Like a clipper ship heeled over in an Atlantic storm, or in the Indian Ocean, will the tennis greats of the Grand Slam fleet be able to right themselves at the good ship Australian Open?
The US Open was wacky with upsets: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Dinara Safina, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova all lost their oars and fell overboard in the storm that was the US Open. Or will their ship right itself when they cross the sea, or fly in to reach Australia?
Ho ho ho and bottle of rum says that normalcy will return in the sweltering heat that bedevils the Australian Open, the first major of 2010, and the one that for some reason seems to offer opportunities for players who have never captured a major, such as Novak Djokovic in 2008.
Of course, tilting the ship on the women’s side are Kim Clijsters and even Justine Henin. And, aye matie, will the feisty Georgia peach, Melanie Oudin, a stowaway on the hold of the Good Ship US Open, be able to shuffle those flashy tennis shoes and once more fire cannons at the stars? No one could forget––even those who don’t follow tennis—how she drowned Dementieva, Sharapova and Nadia Petrova. Will Safina yet again be seasick with double faults and jump ship?
And what about the sailors? Captain Federer, always at the helm, certainly has a good chance. First mate Nadal once again is a mystery, given his poor performance at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. But, remember, he hoisted his sails high in his Davis Cup matches. Will the two able Andy seamen, Roddick and Murray, come up on deck to hoist the sails? Maybe some other maties—Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, or Novak Djokovic—will give the top officers the heave ho.
So are we there yet?
We have just about six weeks to go, a period that will see a few other January tournaments, including a number of tune-ups in Australia. Can we wait until January 18, 2010, and then survive two weeks of who knows what tennis until the end of it all on January 31?
I bet the players can wait. They must be wrung out by now, although turnaround time is brief for the men and women who competed at the year-end championships. But, like any major, expectations are always big Down Under.