Australian Open: The Hose Truth and Nothing But the Hose Truth

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By Bill Simons

FORGET AUSSIE RULES FOOTBALL, THIS IS PLASTIC RULES TENNIS…

YET ANOTHER COMPASSIONATE MEDIA MESSAGE: After Sloane Stephens blasted Vika Azarenka in the crotch during the second set of their match, a voice in the press room called out, “Jimbo [Jimmy Connors] would say, ‘Oh, that’s a bullseye.'”

PLASTIC RULES: Sloane Stephens spoke about the joys of the off-season, when she relished in her riends and her credit cards. When Inside Tennis asked her which were more important—her friends or her credit cards—she said her credit cards.

EVEN MORE RADWANSKA-LIKE THAN AGNIESZKA: After Garbine Muguruza hit a key adept half-volley, broadcaster Courtney Nguyen said, “Muguruza almost out-Radwanska-ed Radwanska.”

OF SOCKS AND SHOES—THE HOSE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE HOSE TRUTH: Jelena Jankovic said the best part of being Jelena Jankovic was her vast shoe collection. She has over 400 pairs … For the first time, the shoelace on Nadal’s shoe broke and he had to go to the locker room to get a new pair … During an on-court interview, Jim Courier asked Federer about wearing two pairs of socks. Roger quipped, “Are you checking me out?” and then confided that his kids ask him the same question. Roger then spoke the hose truth and  nothing but the hose truth, saying that he wore two pairs “because it is softer that way” … Jack Sock, who some say is the future of American tennis, was pleased with his trip to New Zealand and Australia, despite losing to Gael Monfils in the second round. He recently tweeted Nelson Mandela’s famous reflection on sport: “Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way little else does.”

THEY’VE JUST GOT NO TIME FOR THE BASICS: Last year, Steffi Graf told aging vet Kimiko Date-Krumm, who goes on and on playing, that she should “stop for  the baby” … After beating Sharapova, Dominika Cibulkova, who has been engaged for two years, was asked why she hasn’t gotten married yet. She replied, “We have no time for [the] wedding.” In another on-court interview, Azarenka told her boyfriend, Redfoo, that she wants a ring that is bigger than Caroline Wozniacki’s $80,000 diamond. 

DAVID AND GOLIATH VISIT THE WTA: First, No. 14 seed Ana Ivanovic dismisses No. 1 seed Serena Williams. Then No. 20 seed, 5’ 3” Dominka Cibulkova, ousts No. 3 seed 6’ 2” Maria Sharapova, and in less than 24 hours, the two biggest names in the women’s game are gone.

AUSSIE TOUGH: Vika Azarenka is a different, far more confident player Down Under than she was on the circuit after the US Open last fall, when she struggled with her motivation and her health.

ROBERT’S RULES—FROM A YOUTH HOSTEL TO 15 MINUTES OF SHOW COURT FAME: Stephane Robert became the first lucky loser to ever reach the fourth round of a Slam. The little-known Frenchman—who is ranked 119, and who lost to Andy Murray in four sets—is quite a reader, favoring the works of Russian authors like Dostoevsky, Nabokov, and Tolstoy. Plus, he practices a form of meditative exercise called sophrology … He recently told L’Equipe, ”In the morning I do my abdominal [yoga] breathing,. I do that to try to find inner calm. It also helps my concentration. On the court, I try to make myself aware of everything. For example, I bounce the ball on my racquet for a minute so that I can concentrate on the noise … Last year, I spent two nights in a youth hostel when I arrived in Melbourne. I shared a room with a New Zealander. For the Australian Open, I told him to stay with me in a hotel, and I got him accreditation so he could enjoy the tournament. He still sends me messages and follows my results.”

ATHLETIC, POWERFUL, AND AGGRESSIVE, SHY, AND SORT OF SWEET: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

WITH AN ILL-CONCEIVED TSONGA IN THEIR HEARTS: When a French cheer group morphed the iconic anthem—”New York, New York”—into a cheer for Tsonga (“It’s up to you Tsonga, Tsonga”), only one thought came to mind. Come up with another ‘Tsonga.

FEDERER SHINES AGAIN: Jo-Willie Tsonga blasts a forehand that clips the net and skips forward. But, no problem, Federer hits a crosscourt reflex volley for an outright winner, then uses an adept drop shot to win the next point, and an ace to collect the game. In other words, folks, rickety old Roger, 32, made one of the most athletic players in the game look ordinary. ‘Twas just another master class. But can he beat Andy Murray in the quarters Tuesday? Probably influenced by his new coach Stefan Edberg, Federer came to net 41 times and dominated, winning 34 of those exchanges. He also served-and-volleyed eight times, and won six of those points.

DREAM QUARTER: With Federer, Murray, and Nadal all jammed into the top of the draw, we should have some appealing matches coming our way.

THREE’S A CROWD: Vika Azarenka is going for her third straight Aussie Open final … Mirka and Roger Federer are expecting their third child late next summer … Federer has three important new things going for him: his new coach, Stefan Edberg, his new larger racket, and his new, injury-free fitness level … The three most important people in Andre Agassi’s life—his German wife, Stefanie; his Iranian-born dad, Mike; and his Spanish speaking trainer and life-guide, Gil Reyes—all have English as a second language … Rising Spanish star Garbine Muguruza began playing at the age of three.

A BEAUTIFUL FEDERERIAN RAMBLE: A reporter asked Federer about a Djokovic comment by saying,  “The other day Novak said he thought the mental aspect of the game these days was the most difficult to overcome. Rafa said it was the physical. Where do you stand? Obviously, earlier in your career you had a lot of emotion, and then you quickly put that away. Is the mental side the more difficult to overcome?” Roger replied, “I honestly think it depends on the player’s character … Me, it took me longer, the mental side. The physical side was something nobody should have any regrets [about], because everybody can work hard. That shouldn’t be an excuse … a guy not giving everything … running for every ball … Everybody should be able to move well, because there is no such secret, like a certain way of practice that’s going to make you fast. Everybody does it different. Spanish [players] do it different [from] the Americans.  Americans do it different [from] the Australians. I don’t know what the Swiss do, but we do something …

Then the mental part is that only over time do you embrace the big moments; center courts; live TV; the pressure of being that next best guy and people thinking life is easy, you’re going to be world No. 1—anyway, you’re going to make a lot of money. How is that to overcome? I think that can be very difficult for some, plus the traveling … the pressure. But for me … it was not crazy,it did take a toll because … I was supposed to become world No. 1 at some point … [but] Safin, Roddick, Lleyton, they all did it before me. So sure, I was questioning myself in the process … Coaching is important in the beginning, to teach you the proper technique, because if you have flaws in your technique, that’s very hard to change …  So I guess it depends in phases where you look at it.”

COURIER’S BACKHANDED COMPLIMENTS: In a post-tournament interview, Federer broached the topic of Jim Courier’s backhand, which prompted the American to admit, “My backhand was horrible, thanks for reminding everyone.” BTW: Courier says the top four backhands in the game today belong to Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Richard Gasquet.

OF NEW MEN AND NEW WOMAN:
* Can Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov step up, beat Rafa Nadal and finally score a major win for the ATP’s gen next which has long been in the formidable shadow of the Fab Four? …
* You spot tall,  6’ 3” Chinese teenage girls walking the back corridors of Rod Laver Arena and you wonder, is this the future of the game?

SUPER-ROCKETRY IN MELBOURNE: Dominika “The Pocket Rocket” Cibulkova was Sunday’s surprise star at Rod “The Rocket” Laver Arena.

ROGER’S RACKET REPORT: Reflecting on his new, larger racket, Federer said he returned really well against Tsonga. ”I had good timing,” he said. “I was also reading the serve well, not like other times. Last year I had a really tough time in slower conditions against Jo. Just couldn’t get my racquet on it.  Probably I was, maybe overall … But tonight, things were just clicking.  It was smooth … I believe I have easier power with the racquet on the serve. It might help me on the return, as well … I still need to put many more matches and hours on it, but so far, so good.  It’s a great start to the season with the racquet, with my body. Everything is going really well. I’m very happy.”

NICE SITE: To the high-pitched delight of Aussie fans, Rafa went on and on signing autographs after his win over Kei Nishikori.

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