The first week at this year’s Australian Open has offered up more drama and controversy than normal during a Grand Slam. But’s what made this first week unique is that most of the big news took place either before or after a match ended or in the press room of all places.
Fans may have been treated to some excellent five set matches on the men’s side, but the reality is that most of them, except for one between a Swiss maestro and a player more known for his “Edward Cullen” looks, have been warm-up acts for what’s looking like an inevitable showdown between the “fantastic four” for the title. And on the women’s side, with some of the biggest names in the sport making early exits, the event is guaranteed a first time AO champion, even if that winner is still too early to predict.
But before we get into the business end of things, let’s take a quick look back at the week that was.
Fashion: For some reason this year’s AO has had more news and buzz created by what the players wear rather than their actual results on court. Pink and green, a lot of green actually, seems to be the agreed upon color combo by most of the top brands this winter. And though fans for the most part have generally given most of what they’ve seen a thumbs down, tennis is lucky that it’s one of the few sports that can create fashion news, and thus more awareness to those who don’t follow the sport, even if most of the latest looks, at least for this season, will likely stay on the racks.
Venus Williams: Though Venus may still earn “worst dressed” honors for this year’s AO, she may also end up winning the “MVP” award if nothing else for the tremendous fight she displayed in her second round match versus Sandra Zahlavolva after Venus suffered a groin injury that likely would have stopped most players dead in their tracks. But what was even more impressive about Venus was that she chose to come out and at least try to play against Andrea Petkovic before retiring in the first game of their third round encounter. Sure some of the fans on hand booed her because they wanted to see a match, but the statement Venus made tells us more about her character and personality than any of her fashion creations ever could.
Caroline Wozniacki: Although it’s awards season out here in Hollywood, Wozniacki’s recent performances in the press room may put her in the running for next year’s race, if only because “Woz” somehow figured out a way to give one of her best and then worst performances on back to back days. It’s one thing to pull one over the media and let everyone have a laugh, but then to go back and apologize for telling the joke just makes you look bad. Giving “good press” isn’t something you learn overnight and Woz’s high and lows in the press room this week prove, if nothing else, she should hire a media consultant if she hasn’t already. Like me!
Going the Distance: We’ve had some real battles this week at the AO. From the “death” match between Hewitt and Nalbandian that enthralled fans on the opening day but basically ended both men’s chances for any hope of a good run at the event, Isner and Cilic’s tight contest, and of course, “Franlana” as I like to call it that may not only be remembered as the longest women’s match ever in a Slam but a match that might help convert a few critics of the women’s game into lifelong fans. These battles to the very end may not ultimately decide the champions on the final weekends, but those who saw any of them won’t soon forget them.
Ticket to Success: For some of the biggest stars in the sport, the first week at the AO probably ended earlier than they expected. With Justine Henin losing her nerve when it counted to the often heady Svetlana Kuznetsova, Andy Roddick’s “slice and dice” coming up short against Stanislas Wawrinka’s firepower and Maria Sharapova, despite serving better than she has, finding that her once overwhelming groundstrokes don’t overwhelm the rest of the women as they used to, these players’ past accomplishments may have earned them the right to be put on the biggest courts for all fans to see. But their games, for the moment, aren’t the ticket that they used to be.
Let’s hope the second week of the AO, with all the players left fighting for a chance for their piece of tennis history, lives up to the first week. It will be quite the challenge but I have a feeling the event may indeed be saving the best for last.