Sunday, 28 January 2018

parting thoughts from the 2018 australian open

parting thoughts from 2018 AO australian open yasmin stefanie


Earlier today (or, ykno, if you're in Australia where the actual Slam is held then yesterday for you) the first Grand Slam tournament of the year came to a close. It was an exciting and unpredictable tournament full of comebacks, upsets, future stars cementing themselves as the stars of right now. Sports Illustrated always publish parting thoughts from Grand Slams, which I enjoy a lot, and I wanted in. So whilst it'll be a little rough and messy around the edges, considering I'm writing and posting this hours after it ended so don't have enough time to really think about how to articulate my thoughts and get them making full grammatical sense, I wanted to share some parting thoughts from the first Slam of the year - because is there really a more exciting time in the tennis tour calendar?

PS: Yes the photo used is from the Nitto ATP Finals, girl doesn't have the dolla to fly to the AO to get photos for the blog, as much as I wish I did purely to just be there lol.


1.

Roger Federer is a living legend. It's so cringe to say but we are so lucky to be alive in the same lifetime as Federer and his career. He became the first man to achieve 20 Grand Slam titles in his career. Only three others have achieved this, all women, and only two of them have been in the Open Era. A year ago he had 17 slams (yes I know he also won the AO last year but the men's final was on the 29th so he still had 17 exactly this day a year ago) and he hadn't won one since Wimbledon in the Summer of 2012. In the space of one year, at ages 35 and 36, he has won three slams and got his count up to 20. It's an incredible achievement. Everyone during the post-match ceremony today was saying how there aren't enough superlatives to describe Fed and his achievements anymore, and they're very right in saying that. Nothing I can say and no words I can use to describe him and his achievements will do him and his career justice.

2.

Women's tennis is an amazing thing that I was seriously missing out on. The women's field is full of some unbelievable talent. Anyone in the top 20-30 on the WTA tour is capable of anything, unlike the men's where the big five (I will never not count Wawrinka alongside the big four don't @ me) have won pretty much every Grand Slam apart from like two in the last few years. I was sleeping on women's tennis for too long - it didn't help that I didn't have BT Sport until late last year aka the channel that all non-Slam WTA tournaments are shown. It's so exciting seeing who actually makes it from the women's side in a slam because it's so open, everyone in the top 20-30 has the ability to beat anyone, whether ranked higher or lower, and go on to win the whole thing. Serena's absence did help but there are so many names you can reel off from the women's side compared to the men's that you think will be capable of winning a slam. The Williams sisters, Woz, Halep, Svitolina, Konta, Pliskova, Penko, Sharapova, Muguruza, Garcia, Coco, Goerges, Kerber, Kuznestova, Sevastova, Kvitova, Keys, Sloane. If I carry on it'll just look like I'm making up names but seriously, the women's side in a slam is SO exciting because you never know who can step up and make their mark. That's why we get instances where the women's final becomes the first in the Open Era to have a world no.1 and no.2 playing each other with both players having never previously won a Slam. Wozniacki and Halep's final was something remarkable, both went in without having never won a slam despite both being number one either currently or in the past but having had chances and having won plenty other tournaments, and it was both of their third Slam finals. They were pretty much level, in the exact same position, although I'm glad Caro won because she had been the butt of the joke for years, much longer than Simo, for not having a Slam. 

3.

Having said that, I'm so excited for Queen GOAT Serena to be back. This was the last Slam without her since she won the AO last year WHILST PREGNANT!! and then obviously look a year off for her pregnancy and post-pregnancy. I'm so excited to see her back competing again and knowing that the next Slam of the year will have her in it makes me v happy. Let's go for 25 Slams queen.


4.

Alex de Minaur is a star and we're only going to be seeing more and more of him from here on out. Sure he got knocked out in the first round but he'd played two straight weeks of tennis coming into the AO and happened to come across a very-on-form Berdych in the first round. Tbh I think he could've beaten the two time semi finalist if he hadn't played so much coming in, because you could see he was tired after his incredible Brisbane and Sydney runs, which were almost like playing the whole two weeks of a Slam in themselves. Anyway, I'm excited to see what he does the rest of the year - he already has Davis Cup against Germany v soon, in the same place he had his amazing Brizzy run. Placing my bets now that he'll qualify for the Next Gen Finals this year.

5.

You don't know how much you've really missed someone until you have them back. i.e Stan. If you didn't know, as much as I adore the entirety of the big four and am a fan of a whole load of ATP players, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka have always been my absolute favourite players. And, of course, both of them ended their seasons early last year after their respective Wimbledon exits. (Side note: I was at Stan's first and last Wimby match last year, tipsy on Pimms and pretty much drunk-crying at the sight of him injured and losing. Traaagic.) In the meantime, I got caught up in 2017 being the year of the veterans, aka Federer and Nadal, and the year of the next generation, and didn't really think too much about Stan and Andy's absences. In fact, I went and got a new fave to add alongside them in the form of Shapo. And until Stan returned during this Slam, I didn't realise how bad I missed him being on tour. His second round match was tough to watch though, very tough, but it was still so nice to actually be able to watch him play again. It would've been hard for anyone to watch this match seeing him in such discomfort struggling to run for the ball the way he had in the previous match and hitting way too many unforced errors. Whilst I've realised just how much I missed him, it also kinda worries me for when my other fave, Muzza, comes back. It's gonna be tough for them to get back into the swing of things. We even saw it with Novak too.

6.

Nick Kyrgios' reaction to having Will Smith watch his match against Tsonga was everything. I loved this match, it was the match of the tournament for me and I watched it twice over on the same day because it was so damn good. The atmosphere was unreal and even the on court interview was a highlight. Will Smith being there, and everything Kyrgios said about it, was just the cherry on top of the cake.

7.

On the NK note, I love that people are finally hopping on the bandwagon and appreciating him. I'll admit I didn't like him at first but I didn't start watching tennis properly until 2015, from 2013 I was just watching Wimbledon once a year and when I saw him on TV that year, his first year I believe, I thought he was a massive bogan and didn't like him (I was an impressionable fourteen year old who probably got influenced by commentators and the media) but when I started watching all the slams in 2015 I realised I liked him, but didn't realise just how much until I saw him on the practice courts at Wimbledon 2016 and was so buzzing to be able to actually see him in person. He has the most natural talent we've seen in the game for a very long time and plays like nobody ever has, and it's about time people start appreciating for his talent and realising what a good person he is off-court instead of judging him for the occasional on-court outburst.

8.

Is it just me or are the umpires almost making up their own rules? There were the usual arguments about calls and challenges but this time it seemed like they were making up their own rules as they went along and not allowing challenges when they should've or choosing to replay a point when it should've been awarded to a player. There were also incidents like Fergus Murphy not telling the crowd during Kyrgios' first round match to shut up (ykno, in a nicer way) and James allowing a medical time out to Monfils' opponent with Monfils protesting that he could show him on YouTube that you're not allowed to take a MTO before an opponent's service game. They're going rogue.

9.

The Djokovic pay rise meeting ambush thing dominated the first few days of the tournament. And proved how the media can easily manipulate and sensationalise a story - even when Djokovic outright stated that some of their claims had been untrue, some people continued to push the idea that he was lying in attempt to salvage their reputation. It was written and reported so convincingly, and reported as an actual fact rather than hearsay without fact-checking with Novak himself, that even I went off on one a bit. My thoughts on it having heard both sides now? Yes, the players deserve higher pay because as Slam revenue increases, players' pay doesn't increase in proportion. I have the figure 15% in my head, as in players only take 15% of Slam revenue, not sure where I got it from, but that's definitely not enough. And the lower down players and tournaments definitely need better funding because until you reach top 50 you don't really ever make back as much money as you invest into your career.

10.

The rise of the Next Gen happened, except over the age limit of the actual Next Gens. Lil Zverev is the talk of the town RE next generation players ready to step up their game now rather than later, but his track record at Slams isn't great, and whilst he falls at the first few hurdles, other less shouted about players are seeing results now. 23 year old Kyle Edmund and 21 year old Hyeon Chung (ok he's just at the final age to be a 'Next Gen') soared to the semi-finals with some seriously impressive wins behind them - Chung beating Lil Z and Djokovic, Edmund beating Anderson and Dimitrov. It was an amazing achievement for them both, and is further proof in the shift we are seeing in the ATP tour with newer players making their mark. It also showed that players don't really achieve super amazing things aged 18-20 anymore, not like people like Rafa and Novak did back in the day, it takes a bit longer and maybe that's why everyone's biggest next gen hope Sascha Zverev just isn't seeing great slam results yet.

11.

The tour is gruelling and cuts need to be made. We saw it with Roger and Rafa cutting their 2016 seasons short, we saw it with all of 2016's year end top five cutting their 2017 seasons short because of injury. And here, again, we saw it with Rafa, who articulated wonderfully how detrimental the schedule of the ATP tour is to players, both as actual players and as people. The way he spoke about life after tennis is the thing that hit me and really presents the argument better than anyone has before - it's not just about how these injuries, caused by an intense schedule, are affecting the players' careers, it's also about how it can and will affect their bodies and health for the rest of their lives, long after they retire from tennis. The WTA year end tournament is held nearly a month before the ATP one and it seems like a good time to stop, and that's not to say that the women don't get injured from an intense schedule too. The ATP did respond saying that the number of injuries hasn't risen, they've just been seen in higher ranked players so it's become more noticeable. Still, we're out here rejoicing that Roger and Rafa can still continue to play and win Slams the way they did last year, but we aren't doing anything to help keep that up. Federer's very selective schedule last year definitely helped him in being the only one of the big five now left in pure health, injury-free, but the rules of the tour mean that most players don't have the luxury of being allowed to just skip tournaments in order to preserve their bodies if they're not already injured. I can honestly say that I 100% believe Rafa would've won this AO had he not gotten injured during his QF, especially seeing the way Roger dropped his game at times during today's final. Whilst Cilic couldn't capitalise on that enough to take the title, Rafa would've been able to. He said himself in his press conference after retiring his QF that it really felt like a missed opportunity, and I believe this. Mark my words, he would've won. Something needs to be done to preserve these players - both for the sake of us all enjoying their career and for them to enjoy the rest of their lives.

12.

Jim Courier has such a natural talent for interviewing players. As a journo student who wants to be a broadcast presenter and interview people for a living, I'm taking notes. He is the embodiment of what I want my future career to be like. I admire people who can interview someone but make it seem like just a chat that millions of others just so happen to be able to watch. In Fed's first round Johnny Mac came on court to interview him (after telling the story of Qantas losing his interview suit during his Eurosport commentary which he somehow always manages to make about him rather than the match) and brought Will Ferrell out as a joke but it was one of the most awkward, uncomfortable parts of the whole fortnight to watch, yet Jim Courier effortlessly gets the ~down low~ from Fed by just managing to have a chat with him. We learnt about Fed's involvement in creating tennis outfits with Nike, how he made sure the last thing he did on the day of Rafa's retirement was 'write him' (I bloody hope he meant text) to make sure he was ok, how he stores his trophies at home. With Johnny and Will we learnt how Federer tries to deal with a bad joke.

13.

Simona Halep may have lost her third Slam final in a row, but she's the finalist more likely to win another one. As I already said, Caro and Simo were pretty much in the exact same position during their Saturday final, but it was Woz who finally nabbed a Slam after being criticised for years for not winning one despite achieving everything else possible. However, I think that of the two Simona is way more likely to win another Slam after this, most likely this year. She's my Roland Garros pick at the moment, alongside Queen Serena. Whilst it must have been tough on her to process another Slam final loss, I think she will end the year having nabbed at least one, but potentially more. And whilst I'd love for Woz to win more, yesterday felt like a now or never situation.

14.

Speaking of Simona, there was a lot to be said about her fashion choices this Slam. Having ended her Adidas sponsorship, she candidly spoke about ordering her AO attire online from China, and when she needed a visor she chose the AO gift shop as her 'sponsor', donning one of the visors available to the public on the grounds of the tournament. It was a pretty clever move too, it was kinda known that she didn't stick with Adidas because she wanted more than what she was offered, and now that she's reached another Slam final and been the talk of the town thanks to her lack of sponsor, I'm sure the offers will be rolling in and she'll be rolling in it.

15. 

And speaking of clothing, SLEEVELESS RAFA IS BACK. And he was taken too soon. There's not much else to say here, just that we need sleeveless Rafa to stay from now until the end of his career.


16.

The heat is just a bit much. We know it's Australia in the Summer but the temperatures on court were ridiculous this year, with the heat rule being an uncertainty. Woz and Halep were allowed a ten minute off-court break between the second and third sets of their final, but the roof wasn't shut. The day after, for the men's final, they shut the roof. Halep ended up in hospital for a few hours after her final because she was so dehydrated. And let's not even talk about the brutality of the heat during Djokovic and Monfils' match. It's a bit like the umpire debacle, make your mind up about the heat rule and stop picking and choosing when to enforce it.

17.

Kerber is back. And I am bitter, because I had dolla (like literally £1) on her beating Woz or Woz beating her in the final, and Halep just beating her 9-7 in the final set of their SF killed me off. I knew girl was ready to wreak havoc again and I didn't get my payout. Ok, broke student rant aside, Kerber is a force to be reckoned with once again. Number one in the world does not suit her at all, after her car crash 2017 that followed on from a stellar 2016, she's come back a more mature and well-rounded player with all the weapons to win any tournament she chooses. Everyone thought Muguruza would be the woman to step up in Serena's absence but it looks like Angie is making the most of it. She doesn't have long left though!

18.

Andy Murray may be a Sir, have multiple Olympic Gold medals and three Grand Slam titles, but he's one of us really. Sir Muzza tweeted along to matches at home just like the rest of tennis twitter and we all loved him for it. It's why we love him, second only to his feminist stance.

19.

Game, Schett and Mats is the best part of a Grand Slam. The highlights show on Eurosport hosted by Mats Wilander and Barbara Schett is my favourite part of a Slam - it incorporates standard highlights with some fun, insightful chat from two great former players, interviews, stats (we luv a stat), Johnny Mac as the 'self appointed commissioner of tennis' usually having a chat about something topical in the tennis world, and the coach which, to me, is the one downfall of the show. Serena's coach Patrick previews a match for the following day but my god, the editing of this makes it the worst part. The sound effects are louder than him talking, he is badly green screened onto various parts of a computer generated version of the main court and he is edited in a way that makes him look computer generated too. Anyway, if you can watch GSM you bloody well should because it's the perfect end to a day of Grand Slam play.


20.

I know we've been talking about seeing new players step up, but I just want the big five dominance back. Sure, the dominance is still there because the last five slams have been won by Roger and Rafa, the two best members of the big five, but I want all of them back playing each other in the quarters, semis and finals. Last year was a weird year for ATP tennis, but weird in a good way. During the off season, and the start of this season when Muzza, Novak and Stan's comebacks seemed more and more uncertain, I was thinking about how this year would be weird too, but weird bad. Towards the end of the year when they're all back at their best or near-best I'm sure it'll change but the weird bad prediction has sorta happened - depending on what you see as bad of course, it's subjective. As exciting as it is to see names like Edmund and Chung in the final, I want to be able to make the most of the big five before they retire and have them reaching every slam semi and battling it out between each other for the title again. Hashtag Stan to get the career Slam.





So those are all the parting thoughts I can actually think of right now from the first slam of the year. I bet I'll think of more literally an hour after posting this and want to slap my forehead in annoyance.

Congratulations to Caroline for her first slam and reclaiming world number one, and congratulations to Roger for his 20th slam.

I'm already looking forward to Roland Garros - not just because the finals weekend is also the weekend my Summer holidays begin.



Yasmin


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2 comments

  1. As a long-time Wertheim fan, I like these (and appreciate your acknowledging his format), and agree with most.

    To pick just one, your heat rule point is spot-on, and the same as many of us were thinking. Pick a number (I'd suggest heat index, which combines temperature and humidity into one number) and say breaks allowed at that number. Then another, somewhat higher, number (30 minutes before match time) and we close the roof for the match.

    I hope you are right about Halep--I was rooting hard for her in this one. But I do worry that her failure to close when she is ahead may haunt her. (It happened not only in the final, but in the semifinal when she served for the match at 5-3 in the third set. If she had won there, instead of 7 games later, she might have had more in the tank in the final.)

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    1. thankyou so much! I really enjoy reading his after a slam and thought I'd do my own from a slightly different perspective of someone who just enjoys watching them but doesn't know everything haha.
      RE Halep, I think the last set was so back and forth with her and Woz breaking each other nearly every game that it was definitely ad advantage for Woz to have served first so that when it got later on into the set when the match could be won all she needed to do was break rather than break and then have to consolidate that break to win, although I did go in thinking she'd win anyway. Halep's long matches definitely didn't help either.

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