Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Australian Open top 10

Here are my top 10 Australian Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. People never learn: Some people, including players, thought it was amusing when a streaker ran onto the court during a doubles match. Not only did the streaker get onto the court--it took officials a painfully long time to get him off. What happened to Monica Seles could happen again, and apparently, it could happen easily.

9. Somebody bring me some water: Christina McHale is a young and relatively inexperienced girl. Couldn't someone--a coach or a trainer--have told her to adequately hydrate herself the day before a match in Melbourne? There is every indication that no one did. Or perhaps someone did, and McHale just didn't listen. The American wild card was easily out-playing her opponent, Jessica Moore, in the first round, but she wound up cramping all over and losing. It was painful to watch McHale, who stayed on the court to the bitter end. (One consolation, however, was that she and her partner won the junior girls doubles title.)

8. Are you being served?: Ana Ivanovic, last year's finalist, made a third round exit, defeated by Alisa Kleybanova. The 2008 French Open champion has not found her form since injuring her thumb, and is having serious Safina-like issues with her ball toss when she serves.

7. Could have used some more drama: Jelena Jankovic, world number 1 when she arrived in Melbourne, made a round of 16 exit, defeated by a very in-form Marion Bartoli in straight sets. It wasn't a surprise. The woman known as the tour's Drama Queen looked confused and sluggish on the court, and when she packed her things, she apparently left her newly improved serve in Florida.

6. But she was the favorite!...: More people picked Venus Williams to win the Australian Open than anyone else. But not Carla Suarez Navarro. The creative Spaniard dispensed with Williams in three sets in the second round.

5. If you can't take the heat...: Everyone talks about the heat rule, but no one really understands it. The roof was open, the roof was closed. Ask Svetlana Kuznetsova about the roof--she could tell you a thing or two. This was the hottest Australian Open on record, yet the roof was open a great deal. How hot was it? It was so hot, the rubber burned off of the tires of the wheelchair players' chairs, and the players wound up with burns and blisters on their hands. Oh, and Jelena Jankovic's feet got pretty hot, too.

4. Next time, skip lunch: Victoria Azarenka woke up the morning of her fourth round match and vomited. She felt better later in the day, and in her first set against Serena Williams, she looked fabulous. Azarenka took that set, 6-2, but after that, she was reeling and bobbing on the court, a victim of food poisoning. She took a medical break, was advised to retire, went back out and played a bit more, then had to call it quits. It wasn't pretty. The retirement created the biggest "if" of the tournament.

3. We're losing? You're kidding...: Cara Black, Liezel Huber, Daniela Hantuchova, and Ai Sugiyama played in the thriller of the 2009 Australian Open, a match that lasted three hours. Hantuchova and Sugiyama were down 2-5 in the third, and right when the officials were probably preparing the interviews and announcements, the 9th seeds turned it around, and forced a tiebreak. They had won the first set tiebreak 7-0, but this time--playing against the top seeds--they went down 2-6. No big deal--Hantuchova and Sugiyama won the tiebreak 12-10. In all, they saved seven match points, and won the quarterfinal match 7-6, 3-6, 7-6.

2. Mama said knock you out: Oracene Williams, coach and mother of Serena Williams, sat calmly in her box as her daughter demolished 3rd seed Dinara Safina in the final. It helped that Safina could hardly serve at all. Williams easily won her tenth major, 6-0, 6-2, and is again number 1 in the world.

1. Aussie Aussie Aussie!: I never dreamed I would be including Jelena Dokic in this list, much less as number 1, but the return of Dokic was indeed the biggest occurrence of this Australian Open. She won the wild card playoff in Australia, then went about defeating Tamira Paszek, Anna Chakvetadze, Carolina Wozniacki, and Alisa Kleybanova--all very tough opponents. She was finally stopped, in the quarterfinals, by Dinara Safina, and--had she not been exhausted--she probably would have had to be stopped by someone else. Dokic became the first woman in Australian Open history to play five consecutive three-set matches, and--though she obviously has some work to do on her game--she looks fit and confident. The former world number 4 says she is playing better now than she ever has. The crowd adored her, and her adopted country went all out to support her. For someone who has been off the tour for so long, and playing in her first major in five and half years, Dokic was simply outstanding.


Anonymous said...

Black/Huber and Hantuchova/Sugiyama played the thriller of the tournament??? Yeah, you're right, that Nadal/Verdasco match was a total snoozer. Good call.

Sasha said...

Aargh, my computer keeps deleting my comments! Anonymous, are you being sarcastic because I really can't tell?

Diane said...

Anon, "News and Commentary on Women's Professional Tennis" means, well...WOMEN'S professional tennis. That would mean: NOT MEN'S professional tennis.