THE KANGEROO WHISPERER – A QUOTEBOOK:
“I’m a kangaroo whisperer.” Danielle Collins on her takeaway from going to an Aussie zoo
“They only want to talk about fashion and I only want to talk about tennis, but somehow we meet in the middle.” – Vouge editor and super-fan Anna Wintour on her friendships with Serena and Roger
“We know who it won’t be.” Chris Bowers in reference to the controversial ump Carlos Ramos and the likelihood he would officiate a Serena match
“Hard, dogmatic and combative as he might be, Lleyton Hewitt is not a dill.” Jake Niall
“I feel like I would have wanted to beat the crap out of her.” – A joking Madison Keys on what it would be like to play her sister
“I always try and reach the sky and everything below is not good enough.” – Serena
“Anyone who has had a child has to know how phenomenal it is, what Serena has done since becoming a mom. It’s due to the sheer force of her will.” – Chandra Rubin
“I had just two goals. Try as hard as I can and not get angry.” – Naomi Osaka before her quarterfinal match
“She had a very “put away-able” overhead.” – Australian Open Radio on Maria Sharapova
“I’m surprised she didn’t need kneepads.” – Richard Evans on the now retired Agna Radwanska who bent so low for shots.
“This is Nadal at his best. A tornado has come down and swept Tsitsipas aside.” – John McEnroe
THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF TSITSIPAS? Tennis gives and tennis takes away. Roger Federer is in his twilight, but this may well be the dawning of the age of Tsitsipas. He has it all: youthful exuberance, 6’ 4” athleticism, Adonis good looks, a backhand from the heavens, a passionate love of his noble country, 100,000 subscribers on his ‘have-passport-will travel’ YouTube Channel.
And he’s wise and more than a bit philosophical. One example was when he suggested, “When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls.” Has there ever been a more philosophical 20-year old ATP player?
Maybe it has something to do with his parents. His dad, who was a teaching pro and is his coach, has a great perspective. He said, “The number one thing is to motivate the children and look for the love inside and if you stay around them you can fulfill all their wishes.” His mom, a former pro tennis player, recalled her son as a young boy: “He was listening. He wasn’t a softy, but he always figured out what he was going to do by discussing it with us and that was a pleasure.”
Stefanos said, “In our society in Greece, we love to be family.” Melbourne was smitten with the man-child who knows how to volley. “Tsip, Tsip, Boom,” read one headline. Greek fans were beside themselves with glee here. Unfortunately, Tsitsipas was beside himself when he got schooled in the semis by the zoning Rafa Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-0.
“This is not the way I wanted to leave,” said the despondent Greek. “My brain was used to certain angles. But tonight I was always on the wrong foot. I felt very slow. The whole match felt weird. My body was stiff. He has a talent to make you play bad. I call that a talent. I was not in the match, I felt empty in the brain…His dominance just felt wrong. I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to lose to him ten times.”
Reporters reminded Stefanos that after Federer scored his landmark Wimbledon quarterfinal win over Sampras he endured some lean seasons with little glory. Jim Courier was a tad less kind, noting that the beat-down Stefanos suffered brought to mind the old saying by boxer Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Ultimately it was Rafa who put Tsitsipas’ loss in proper perspective. “That’s the game,” he said. “Everyone has to live that experience. [At] every tournament, there is just one winner and everyone else loses. He played a great event. He has everything to be a great champion.”
No kidding. After all, this could well be the dawning of the Age of Tsitsipas.
INTOLERANCE HAS NO PLACE IN OUR SPORT: Vogue editor Anna Wintour backed the effort to rename Margaret Court Arena, due to Court’s hurtful comments and opposition to same-sex marriage. In a talk at the Australian Open Inspirational Series in Melbourne, she said, “I find that it is inconsistent with the sport for Margaret Court’s name to be on a stadium that does so much to bring all people together, across their differences.”
She added, “This much I think is clear to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game. Intolerance has no place in tennis.” Wintour noted that, although the Aussie who won 24 Slams was a winner who was “a champion on the court,” a “meeting point of players of all nations, preferences and backgrounds should celebrate somebody who was a champion off the court as well”.
A REAL BARTY-POOPER: First, Petra Kvitova broke many an Aussie heart when she beat local darling Ash Barty and abruptly put an end to the Barty Party. She apologized, saying “Sorry guys, I beat Ashleigh.” Then she smashed the hopes of American Cinderella Danielle Collins, who left Rod Laver Arena knowing she would not be able to slip on any glass slippers.
BACK-TO-BACK NAOMI: Naomi Osaka won in the desert – that would be Indian Wells. She made it in The Big Apple. She collected the US Open. Now the question is whether the extraordinary Haitian-Japanese-American can create some Melbourne magic by beating two Czechs, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova back to back and thereby win back to back Slams.
Osaka, who won her first Slam title at the US Open, was the first major champion to reach the semis at her next Slam since 2006 when Kim Clijsters did it. She’s the first Japanese man or woman to be a finalist at the Aussie Open and could be the first ever Japanese No. 1 if she wins Saturday. She would be the youngest No. 1 since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010. She’s been incredibly consistent, reaching the semis in five of her past six events. She’s on a 13-match Grand Slam streak. And, as much as anything, notes Richard Evans, “She’s growing up before our eyes and she’s handling it all with aplomb.”
If Kvitova prevails Saturday, it will be her third Slam final and she will be No. 1.
VICTIMS MEET: Monica Seles and Petra Kvitova have something terrible in common. They have both been victims of assault. Seles was stabbed in Hamburg. Kvitova was attacked in a home invasion. Monica asked Petra if the two of them got together.
GRATITUDE HAS A PLACE IN OUR GAME: Are pros pampered and entitled prima donnas? Usually not. For instance, there’s Naomi Osaka. Often it’s noted that she’s Japanese, but she’s also Haitian. So IT asked her what it meant for her to visit Haiti during the off-season. Naomi said, “I felt very lucky to be able to go…it was a very humbling experience because you see so many people that don’t have much, and then you go back to your house and [you see] everything that you take for granted. [So] you start appreciating everything. Then I didn’t want to complain about anything because when you go there and see people…[having] to walk miles for water, it’s like, ‘Why are you complaining about your life?’ I felt very grateful, because I go to Japan a lot, but I haven’t really gone to Haiti as much.”
For her part, semifinalist Danielle Collins said, “Every day I’m grateful that I’m healthy and getting to live this life and see so many cool things around the world. I go out being very mindful and grateful to be in this situation.”
And what did the University of Virginia grad think of the awful racial incident in Charlottesville, where she spent her college years? The two-time NCAA champ said, “It’s such a shame. Charlottesville is such a wonderful city. In school we had an honor code. We never locked our doors, we were on the same page in terms of respecting each other, telling the truth, being good people. So when those people went to Charlottesville it was a very bad…It’s really a shame that there are people who think like that in this world and are so evil. But Charlottesville is a very strong community. I hope that people recognize that it’s one of the best places in the world. If you want to feel safe and at home and be around good people, go to Charlottesville.”
GO FIGURE: The best WTA player to have never won a Slam, No. 6 Elina Svitolina, has never gotten beyond the quarters of a Slam…Last year’s Aussie Open winner Caroline Wozniacki will drop out of the top ten.
THE SASCHA REPORT: No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev, who fell to No. 16 seed Milos Raonic, is still so young – he’s just 21. A long career awaits him, and he did win the ATP Championships in November. Still, his best Grand Slam result is reaching the quarters at the French Open and in the rugged, just-win-baby world of sports, his loss is yet another fail.
HEADLINE: Osaka “Ukrained” on Svitolina’s Parade