A grand new year
By Rohit Brunath
January 15, 2005
The players sit with faces like long-suffering morgue attendants, the cameras whirl silently, we ask the questions and they magnificently pretend they've never heard them before. Do you like Melbourne? What would it mean to win the Open? It is the new year, fortunately, and no one is rude.
Meanwhile, media guides are tossed aside and instead every player's genealogy is assiduously examined. If anyone's great-grandfather's second cousin's uncle was born on a Qantas flight, well, he's ours.
Welcome back to the Australian Open. Most everything is old, especially the names, yet so much is new. Recently acquired muscles are being put to use, freshly hired coaches tried and newly minted resolve tested.
The short winter of solitude is over and it is time to seek applause again. On Monday, it begins, and for 11 months, there will be little time to breathe. So many dreams will lie in tatters by year's end, but no one believes it will be theirs. For now, they are all invincible.
It is sweaty work but such sculpting of body and tuning of game is still easier than the adjusting of mind. A drop shot can be found, but determination is beyond some coaching; the wrist can be bent but what about unbending will?
Men's tennis is as beautifully poised as a sport can be; one man on cloud nine, an ambitious pack trying to bring him down - at least to seventh heaven. In a way, it resembles Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker chipping away at Ivan Lendl's pedestal.
If men's tennis has exited the period of uncertainty that accompanied Pete Sampras' slow fall, the women's game is temporarily subdued. The Williams sisters does not work as a phrase any more, for Venus is no Serena and Serena has not been herself either recently.
The Belgians have been absent for too long, Jennifer Capriati is not visiting, not enough respect is perhaps awarded to the Russians, Maria Sharapova aside, and everyone will forget the wise Davenport at their own peril.