Tennis players in press and on the Australian Open practice courts

Maria Sharapova in practice ahead of the Australian Open

By James Crabtree

January 12, 2013 — A busy day at Melbourne Park and the main draw hasn’t even started yet.

The morning consisted of half the venue being taken over by a Kids Tennis Day extravaganza. Hordes of families took over the venue for half the day for a free event where kids of all ages partook in tennis activities or just kids who chose to get their face painted. The event culminated with a hit and giggle of epic proportions on Rod Laver arena featuring Djokovic, Azarenka, Federer, Serena and Ivanovic.

The other half of the venue was all business.

The majority of players were seeking to take the court more than once in the day. Marin Cilic hit casually with Mikhail Youzhny, Matosevic with Fognini whilst on the main arena Wawrinka trained with good friend Andy Murray.

The big focus was on practice sets with results we shall never know and will be quickly forgotten.

Most players were watched on by their respective coaches who would venture forward offer some words of wisdom then back away to the shadows.

Courts 16, 17 and 18 could be watched from a public walkway above giving any man, including one with his dog, a chance to watch a world class tennis player becoming battle ready. Tommy Haas hit with a rather agitated Jurgen Melzer who sent at least a couple of balls out of the park. Ryan Harrison was his typically incensed self as he played against Victor Troicki whilst Jerzy Janowicz sweated it out against Albert Ramos.

Immediately after practice Tommy Haas was as usual defying age. Vigorously he jumped rope then went through an array of stretchy band conditioning drills, after which he was slated to go on court again to keep in condition and send warnings to any rivals that he is a force be reckoned with.

Meanwhile the biggest names were required for media conferences where they answered questions about their form and fitness from the sort of journalists who couldn’t do a single push-up. A subtle hint to get in shape was provided in a very generous media caboodle that included a towel. Looking spritely, showered and refreshed after the Kids Day event Djokovic answered questions in English and Serbian. Not to be outdone Federer answered questions English, French and German.

Over thinking can be dangerous for any athlete and often players are asked questions that you hope don’t cross their mind when they are 4-6 down in a tie break. Sam Stosur was told that Martina Navratilova thought her kick serve doesn’t trouble opponents like it once did.

Stosur responded, “Look, I think any players who have been around for a long time, other players start to work things out, then start to be able to do things against you that maybe they couldn’t the first few years you were around.”

Things were more relaxed with Sharapova who divulged information on a practice set she had played. “One of them (Thanasi Kokkinakis) was really on top of me and then I got really mad. I think he had eight set points and I ended up winning the set … I don’t think he slept well after that one.” Sharapova added further, “Then another one, it was Luke Saville, we didn’t actually finish, the set took too long.”

Sharapova promised candy to the best question although she deemed none worthy, either worrying about the journalist’s waistline or the profits on her range of Sugarpova.