Monday, January 14, 2013

Australian Open Day 1: Bemelmans

Curtain Call

Player: Ruben Bemelmans
Age: 25
Nation: Belgium
Current Ranking: 114
Today's Result: loss to Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France) in five sets
Photo via

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:

If 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

The 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 Kickoff
The 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?

The 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 Birds
If 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.


  1. I'm a night owl who lives in a northern climate. I love the Australian Open. Even if I do get jealous of all their sunshine and heat...

    1. I'm delighted to know you're a fan, M.J.! Aussie is definitely the Insomniac Slam.