Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 Aussie Open Wrap-Up

The Australian Open is over. Despite the best efforts of his mother, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not win. Really, there were moments when it looked as if Evelyn Tsonga was going to jump over the seats, scale the fence, grab the racket from her son's hands, and put a beat down on his opponent. There is no doubting where the fierce competitiveness in that family comes from, and I ain't referring to the former handball playing dad.

I am disappointed that Federer did not defend his crown. A German newspaper claims that he was actually very sick. I wonder if we would have found this out had he won the tournament? I suspect not.

At the very least I can console myself with the fact that the guy who ultimately shoved Federer aside ended up winning the tournament altogether. Up 'til this point, Djokovic has been more well-known for his comic impersonations of other players than for his tennis. Today he proudly announced that he is the first Serbian to win the Australian Open. I can't remember any other time when a player grabbed the microphone after the ceremony was over, just to make sure that everyone knew what country he came from. And his fans responded as raucously as if they were at a soccer or cricket match.

Speaking of Serbia, a woman from that country - Ana Ivanovic - also made it to the Australian finals. And despite her incessant fist-pumping, she lost. I don't get why women players pump their fists so continually. Some do it after every single point won, even when they did nothing to earn the point. It's quite annoying. Maria Sharapova beat Ivanovic quite convincingly to win the women's title. And she too kept pumping her fists. If you didn't know how to score, you would have no idea which woman was winning from all the fist-pumping going down on court.

The Women's Doubles was as disappointing (or as hilarious, take your pick) as women's doubles tend to be. Picture it. Four women on a tennis court. At any given moment, any of these four women can intercept the ball to try to win the point. But is this what occurs? Almost never. What happens instead is that the server and her diagonal opposite get into a lengthy back-and-forth rally, while the other two players dance around as if they have a hot pee and must get to the bathroom ASAP. Women's doubles really pisses me off.

In Australia, Shahar Peer became the first Israeli woman to make it to the finals of a tennis Grand Slam. She and her partner, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, did not win. They lost to the Bondarenko sisters mainly because the sisters were slightly less allergic to poaching.
Shahar could learn a thing or three from her Israeli compatriots, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who convincingly won the men's doubles against the French team of Llodra and Clement. It was a terrific match. It was doubles the way doubles should be played, with lightening quick exchanges at the net and sweet sweet overhead lobs if you dared. None of that baseline rally foolishness that the women call doubles and for which they demand and receive equal pay. But let's not even go there.

Yet another Serbian, Nenad Zimonjic, also made it to the finals of the mixed doubles. (What's in the water in that country?) He and his partner, Sun Tian Tian of China, beat the Indians Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupati. I remember reading somewhere that Bhupati is actually Mirza's manager. I wonder how the heck that works, emotionally as well as financially?

I have my first tournament match this evening. After sitting on my butt for two weeks watching tennis instead of practicing, I'm going to need a bottle of that Serbian water. Desperate times call for desperate measures.