By Maud Watson
Rattled Roddick – In the second round encounter earlier this week at the Australian Open between Andy Roddick and Thomaz Bellucci, Bellucci hit a shot on match point down that was initially called out. Bellucci challenged the call. Hawk-eye showed the ball in, and chair umpire Fergus Murphy awarded the point to Bellucci. At the end of the match, Roddick railed on Murphy for awarding that first match point in Bellucci’s favor, refusing to shake Murphy’s hand at the end, which earned him a round of boos from the crowd. After viewing the tape, Roddick admitted he may have been wrong than he realized but still felt on a big point like that, Murphy should have ruled to replay it. Why? If Murphy felt Roddick didn’t have a play on the ball, how is it fair to not award the point to Bellucci, the player who was match point down? Furthermore, while Bellucci played well, Roddick was schooling him out on the court. Barring a miracle, there was no way Roddick wasn’t walking off that court the winner, whether it took one match point or ten. Roddick needs to learn to get a grip on his emotions. He’s developed a habit of arguing with chair umps, and it’s embarrassing. American tennis has already had to endure the tirades of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. It shouldn’t have to endure those of Roddick, too.
New Year, Same Serena – For those of you who saw ESPN2’s coverage of Day 2, you know that Serena Williams was interviewed and asked about her reaction to the ITF’s ruling in her infamous US Open outburst. While Serena claimed to be sorry and turning the whole incident into a positive by holding an auction to raise money for her charity, she also had the audacity to claim the fine was excessive given the behavior of past players and implied it would have been less had she been a man. First, while her raising money for her charity is a good deed, it in no way makes up for her behavior at the US Open. Second, it’s ludicrous she thinks the fine is excessive and would have been less if she were a man. I realize this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but when someone like Martina Hingis gets slapped with a two-year ban for a flimsy positive cocaine test, or Yanina Wickmayer faces losing up to a year of her career for violating the controversial “whereabouts rule,” I’d say Serena got off easy for going out on the largest court in the world in front of television audiences from all over the globe and threatening to kill a line judge by cramming a tennis ball down her throat. It’s clear Serena hasn’t learned her lesson, and I give props to ESPN’s Darren Cahill for being the lone commentator who had the guts to say she should have been suspended, as she certainly would have if she played any other sport.
Sharapova Stutters – Maria Sharapova’s comeback from injury suffered a major setback, as she lost in the opening round of the Australian Open to countrywoman Maria Kirilenko. Sharapova looked rusty, and much like Pam Shriver on ESPN, I was left to question Sharapova’s preparation. She’d hardly played competitive tennis since her early exit at the US Open, yet she chose to play an exhibition instead of a sanctioned tournament to prepare for the first major of the year? It was painfully obvious she didn’t see the problem with this either, as she stated in her interview that she didn’t know what lack of match practice had to do with failing to put the return in play when her opponent was down break point. Maybe her coach Michael Joyce should explain to her the fundamental differences between exhibitions and sanctioned matches.
Great Match, Bad Timing – It was arguably one of the greatest second-round matchups in Grand Slam history as Elena Dementieva took on Justine Henin, the latest top player to come out of retirement. This match definitely lived up to its billing as both players traded bludgeoning groundstrokes and refused to give up ground as they dashed about the court in a desperate attempt to swing the momentum to their own side. In the end, it was Henin who held her nerve longer and took the match in two tight sets. The great tennis aside, it’s a tragedy that the Australian Open so needlessly lost one of the top contenders for the title in the second round. Tournament organizers were given the green light to seed Henin, despite her lack of ranking, and opted to take a pass. I think they missed the boat on that one.
Coverage Woes – I’m grateful that ESPN2 is covering a fair amount of the Australian Open, as I don’t currently get the Tennis Channel. That said, the amount of filler interviews and commentary they have is ridiculous. The first night of coverage started late due to a basketball game running over the allotted time, but instead of going straight to the tennis, viewers had to hear what each of the commentators had to say about players’ chances at the opening major of 2010. And whose bright idea was it to interview Sam Querrey while Kirilenko was upsetting Sharapova in Round 1? When coverage started on Wednesday night, Patrick McEnroe informs the audience that Baghdatis is in the process of staging a comeback from two sets down against David Ferrer, but do they go to the match? No, because viewers must be subjected to the two cents’ worth of every commentator on the network. People tune in to watch the tennis, so if anyone at ESPN is reading this, less talk, more action.