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Open All Hours

By Alasdair McClintock on January 14, 2019 in Other

Ash Barty is our big hope this year, by Rod Laver

Every January, the nation collectively becomes obsessed with tennis. It’s a wonderful time when, for around two weeks each year, we all become self-anointed experts of the game and the world’s best descend on Melbourne to melt for our entertainment.

2019 marks the Australian Open’s 50th anniversary. It feels like such an ingrained part of our summer that it surprises me the tournament is so young. Did you know the first one was held in Brisbane? Neither did I.

Apparently they used wet cabbage leaves to cool themselves down in the final. I don’t know why they did this, considering I’m pretty sure they had freezers and icepacks by then, but I will try it out myself before I rag on them for it – if you see a weird looking dude selling cabbage leaves on Bondi Beach on a hot summer’s day, you’ll know they were on to a good thing.

While I love the Open fever that grips us, I must admit my two-week window of interest is getting a little narrower every year. It’s hard to stay engrossed when it’s the same old show each time. Most of the Aussies crash out early, one keeps the dream alive briefly and is touted as the next big hope before failing magnificently, then we’re left with at least three of the ‘Big Four’, plus Serena Williams and an eastern European whose name few can confidently pronounce.

As I’ve grown older, my bedtime has eked closer to midday than midnight as well, so the ridiculous time slots do me no favours. What right-minded fool chooses to stay up until hours past midnight to watch a game of tennis? Come to think of it, what right-minded fool would organise a major sporting event where such a thing could occur?

Truth be told, I have long given up suspecting the organisers of the Australian Open are right-minded. Sadists, most certainly, but right-minded? I doubt it. You would have thought that such cabbage leaf extremes in the first ever tournament might have encouraged them to shift the dates, but they resolutely push forward, perhaps hoping that by eradicating the majority of contenders through heat stroke, an Australian might actually win it.

Ashleigh Barty is our big hope this year. It feels as though she has been around for ages, but she is still only 22. It might be a stretch for her to go all the way, but a deep run into the finals would not surprise. In fact, if she can make it to the final I may just be willing to stay up and watch it.
Alex de Minaur is another. He and Barty are both still a few years off their peaks, but we can dare to dream. They both have all the hallmarks of being champions we can get behind. Remember what that feels like?