Popcorn Tennis at the Australian Open 2011 – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Highs

The term “popcorn tennis” is often used to describe a scintillating match, and there has certainly been plenty of “popcorn tennis” in week 1 of the Aussie Open. The women’s side has seen a number of highly competitive matches that have resulted in more than one big upset, while the men’s side has enjoyed a slew of five-set thrillers, many that saw the victor emerge triumphant from being down two sets to none. While native Australian Lleyton Hewitt lost a heartbreaker to David Nalbandian in what might be the match of the tournament thus far (though the Federer vs. Simon match was also right up there), organizers and fans alike should expect to see more real gems heading towards the business end of the tournament as one of the Australian Open’s more entertaining opening weeks in recent memory draws to a close.

The Lows

As enjoyable as the opening week of the first major of the year has been, it hasn’t been without its blemishes either. Former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli suffered a tear in her calf and is expected to miss up to six weeks, while American Mardy Fish was diagnosed with a thyroid problem following his second round loss to Tommy Robredo. Then there was the shriek heard round the world when Venus Williams suffered a groin injury, which has to be disheartening given all of her recent injury woes. But the biggest low from this first week has to be the fifth-set performance put on by Janko Tipsarevic in his loss to Fernando Verdasco. Sure, Tipsarevic was understandably disappointed. He had won the first two sets and had held match points. But Tipsarevic wasn’t the first player this tournament to find himself in that situation, and no matter how deflated a player may be, barring injury, there’s no reason to just go away in the fifth set and start going through the motions. Tipsarevic didn’t even attempt to stick a racquet out on the return in the last game of the match. If a player is going to do that, they should just throw in the towel. It’s a waste of their time, their opponent’s time, and the fans’ time. It’s inexcusable.

Kim Clijsters signs autographs for the fans

The Bizarre

It’s not all that uncommon to see a player shatter a bat in baseball, but breaking your stick in tennis was all but unheard of. That is until Aggie Radwanska did just that in her tight three-set victory over Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm. The young Pole had been banging her racquet against the court in frustration just prior to the racquet head breaking away as she attempted a return. Not quite what a player wants to see happen at such a crucial juncture, but it’s a great way to make the Sports Center reel! Another incident occurred following Kim Clijsters’ dominant win over Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro. During her on-court interview with Todd Woodbridge, Clijsters called out the Aussie doubles specialist on a text he sent to Australian player Rennae Stubbs that stated he thought Clijsters might be pregnant; his reasoning being “she looks really grumpy and her boobs look bigger.”Always ready for a laugh, Clijsters took the text in good humor while Woodbridge was both embarrassed and horrified, even joking it could be the end of his TV career. This would fall under the “hate” side of the relationship with technology.

No Shocker

No surprise when the announcement came that the International Tennis Hall of Fame will be inducting Andre Agassi later this year. There had been a tiny pocket of doubt regarding this outcome, as his admitted use of crystal meth did raise a few eyebrows among fans and pundits who questioned if this should impact his eligibility. But the Hall of Fame is there to recognize primarily what one has done as a player on the court, and with eight majors, several Tennis Masters shields, and other accolades, there’s no question he’s one of the game’s legends (and this should mean Hingis fans can take heart that this precedent should mean her shaky cocaine-use conviction shouldn’t preclude her enshrinement odds either). Agassi has also done good post-tennis between his school and other charity work. One just hopes that he truly does appreciate his election for what he’s achieved in a sport that has also given him so much and put him in the position to do his charitable work today, despite his insistence that he hates it.

It’s Official

The two-man Maria Sharapova coaching team of Thomas Hogstedt and Michael Joyce didn’t last long. Details are still a little fuzzy surrounding exactly how it all came apart, but when the dust settled, it was decided that it would just be Hogstedt coaching Sharapova. Sharapova explained the choice, stating that she just needed a fresh voice in her ear. She was quick to point out, however, that Joyce is like a brother to her, and that they are still close. Having spent nearly 10 years together, it’s not surprising reports circulated that the split had left Sharapova feeling a little unsettled. It hasn’t shown up too much in her game, though, and in the end, she’ll most likely find out the change is for the best.