. We want personality too. Rafa has it and Roger is finding it – even if it means overshadowing Rafa at the award ceremony. Martina Hingis completely disintegrated and walked off the court after losing the 1999 French Open final before the award ceremony even started, and Mary Pierce could barely speak through her tears after losing the 2005 French Open final. Lleyton Hewitt watched with cartoon-sized saucer eyes as Marcos Baghdatis walked off crying after their epic five set match in Melbourne last year.
Hewitt looked like he couldn’t quite believe it but that’s what we want. We want drama and we’re getting it and it’s not just Rafa and Roger. England was beside itself when Verdasco dropped Andy Murray in the fourth round in Melbourne and Novak Djokovic always has a bit of controversy following him around.
It ain’t Borg and McEnroe and Connors and Lendl, but it’s a whole lot better than we’ve had in a long time.