The new tennis season kicked off and the best tennis players in the world compete in the Aussie summer of tennis. From the Hopman Cup in Perth to the Hobart International, from the Brisbane meet to the Sydney tournament, the pros took advantage of the scorching conditions and wowed audiences across the country. This Monday, the real test began, with the start of the Australian Open, the first gland slam of the year. I’ve been following the Open for some time, my interest rising and falling like the stock market. In the men’s side, I’ve seen Novak Djokovic triumph a few times, with Federer not far behind. Serena has been a cut above the rest for the ladies.
Djokovic has admitted that this is his fave grand slam. While he has emerged victorious in all four slams (Paris, London, and New York), the Melbourne face off holds a special place in his heart. Over the last decade, he has dominated at Melbourne Park, with a record-equaling six men’s trophies. Federer has won more slams than any other male player, and he is turning back the clock with every ascent. He was the champ here last year, and is being touted to win it all again. Rafael Nadal is the odd one out. Even though he won two majors last year, injuries have dampened his odds for a second Aussie open. With Serena out, the women’s draw is wide open. Last year’s victor, Angelique Kerber has an inside chance, while Maria Sharapova, the only other slam winner left in the draw, is surely in the running. There are more contenders, including world no. 1, Simona Halep, and former world no. 1, Caroline Wozniacki. However, their lack of grand slam titles would not silence the critics.
The search is on
Every year, talk about the great Australian hope has stolen billboards, dominated talk shows, and captivated a nation. Lleyton Hewitt carried the hopes and dreams of Oz for years, culminating in a final loss to Marat Safin in 2005. He was the quintessential Aussie battler, fighting till the very end even against bigger and more powerful opponents. He has a great lob, and was a fabulous returner. Then there was Bernie Tomic, who was seen as the next Andy Murray with his penchant for chasing down balls as well as his uncanny shotmaking. Yet even with all his potential, he never made it past the 4th round in his home grand slam. He also self destructed, and this is the first time that he’ll miss the open in ten years. Now, Nick Kyrgios is being hailed as the next great one. He has already made two major quarterfinals (in London and Melbourne); talent wise, he has what it takes. The only question is how much he wants it. He has a brilliant serve, and could hit ace after ace, even against quality opponents. However, his dedication to the sport has been a problem; in the past he has been blasted for not competing. Yet with his maiden Aussie title two weeks ago (his fourth overall), obsevers would be wise to give him the benefit of the doubt. As they say, ‘In the kingdom of the blind, who is king?’ ‘The one-eyed.’
Tennis can be boring and exciting at the same time. The time between serves, the five set marathons, and the ten minute service games are admittedly tedious. Then there’s the overheads, the around the post moves, the tweeners, and drop shots. When you see those techniques unleashed, you’re right back in it. In the two to four hours that it takes to watch a garden variety tennis match, your mind will wander. Even if it’s the business end of the tourney, with higher stakes and the best ball players, I would be shocked if you don’t ruminate. That’s the lovely thing about tennis: it’s an escape from the bowels of a long day. With speed, power and wizardry, we forget our troubles and converge to witness the artists at work. There’s drama on the court and off, like watching House of Cards. The players are of varying statures and playing styles, from baseliners to volleyers, power hitters to the finesse types. What’s more: you don’t need a hundred percent of your mind to appreciate the beauty of the game. So enjoy the heat…while it lasts.