CLOSE TO midnight on Sunday, 27 January 2013, the smoldering embers at Melbourne Park started to wither. Yet the aroma of the eucalyptus trees lining the perimeters of Rod Laver Arena lingered in the air.
The one final tip Ivan Lendl had given Andy Murray before the US Open final at the National Tennis Center in New York last September was ‘be prepared for the pain’. Right after his semifinal victory over Federer on Friday Jim Courier asked Murray if he was ready for it, the pain that is. At that time what both Murray and Courier had in mind was the impending long rallies of attrition from the baselines given the similarities in the defensive playing styles of those at either side of the net. As it turned out that was not the case. First it appeared in the form of a drifting white feather when one of the birds nesting in the rafters fluttered its wings. The disruption of his service action resulted in a double fault from Murray that eventually lead to his losing the second set tie break. Thereafter a blister showed up in his toe hindering Murray’s mobility that allowed the first break of service for the flubber limbed Djokovic and tipping the equilibrium of the match. “When he is on defense he can actually win the point with one shot, that’s an evolution of the game,” said Andre Agassi after handing Djokovic the coveted trophy.
While Djokovic threw up his racket and looked heavenward jubilantly Murray sat on the player’s bench exasperated nursing his wound. A reporter asked Kim Sears, ‘Hey Kim, how did you feel when Andy netted the last backhand letting Novak take home all that money’? Is it just the money ball that takes a spin in colorful hard courts these days? What about all that history being thrown out of the window?
The winner’s purse of the first grand slam of the season is AUD2,400,000 ($2.56 Million). The 99th ranked Coco Vandeweghe of US earned AUD29,100 after losing her first round match to 27th seed Romanian Sorana Cirstea. In their last year’s annual meeting in Melbourne the leading men’s tennis players were pondering the boycott of the Australian Open. This year the table appears to have turned when tournament organizers announced an overall taking of AUD30 Million boosting Australian Open’s ranking as the richest tennis event of all time. “It’s not easy paying your expenses week in, week out, traveling all over the world and without endorsements. If you are top 100 in most other sports, you’re making millions. Tennis, that’s not quite the case,” says Vandeweghe. As a matter of fact last year Vandeweghe had risen to 69 in world ranking for a short period of time that helped her pocket $140,000. Yet when asked if she broke even financially, “no chance” was her answer.
In the meantime it was the semifinal match between Victoria Azerenka of Belarus and Sloane Stephens of the US rather than the final itself that has caught all sporting world’s attention. The controversy arose during the second set when Azerenka was serving for the match at 5-3, couldn’t convert 5 match points and then got broken. During changeover, at the player’s behest, Azeranka was examined by Victoria Simpson, the primary health care provider, and Tim Wood, the tournament doctor. She then left court for further treatment making her opponent wait for nearly 10 minutes that possibly could have contributed to the latter’s losing the next service game and ultimately the match. ‘I almost did the choke of the year. I just felt a little bit overwhelmed. I realized I am one step away from the final, and nerves got into me, for sure. That’s why I was so upset’, admitted Azerenka during her post match on-court interview.
Such a trait in player’s behavior will only indicate a lack of respect for her adversary but also the game. There is of course more to it than winning or losing, but about fair play and character. Every stone holds within its fold a sculpture waiting for the first tap of the sculptor’s chisel.