Player: Ruben Bemelmans
Current Ranking: 114
Today's Result: loss to Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France) in five sets
This was Bemelmans's first Australian Open main draw. A lefty, he is currently the fifth-ranked Belgian in the world.
A few years ago, I posted a list of reasons "Why You Should Watch the Australian Open." The highlights:
you live in a northern climate as I do, glimpses of summertime anywhere
else in the world can provide a welcome relief. Thank goodness for the
Southern Hemisphere! The sunshine over Melbourne can seem relentless and
I don't envy the players the heat but it's so pleasant on the TV
screen. Then there's the people. To say that Australians are more laid
back than Parisians, Londoners or New Yorkers is an embarrassing
understatement. The atmosphere of the tournament is reflected
accordingly. The beer is free-flowing, though, and crowds can
occasionally tend to the raucous. If any Slam feels like a day at the
beach, this is the one.
No Longer Optional
Australian Open was, for decades, the ugly duckling of the Slams. Quite
often, the top American and European players would decline to make the
trip Down Under at all. That time has passed. Endorsement contracts are
now structured to give everyone ample incentive to show up. Also, ever
since Pete Sampras established total Slam titles as the measure of
all-time greatness, no one in search of a legacy can afford to pass it
up. While perhaps still not as glamorous as its brethren, the Australian Open is a world-class event by any measure.
The Big KickoffThe
tours have already been in action since the beginning of the month but
Melbourne is the first big gathering of the tennis season. Some are
critical of the fact that the tennis year begins with such an important
event right off the bat. It's not quite as strange as NASCAR beginning
its year with the Daytona 500 but the timing does present unique
challenges. The summer Slam season is a marathon. The physical challenge
is to pace oneself at the smaller events and peak just in time for the
big pay day. As for the Australian, this is the first tournament of the
year for many of the top players. Those who trained well in the
off-season are rewarded here.
A Slower Hard Court?
hard court surface used in Melbourne is of a different chemical
composition than that used at the US Open. The stuff is called
Plexicushion Prestige and is apparently slower than the Deco Turf at
Flushing Meadows. Thus, it is not so surprising that Rafael Nadal has
found greater success here than in New York. I'm not sure I really buy
it - concrete is concrete, right? But as I have no personal experience
whatsoever in the comparison, I must defer to the experts.
Ideal for Night Owls and Early BirdsIf
you live in the Western Hemisphere and are at your best in the
afternoon, the Australian Open is probably not the tournament that will
turn you on to tennis. But, if you're like me and just start to hit your
stride around 10 p.m., the coverage will suit you just fine. Similarly,
morning people like my wife could watch over morning coffee (assuming
they care more about tennis than my wife does, of course). It upsets me
that so much of the tennis is played as I slumber but my schedule works
out pretty well for the other Slams so I really can't complain.
Catching Up with Old Friends
Maxime Authom (Curtain Call, US Open Day 1) - It's Belgian Appreciation Day at The Squid. Authom is currently the sixth-ranked Belgian. He reached the main draw through qualifying, then lost to Carlos Berlocq (Argentina) in four sets.
Golden Squid Report
Juan Carlos Ferrero (Golden Squid since 6/25/2012) - Ferrero announced his retirement in September. He played his final ATP tournament at Valencia in October. He leaves the sport with 16 titles, including the 2003 French Open. He held the World #1 ranking for nearly two months of that same year. Hall of Fame? My guess is no. Injuries and the rise of Nadal robbed him of a more meaningful legacy. Nonetheless, he had a fine career.