In no way is my tennis addiction waning but I've taken a winter break from writing about tennis.
I was not really looking forward to watching the 2013 Aussie Open, mostly because my NZ to US move meant for the first time since 2009 I would not be in Melbourne for any of the tennis. I've been lucky to attend the Aussie Open five times and it is by far my favourite tournament, hands down. I missed it a lot this year.
For years I've heard US-based Tweeps complain about the Australian time zone. Yes, I hear that - it's not easy from the US but it's not really that bad. For us midwesterners, the coverage started at 6pm which was perfect timing (and didn't require pretending to work while streaming tennis). The only tricky parts came if you wanted to watch a night session match (started 2.30am CST). I'm personally lucky that the night matches rarely compelled me to stay up and I chose not to stay up for either final (watched the ladies final when I woke up).
But after living in NZ for years I gotta say you do not have it so bad in the US in general for year-round tennis watching. Watching the European tourneys from NZ was tough tough tough - try doing the French and Wimbledon back to back. I'm surprised I kept my job...
Back to the actual event. This Aussie Open was so full of drama, some of it warranted, other parts so not.
My highs and lows...
- Li Na - I've seen her play quite a bit since she brought Carlos Rodriquez on board. Her match against Maria was particularly fun (tho I love Masha) to watch everything just click. Having watched Li Na lead and then lose to Kim Clijsters the past two years in Melbourne, I was delighted she had such a great run to the final and had fantastic crowd support (tho not all for the right reason). Tennis better enjoy Madame Li while we can. Great talent and personality.
- Kimiko Date-Krumm - Second career? 42 years old? No problem! Great run to the third round.
- Weather - how fun is it to have a grand slam run two full weeks without rainy weather being an issue? Yes, it's hot but I don't recall play ever being suspended due to needing to close the roof on Rod Laver Arena.
- Aussie Open website - always a great selection of videos which are posted so quickly after matches. Highlights, interviews, full transcripts - such a complete grand slam site.
- The AO app - dependable and how fantastic is AO radio?
- Injuries - watching Serena fall down in her first round match made my heart stop. Yes, she was able to finish her match in a compelling manner and still made the quarters and played a few rounds in doubles but that ankle was never going to be able to survive a full two weeks of singles and dubs. We saw the pic she tweeted - looks horrible and I hope she is able to heal up before Miami (and more importantly the Madison Square Gardens exo on March 4th that I have tickets to!). And two falls for Li Na during the final!? Stop the madness!
- ATP players' continued disrespect of the WTA. I'm so saddened that every few weeks, we seem to have a new ATP player who makes jibes at the WTA. From well publicized comments from Janko Tipsaravic and Giles Simon about equal prize money to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's 'hormonal' comments at this AO. I am fully over the need these players feel to denigrate the tour of their peers and it's turning me off the ATP in general. Yes, all players are entitled to their opinions, and they can express them in any way. But where's the support?
- Vikagate - look, I'm not a huge Vika fan. I like her and I am glad she has pulled it together to be the grand slam winner we all thought she could be. The media clearly don't favour her too much - I remember in 2012 she often had no media requests for interviews after her matches. As the world #1! I know she has been prickly to media, she highlights the brunt of complaints about women's grunting/shrieking and fans have not warmed to her possibly due to a combination of both. Combine that with Vika facing a new tennis darling in Sloane Stephens and you have all the right circumstances for a full-on OTT controversy. I'm irate the way ESPN and its professionals went on and on and ON about the MTO. I feel like the tennis world was almost waiting for a chance to jump all over Vika. To me, the female players are held to completely different standards. Calling trainers and MTOs is common and it seems like players are considered guilty until proven innocent when it comes to the belief their injury/illness is real. Rafa has often been suspected of faking the need for a trainer at key times in a match, so has Novak, so has Vika in the past so perhaps that's why it's hard for people to give her the benefit of the doubt. But goodness did the media pounce on her for it. Will it lead to stricter rules for trainers and MTOs? We will see what's gonna happen.
Not having Rafa in Melbourne was rough for many a tennis fan, including two in my house. Slams without Rafa just don't feel the same and I hope this was the last one without him (until retirement of course!).
I'm looking forward to a quiet non-slam week, and my next live tennis is the Madison Square Gardens exhibition on March 4th with Rafa, Serena, Del Potro and Vika - let's hope they are all healthy and able to participate!