Tennis Elbow: Overlooked no more

January 14, 2013 · Print This Article

Welcome to the second season of Tennis Elbow. Once again in 2013, the column will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon rejoices at the beginning of the 2013 Australian Open.

It happens only once a year.

Early in January every year, the Australian Open gets underway. Because it happens in the heart of both the NBA and NHL (i.e. except for this year, in the NHL case) as well as right as the NFL playoffs tend to heat up, the first Grand Slam of the tennis season also tends to be the forgotten one. It’s as important as any other on the calendar, and yet it’s followed by a little bit of a lull because it comes so early in the season.

Part of the reason, too, is that the Australian Open has no mystique–it hasn’t had one recently, at least. It’s different than the other three Grand Slam tournaments in that way, really. The French Open has historically been the prize of clay court specialists while recently it’s been the arena of Rafael Nadal. Next up is Wimbledon, in the heart of the tennis season and generally seen as the Cathedral of the tennis world. In the past 20 years or so, it’s been seen as the domain of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, who happen to be two of the best players ever. Finally, there’s the US Open–America’s Grand Slam. Because everything tends to be bigger in the United States, this one also is the biggest of the tennis season. It always comes as the tennis world has built up to a crescendo. And once it’s over, everyone wakes up to a collective hangover.

By comparison, what exactly does the Australian Open have? It’s played on a hard surface, but so is the US Open. Maybe this first Grand Slam of the year doesn’t have as much to offer as the other three. But actually, it does.

The Australian Open represents a whole lot. For one, it’s the home tournament of a country that was once a tennis powerhouse. Indeed, Australia remains the home of Rod Laver, still the last player to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single year. Australia has a storied history in tennis, though it has been somewhat lacking recently. Bernard Tomic is promising, but that’s all he is for now. Lleyton Hewitt’s is the country’s last true champion–unfortunately his sin was to play tennis in the same era as King Roger.

Then, the Australian Open is the site of the near-Cinderella story. Thomas Johansson took home the Australian Open in 2002 but since, it hasn’t been kind to the underdog. It hasn’t been kind, but it’s come close enough and closer than other events. Just ask unseeded Marcos Baghdatis, who was up a set in the 2006 men’s final before King Roger. Ask Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as well, who came out of nowhere to come to within two sets of an improbable title.

Also, the Australian Open has been the site of plenty of great matches. The latest, of course, was the men’s final between Nadal and Novak Djokovic last season–a match that was so great that it captured this column’s prestigious When life gives you moments Elbow for 2012.

But above anything else, the Australian Open is Novak Djokovic’s tournament. Melbourne is where Djokovic first announced himself in 2008, and it’s where he started his domination in 2011. Melbourne is where the current alpha male of the ATP World Tour has captured three of his 5 career Grand Slam titles.

And once again in 2013, the Australian Open just might be his. For everyone else, well, there’s always next year.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG

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