This is quite amusing if you don't take it too seriously....
Ferrero's progression endangers box office
By Martin Johnson
The Australian Open has a long tradition of ending up with a men's finalist who doesn't so much make you want to mortgage the house for a Centre Court ticket, as prompt you to draw the curtains if he was playing on your back lawn.
The last three finals have featured Arnaud Clement, Thomas Johansson, and Rainer Schuettler, and far from requiring a beard and dark glasses to avoid being recognised in a Melbourne restaurant, they're more likely to have been mistaken for the waiter.
And this year, the ticket touts are starting to develop another nervous tic ahead of tomorrow's second semi-final. Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain may be the No 3 seed here, but he is instant death at the box office, and one reason he's crept through more or less un-noticed is that the order of play committee have done everything to keep him away from Centre Court.
They'd have had a marginal preference for Hicham Arazi of Morocco in yesterday's quarter-final, even though, in terms of crowd support, Ferrero looked to have put more bums on seats. Well, one to be precise. From our vantage point in the press box, we counted two Spanish flags (minature variety) compared to a swarthy-looking bloke, seated just behind the players' guest box, wearing a Fez.
Ferrero has a glamorous enough name, but while he might sound like a Formula One racing car, his game is more - how can we put it? - Ford Mondeo. The last Spaniard who could remotely be called exciting was Manuel Santana, who won Wimbledon in 1966, but he was a bit of a freak. On the clay courts of Spain, most players approach the net as though it has 10,000 volts running through it.
Ferrero ran away with the opening set against a fellow baseliner, but any suggestion that this was a matadorial performance had to be set against the fact he was flashing his cape against nothing more dangerous than a Jersey Friesian. However, while Arazi did eventually get going, the Moroccan could not convert enough of his opportunities to keep alive his chances of becoming the worst dressed player ever to win a Grand Slam.
Arazi's T-shirt could have come straight from the Army and Navy Stores, although at least it wasn't a vest. The sleeveless look is becoming more and more vogue amongst the men, some of whom are apparently booking themselves into the tournament's complimentary hair and beauty salon to have their armpits waxed. The salon's therapists also report that one or two have asked for their eyelashes to be coloured, although it would be a surprise if Ferrero would ever volunteer to draw attention to himself by having his lashes dyed in the red and yellow of his national flag. When he left the court yesterday, he managed to sign several dozen autographs in approximately one and a half seconds, which is quite an achievement for someone with a name like Juan Carlos Ferrero. Even his signature - if that's how you can describe a cursory slash with a felt tip - is unrecognisable.
However, if students of Australian Open history fear that Ferrero's advance to the final is more or less inevitable, the fact that the outrageously talented Roger Federer now stands in his way provides a glimmer of hope that he's gone as far as he's going to. Federer's beaten opponent last night was a reminder that Wimbledon has also had its share of barely recognisable finalists, although David Nalbandian has moved a long way up in both the tennis and the glamour rankings since losing to Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.
Federer versus Nalbandian was billed as clash of styles, whereas in fact it was much more a clash of hairstyles. Federer's bun clearly conceils a mane of old English sheepdog proportions when he unclips it in the shower, whereas Nalbandian favours the swept back David Beckham style, complete with the miniature pony tail.
There was no sign of a coloured eyelash on either Federer or Nalbandian, but had it not been for the power, athleticism, and high standard of tennis, you might almost have mistaken it for a ladies singles. Come to think of it, with all these male tennis players booking into hair and beauty salons for waxes, facials and manicures, these days it's just about the only way you can tell.