By James Crabtree
A tour round Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park will lead you to the player changing and locker rooms, where some interesting stories are revealed.
First up, only the top 87 players are entitled to a locker. So bad luck Filippo Volandri who currently stands at 88 in the world rankings.
A certain number of superstitions exist for those who pick their locker. For starters, Roger Federer will have locker number 5, because he is going for his fifth title. No surprise which locker he will have the following year if he wins.
Marcos Baghdatis always has locker 83, because Andre Agassi had it prior and, of course, considerable success at the Open. How many racquets Marcos will bring to Melbourne this year is still to be determined, but let’s hope he brings enough, especially after last year’s antics…
Novak Djokovic will have 86, because it is next to a mirror. Novak is also known to play lots of practical jokes in the locker room to kill time.
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray always wait for Djokovic and Federer to pick their locker, so they can locker-up on the opposite side away from their rivals.
Out on the courts, the play for the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs has been exceptional and the weather has been four seasons of “hot.” Yellow Card devotee Matthew Barton dodged a bullet in reaching the semi-final on a court you could have cooked an egg on. Youngster Nicholas Kyrgios led 4-1 in the fifth set only to start grabbing his legs with some suspected Andy Murrayitis — you know an injury that isn’t an injury but always gets the commentators worried. Devastatingly for Kyrgios, it was severe cramp. After brief reprisal and two injury timeouts Krygios retired from the match sending Barton through after three hours and forty four minutes on court, and a score of 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 3-4.
Ben Mitchell whose brother is actor Luke Mitchell aka Romeo Smith from Home and Away, will meet Barton in the next round. The unassuming second seed John-Patrick Smith rounds out the draw against former Bollettieri attendee Matt Reid.
(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. Make sure to heck out his first and second installments of “Sights and Sounds.”)
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.)