The Australian Open 2018[First Week]

The Australian Open 2018 has begun,the first tennis major of the season and already we are one week into the tournament (check another post on grand slams here).

For the most part so far, in both the ladies and men’s singles the tournament has played to form.  Except for the #4 men’s seed, the German Alexander Zverev losing in his 3rd round match against an unseeded opponent Hyeon Chung, (including a 6-0 5th set) along with #5 David Goffin plus

On the women’s side the #7 seed and winner of last year’s French Open Jelena Ostapenko who lost to a fellow Latvian Annett Kontaveit in 3 sets, and Garbine Muguruza( Wimbledon 2017 champion losing in 2 sets to Su-Wei Hsieh) all of the top seeds on both sides remain to possibly contend for each title.

Below are some of the highlights from week #1, including what took place off the court involving Novak Djokovic making a rather outrageous statement.

Simona Halep survives in a historical 3rd round match:

Saturday afternoon, (Friday evening in the U.S.) the top women’s seed Simona Halep outlasted her rival, the American Lauren Davis, (unseeded in this tournament) in a historic match that lasted 3 and a half hours. The final score was 4-6, 6-4, 15 – 13.

The final set alone lasted slightly over 2 hours.  This match tied for the 3rd longest by duration at the Australian Open since the Open era began in 1969.  It tied for the most games ever played on the ladies’ singles side, 48 at the Australian Open.The Australian Open 2018

Halep, who has a history of losing her temperament on the court in tight matches such as this one, ended up managing to hold her composure together.

In fact during the 3rd set, the ESPN announcer noted that Simona was holding nothing back on her serve, striking the ball at higher speeds to start each point compared to what she did during the 1st and 2nd sets.

On three prior occasions in the 3rd set, Simona serving to end the match was broken by Davis.  Finally, on her fourth attempt serving and leading 14 – 13, and at match point, Halep ended up finally winning when Davis’ running forehand sailed wide of the sideline.

It was also a good thing that the temperature had dropped somewhat during this match as a few days earlier, it reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit in Melbourne during the day sessions. 

In fact, tournament officials were on the receiving end of criticism from the players and the media for not enforcing their policy regarding excessive heat. 

In reality, despite the hot daytime temperatures, they did not quite meet the standards whereby officials who run the tournament would have closed the roofs on Rod Laver, Hisense, and Margaret Court stadiums.

In that situation, players before the final set would also have been allowed to take a break in the locker rooms to receive treatment for possible excessive heat being absorbed into their bodies.

Regarding the heat, while the temperatures in Melbourne met the requirement regarding the tournament’s heat rule, it was the dew points and measure of humidity in the air that were not quite up to the level where officials would have closed the roofs in the main stadiums.  So, play went on as usual.

Losing a 2nd round match to Novak Djokovic, the Frenchman Gael Monfils as well as having to be treated during a changeover by medical trainers, complained of the excessive heat during the match.  Monfils who afterward stated that he almost passed out on the court due to dizziness brought on by the heat lost in 4 sets with the match played during the middle of the afternoon and the temperature soaring to over 100 degrees.

Back to Simona Halep, briefly.  Interviewed on court directly after the match for television, Simona admitted that she could not move her legs because the muscles were so stiff, nor feel her feet as with prior ankle soreness they presented problems as well. 

As a matter of fact, just before the interview, Simona had unloosened both of the strings on her tennis shoes almost as if she wanted to slip her feet, sore ankles and all out of them before she had left the court. 

Simona has two days to rest up and recover physically before her round of 16 match against the rising young power-hitting Japanese star, Naomi Osaka on Monday in Melbourne. 

Not The Greatest Showing By The Americans After The First Week Of  The Australian Open 2018

On the ladies’ side, even before the tournament began Serena Williams, attempting to comeback after giving birth to her baby daughter Alexis Olympia last September, (and coincidentally during the U.S. Open) withdrew claiming that she was not yet physically ready to perform up to her usual lofty standards.

Prior to the tournament although nothing but an exhibition match, Serena got routed by Jelena Ostapenko in what was meant to be a tuneup in a comeback for the individual most historians believe to be the greatest female tennis player in history(take a vote).

Serena’s sister, Venus lost in the first round rather meekly as did Sloane Stephens who, in 2017 ended up winning the ladies’ singles trophy at the U.S. Open, (Serena giving birth to her daughter) now some 4 and a half months ago. 

Prior to winning the tournament, the belief by professional journalists who follow the sport of tennis was that Sloane was an underachiever.  She had the talent to win major singles titles, but seemingly did not have the work ethic, desire, and mental toughness that would have been needed in order for Sloane to reach her enormous potential.

Winning the U.S. Open seemed to change all of that with Sloane easily defeating fellow American, and close personal friend Madison Keys in that final.

One now wonders if this sudden stardom got into Sloane’s head, also affecting her mindset and ego.  For a fact, ever since winning that final match against Keys, Ms. Stephens, unbelievably has failed to win a single match in any tournament she has entered!

It might be a case of “going back to the drawing board” for Sloane, including her being able to commit to the type of dedication she put in last summer on her way to what is now her only major singles career title.

The only remaining American on the men’s side is unseeded Tennys Sandren . Sandgren, the 97th ranked player on the circuit who hails from the state of Tennessee, upset Stan Wawrinka,  a 3-time former career major champion in the second round. 

Wawrinka one of a handful of notable male players who were unable to play during the entire ridiculously long 2017 season due to an injury, was coming back from knee surgery in the fall and obviously not yet on his game. 

Next up for Sandgren is the #3 seed Dominic Thiem.  If Thiem is going to play at his usual level, it would probably be game, set and match for Sandgren.  His unlikely run in this year’s Australian Open coming to an end.

Madison Keys is still alive and playing well in this year’s tournament.  It might be up to Madison to hold up the flag for the entire American contingent down under in the Australian Open 2018.  Quite a different circumstance is playing out in Melbourne, as compared to last year’s U.S. Open when both American women and men overall exceeded the expectations of most experts.

Maria Sharapova sent packing by a rejuvenated Angelique Kerber!

Without a doubt, the now almost 31-year old Maria Sharapova is the most controversial player on the women’s circuit.  Two years ago, Maria got slapped originally with a 2-year suspension for testing positive in having a banned substance in her system, (supposedly, Maria stated publicly taken by her to ward off a possible genetic heart problem present in her family’s history). 

The ruling tennis board was to later cut the length of Maria’s suspension which ticked off many players in the sport.  Simona Halep was one of Maria’s harshest critics stating, in her opinion, that the sport of tennis did not need cheaters.

Maria is also supremely disliked in the locker room as she has always wanted to make it known that she did not want any single female player on the circuit to be her friend.  This is so unlike how it really is for the other females as for examples: 

Serena and Caroline Wozniacki are best of friends, the former attending the New York City Marathon a few years ago when Caroline ran in the race and did very well for a non-professional marathon runner.

Secondly, when Agnieszka Radwanska got married last summer, most of the top European female players, (except for of course Maria) were at her wedding, a few of them in Agnieska’s official wedding party.

Serena Williams in fact in the past has taken great pleasure publicly in defeating, (usually administered as a “beat-down”) Maria whenever they met on court. 

Maria after knocking off Serena back in the 2004 Wimbledon Final then as a 17-year-old teenage girl, and beating Williams again later that same year has been on the losing end of matches between the two ever since then, including in a handful of major finals. 

Since the beginning of 2005, it’s something like Serena 19, Maria 0 in their head-to-head matches.

Maria who is all about marketing herself throughout her career with her line of high-end women’s clothes, for a fact and for years has annually made the most money in endorsements compared to any other female athlete in the world.

Still, Maria has a grand total of 5 major singles titles versus the 24 held by Serena. Serena has no problem reminding Maria of that fact as well.

So yesterday, (Saturday in Melbourne) when Angelique Kerber thumped Maria 6 – 1, 6 – 3 in a match that barely lasted more than an hour, it’s not much of a stretch to say that the women players in the locker room were all hi-fiving each other while at the same time laughing behind Sharapova’s back that she was so rudely sent packing out of the tournament.

Angelique herself, only the #21 seed in the tournament, is trying to regain her stellar form from 2016 when she won 2 major titles, (Australian and U.S. Open) as well as reached a third final, Wimbledon where she lost in a well-played, hard-fought match to Serena. 

Last year 2017 was an off-year for the German left-hander and it appeared based on how great Angelique looked in crushing Sharapova that she might be a serious force to reckon with not only for the rest of this tournament but barring injury the entire calendar year 2018.

Novak Djokovic – Claims that he and other players don’t make enough money in the 4 major tournaments:

According to Forbes Magazine in an article written last October, Novak Djokovic during his career has earned slightly over 109 million dollars in prize money!!  As Djokovic at the time was recovering from surgery on his troublesome elbow and had ended his season back in July following a shocking loss at Wimbledon, Roger Federer was set to surpass Novak in career earnings.

Still, before the Australian Open tournament was set to begin, Novak was crying poverty that he and fellow male players, (Novak not mentioning women players) might threaten to  boycott the 2019 Australian Open unless they get the level of pay he feels they deserve. 

It was interesting that more classy, level-headed players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal did not say a word in support of the rather selfish individual that occasionally Novak has always been known to be regarding his personality and demeanor.

A few years ago after winning a tournament, Djokovic voiced his rather Neanderthal opinion that female tennis players do not deserve the same prize money as men all because, in majors, they play a best of 3 sets while males play a best of 5 sets.

Novak, in his faulty way of thinking, cited the fact that American pro baseball, football and basketball union players by agreement with the various ownership groups make close to 50% of revenue in those sports, while professional tennis players make considerably less than that percentage wise. 

Specificially at the 4 tennis tournaments,  the players do not make that high, (50%) of an amount of prize money based on ticket sales, concessions and other revenue that are brought in by the people in charge.  Djokovic believes that players, even those who are eliminated in the first round of the Australian open 2018, deserve to make much more than the $60,000 AU, ($45,000 USA) amount that they will get. 

The female and male winner of the singles’ titles at this year’s tournament will make 4 million AU, (3 million USA).  Again, Djokovic feels this is not enough. 

Is he somehow worried about being able to feed his growing family, (Novak’s wife recently giving birth to their second child) in the future?  109 million dollars appears to not be enough for Novak.  He might have to get a “job” after he retires, the poor man.

The problem with Novak’s statement is that baseball, football and basketball players – looking at the 3 sports’ big tournaments, (baseball – World Series, football – Super Bowl, and NBA Finals) will not come even CLOSE to making the amount of money individually should they win championships compared to whoever wins the Australian Open. 

Those other 3 are team sports, in which the players, (25 in baseball, 12 – 14 in basketball, 53 + in football) have to divide the winning prize money.  Tennis, in a sense except for doubles play, (and those players are drastically underpaid) is an individual sport.   It’s like comparing apples to oranges, only Novak does not seem to be able to grasp that fact.

As I stated above in that article it was funny to see Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka not standing side-by-side next to Novak each demanding exactly what Novak was seeking regarding a healthy pay raise – or else they would not show up to Melbourne in January 2019.

Finally, how will week #2 of the tournament play out?  A number of top players on both sides are still standing!

On both sides, the usual suspects are still in the tournament and playing well.  For the ladies, Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Karoline Plishkova, Elina Svitolina the top seeds are still in the draw having reached the round of 16.  Add in a former champ Angelique Kerber and last fall’s U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys with all of these players competing in great form.

The only possible negative thing to say about the players listed above is that except for Angelique, none of them have ever won a major singles title in their careers.  Do they have what it takes to claim that trophy?

As for the men’s side, last year’s two finalists – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have looked devastating in knocking off their 3 opponents each so far in the tournament.  Yes, some tough opponents loom, especially for Federer with Djokovic on Roger’s side of the draw.  Rafa has former U.S. Open champ Maran Cilic and Gregor Dimitrov in his half of the draw.

With one week to go, things are just beginning to heat up at this year’s Australian Open tournament.See you next week.Who is your favorite to win the Australian open 2018 ans why?would like to hear your opinion

Thanks for your time reading this rather long article.

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