Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 4: "Garnier Girls Day" at the Open

Today was "Garnier Girls Day" at the Aussie Open. I'm not really sure what made this day any different from the first three days although apparently there was a special breakfast for girls. Beyond that, Garnier has been sponsoring a free makeover for all girls and women who are willing to stand in line for up to three hours (in this heat?!). I talked to a couple of young Aussie women in their mid-twenties who admitted standing in line for more than three hours even after cutting in line at that. When I asked if it was worth it, they showed me their free bags of goodies, and said they got a massage as well as a makeover. If it was air conditioned, then I could understand the attraction, but otherwise, I cannot see doing something that would mean missing three hours of tennis!! Having said that, let me get to the tennis for today.

It was another hot day and as you may have heard, some of the players are not happy about the heat policy that is in effect. The crux of the policy is that if you start a match, whether on the outer courts or on Vodafone or Rod Laver Arena, the latter of which are able to close the roof, you must continue the match to completion. Once it reaches the heat limit (I think it is 40 degrees C), new matches will not be started. Some of the top players, including Federer, Blake and Sharapova have expressed concerns that it could be dangerous to the players to continue to play in such heat. I definitely see their points, and it could also be a health issue for fans, although it seems that fans are taking every precaution they should. I have only seen one person needing medical care due to heat-related issues. That doesn't mean there aren't more. The following article ("Heat policy under review") elaborates on this issue if you want to read more:

As hot as it was today, I decided to sit through several long singles matches because I wanted to see players I had heard about. The first was between #15 seeded Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) and Emilie Loit (FRA). I really thought Hantuchova had the weapons to win in straights but she made some ill-advised down the line shots when she was out of position or just didn't have the percentage shot, and with Loit's shotmaking ability, it went to three sets. I have to say it wasn't a well-played match overall, but for some reason, I was intrigued by all that was going on. In case you don't know about Hantuchova, she was billed as the "next Anna Kournikova" before Maria Sharapova hit the scene. At first, she had some good wins and rose pretty high in the rankings; ESPN: The Magazine even did a feature on her in their magazine (and ESPN rarely does features on female athletes!!). Perhaps there is a curse with ESPN just like the Sports Illustrated jinx. In any case, Hantuchova got so obsessed with working out (she may have had an "exercise addiction"), that it became dangerous to her health; ESPN: Outside the lines did a special on "Anorexia Athletica" in which they discussed the pitfalls of doing too much exercise and gave Hantuchova as an example. The photos they showed of her revealed why she came to be referred to as the "Slovakian Skeleton." The more weight she lost, the worse she played. Finally, she turned it around and now she has climbed back up in the rankings. And oh, did the (mostly male) fans love her in today's match. There was one group of male admirers who had the letters of her name written on their bare chests (H-A-N-T-U-C-H-O-V-A). They led most of the cheers. Before the first point, another male admirer yelled, "Come on, legs!" It might be humorous if it wasn't so frightening to think about what she almost did to her health to look like she does!

After Hantuchova won in three sets over Loit, I proceeded to Margaret Court Arena to see the second and third sets of #13 seeded Ana Ivanovic (SRB) vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL). The level of tennis in this match seemed to be much higher than in the Hantuchova-Loit match. Unfortunately, my biggest challenge by this time was trying to avoid the heat. I finally devised a way of making a tent out of my shirt by draping it over my hat. Several people have said they were looking for me on t.v. so if you were, you might not actually recognize me, but you may recognize my shirt. I never thought I would be hiding from the sun but I take everyone's warnings seriously, especially after some of the issues I have had with my skin and exposure to the sun's rays in Texas. Anyway, back to the tennis, Ivanovic outlasted Radwanska in three sets and I was never so glad for a match to end. When it did, I sought respite in Rod Laver Arena to find shade before going over to Vodafone.

Yesterday I wrote about a player from the U.S. who had his hair dyed red, white, and blue, i.e., Zack Fleishman and here is some more info about him:
Apparently, Zack played at UCLA and sometimes dyed his hair the Bruin's colors of light blue and yellow. He thought it would be appropros at the Aussie Open since so many of the fans come decked out in their national colors. In that sense he was correct. I am sorry this clip about him does not show his red, white, and blue "do," but if you are lucky, you got to see him in the Open coverage. As for the player who defeated Zack, there was an article in today's paper, The Age that tells about Wayne Arthur's routine that helps him prepare for his matches:

I also went back to find some of the articles about the violence at the Australian Open after realizing that I had greatly underestimated the impact of what happened. One thing I have found in studying sport is that many politicians want to forward this notion that sports should be a space that is pure of politics, and yet there are many ways that politics enter into that space despite their best intents. That is what one of the articles that I read was about. Here are several on the subject. I would be especially interested in knowing what kind of coverage has been given to this on U.S. television so please feel free to add your comments: (One story appeared in the Herald Sun,,21985,21071772-661,00.html, while another was on
New ethnic violence shocks Australians:

The last full match that I caught today was in Women's Singles and pitted top-seeded Maria Sharapova against another Russian, Anastasia Rodionova. Unlike her first round near-meltdown, Sharapova was reportedly back on form (as the following article suggests:,21985,21080970-661,00.html) I wasn't sure if I would get to see Sharapova's match since they played in Vodafone Arena, but I think I now understand how to get in to see matches by going to the match preceding the one I want to see and then working my way down to the front row. As a result, I also saw the third set of Andy Murray (GBR) against Fernando Verdasco (ESP), which Murray won in three. Murray is obviously a crowd favorite, and looks to be the new British hope as Tim Henman nears retirement. The crowd for Sharapova and Rodionova did not have much to get excited about as it was pretty one-sided, unlike Sharapova's first round match against Pin. I mentioned before that it didn't seem that Sharapova had the same kind of crowd support that Serena Williams seemed to have in yesterday's match. I still have that impression. But that does not stop the horde of photographers from obsessing on Sharapova as she is warming up and at the end of her matches. Sitting in the front row, I could really see it up close. It was somewhat similar to the kind of attention given to Daniela Hantuchova, who played in the earlier match that I mentioned.

After the Sharapova match, I wanted to catch some of the Women's Doubles, especially the young team of Shenay Perry and Bethanie Mattek (If you do not remember Mattek's outfit at last year's Wimbledon, you must see the following photo: While I only saw less than a set of the doubles, I did catch the tie-break which was exciting and had some great points. I really liked the way that Mattek and Perry played together, despite having an imposing task facing them in Nicole Vaidisova and her partner, Emma Laine. But they more than held their own and for their efforts will next face the seeded team of Black and Huber.

By now I have probably missed the night match of "Rafa" Nadal, but will see if there is anything left just the same. Hope everyone is getting to see some good tennis at home, and I would love to hear your comments about the coverage you are seeing compared to what I have written about seeing. Cheers till tomorrow:-)!

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