Keeping Tabs, Melbourne: Jan. 17

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 /by

MELBOURNE—After the opening pleasantries of the first few days, we’re supposed to get down to business this afternoon as far as the weather is concerned. A high temperature of 39 degrees is predicted, which may sound innocuous to American readers until you do the conversion: that’s 102 degrees in our language. Still, Aussie Open officials say that invoking the heat-index rule and closing the roof is unlikely. It probably won’t be humid enough. 

The weather winners are Roger Federer and Petra Kvitova, the seeds selected to play in the evening. This is especially good news for Kvitova, whose asthma makes playing in heat and humidity a chore at best. She's the lucky beneficiary of British television's desire to have her opponent, Laura Robson, on in the afternoon in London.

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Slammin Sammy

Local pundits and headline writers sharpen their pencils this morning, after Sam Stosur gagged her way out of the tournament again, this time to Jie Zheng. 

The Age, channeling its newspaper brethren in London, doesn’t mince words on the front page:

STOSUR BLOWS IT
Australia’s top woman crashes out of the Open

The Herald Sun goes with a pair of puns:

NEW YEAR, SAM STORY
Stosur admits to choke as dreams of Open glory disappear in meltdown

HOME-GROAN TALENT
Third-set choke spells familiar failure for tortured Stosur

Inside, columnist Richard Hinds is even more blunt:

ABJECT STOSUR SINKS TO NEW DEPTHS

“Given there are Norwegian cricket teams with better records in Australia,” Hinds writes, “Stosur’s demise was not unexpected. What was shocking was the way a woman so muscular you can play a violin on her biceps relented against her far smaller, less mobile, yet more tenacious opponent. How a player who has beaten Serena Williams before a hostile New York crowd looked like a kitten caught eating from a rottweiler’s feed bowl.”

Over at The Australian, Patrick Smith puts it this way:

HOMETOWN HEEBIE JEEBIES STRIKE AND STOSUR GURGLES A WIN AWAY

“Smart tennis observers will pick holes in her technique," Smith writes. "Will seek and not find a steady game plan. Will query her shot selection. But yesterday was about none of these elements of tennis. Another two weeks' practice would not have helped either.”

But it's The Age’s Linda Pearce who sums up the feelings of a nation: 

“Oh, dear. Oh, really. Just, oh.”

Feeling even worse were the country's punters. With Stosur was up 5-2 in the third, the bets poured in on her. Had they never watched Sam before? Her collapse cost one of them $10,000.

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Muz-za Vu

Andy Murray has returned as a guest columnist in the The Australian. His topics of interest haven’t changed much in the last 12 months. They are, in no particular order: Ivan Lendl, boxing, other famous people, getting his rest, and hard yards. Lots of hard yards. Hard yards for as far as the eye can see. But there has been one missing element from his usual repertoire this year: Sushi. He didn't stop scarfing it down by the boatload, did he?

The highlight of today’s column is Murray’s description of meeting Will Ferrell. “In that type of situation, you can get a bit nervous," the painfully honest Muzz admits, "particularly as Will is one of my favorite actors. I spared him my jokes.”

Murray says that, in light of the heat expected today, he cut back on practice yesterday and “kept myself cool and relaxed and well hydrated.” 

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Berd’s Brain

The Herald Sun’s Ron Reed goes where very few tennis pundits have gone before: A column on...Tomas Berdych. He finds the big Czech in a philosophical mood. Asked about his losses at Wimbledon in 2010 and the U.S. Open last year, Berdych channels his inner Samuel Beckett, or maybe his countryman Kafka:

“You beat one guy. Then there's another one waiting. In the final, another one as well."

Indeed—such is the way of a tennis tournament.

Berdych also has a few choice words for his critics. Told that Lleyton Hewitt thinks he has a chance to win a Grand Slam, Berdych brightens for a second: “From a guy like Lleyton, it is really something.” 

As opposed to whom? Oh, you know, um, “Guys just watching tennis who basically have never done anything on the court, just talking like the wind, have no sense about it.”

No idea who he’s talking about there, obviously. Moving along...

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Tax Racket

You’ve heard that Gerard Depardieu is trying to leave France to save himself some money in taxes. French tennis players will ask: What’s the big deal? Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau, Marion Bartoli, and Paul-Henri Mathieu all list Switzerland as their place of residence. 

Not that Jo wants the fact advertised. Asked about his Swiss home yesterday, he said, “I don’t want to talk about this today. I just want to talk about tennis. If we could have another question, it would be perfect.”

I like that answer. Maybe I’ll try it someday, maybe with my landlord or the even the tax man:

“If I could have a different amount to pay, it would be perfect.”

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That Other Tantrum

You thought what Jerzy Janowicz did to the umpire yesterday was bad? I guess you missed his opponent's rampage earlier. It’s hard to believe that Somdev Devvarman’s berserk outburst didn’t also make it to YouTube. Here’s what happened:

In the first set, at game point for Janowicz, the Pole hit a shot that landed near the line. Chair umpire Marija Cicak called “Game,” but Devvarman protested that the ball had been out, and that there was a clear mark to prove it. When Cicak didn’t buy in, Devvarman stormed to the sidelines, sat down, and said, in an extremely calm and reasonable tone, “As a suggestion, you may have said ‘game’ a little too early. If you have a chance, go look at it. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe you’re right, I don’t know. It’s just a suggestion.”

How was he not hit with a point penalty for that?

I’m paraphrasing, and joking, of course. While Janowicz won the match and the headlines, it should be noted that Devvarman played very well against a much taller and more powerful opponent. The former UVA standout was also gracious in defeat, insisting afterward that Jerzy is a “good guy” who just snapped. In a big way.

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Quote of the Day

Here's Age columnist Richard Hinds, comparing Bernard Tomic's mentality to Sam Stosur's. Hinds thinks Tomic has played too well lately, thus raising Aussie hopes too high.

"Promisingly, Tomic betrays no signs of mental fragility. Although, if he had half a brain—and there have been times when this estimate seemed a touch generous—he would have dropped a set to [first-round opponent] Leonardo Mayer. Or at least made it look like beating the Argentine was a task more arduous than picking lint from his belly button. Instead, Tomic committed a rookie mistake for an Australian 'hopeful.' He won like a good thing."

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