Keeping Tabs, Melbourne: Jan. 20
MELBOURNE—Was I wrong all along in believing that Australia’s tennis Fanatics, those cheerfully rowdy men and women in yellow wigs and face paint, were funny? It seems that way. Or at least that’s what two of my favorite columnists Down Under, Patrick Smith and Richards Hinds, tell me. Earlier this week, Hinds said he struggled to comprehend the “relentless banality” of the Fanatics’ repetitive chants. Smith went one step further. He couldn’t be bothered to address the Fanatics themselves; instead, he saved his ridicule for those who found them amusing. If you laugh at their antics, Smith believes, you must be “numb in the brain.”
Coming from the U.S., where we’ve never evolved past, “USA!” and “Let’s go, so-and-so, let’s go!” the Fanatics always sounded, if not clever, at least ambitious. Now that I’ve heard their schtick for a few years running down here, I can see Hinds’ point. “That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it,” after a winning Aussie shot does get a little old after you’ve heard it a couple hundred times.
Still, I’ve admired the Fanatics’ work ethic over a difficult first-week here, when there’s been so little for the locals to cheer. They bellowed themselves hoarse in 100 degree heat for hours, only to watch Aussie James Duckworth lose in five painful sets to Blaz Kavcic. They also managed to keep things fresh with very limited material. Early “quack” sounds turned to “duck, duck, goose,” and eventually gave way to a stirring chant of “rubber ducky.” When Duckworth finally did lose, 10-8 in the fifth (after cramping and beginning to walk something like his namesake), I felt as bad for the Fanatics as I did for the player. What a time investment.
But it’s not just the Aussies who have struggled in Melbourne. The U.S. has no men left, and yesterday the last English women’s hope, Laura Robson, went out. Still, hope springs eternal in the home papers.
Here’s a look at the way similar results can look very different in the eyes of each country’s media.
The View from Oz...
Federer shows how it’s done, but Tomic is learning fast
THREE CHEERS FOR OUR BERNIE
FEDERER CHARMED AS TOMIC DISARMED IN A GAME OF EQUAL CRAFT
PLUCKY TOMIC SAYS IT’S JUST A MATTER OF TIME
Those are the headlines in the Herald Sun and The Age this morning. “It was a proper contest,” Leo Schlink of the HS writes of Tomic's defeat, “even if it stands in the record books as a straight-set decision.”
That's the hometown consensus surrounding Tomic's loss to Federer: There was progress, even if you don't see it in the scoreline.
Yet one person wasn’t entirely convinced: Federer himself. He said he thought that Tomic had improved since last year, but he reserved final judgment. After all, he has been down this road with Bernie in the past. Federer rightly reminded everyone in Australia that the real test for Tomic will come when he leaves the country next month and has to “bring it every day” on tour.
In England, they took a somewhat different view of Tomic's defeat. Here’s the Daily Mail’s headline on the same match:
OLD MASTER FEDERER SWATS ASIDE YOUNG AUSSIE PRETENDER IN STRAIGHT SETS
“Roger Federer extinguished the Australian Open hopes of home favorite Bernard Tomic for the second year running with a ruthless straight set win.”
But that doesn’t mean the Brits can’t don a pair of rose-tinted glasses when it comes to one of their own. Here’s what the Telegraph had to say about U.K. hopeful (not "pretender") Laura Robson, after her own straight-set defeat yesterday at the hands of Sloane Stephens:
ROBSON’S HOPES SCUPPERED BY SHOULDER INJURY
According to the paper, “The serve is one of Robson’s chief weapons, and the fact that she failed to deliver an ace in yesterday’s match—whereas there were eight against Kvitova—was a big factor in the result.”
...and from the USA
Of course, the American media have their own hopes and dreams for players from a certain country. This is the New York Times on Floridian teen Madison Keys, with an assist from Pam Shriver of ESPN:
AN AMERICAN, 17, SHOWS HER POWER AND PROMISE
“That was the real deal,” said former U.S. Top 5 Shriver (after watching Keys). “You don’t have a serve like that at 17 years old....The easy power. The big forehand. It’s exciting. I haven’t felt this for 15 years.”
Tomic, Robson, Keys: Which, if any, of these 20-and-unders is for real, and which is hype? Right now, I guess it depends where you’re from. Only one thing is definite: They’re all out of the Australian Open.
Men Behaving Badly, Again
The Herald Sun reports that of the 12 fines handed out under the code of conduct so far in Melbourne, just two have gone to women. "Anastasia Rodionova was fined $800 for an audible obscenity, while the other woman to be penalized—Germany’s Kathrin Woerle—was relieved of $1,000 for verbal assault.”
The biggest fine so far? No surprise there: Jerzy Janowicz paid $2,500 for his now-immortal first-round meltdown.
How Do You Speak Australian, Anyway?
A headline from today's Herald Sun:
CLASS OF CHARDY AN OPEN BOTTTLER
I guess that’s Aussie for, “Jeremy Chardy Upsets No. 6 Seed Juan Martin del Potro”