Novak Djokovic is the Austalian Open men’s singles champion. You don’t have to like him. You don’t have to root for him, but you have to respect what the man does in between the lines in Melbourne. 28-0 in his last four years at the Australian Open and this time around, he barely lost a set. You can focus on whether or not his hamstring was hurt to X, Y or Z extent, but the real focus should be on how far away the field still appears to be against Djokovic at the age of 35. Maybe Carlos Alcaraz is your elixir if you’re a Nole hater as it appears half the tennis rooting community might be, but until he beats Djokovic at a Grand Slam, the Serb holds a strange hold over tennis until proven other wise. As some have suggested, the difficult year of 2022, self imposed of course, may have given Djokovic a freshness he needs at this age. He wasn’t beaten down by the overcrowded schedule because he was forced to miss a lot of action due to his vaccination status. Djokovic still played 53 matches in 2022, but he barely played until April and then got a huge two month break after Wimbledon. His 18-1 record in October and November may have indicated just how fresh he would be.
Ben Shelton is good, but let’s hold off on the next coming talk for a bit shall we? Listen, the kid is talented and easy to like. His game is big and fun, but the challenge is just starting for the 20-year-old. While making a quarterfinal run at a Grand Slam is a huge achievement no matter how you shake it, let’s also remember that he didn’t face a seeded player until he lost to Tommy Paul in the quarterfinals. None of the players he beat en route to the last eight were ranked inside the top 50. The first three, Zhang, Jarry and Popyin, are barely inside the top 100 even after the Australian Open. You beat who is in front of you and that’s when Shelton did and he did it in his first non-U.S. based tournament. That’s impressive enough, but let’s see how things develop now that he’s going to have the weight of expectation coming along for the ride. The big plus is he’s now ranked #44 and that means no qualifying for any of the major tournaments. It will be interesting to see how his team crafts a new direction for him after the Australian success. He already withdrew from the Dallas Open, a 250 due to kick off next week. He has nothing but points to gain as he moves into his first full year at the ATP main draw level. The coming months are going to tell a lot more about where the ceiling is for Shelton, I just hope the media lets him breathe and develop at a normal pace without trying to fast track him as the next whatever they try to label him as for the future.
Nike makes BAD KITS for Grand Slams. I don’t care what kind of fashionista you consider yourself, these DO NOT come across well.
Outside of someone like Nadal who gets custom made kits that usually stand up well, Nike seems hell bent on making it’s “subserviant non money makers” wear absolute trash at Grand Slams. Even their next level guys behind Rafa were wearing odd mixes of items; Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune. These two looked like they went down to your local department store and took some Nike items off the clearance rack and put together a combination. If those were custom jobs, YIKES.
I think Andrey Rublev had the right idea to get out and form his own clothing line before he was forced to wear another atrocious Nike kit at a Slam.
ESPN has to reinvent its coverage of Grand Slams. Their main network teams need some YOUTH and fresh voices. This doesn’t even mean making a bunch of new hires, but they have a number of great play-by-play guys and analysts doing the non-network matches every year at Grand Slams they cover. It’s well past time to mix in some of those “other” voices to freshen up their main network coverage that you’re forced to deal with by the time we get down to the quarterfinals most times. I don’t mind the foolishness of the Fowlers and McEnroes in doses, but it would be refreshing to hear more analytical talk from a more recent generation of players during the matches rather then just hearing random superlatives and anecdotes from guys who haven’t been on tour in decades.
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova are already doubles LEGENDS and they’re only 27 and 26 respectively. In winning the women’s doubles titles in Melbournes, they captured their 7th career Slam titles as a duo. If they win the French Open titles in 2023, they’ll have completed a “career Slam” by winning all four majors. And yet, do we hear enough about their dominance? Nope. The Czechs were every bit as impressive as Novak Djokovic as they too lost just one set. Of the 12 sets won, only ONE saw their opponents win more than three games. They have won 24 straight Grand Slam matches dating back through last year’s Australian Open – very Djokovician numbers and yet because they play doubles, they’re given a fraction of the spotlight.
Both tours can be blamed enough for not promoting doubles more. Look at the men for example. There was every bit of excitement of the 2022 Kokkinakis-Kyrgios run, without all the circus that followed them, for Jason Kubler and Rinky Hinjikata. A pair of Aussies who had never teamed up in doubles prior to the start of this year’s Australian Open. All they did was beat a trio of teams who made last year’s Tour Finals with dominant wins over (1)Koolhof-Skupski and (8)Granollers-Zeballos. Big news right? Barely. Marketing for doubles remains terrible for the tours and its media partners. And tournament schedulers continue to miss opportunities to expose audiences to doubles. Instead of mixing doubles into a day’s singles schedule late in the tournament, we wind up with key doubles matches pushed behind the “marquee” singles matches. That almost always means a smaller crowd in person and on streaming services.
It won’t change any time soon because tennis is the slowest moving sport for change in almost every capacity. It’s a shame because teams like Krejcikova-Siniakova deserve a much, much larger audience.
If I see the Verizon commercial with Paul Giammati as Albert Einstein again, I am going to absolutely lose my shit. That commercial seemingly has been on every commercial break I’ve seen the last two weeks and it needs to go KAPUT like your wireless network Einstein. If there is one place I’d never get wireless service from, Verizon is now it. Between that and an endless parade of Chipotle commercials here in the U.S., I want to lock both of them in a box car and suck out all of the oxygen.
GOOD KIT/BAD KIT OF THE WEEK
DOG PIC OF THE WEEK