Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Australian Open 1st Round/Nocturnal Viewing Pleasures

I tried but I could not find a way... Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music 1972

The opening salvo from Roxy Music's debut album is the obvious plea from those not from Mallorca when facing Roger the Magnificent. And Federer's start at Australia provided no incentive for any of his foes to reduce their trepidation. And forget the headlines from the day after the match - when some stated "Federer struggled in his opening match." Too much hyper-analysis going on, people. A struggle is triumphing in four or five close sets - as Hewitt did against Russell - not working out the kinks in one's game for half a set and then finishing with ease, as was the case with Roger.

Rafael Nadal did have a struggle in the first set - actually fending off a set point - before settling in to defeat his worthy Wimbledon foe, Robert Kendrick. It was actually a good test for Nadal. Playing indoors which he doesn't prefer - due to the obscene heat conditions outdoors - against a player with a potent serve and excellent volleys gave Nadal a chance to have a moving target to avoid and react to effective replies at the net.

Most tennis fans, myself included, want that 3rd in 4 Slam final encounter between Roger and Rafa. With Nadal's draw as daunting as it is (analyzed in my previous post) it is of paramount importance to not exhaust himself in the early rounds. So Nadal would be wise to focus and finish off his next two opponents with ease. If Nadal were to be well ahead in his next two matches, I'd also like to see him experiment a bit with what he knows he'd have to do against Berdych or Blake - take the ball earlier and flatten it out slightly and getting his topspin forehand well past the service line.

2nd Round Matches to watch - tonight, Bagdatis vs. Monfils should be entertaining and then tomorrow the underrated and underachieving lefty Fernando Verdasco taking on Andy Murray should be fun to watch as well.

As winter has finally descended on Gotham, I am relishing even more the consistent appearance of tennis on my nocturnal agenda (and in some cases extreme nocturnal viewing at 3AM). With this late night viewing, there is a singular enjoyment that I get from watching the Australian Open as opposed to the other Slams. The French and Wimbledon are obviously in the morning and early afternoon, a time of activity for most. The US Open does have its night matches but they usually end by 11 which make them ideal for social interactions.

But the Australian Open forces the passionate tennis fan to pay homage to the after-hours and there is a certain calm and clarity of focus and thought that overtakes this viewer in the late, late night. For one, it is the only half-quiet time in New York City so the tennis is not interrupted by car horns or neighbors or other urban clatter. The most important events/happenings in life often take place in the darkness where there's a quiet and concentrated intensity that is not found at any other time of day. So for that reason alone, I treasure the late nights in front of the TV, with the air frigid outside but the eyes and soul soothed by the sun and tennis action from Melbourne.