18 Australian Open Questions for Day 1

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1. They say tennis players are a bunch of selfish louts. But how cool is it that the tennis community (in about a day) came together to implement Roger Federer‘s idea for a pre-Aussie Open fundraiser for Haitian relief? Fed, Nadal, Roddick, Serena, Hewitt, Clijsters, Courier, et al, all came out and filled Laver Arena in the Hit for Haiti, which raised $400,000 in a flash. Thanks, Roger, and thanks, tennis. (BTW: Sharapova kicked $10,000 into the kitty, and after winning the Brisbane warm-up tournament, donated her $70,000-plus in prize money to an Aussie children’s hospital.

2. Are both the men’s and women’s sides is this year’s AO draw make for the most competitive Slam in years?

3. Who would have figured that Maria Sharapova, who reached the semis in all of the four Aussie Opens she’s played over the past five years, would go down so quickly? (And who would have imagined that Sharapova would suffer such crushing back-to-back losses in majors: losing to Melanie Oudin at the U.S. Open and to Maria Kirilenko at the AO?)

4. When was the last time there was as shocking an opening match at a Slam as Sharapova’s stunning first-round loss to Kirilenko?

5. Will Sharapova, as she confidently claimed, come back and again reach the AO final? In other words, is this just another bump in her bumpy comeback road or is there something deeper here?

6.  What was more problematic for Sharapova in her loss: her not playing any sanctioned matches before going out there; all those 60-plus unforced errors; not having the imposing serve she once had; enduring a slightly less mobile movement (particularly on her forehand side) than before; being unable to hold 4-2 leads in BOTH the first set and in the first set tiebreak; the possibility that the field has caught up to her a good bit since she suffered her shoulder injury or even the possible distraction of signing a $70 million Nike contract?

7. Is the Russian Revolution imposing or what?  (There were 16 Russians in the draw. The next best countries had just eight.)

8. How weird is it that Justine Henin is unseeded and that U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters is only seeded No. 14?

9. Is it true, as Pat McEnroe claimed, that there has never been a No. 2 seed who has been as much of an outsider as Dinara Safina?

10. Could that really be Andy Roddick? That guy out there with a suddenly-crafty backhand slice?

11. Is this really the Aussie Open? (It was only 59 degrees when the AO started.)

12. What was the mst saucy Mary Carillo diss of the Sharapova-Kirilenko match (which had the speed of a glacier)? The broadcaster said it “was the match that won’t go away,” and then added that the stuck-in-the mud confrontation was “a crime against the sport.”

13. Is Terrell Owens the biggest sports-celebrity fan at a Slam since the late Wilt Chamberlain?

14. Can Serena Williams win the AO in an even year?

15. Will Dick Enberg‘s comment on the stunning Sharapova-Kirilinko match (“If this is any indication, we’re in for two weeks of great tennis theater”) in fact come true?

16. When is Roddick, the greatest dissmeister in the men’s game, going to get in his groove? All he could do in his post-match ESPN interview was to diss the fact that there are actually roofs at the AO and say the linesperson who tripped him up didn’t want to move (out of the way) or help me out?

17. When was the last time a second-round match was more anticipated than the probable clash between Henin and Elena Dementieva?

18. Ain’t that the truth? After her AO loss, Sharapova said that there are a lot worse situations than losing a tennis match and that there are a lot of people who don’t even know what a tennis match is.

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