Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Australia Open's the Sports Year

I love this time of year. Christmas and New Year's is done and so begins another year of sport.

2010 is going to be a massive year. Any World Cup year has to be massive. I can't wait for South Africa in June and July. Australia has Germany, Ghana and Serbia in their group. Tough, but I think we can get through to the knockout phase. If we finish second and the Poms win their group, we will meet ye olde enemy in that first elimination phase.

It will be huge.

But, that's still a long way off and might not even happen. What we do know is that in just under two weeks, the Australian Open kicks off in the beautiful city of Melbourne.

From as young as I can remember, the Aussie Open is always the first major international sporting event each year. In the old days, it used to be held on the grass courts of Kooyong, but in 1988, it was moved to Flinders Park, now known as Melbourne Park.

Watching the tennis was always a fun part of the summer.

Me and a good friend, Dan Mousley, used to eat icey poles and watch the matches on my back porch. I still remember when John McEnroe was booted out of the tournament in 1990. I was actually disappointed because he didn't chuck a complete spaz, it was more a gradual build up of obscenities and abuse and finally, the chair umpire had enough and disqualified him.

I wanted to see a good old fashioned tantrum from the great man.

One of my all time favourite players was Martina Hingis. She was a six-time finalist and three-time champion.

She was (still is) sexy.

Melbourne loved her and she loved Melbourne.

I live in Toronto now so I can't go to the matches, but I will be following the tournament closely.

I love the surprises and upsets. In the men's draw, there is often a player who goes deep into the second week. Marcos Baghdadits in 2006, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 07, Rainer Schuttler in 03 and Thomas Johansson actually won it all in 2002, but the biggest shock was in 1998 when Petr Korda defeated Marcelo Rios in the final in straight sets. Really, I could have busted the racquet out and I probably would have at least made the semi's that year!

Melbournian's love and support the event very well. For 10 straight years, the attendance has been over 500k and the last two years, they've had over 600k, including setting a one-day Grand Slam record of 66,018 last year.

It's very important because Sydney and some Asian cities are trying to poach this lucrative event, but the Victorian government and Tennis Australia do a great job of ensuring that they maintain the highest of standards.

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