Hunting Kangaroos with the Djoker

Jan 22, 2012 by


Far and away, my favorite Olympic Summer games were the 2000 games held in Sydney, Australia.  I put aside my patriotism and cheered for athletes from the host country.  My act was not political, nor did I have any animosity for the US athletes.  I just really dig the song Down Under by Men at Work. When an Australian athlete won an event, the song was instantly cranked through the speaker system at the arena or stadium.  Members of the Australian Commonwealth Government should seriously consider Down Under as their national anthem.  It’s just a fucking catchy pop song that influences me to briefly change my allegiances.1 

The Australian Open serves as the unofficial opening day in professional tennis.  It is the first major of the year, but garners the least amount of fanfare.  The massive time differences, and the calendar, play major roles in making the Australian Open a distant fourth in popularity compared to the other tennis majors.  However, some of the most recent memorable matches have been played on those blue courts in the middle of sweltering Australian summers.

One of my all-time favorites2, Pat Cash, hailed from the land of Kangaroos and Fosters Beer.  Cash finally broke though in 1987 by capturing his only major at Wimbledon.   He took out the number one ranked, and always loveable3,  Ivan Lendl in straight sets.  Cash and his fellow players below the equator have always been characterized as big drinkers, uncomfortable in the spotlight with an easy, laid back approach to life.  You have to admire athletes like that.  Australia has a rich deep rooted history in tennis; it has birthed many of the all-time greats.  Along with the likes of Cash; Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Lleyton Hewitt and Patrick Rafter are just a few of the  great champions that keep the natives passionate about their tennis. 

Crack open a large can of Fosters, place the needle down on your copy of Business as Usual, and witness some fine play in the wee hours of the night……Enjoy the 2012 Australian Open!

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Novak Djokovic began his quest for a third Australian Open title by manhandling some Italian guy 6-2, 6-0, 6-0.  He then followed up that win with a second round victory over Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo in straight sets.  I see no real challenges obviously in week one, and nothing really until a semi-final matchup with either Murray or Tsonga.  Whether Djokovic replicates the insane successes of his 2011 campaign is moot.  He will still be a major factor in any tournament he plays, especially with the first Slam of the year. 

In 2011 Djokovic’s biggest improvement was all upstairs.  In prior years, the talented Serb’s critics thought he was mentally soft, lacking discipline to grind out tough matches against top ten foes.  This all started to change during the 2010 US Open.   Once again, Djokovic was behind against Federer in the semi-finals, facing several match points.  He went for big shots at crucial times stunning Federer in five grueling sets.  After that, his mental make-up was no longer a question.  That match gave him the confidence and momentum he needed heading into 2011.  He won like a million matches in a row and took home three grand slam titles.  Possibly most impressive is his 6 -0 record against Nadal last year.  Prior to 2011?  7 – 16.  When it comes to success on the court, a tennis player’s mental aspect rides supreme.  

His 2011 campaign was one of the best in the Open Era, with a 70 – 6 record and multiple titles, but that record against Nadal may be his most important achievement.  The beat downs appear to have jarred Rafa’s confidence against Djokovic which could come into play if we see these two in the Australian Open finals.  The match could set the tone for the entire year.

As dominating as his 2011 was, and 2012 has the same potential, I’m betting that the marketing firms for the ATP are hoping his stint on top is short lived.  Let’s face it, Novak Djokovic isn’t cool.  Not even a bit.  He’s borderline nuts (not loveable Charlie Sheen bat-shit crazy nuts, more like axe murdering psychopath nuts), has horrible off court fashion taste4, a dreadful haircut, and a thoroughly boring playing style.  Not exactly a marketing exec’s wet dream.

Outside of his native country Serbia, Djokovic is at best unliked, and at worse is a player for tennis fans to vilify.  He stands entrenched in that purgatory of fan interest.  However, I do find his on-court impressions of current and past players hysterical and spot-on.  He also has a ton of dough and his girlfriend is quite attractive…..Then again aren’t they all.

 

 

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  1.  Sad but true.
  2. My all-time favorite Australian bar none has to be Elle Macpherson.   We briefly dated on and off from 1986-1990.  Most of our “dates” occurred in my bedroom that coincided with the release of SI’s annual swimsuit issue.
  3. Sarcasm
  4. Yes, sports fans this does matter in an individual global sport, such as it is with professional tennis.
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