Australian Open 2011: Midterm Grades Down Under
1) Tennis professionals are simple, uncomplicated creatures. Really, they are!
Francesca Schiavone, perhaps one of the more surprising major winners on the WTA Tour in recent history could have come up with a cliche, run-of-the-mill response when asked how she kept herself motivated after her Roland Garros crescendo.
"When you have one dollar," she said instead, "you want to have two dollar and then three dollar and then blah blah. So this is the sport. Always can happen everything."
Her five-hour, fourth-round victim, Svetlana Kuznetsova, should know a thing or two about it. Searching for her third major since the 2009 French Open, the ever-consistent Russian threw everything she had in the searing heat until she could hold on no longer at 16-14. The match gets an A plus, Schiavone an A and Kuznetsova an A minus.
2) The Australian Open has a habit of giving rise to young talented upstarts, providing them with an initial taste of glory and then snuffing it out before they can go any further.
In 2004, one 18 year old Spanish prodigy had to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment against Lleyton Hewitt while almost a decade earlier, in 1995, local favorite Pat Rafter came up horribly short against Agassi in the fourth round. Perhaps the only exception occurred a year later when a 19 year old powerful Philippoussis shocked Sampras in the round of 32.
Who will win the 2011 Men's Title?
And this year?
Bernard Tomic, 18, had the second set in the bag before Nadal ran away with the match. Milos Raonic, the ace-leading 20 year old Canadian, took out Llodra and Youzhny before Ferrer ended his run. Alexandr Dolgopolov stunned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and then saved his best for World No. 4 Soderling in a five-set thriller. He now faces Murray in the quarters and you can rest assured his fairy tale run will finally end.
So Dolgopolov gets the A while Tomic and Raonic get A minuses. They're dangerous early rounders everywhere (except perhaps on clay) and due to the increased power level on the ATP tour, we might as well be certain that further body development will, in all likelihood, coincide with a rapid rise up the rankings.
3) Remember that all-too-recent glorious era of zero-major WTA World No. 1's? Remember Dinara Safina? Her last four professional sets read 0-6, 0-6, 1-6, 0-6! That makes her a resounding F! Her other once-top ranked colleagues (Jankovic, Ivanovic, Sharapova, etc) also find themselves out of the draw a bit too early. But they fought and simply lost to the better player on the day. C's for the three.
Wozniacki on the other hand, is proving difficult to hold a grudge against and so far she's an overall A (It's been eight sets since she last faced a break point!). You know she's talented, hard working and has it set between her ears. It's just slightly less easy to envision her remaining major-less for much longer. The Australian press seem to have adopted her after a candid, fun-filled press conference where the young 'boring' Dane told it like it is. Furthermore, we now know that the scratch on her shin was due to a kangaroo. Or her walking into a treadmill. Or...
Who will win the 2011 Women's Title?
Either way, her surprisingly interesting interview prompted Times Of London tennis correspondent Neil Harman to tweet, "Wozniacki does second presser of the day, apologizing for telling a tall tale about a kangaroo bite in first. She's become media's new darling."
Right. Just wait till they chew her up if she fails to win.
4) I'm giving Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all A's while Roger Federer gets an A minus unless he promises to send Anna Wintour from his player's box over to the Venus Williams camp!
I understand that as a multiple major winner, Senior Williams has the right to wear almost nothing if she chooses to, but isn't this thing right here worse than an 'F'? For some reason it reminds me of a quiche!
5) Remember Agassi's post game ritual of blowing kisses to each section of the spectators? Or Guga drawing a heart on clay? Andrea Petkovic, the 23-year-old German rising star who comprehensively dismantled Sharapova in the fourth round (after taking out Venus a round earlier), has a charming new routine which traces its origin back to when she beat Nadia Petrova at the US Open a few months ago. Apparently it's now becomes superstitious so she'll continue to do it. So that's an 'A' for her.
5a) And the last grade of the tournament is an F in Venus Williams territory that goes to James McOnie. Not cool buddy. Believe me, nobody likes stalkers. Even in jest.
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