Tennis on the Brain

Thursday, January 19, 2006

You're going to have to indulge me on this. I'm too obsessed to think or talk about anything else. I've got Aussie Open Fever. Today, I woke up and listened to Lleyton Hewitt getting knocked out by archrival Chela... on the radio. That's right. Due to the absolute lack of television coverage, I have been reduced to pre-war time media... the radio. The 21st century version of this radio, though, comes from my computer.

Enough of that... here's my breakdown. Today, Hewitt's game was noticeably remarkable for its lack of come on's, Hewitt's trademark war-cry. I'll be honest and just say that I wasn't unhappy to see Hewitt out of the tournament. Hewitt's game is simply running around and bashing the ball, and, if I want to see that I can think of other players more spectacular (like Nadal!). But, the field seems to be empty of challengers on par with Federer. Some of the possible championship contenders left in the tournament are James Blake (seeming to get stronger all the time), Andy Roddick (who will never beat Roger because he no longers believes it possible), David Nalbandian (who beat Roger in last year's Master's Title), and maybe a little surprise named Tommy Haas.

Two strange french players are still in the draw. Not grand-standing Monfils, nor talented but tortured Gasquet. No... One's old and the other's young: Fabrice Santoro, otherwise known as "The Magician" and Gilles Simon, a young 21 year old. Both are atypical players in the current power tennis scene. Small, relying on speed change and unpredictable placement of shots, Santoro and Simon can be quite fascinating to watch. Santoro is exactly the type of player to fluster Federer, as Roger himself has confessed, since he uses an eccentric double-handed forehand and backhand, making his shots that much harder to read.

Simon, it seems, patterns himself a little after Michael Chang. Chang's defeat of Lendl in 1989's Roland Garros was one of the greaters displays of panache ever seen in tennis. That same year, Dustin Hoffman played in a film called Rainman. Chang's a bit the Dustin Hoffman of tennis; small and yet capable of bringing something scrappy and intelligent to the screen. 1989 was a wonderful and moving year, if only for those two items, but Simon was but 4 years old at that time so he can have no memory of it!

Speaking of the past haunting us, Martina Hingis won her second round match. When I think about the dominance of female baseline sluggers (Davenport/Sharapova/Williams/Clijsters) I can't help but welcome Hingis back into the fold. Hingis, like her compatriot Federer, is a magical little shotmaker. Her great talent is moving people around on court until they're out of position. It's intelligent tennis, unlike the brutishness of a game like Sharapova's. Her hair flipping, thunder-footing and baseline shrieking makes her the Paris Hilton of women's tennis: attention seekers with little class.

I think Hingis will probably be knocked out, sometime in the fourth round or quarter-finals. Even if she goes through to the next round, she'll be in for a rough time with home favourite Samantha Stosur, who seems to be roaring with confidence. And, even if she gets by Stosur, she could end up fighting Clijsters on the next step up. While it doesn't look like it'll get any easier for her, it could be just the test needed to see if Hingis is really up to playing against some power tennis.

Anyways, I need to sleep now so that I can wake up early and check in on the game. Dedication!