The 2015 Australian Open has been over for almost 10 days, but there are a couple of things worth revisiting before the first Grand Slam of the year recedes too far in the memory.
One relates to the look of the people in the picture at the top here.
They’re walking near Federation Square in central Melbourne two weeks before the tournament started. It was 27 degrees, which is normal for the capital city of Victoria at that time of year – the equivalent of July in Canada.
What happened the last week of the 2015 Australian Open is that the temperature dropped precipitously, making things unusual and slightly uncomfortable.
The high on the last five days of the tournament was 21 degrees – and the mercury tumbled as low as 10 degrees overnight.
An Australian friend put it best, noting that even when the temperature hits uncomfortable extremes of as high as 35 or 40, at least it’s warm. It’s mid-summer in Australia, vacation, kids-out-of-school time and you expect warmth.
With it being cool during the day – not exactly “I’ve got to have an ice cream or a beer” kind of weather – and downright chilly at night, a little of the soul of the event was lost that second week. It’s not as easy to be festive when there’s that bite in the air.
Djokovic Wobbles and Wins
A lot was made of Novak Djokovic’s stumbling after shots and looking strangely uncoordinated at times during his Aussie Open final against Andy Murray.
With two large video screens located at either end of Rod Laver Arena – more in view of the players than they are in many other tennis stadiums – Murray was able to see what Djokovic was doing during replays and later claimed to have been distracted.
Djokovic had another incident like the one against Murray when he played Juan Martin del Potro in Shanghai in the fall of 2013. It was a similar, almost spastic kind of staggering around and losing his balance.
The picture at the top here was taken while Djokovic was practicing on the Monday before the Aussie Open began. He was in a bad way with a virus and sat by himself when he took breaks – clearly in no mood to interact in any way with his team, who purposely left him alone.
There’s a possibility that the virus had lingering effects and Djokovic said as much after the final, “maybe it’s the consequences of that, the consequences of not being able to get myself fit and ready before the tournament. The practice week was a recovery week – not a practice week.”
He added about his state late in the second set and early in the third, “I was just weak. I went through a physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes. Honestly, I didn’t feel that too many times in my career.”
Contrary to what some have suggested, it’s hard to believe there was any effort on his part to deliberately try to disturb Murray by faking something. In fact, Lleyton Hewitt, doing commentary for Channel 7, made the most sense when he said he had seen Djokovic go through a similar situation and suggested the Serb knew how to deal with it.
“I don’t think this 20-30 minutes tonight,” the world No. 1 summed up, “can cause a major concern for me for the future.”
Anyone watching the Aussie Open on Channel 7 in Australia saw a Canadian Club commercial over and over. It involves snow, and so sort of resonates with Canadians.
The gist of the spot is that Canadian Club whisky is as refreshing as a snowball in the face, in this case belonging to a young woman.
And the snowball arrives courtesy of a caricature of a hunky man (fur collar and all), referred to in the commercial as “a sexy person” (in picture above).
It all ends with woman, still a bit dazed, saying, “you don’t get that from a beer!”
Keys In The Footsteps of Bouchard
It looks as if a rivalry could develop between recent Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys and Genie Bouchard. A year ago, Bouchard, ranked No. 32 at the finish of 2013, made her big breakthrough at Melbourne Park on the eve of her 20th birthday (February 25).
This year it was Keys, ranked No. 31 when 2014 ended, who reached the semifinals on the eve of her 20th birthday (February 17).
The two have played once before – Keys winning the final of the Saguenay (Quebec) Challenger event 6-4, 6-2 in the fall of 2012.
Keys got a laugh – at least from North American reporters – in the media interview room during this year’s Aussie Open when she admitted she had no clue who another Madison was – Madison Bumgarner, the San Francisco Giants pitcher who was sensational in leading his team to the World Series title this year, which resulted in him being selected Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year.”
Same Old Tomas
There was much fanfare made about the fact that Andy Murray’s great friend, and former assistant coach, Venezuelan Dani Vallverdu, is coaching Tomas Berdych this year.
Berdych is widely-viewed as a career underachiever – despite being a Wimbledon runner-up in 2010, four times a Grand Slam semifinalist and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 5 (August, 2013).
The proof that there is no new Berdych under coach Vallverdu came in his semifinal with Andy Murray. With the match on serve midway through the first set, Berdych was holding his own with his trademark heavy-hitting, keeping Murray off balance. He got to love-30 on the Murray serve and into a rally. Then – what does he do? He tries a drop shot and winds up losing the point. He did win the first set but eventually went down in four 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.
When someone like Berdych is having success with his concussive hitting, and has a chance to take a lead on a player like Murray in an important match, he has to stick to his game-style and not be thinking about a ‘gimmicky,’ ‘bail-out’ shot like a drop shot.
Berdych’s former coach Tomas Krupa had done a commendable job of weaning Berdych off drop shot attempts. So, it doesn’t look good on Vallverdu that his man reverted to type and tried such an ill-advised shot at such a crucial juncture.
The 6-foot-5 Czech turns 30 in September. At this stage, it sure looks like he’ll never have the discipline or the smarts to win a Grand Slam title.
Twerking It Out
One of the most hyped stories at the 2015 Australian Open was the brouhaha about Genie Bouchard doing a twirl on court to show off her pink Nike outfit after her second-round win in Margaret Court Arena.
Serena Williams had done a twirl after a previous Margaret Court match, and the arena announcer asked Bouchard to do the same and she complied (see above).
Though some branded it as demeaning to a woman, it was nothing more than good fun.
Bouchard herself had the last word on this when she tweeted the cartoon (below).
A Final Thought On Fed Cup
As a result of a draw this morning at the ITF headquarters in London, Canada will host Romania for its World Group Play-off tie April 18-19.
Romania will be able to call on a group of players that could include world No. 3 Simona Halep as well as Irina-Camelia Begu (34), Monica Niculescu, (57), Alexandra Dulgheru (95) and Sorana Cirstea (102).
It appears Montreal – and the Maurice Richard Arena – may be favoured to play host to the tie. A victory would protect Canada’s spot in the eight-nation World Group for 2016.
The first significant European clay-court event of the spring – indoors in Stuttgart – begins the day after the tie on April 20. That could influence whether or not No. 7-ranked Genie Bouchard decides to play for Canada.
Looking back at last weekend in Quebec City, there was a sense of frustration hanging over the whole tie, at least from the Canadian point of view. Without Bouchard, Aleksandra Wozniak and Sharon Fichman available, it was always unlikely that the hosts stood much chance against a team led by No. 22-ranked Karolina Pliskova. Then, when Tereza Smitkova, 20, turned out to be as good as she was, it was obvious No. 185 Gabriela Dabrowski and No. 230 Francoise Abanda were over-matched.
Basically – again from the Canadian side – it often felt like it just wasn’t really a fair fight!
The Inter-Hemispheric Ferry Double
This is one of the more obscure accomplishments within one week: taking the ferry on Monday February 2nd across the Sydney (Australia) harbour and then back to Circular Quay, just past the Opera House on the left in the photo above.
That was followed, less than seven days later, by doing likewise in Quebec City. This time it was the ‘traversier’ (ferry) across the ice-jammed St. Lawrence River to the town of Levis early Sunday morning February 8th – and then back to the port of Quebec (below).
Both have their charms. The Manly ferry leaving for the return trip from the city to Manly beach on the Pacific Ocean, while the other ferry, with the temperature at -19 degree C, pounding the thick ice as it makes its way back from Levis to the lower town in Quebec City.