Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lets Talk About Sports Baby - Volume 9

It’s amazing how much of my world revolves around the country of Australia. I happen to love their politicians. Some of my dearest online friends live there {including the woman who stole my heart and refuses to give it back} and I will even admit that Air Supply makes a great torture device when I am at work. The country has a horrible habit of interfering with my life though, and this weekend in particular, my television has been glued to an arena in Australia with seemingly no hope of getting away from it. I would like to say that I am just a casual sports fan, but then again I would have a hard time proclaiming myself an expert, and thus losing my only paying gig writing. Tennis though has always been an easy sport to ignore, since most people really don’t care about it. Realistically the only other sport I watch religiously that nets me less popularity in writing is bowling, so I still have that to fall back on.

I have been enthralled with the Australian Open this year, and for very good reason. Sports are something that people watch for two reasons, which would be the home team {and one’s loyalty to it} and the insurmountable upset through hideous odds. Needless to say most people do NOT find a home team in tennis, and rarely does anyone have a home player, but tennis has always produced characters. I have seen some characters reminiscent of the old days challenging the brass of the courts, and some of them really tested them. I also see a bit of a football mentality in some of them this weekend and found it quite endearing. Roger Federer {the BIG name in Tennis right now} was taking on this upstart from Serbia {formerly the bulk of Yugoslavia} by the name of Janko Tipsarevic. I realize that you probably haven’t heard the name but you will.

I saw this match the next day as the original play was during “Daddy Duties” and it was actually after I watched the Lleyton Hewitt {although Australian, my favorite tennis player} defeat Marcos Baghdatis {a higher ranked player from Curacao who actually is an Australian open favorite and practically considered a local} which ended up being the latest match in Tennis history {ended around 4:30am Australian time} and really should have prepped me. Those two were like warriors out there, as Baghdatis curled in his ankle badly and played through a strain to force a fifth round. I thought the match was over and just sat stunned as he kept coming from behind, and finally fell. I had assumed that I had just seen the best match of the Open {since I hadn’t gotten scores or updates until I could see Federer} and little did I know.

The fascination in watching Tipsarevic though was in the way he played. As I had mentioned before it was like watching an old tennis match {charging the net, playing the whole court, viscous backhand, softer serves} mixed with football strategy {calling for challenges late, blowing out the timing, strategizing his clothes in between sets} and it was all driving Federer NUTS! His slow spinning serves were getting Federer who plays in the new tennis age of “stand back and slam” and the attacks on his timing through time outs and late calls was making him wave his racket like a pissed off child. In the end what it got Tipsarevic was a bit of notoriety for a great “almost” though as Federer won, but it was after a 10-8 in the fifth round. There are a lot of variables in this, not the least of which is that he seriously wore the number 1 tennis player in the world down and showed better players a rather interesting map into perhaps a good upset. What he probably did above all else was give everyone some good solid advice from a man who isn’t even ranked in the top 40 when he strode to the podium after the match and said “Nobody wins when they go into a match thinking ‘I’ll make a good show of it’. I walked in there knowing I could win!”

I was officially hooked at that point and have absorbed over 20 hours of tennis in the last 24 hours. Part of it was seeing the old ways of playing, but I seriously attribute it to hearing a young guy from Serbia who had no business playing against Federer like that tell the rest of the tennis world something they should have heard a while ago. The women’s game has been a lot better than the men’s game over the last decade because of the lack of parody. At least in the women’s game you have David and Goliath, but the little unknown Chinese players drive the big guns mental! There are also a lot more big guns on that end too. Scrappy players tend to be really fast on the women’s end and I always wondered why there wasn’t more of that in the men’s game, especially seeing how confusing it was today.

I also have to give credit to the announcers this year. Even that idiot Patrick McEnroe did a very good job. The woman there that they kept sending out to be insulting to the Australians sitting around the big screen outside the arena at least made me laugh through her idiocy, and fake Australian accent. Knowing Aussies a little bit helps when you see the way they look at her while she does it. A few of them gave her looks like they were going to cry, and others started looking around the ground while she talked {probably hoping that a snake or spider would bite her} but they put up with her as best they could. I am not saying that the whole thing will be the rebirth of tennis the way it used to be, but perhaps the hybrid of what it used to be with some of the better aspects of what it is today, and that is a good thing if you ask me. I think tennis may be back ;8o)