Keeping Tabs, Melbourne: Jan. 14
MELBOURNE—There's one undeniable upside to leaving your apartment in Brooklyn for a hotel room here: The chances are much slimmer that your newspapers are going to be stolen from your door in the morning. As in London, but not as much in New York, print news is still a presence here. The broadsheets are satisfyingly broad, the tabloids still bristle with finger-staining ink.
It’s a big day for them, too. Locals Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur are both in action. Rusty has the first night slot, against Janko Tipsarevic, the perfect match to get the tournament underway. After his performance in beating Juan Martin del Potro in an exo this weekend, many people here even favor Hewitt to beat the No. 8 seed—inluding, it seems, Lleyton himself. “I’ll knock him off,” the Aussie barked, boxing-style, at his weigh-in yesterday in front of the press. As for Sam, she has a less formidable first-rounder against Kai-Chen Chang of Taiwan. But fingers are still very much crossed Down Under.
Of course, the player who is really buzzing it up around here is Bernard Tomic. Yesterday the Melbourne evening news ran clips of the "in form" conquering hero arriving at the airport. Bernie soon obliged with his own bit of bombast for the media. “I feel unstoppable,” he said when he got to Laver Arena. “When you know no one can beat you, not even the world No. 1, you’ve got a good feeling.” That’s quite a takeaway from an exhibition match win over Novak Djokovic two weeks ago. But they do say you have think positively, right?
When asked about his potential third-round match against Roger Federer in Melbourne, Tomic began with these words: “If he gets there...”
Unfortunately, there wasn't quite as much trash in that talk as it sounds. Tomic was echoing a similar statement that Federer made about him the previous day. Bernie was also suitably level-headed about making sure he gets past his own first-round match—you can’t look ahead, was the basic idea, and no one is going to argue with that. But I also don’t think anything is 100 percent innocent with Tomic. They don’t call him the Human Headline here for nothing. As a fellow writer of those headlines, I say bring it on, Bernie, we need more young men like you.
There will be plenty of time to talk about the pros and cons of Tomic tomorrow, when he makes his own debut. Here’s a look at what else was in the papers today.
Who is going to win? The Aussies put their money where their mouths are. As of this morning, the contenders' betting lines looked like this:
Serena Williams: $1.83
Novak Djokovic: $2.00
Andy Murray: $3.40
Victoria Azarenka: $5.50
Roger Federer: $6.00
Maria Sharapova: $9.00
Aga Radwanska: $13.00
Juan Martin del Potro: $19.00
Tomic is at a heady $26, and Grigor Dimitrov $81. A few journalists picked those two young men in the news as their “roughie,” which I believe can be translated as “long shot.” The most popular women’s roughie is Li Na at $21, though Sloane Stephens made one Herald-Sun writer’s list at $201.
As for the winner, all of the Herald-Sun’s experts are going with Djokovic and Serena. One high-profile dissenter is John Newcombe, who is picking Murray because, “he has gone to extreme measures to make himself fitter.” No one that I could find is betting on Roger Federer or Victoria Azarenka.
Shaking Off the Rust
You might think that Aussie columnists have said all they have to say about Lleyton Hewitt over the years, but I liked these descriptions from Timothy Boyle in The Age:
“Hewitt has spent the better part of his career being cast as a resister, a prickly competitor who screams c'mon and would prefer to stop an opponent’s winners than to hit his own. And because he makes the game look hard, he’s never appealed to his whole audience.
When he presents on the court, his cap reversed, everything seems to bristle—even his name is reinforced with double letters. He is the rare player who, by his smallish stature and rapid movement, can make a racquet look huge in his hands, and a court tiny beneath his feet.”
In other Hewitt news, the little Aussie battler is battling the new time-violation rules—was there any question that he would?
“I heard Andy [Murray] and even Tomas [Berdych] said yesterday, the final with Nadal and Djokovic, that was six hours or whatever it was of quality tennis, and we don’t want to take away from guys doing that.”
As for how he's staying in shape, Hewitt has been working out with Kurt Bahram, a member of the Bra Boys, a "notorious surf gang," who is also a professional boxer.
How can you tell things aren’t looking up for Sam Stosur at the moment? You might start with the two headlines at the top of The Age’s front page today:
TOMIC: MR. CONFIDENT TALKS UP OPEN HOPES
STOSUR: DON’T WRITE ME OFF
Or you might go to the first paragraph of Linda Pearce’s article on Sam:
“This is not another story about Sam Stosur’s miserable start to the summer, or her performance anxiety at home, or her failure to reach a quarterfinal at Melbourne Park. Well, perhaps it might be...”
And if that doesn’t give you a clue, you can read Stosur’s own reason for being optimistic: She’s been injured, she says, which should make her own expectations go down, which should make her less nervous.
I think Todd Woodbridge sums up Stosur’s issues, and her chances, pretty well. “Sam’s performance depends on momentum," Woodbridge says. "But once she’s over one hurdle, that’s the way she plays. I know with her it’s a momentum game, but she’s got to get it on her side.”
Fan Fave Forever
Roger Federer shouldn’t feel too bad about being ignored by the nation’s gamblers. For the third straight year, he’s been voted the most admired athlete in Australia—and that list includes Aussie athletes. Rafael Nadal was third. Cricketer Ricky Ponting was fourth. Question: If this poll is done around the time of the Aussie Open, could that have an effect on the results?
Call Him Rodney Ferrer
Did I write that we should never say David Ferrer doesn’t get any respect again? I may have written too soon. After winning in Auckland on Saturday, Ferru got no love from the Open's schedulers. He’s up on day one today, fourth on Hisense, against Olivier Rochus. Not that Ferrer was bothered by it or anything.
“Of course, it’s tough,” he said, “but we know that rule and I won’t complain."
Now, to add insult to injury, Bernard Tomic, ranked No. 43, has been given a better chance to win the title here than No. 5 Ferrer. Tomic the fomer Tank Engine is currently at $26, while poor hard-working Daveed is a lowly $34.
For a man who supposedly doesn’t like to be interviewed, Ivan Lendl is sure...interviewed a lot. My favorite of his many quotes so far at this tournament, from the Herald Sun:
“You can have fun without smiling.”
Who Likes Taffy Now?
Finally, I may need a translation to understand Herald-Sun columnist Ron Reed’s seemingly rather uncomplimentary thoughts on Andy Murray:
“Murray might say—as all those who wear kilts do—that he’s not a Pom, precisely, but he’s got GBR beside his name, but every Jock, Taffy, and Northern Paddy does when they saddle up for the Olympics.”
There are just so many things I don't understand about that sentence. Reed’s gist seems to be that Aussies should root against Muzz because the U.K. is overtaking his country on the world sporting stage.
“The Brits have become too big for their bovver boots”—what?—"and it’s time to put a stop to it.”
Reed’s big complaint, though, is that Murray “doesn’t know how to celebrate.” I guess that's a good reason to root against someone. So you won't have to see him...not celebrate in your face.