december showdown

Sights and Sounds Part Deux: Aussie Tennis Player Confessions

By James Crabtree

It really is hard to comprehend how much work goes into staging a grand slam. Everyone is hustling and bustling and breaking into a sweat, from workman in hardhats to stressed out suits. Offices are moving locations, sponsorship boards are being put into place and players are trying secure practice courts or just a comfy seat to rest their weary bones.

Chances are if you ask any of the players playing in the December Showdown, if they have read a book recently, they will say it is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. On top of that erotic bombshell, the majority carry five racquets, listen to hard thumping house music and enjoy Will Ferrell movies. Matthew Barton was the true exception claiming an appreciation for Michael J. Fox.

On the courts, the only sound Sam Groth heard during his first match was his own. During much of his loss to the number 4 junior in the world, Nicholas Kyrgios, Groth provided a play by play narrative of his troubles. Kyrgios — who reminded one onlooking coach of a tall David Nalbandian — handled the fastest server in the world with relative ease, proving why he might be a name to be remembered in years to come.

One player to avoid an upset was Greg Jones who came back from two sets to love down to defeat Michael Look 2-6 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-4 in three and a half hours. The last time the very relieved Jones lost a five set match was the 2012 Australian Open, when he was two sets to love up against Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Two-time junior grand slam champion Luke Saville started his campaign with a win over Andrew Whittington that included the longest tie break he had ever played in winning the fourth set. After the match, he was quick to speak on his desire to not only rise up the rankings, but to one day also get the call from Pat Rafter of representing his country for Davis Cup. Based on today’s performance, that call shouldn’t be too far away.

By the way, the weather in Melbourne officially didn’t reach four seasons although it was blustery then hot, hotter and then stinging …

(James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park for the December Showdown and giving us the scoop on all the latest news surrounding the Australian Open. Check out his first installment of “Sights and Sounds”¬†here.)

Sights and sounds from Melbourne: Gearing up for the Australian Open

By James Crabtree

The countdown to the Australian Open has begun! January 14 is getting closer.

Not long to go now.

So, whats been happening?

Let’s just say Melbourne Park has been hectic, and its not just the renovations (indoor courts, clay courts, plexi courts, plunge pools, training rooms etc), which have been immense.

Firstly, whenever you are in Melbourne chances are somebody will say “it’s like four seasons in one day.” This is funny the first few times, then drives you up the wall, then you find yourself saying to somebody you think isn’t from here: “Did I mention Melbourne is like four seasons in one day?”

Anyway, the tennis.

Doubles legend Todd Woodbridge has been on court, seemingly everyday. More impressive than that is the fact the guy simply does not age, L’Oreal really needs to sign this guy up because he could have easily snuck into the under 18 event.

Speaking of juniors, there is a ton playing right now from the 12′s to the 18′s as part of the Optus Championships, and all trying to make their mark. Notable attendees at their matches have been U.S. college recruiters from some pretty big schools.

Australian No. 1 Marinko Matosevic has also seen working hard on the his court fitness drills with Greg Jones and the sort of trainer who should be yelling at people on The Biggest Loser.

Sam Stosur has been spotted drinking coffee in the cafeteria. Reports of what kind of coffee have yet to be verified although the barista believed it was a caff√® latte with one sugar even though she wasn’t really paying attention. Consequently the same barista messed up my order, I wanted a mocha and got a cappuccino.

The world’s fastest server Sam Groth (with a record of 163.4 mph), has been on the practice court everyday and is looking very confident. The world’s 216th-ranked player should be a good bet to win next week’s December Showdown and claim the Australian Open Wild Card. Still don’t count out last year’s Showdown finalist though, James Duckworth, who made the second round of the Australian Open main draw and gave top 10 player Janko Tipsarevic a real scare.

That’s all from here for now. Did I mention Melbourne has four seasons in one day?

James Crabtree will be covering the December Showdown for the tournament’s website, and will also be covering next month’s Australian Open.