AUSSIE OPEN BUZZ: ‘Human Beings, Not Robots’

Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Bill Simons

LAURA ROBSON COMES OUT FOR RENAMING COURT ARENA: Here in laid back Australia, political calls-to-arms are not as common as in the US. And Laura Robson’s call for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed because of all the derogatory things the great former champ continues to say was modest. Still, the Brit became one of the first active players to call for a move, saying, “Yeah, I would kind of lean towards renaming it. It’s a tough one, because she obviously achieved so much but, if someone is being asked to play on that court and they don’t maybe feel comfortable, or people in the crowd feel a little awkward about sitting there, then people need to have more of a think about it and decide what is best.” Six years ago the Brit wore a rainbow hairband during a match in support of equal rights for everyone.

CHINATOWN: The WTA announced that they will be moving their year-end championships to Shenzhen, China for ten years. Shenzhen, which is north of Hong Kong, has a population of over ten million. Players will now be playing for $14 million, which is twice is much than they got in Singapore and far more than the $8 million men get at the ATP Championships in London. Many WTA players like Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys applauded the move. The American said she’s planning to play there for a long time. And why not? She could earn a small fortune there. Aussie Ash Barty said, “I saw the money went through the roof. It’s unreal.” For his part, ATP leader Novak Djokovic applauded the WTA deal and noted how many WTA tourneys were in China, in part because of pioneer Li Na. He added that there were many good things about the ATP’s year-end event in London, but ideally it would be best for the tourney to travel around the world.

STILL ALIVE AND KICKING: After four days of play, there are only five Americans left in the singles draws: Madison Keys, Lauren Davis, Bernarda Pera, Ryan Harrison and Tennys Sandgren.

SERENA SIGHTINGS: Far from Melbourne our spies reported that Serena Williams was playing indoors in San Francisco.

THANK GOODNESS NOVAK DIDN’T SAY ‘YES, THEY HAVE SNOOTY WAITERS:’ Today Djokovic lifted his lifetime record against Gael Monfils to 15-0. Maybe that’s what prompted a writer to ask the Serb, “You’ve only lost to one French player in 50-odd matches. Do you have something against the French?” The Serb replied that he got along well with Gael and most of the guys. He added, “It’s sport…I don’t know what to say.”

MADISON KEYS ON 16 SEEDS: Madison Keys reported that she’s hearing lot about the fact that next year there will be only 16 seeds in the majors. She said, “We were never asked, it just came about. Everyone’s saying, ‘Yeah, we need more drama, that’s what we need!’ This draw’s an example of why we don’t need this. It’s like why? why? why?”

GAEL WARNING: After losing in four sweltering sets to Novak Djokovic, Gael Monfils spoke about the extreme heat. The Frenchman said he got dizzy and added, “For sure we took risks. I said to the ump the 25-second rule is not needed…They should allow us more time. No matter how much you train in the heat and like the heat, it’s tough…It’s maybe a little too tough…I played just to please the ref.”

last time we saw the young Austrian Dominic Thiem at a Slam, he was
the victim of a heart-breaking loss when the New York crowd got behind Juan Martin del Potro on the Grandstand Court in a stunning night match. The Argentine roared back from a two-set deficit. Today, Thiem’s fortunes were better. The No. 5 seed fought back from two sets down to beat American Dennis Kudla.

TENNYS ANYONE?: Truth be told, up-and-coming American Tennys
Sandgren has, until now, been known for having one of the best tennis
names in history. Margaret Court, Billy Ball and Nadine Nettor are a few others that come to mind. But all is changed now that he soundly defeated No. 9 seed and former champion Stan Wawrinka.

Before the start of the US Open there were eight women who could, by that tourney’s end, become No. 1. Before the Aussie Open there were six who could do it. And now, with Garbine Muguruza’s loss, there are five who could emerge. Simons Halep, who is now No. 1, says she feels no pressure and is just enjoying her reign.

BATTLE OF THE CHAMPS: The Aussie Open draw features just two
women who have won Slams – Sharapova and Angie Kerber. The two
will meet in the third round.


“I will collapse.” – Gael Monfils

“It was too much for the health, but I survived.” – Juan Martin del Potro on the heat

“She’s a Romanian. She’s Ilie Nastase and Virgina Ruzici. They’re fiery people.” – Chris Evert on Simona Halep

“They have fire in their arms.” – Jo-Willie Tsonga on the ATP’s rising stars.

“Her grunting, screeching and shrieking is a blight on the sport, raising serious questions about officialdom’s failure to address the issue.” – Australian writer Leo Schlink on Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka

“If you are a betting man, bet on her.” – Chris Evert on Madison Keys

“I’m looking forward to the 30s. I’m still playing young.” – Angie Kerber

SAY IT ISN’T SO: No. 3 and Wimbledon champ Garbine Muguruza lost today to Su-Wei Hsieh and has won only two matches in three tournaments this year.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNES: Andrea Petkovic started her match against Lauren Davis by winning the first set 6-3, but then dropped the next two sets 6-0, 6-0.

NOT EXACTLY A JERSEY GIRL: American Bernarda Pera, the lucky loser who shocked No. 9 seed Jo Konta to reach the third round, has an American dad and moved to the US when she was 16. She has a base in New Jersey, but has a Croatian coach, spends most of her time there and, despite her perfect English, seems more like a Croatian then a Yankee.

HUMAN BEINGS NOT ROBOTS: With much justification, John McEnroe got hot under the collar about the severe and dangerous conditions today. He said, “These are human beings not robots…There is not a single human being alive who wants to play in this…It’s like playing in an oven…I can’t imagine a match in which heat doesn’t play a role…[After all] it’s so hard to think clearly…Above a certain temperature you should get five more seconds…It’s amazing what they do considering the conditions… This is nasty, beyond the call of duty…Dominic Thiem is the guy so far who it looks like it didn’t affect him…I hate the fact that they have put these guys through this. It’s absurd. They [have a] glazed, dazed look.”

THE BATHS OF MELBOURNE: Baths in Melbourne have played a role in tennis. Two years ago Federer infamously blew out his knee while testing the temperature of the water for his daughter’s bath. Today in the sweltering 104 degree heat, there was non-stop talk about ice baths. Some players couldn’t wait to get off court and take one. The conventional wisdom: it’s five tough minutes, then you feel great. They are a key part of conditioning. But some, like Dominic Thiem, hate them. Others like Monfils, combine ice baths with hot tubs. After Djokovic’s taxing four-set win over Monfils, the Serb told court side interviewer Jim Courier, “You can ask me as many questions as you want in an ice bath.”

DON’T UKRAINE ON THEIR PARADE: Wednesday’s play began with three opening matches featuring three Ukrainians on the three leading show courts. All three – No. 4 Elina Svitolina, veteran Kateryna Bonadrenko and 15-year old sensation Marta Kostyuk – won. Marta is the youngest player to reach the third round here since Martina Hingis in 1997 and is managed by Federer’s coach, Ivan Ljubicic. At least one of the three is guaranteed to make it to the fourth round.


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