Tennis anyone?

When Carole isn’t onsite looking after the Royal Park Tennis Club, it’s generally Neil who is down there in her place. He’s a gentle soul, Neil. Most folk with any long term association with tennis seem to have some form of alpha about them. The halo effect is surely magnified when you meet a decent person down at the tennis club. I exaggerate, but Neil’s the nicest bloke you’ll ever met.

The first period of this new year Carole’s been away and so Neil’s been down there every day. I’m relatively new to the RPTC and so I’ve been careful not to make a name for myself of any sort except, if only, as that diligent new comer who takes such good care of our en tout cas courts (I’ve learnt so much from Carole already that I’ve an idea to convince her to co-author a book with me on fast-dry clay court care etiquette and positive psychology that we might entitle “Zen and the art of watering and bagging”).

But anyway, I’ve noticed this new year that Neil’s not once had Seven’s Summer of Tennis on the club’s television. Instead he’s had the Big Bash on or even one day, the Racing channel (though I can’t imagine Neil ever having the conviction to place a wager and if he did it would only ever be with a sensible, affordable amount). Finally, having seen so much of him already this year and him having become familiar with my first name, I told him that I’d noticed that he never has the tennis on the television. Neil explained, almost apologetically, that he doesn’t actually like watching the tennis, neither on TV or live in person. He loves playing it but he won’t choose to watch it. He never goes to the Australian Open. He couldn’t even share predictions for next week’s Open with me. He prefers watching the Big Bash for excitement.

I find January the most challenging month of the year. The difficulty I have getting back into work after the mandatory break gets me thinking about Frankl and Man’s Search for Meaning and the fact that tennis is so available at all times of the day only distracts me further and fuels my worry that I should be more engaged during my weekdays. Beyond my own existential crisis I do my best not to take Seven’s television coverage for granted. I worry about viewer numbers. I don’t want Seven’s commitment to wane over the coming years. If Neil’s not watching it who else isn’t interested?

The Seven investment fascinates me given I can’t easily find anyone to share my enthusiasm for it. It’s extensive enough. There’s even an app to help me stay across courts that aren’t televised. Are the viewers really out there supporting Seven’s commitment? I hope so. My close tennis friends aren’t engaged enough. Cam’s interest depends on whether or not Federer’s playing and Steve’s time always seems to be committed elsewhere. There’s been so much great tennis already. I long for a daily conversation with a fellow viewer.

Who watched Jordan Thompson beat David Ferrer up in Brisbane? Two grinders defending their way through three sets. Thompson blew four match points trying to play the opposite way in which he’d got himself there. When he got his fifth he appeared to decide he’d just stay in the point, much like the approach he’d taken to the whole match prior, and so Ferrer got frustrated after about a 30 shot rally and tried to go after a backhand by driving it down the line, only to find the net.

Muguruza over Kasatkina up in Brisbane as well? Did anyone see that? Kasatkina is the top ranked teenager in the world and has since confirmed she’s legit by beating the world number one, Kerber, in Sydney on Wednesday. Muguruza overcame her in a tense three sets that had me talking to myself while she did the same. Kasaktina wouldn’t go away and had match points herself. I’d have been a wreck telling myself I can’t lose this, I’m the reigning French Open champ. Muguruza told herself she would win it, because she is the French Open champ.

Raonic over Nadal, again up in Brisbane? Raonic spent the first set and half trying to adhere to a plan he or his coach had set for himself. He seemed to be forcing himself into the net despite the quality of the approach shot and even when it was the right decision he couldn’t get his volleys crisp. Nadal had me thinking he was still the man I’d get to play for my life, but then Raonic just started exploding that forehand until Nadal was almost colliding with the ball boys as he was spread chasing balls across the back wall.

Dimitrov then went on to beat Raonic in the semi. I couldn’t watch that one but Dmitrov seemed to suggest afterwards that it was fairly comfortable once he got a read on Milos’ serve. What if Dmitrov is about to come good? They used to call him junior Federer and now that he’s got a new coach, Vallverdu (who deserves a story himself given his age and experience already), he seems to be taking the now or never approach.

Though it’s hard to know how much the injury Nishikori sustained during the final influenced the result, Dmitrov getting through three top ten players in a row to win in Brisbane only makes for one extra player to take seriously once the Open starts.

Still in Brisbane, what about Thompson and Kokkinakos beating the world’s best doubles pair on the way to the title?

Over in Perth for the Hopman, did you see Federer and the younger Zverev brother? Geez Zverev is explosive for a kid of his dimensions. He’s long. Kyrgios, Thiem and Zverev are all so dynamic they could each ruin a top seed at the Aussie Open you’d think, stars aligning.

Neil won’t care but I’ll share my predictions for the Open here in order to start the conversation. On the women’s side, Serena lost early and in three sets in Auckland after winning her second set in a tie-break. Odd she didn’t kick on in the third. I know she peaks for slams but I’m writing her off for the Open. Same for Kerber. I say the Czech girl she beat at the US Open, Pliskova, is the one to watch this year. Anyone see Konta beat Bouchard up last night though? See how she goes against the craftier Radwanska tonight.

In the men’s, there are at least ten very interesting players to watch, but I doubt anyone will stop either Djokovic or Murray. I wish Del Potro was here.

I hope you’re all watching this as closely as I am.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Confess I am one of those people, Joeya, who grew up on the tennis court and would watch as much of the Aus Open and lead up tournaments as possible (even used to work as an usher at the Australian Men’s Hardcourts when they were in Adelaide) but now have passing interest. The interest tends to increase in the second week when there is an opportunity to watch Murray and Wawrinka play the other top 10 players. Stan’s my man until he’s no longer going and then it’s onto the Murray bandwagon for all its explosions.

  2. Stan looked a bit funny in the head last night Dan. He only gets better the deeper he goes though right?…In a match or a tournament. That seems interesting you like Murray after Stan but I’m not sure why I say that.

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