World #4 Agniezska Radwanska (above), as she struggles to deal with oppressive conditions at The Apia in Sydney.
One of our ones to watch, the very talented and stylish young one hander Grigor Dimitrov, makes his 1st ever tour final over the weekend. This week, he rolls out to Sydney where he gets bounced, 1 & 3, by Fognini, a vastly inferior player. Maybe Dimitrov, still young, doesn’t yet have mastered the art of the quick turn around. Not exactly likely since to break into the main draw bubble at lesser tournies like these, he’s had to go the hard scrabble qualifier route to make his bones, often playing 3 matches before his 1st round match. This, after a prolific junior career in which he won both the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles. Maybe though. Also unlikely that Benoit Paire, after a strong week in India would fall so flat the next week, another 1st round casualty, this time in Auckland. Certainly couldn’t be the problem for John Isner, already lame this new year despite virtually no match play at all. But only in Australia is freshness and injury such a concern, though the new year has yet to see it’s 10th day.
You must know we’re quite likely to chalk up assorted leg, back, shoulder and elbow injuries Down Under to surface issues most of the time. I mean, is it not a little curious that Rafael Nadal, who is practicing full bore on red clay, we hear, in Barcelona, and is making bold, confident proclamations on Twitter that he is great to go, and in fact expects to have a banner 2013? Just not in Australia, which, apparently healthy, he has decided to skip entirely. Nadal is always subject to injury from his horrible defensive style–running, endless points, infinite pounding–but there can be no denying that a 6 hour, 5 set Aussie final on Plexicushion left him staggered. So staggered in fact that despite today claiming perfect health, he is nowhere to be found around Melbourne not 5 days before a major, the 2nd straight major he is about to miss, making for a 7th straight month without match play.
Rather quizzical to us that Nadal would then go play singles and doubles at Indian Wells, also on Plexicushion, but you’ll never hear us accuse Nadal of being bright. Perhaps never more obvious were the negative effects of Plexicushion than in the IW semis, where Federer smoked Nadal easily, despite the sizable advantage the torturously slow, high bouncing surfaces affords a pusher like Nadal, for whom the basic total of his strategy is praying for high bounces.
But supposedly the Plex is so great on the joints, right? And of course, it absorbs the heat so well, so much better than the previous surface, Rebound Ace (ever hear those myths about Rebound Ace melting in the sun to the point where the courts and the players’ shoe bottoms become one? LOL. Propaganda, thy name is Tennis Australia). There is such a hypocritical dichotomy with Tennis Australia which is both insulting and disgusting at once. Rebound Ace was so great when it was in, despite widespread dissatisfaction with that. Plexicushion is so great now, despite widespread dissatisfaction with this. We can not temper our disdain for Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia’s major domo and the AO’s Director, who is greedy, moronic and an unabashed liar all at once. This week, Tiley has instructed tournaments to soldier on in the face of unrelenting heat. Inhumane conditions, to be perfectly honest.
Drysdale, Hewitt, Pat Cash, Peter McNamara, Liz Smylie and Jason Stoltenberg were among a host of tennis figures critical of Tiley and TA. As TA’s director of player development, Tiley yesterday accused his detractors of peddling misinformation. Drysdale, a former TA employee, was incensed.
“His comments show a complete lack of respect for the culture of Australian tennis,” Drysdale said. (You can read the full article at the link below.)
Tiley is a guy who wants us to believe Plexicushion plays like grass, that it absorbs heat in superior fashion, and that it is not slower than Nadal between points. Fooling the public is one thing. Fooling the players is another, as we see from a variety of Aussie players above. Yet Tiley seems to challenge every negative player reaction. Let us ask who’d be in a position to know better the true tendencies of the court? Tiley, who is obviously over invested, or Lleyton Hewitt, who every summer has the same exact grade of Plexicushion poured in his own backyard, to spec, as the ones freshly laid at Melbourne Park?
On Monday, Wimbledon runner up Aggie Radwanska, whose game is dependent on conditioning, calls for the tournament director to ask for a suspension in play, as the temperature on court hits 50 degrees Centigrade, or 122 degrees. After the match, Radwanska describes the conditions as essentially barbaric for all involved, from players to spectators to concessioneers. How does Tiley spin that, pardon pun? Below is a Youtube link to Radwanska’s press conference yesterday, in which she said, among other things, that Sydney is less about tennis and more about pure survival:
Radwanska was not alone. Jelena Jankovic, extremely dependent on slow courts, basically marveled at the awful conditions. When Na Li, a major champion and very well respected player, 1st ever and only Chinese player to win a singles major, who also displayed tremendous courage and set an awesome precedent by defying the Chinese Tennis Federation’s bid to dictate the terms of her career and her purse (quite a coup by her to bring in Henin mastermind Carlos Rodriguez too, as she always seems to be making solid moves), speaks about poor conditions, she does so for the sport at large. As does Roger Federer, on record already saying the courts are too slow, who is not playing Kooyong as we expected. Federer, to conserve energy, is playing no matches this year on Australian Plexicushion outside of Melbourne Park, and knowing Roger, that is another tacit indictment of the conditions.
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/01/08/uk-tennis-australia-warmups-idUKBRE90705120130108 (“Kuznetsova Overcomes Wozniacki in Sydney Heat”)
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/tennis/agnieszka-radwanska-downs-kimiko-date-krumm-no-worries-at-sydney-interantional/story-e6frfgao-1226549552738 (“Tennis Stars Make Heavy Weather of Searing Heat at Sydney International”)
It is obvious that the players are not enjoying the Australian experience–even native Australians–with the season coming right at the heart of the unbearable Australian summer.
So you ask perhaps why we harp on Australia’s lamentable geography? For one, we don’t think it’s realistic that Australia keeps their status as a major tennis nation. They do little to justify that status on the court, the travel to and from is murder, it is by no means an economic powerhouse as a nation, they have dulled and diluted theirs and the world’s talent pool by their choice of surface, and those aspects of their geography they can control, like picking a surface that mitigates the extreme heat, they have miserably failed at. Why? Because they lusted after deals with surface manufacturers and put the tennis second, which is an unconscionable sin in our eyes.
We apologize to the good fans of Australia, but as always, we provide our opinions in keeping with what we believe to be the truth.