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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Showdown, If Not Sundown, in Melbourne

I could not figure out how the Australian Open, being played again in blistering Melbourne, has been going on and I have not lavished a few boring words here about it. Then I remembered January 20. Oh, yeah. Most of my head space during the first week of the tournament was occupied with the Inauguration of you know who. I was watching the tournament from the start, in the freezing days in Washington DC--not that I was watching outside and had a congealed brain. We suffer badly at this time because given the 12+ hours time difference with Australia, it is always confusing to figure out when games are on: 'this morning' in Australia is 'this evening' where we live; 'tomorrow's match' may actually be played 'today' for us. That confusion gets worse as we try to prop open eyes to watch coverage from 10pm, and then maybe all the way through to 9am! Then work has to be fit it, or in my case in between and sometimes around. I have to take a few breaks from working or watching or choose to watch one session or the other--usually the early morning--not both.

Now the tournament is heading to its climax, with finals starting today and the big showdowns of women's and men's finals over the weekend. Sleep has been reduced so much that it's easier to just stay awake and nap when I can.

It's been a love fest of sorts for me, as 'The Federer' as he is called by another former number 1, Russian Marat Safin, showed that his bout of mono was probably a big part of why 2008 was less than stellar for him. His 'mere' one Grand Slam and two other finals would be stellar for almost any other player's whole career. 'The man' is truly gracing the courts again, gliding like one of the Bolshoi ballet, as he whipped his signature forehands, left and right at will and touching the lines as if on a string. He looked scary, and when he fed a 'double bagel' (6-0 twice) to another upcoming top 10 player (del Potro), I thought OMG. Then he was checked in the quarter finals, and quite literally by the Czech who had never quite lived up to his potential, Tomas Berdych. OMG again, but in reverse. TB put the hurt on RF and pulled him around like he was melted cheese in a raclette. No. This does not happen. And just like that, a two sets deficit had opened up. I could not watch and headed to bed, where I had a nice dream that a stunning comeback was underway.When I woke the power of dreams had been proved: Roger had made a stunning comeback and won in five sets. On winning, he displayed some un-Swiss-like emotions, more fitting for a soccer player; I think he has been trying to show more emotion and does look hungry for his wins. New hair do. New Nike duds. A few new dance steps. Could be a rocking 2009 for him.

He played Andy Roddick in the semis. Well, Federer 'owns' Roddick, no matter how well Andy plays and he usually plays out of his skin against the great man; he did so again but lost. When I looked at the stats, Roddick's were good enough to win virtually any match he played so far this year, but Federer's figures were better. So, a man raises his game to its limit and then gets spun around like thread on Rumplestiltskin's spinning wheel. So, a final place booked, and as I write we wait to see against whom it will be. Chances are it will be Senor Nemisis, Rafael Nadal; if he can beat a surprisingly improved fellow Spaniard, Verdasco. My usual 'partner in crime' during Federer matches came back from intense study and now she is on the scene again we shall be zinging BlackBerry messages point by point.

I haven't spoken much about the women's tennis for no reason other than I find it confusing as ever that there is no stand out in the rankings, and no real stand out on the courts. Yes, the Williams sisters are strong (as shown by their winning the doubles tournaments whenever they enter), but so inconsistent sometimes. This time, Serena made it to the finals, while her sister was dumped out ignominiously by an opponent who played very well. Her opponent will be Dinara Safina, she of the 'let me see if I can win after facing a few match points' fame, who did the Houdini again to get to the semis. No doubt, she has heart. Whoever wins the final will be the new number one in the women's' rankings; but I think there were at least four players with this possibility going into the tournament. The current number one, Jankovic? Dumped out by that strange French offering, Marion Bartoli, she of the double-handed everything and the father who trained her in some very quirky ways. Bartoli then fizzled in her semi as the heat turned her into a wilting leaf.

The women cannot figure out how to be good long enough for one of them to be number one for more than a few weeks. I guess that might be seen as good competition, but on watching you can see it's about inconsistency.

But I have to say a few words about the roof business at Melbourne. The heat has been hitting new records and it seemed that on court the temperatures rose to just below that of a steel smelting factory. It caused the brain cells of some Serbian and Bosnian fans, who decided that it was appropriate to carry on a war in the stadium grounds after the match between Djokovic (Serbia) and Delic (American of Bosnian heritage). See the movie:



No one can understand when the roof on the main court (Rod Laver Arena) will be closed. It's not when it is just very hot, and apparently there is a complex formula that takes into account the actual temperature and the humidity at the time. Whatever it is, when it's open, players seem to drop like dizzy flies or move as if it's slow motion--deadly when you have the slow coaches like Djokovic. When it's closed the neutral climate conditions change completely the nature of the game--very helpful for some players like Nadal, and the player run around like Energen bunnies. Anyway, tennis is supposed to be a summer sport and played in the sun, In some places, they try to take it indoor but that is really only acceptable for places and times that are bitterly cold. In the old days the players dealt with the natural conditions; that's what makes the tournament what it is. Yes, we have to be concerned about health, but if they feel bad, let them decide not to play or get into condition for it.

It'll be a fun weekend and I am prepared for the usual Federer-Nadal heart and gut wrencher on Sunday morning. If the game goes on for too long, I hope it does not compromise my napping again before watching the Super Bowl later on Sunday.

1 comment:

Mar said...

Nadal for the win! Ordinarily I would be a Federer woman because Sampras was (is!) king, and they have similar, thinking styles. But I feel something kindred with that Spanish fire that makes Nadal so explosive on the court.

I can't wait.