Australian Open Musings

My thoughts on the Australian Open-

At the time of writing this the Australian open has just completed the round of 16. By the time you all read this it will be over. I have been watching a lot of the matches and there have been a few interesting themes from this years tournament that I would like to comment on so here it goes:

The increasing age of the tour-

This year the number of players over the age of 30 is one of the highest I can remember at this stage of the tournament. Players are taking longer to break-through and are sticking around for longer. Why is that when not that long ago 30 was considered a death sentence?

I believe the increasing age speaks to the skill based game that is tennis. Yes tennis is physical at the highest levels, but what is most important to this game is the skills of hitting. With increasing skill players are able to put less stress on their body prolonging their careers, and also out play would be insurgents of a younger age.

This is also encouraging for those learning the game or those who are still trying to improve. Your best years might still be ahead of you, even if you are approaching an age that is usually deemed too old for peak performance.

The incredible amount of upsets on the women’s side (and the relative lack of any on the men’s)-

Now that the quarterfinals are set there is only 4 of the top 8 women remaining while 7 of the top 8 men are left. This has been a relatively recurring theme on the tour as of late, with the top 3 or 4 men really dominating the sport. So why are there seemingly more upsets on the women’s side and less so on the men’s?

Once again I believe it can be directly linked to the skills of tennis. For instance, an analysis of the top 100 female and male tennis players found that nearly all of the male players had two key service positions that are required for the high speed serves of today while only around a third of the female players met that same criteria. Similar findings can be shown for forehand mechanics. Without proper mechanics players become streaky, and are far more susceptible to upsets. Certainly there are other intangibles that go into winning consistently, but barring injuries or other unfortunate situations it is hard to explain the upsets otherwise.

Enforcement of the rules-

Brad Gilbert, commentator for tennis channel, said it best when he noted that Maria Sharapova’s screams got louder and louder in her close matches and that if he were her opponent he would refuse to play until the tournament director came out and made a ruling on her actions. Why is Brad Gilber so upset and why is grunting such a big issue?

IT IS AGAINST THE RULES! what Maria and many others are doing is cheating. The men were cheating with how long they were taking between points. The ATP came to the players before the off-season and said they would be enforcing the already on the books rule the next season… and it worked! The men are now being held to a higher standard. Why can’t the WTA and ATP do that here? It may not be a popular decision in the locker room but frankly the game needs this because it is tarnishing the sport for casual viewers.

And just so that we are clear, making noise requires that one pass air through the vocal chords. This has been proven to require conscious thought as normally air would not on its own. So Maria saying that enforcement of this rule would negate years of habit and be too difficult to change is hogwash. I have been on court next to her when she was warming up for a match and she hit plenty of shots without making a peep.

So there you have it, I hope you all enjoyed the Australian open. I know I have!

Knowing that the pros sometimes don’t peak until after 30 is making me feel that much better about only being 28, and I think that is as good as an ace!

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