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By Alasdair McClintock on January 20, 2017 in Other

Australia's finest.

Australia’s finest.

Mitch Hedberg once said: “The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall.” It’s a fine quote that has absolutely nothing to do with what I intend to write about in this article, but I just thought it was a nice opener.

Much like the Australian Open is a nice opener for the sporting year. Without it, January would be a pretty dour month, sporting wise, filled mainly with sports whose administrators have realised will never compete with the entrenched winter codes. There is of course cricket, but it has usually lost its lustre by this stage of the summer, especially given Cricket Australia’s wild insistence on drowning us in a series after series of meaningless one-dayers and Twenty20s. Tradition be damned; like Shane Warne, they’ll do whatever it takes to remain relevant.

All the while tennis remains steadfast. One must admire a sport that considers it incredibly poor form to speak during service, but par-for-course that a player might be risking death by simply stepping onto the court in near fifty-degree heat.

I’ve never understood why tennis is considered a summer sport here. It makes sense that it would be in England, but here, Down Under, is it not madness to force people to run around for up to five hours in the sweltering heat in a sun-soaked, concrete arena? Why not October? The Australian Open could be a great solution to the spring’s dreaded sporting gooch.

But that’s the way it is, I guess, and I do love the tennis fever that grips the country in January. There is a strange pleasure in watching great athletes challenge their bodies and cramp up in distress while challenging yourself to consume a kilogram of nachos and six beers.

Relatively high profile tournaments like the Sydney International have added to the excitement. Plus, there’s the ever-present sideshow that is the Hopman Cup, forever consigned to that weird group of events that continue to exist, though no one really knows why.

The only thing really holding the game back this year is a champion we can rally behind. For a while it seemed like Sam Stosur would be our saviour, but there are few things Australians can stomach less than choking. One of those is, of course, tanking, which also rules out the super brats, Kyrgios and Tomic. I do wonder how the public would respond to one of them breaking the drought and winning the Open, though. Would all be forgiven? Australians love a winner above all else – once again, I refer to Warnie – but I think both rap sheets are far too long for us to embrace them immediately.

You can’t accuse of them of not being characters, though, and that is ultimately what makes tennis so darn entertaining. It’s a pretty dull game otherwise. So while Kyrgios and Tomic make it immensely hard for anyone to support them, they at least put on one hell of a show.