A Rip Snorter of a Good Time

Rip Snorter (adj): brilliant, great, fantastic

It's kind of a Dead Zone right now for sports. Most people don't watch the NBA (fools!), it's too early in the college basketball season, there is no activity on the baseball front, and most timely, there's a two week lull before the Super Bowl. It's especially eerily quiet since this has to be the least hyped Super Bowl since...I don't know, as long as I can remember. Luckily for me, I've been having some sleeping issues of late. You see, it's Australian Open time - one of the four major tennis tournies (Grand Slams) that's currently in its final week Down Under in Melbourne, Australia.

I like tennis. My brother and I played on the park's courses as kids against our old man with old wooden rackets and (I shit you not) WHITE tennis balls that had little life in them and surely dated back to the late Carter / early Reagan administrations. I even played a few years of JV tennis in high school and actually went to a costume party dressed as Bjorn Borg. Yeah, tennis is in my blood.

The drawback? The Aussie Open is shown live during the wee hours of the morning. Which means if you want to watch Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, or one of the countless female Russian players then you'd better get an early cat nap. The positive? It's entertaining, it's a major sporting event, and ESPN does a pretty damn good job of covering it.

Just like the US Open in New York, the Aussie Open is played on the hard courts - asphalt. This means the action is fast, not the slowed-down "specialist style" of the clay courts at The French Open, and because it's asphalt during the summer season in Australia, heat becomes another factor. Just the other day, defending champion Novak Djokovic had to quit from heat exhaustion and severe cramping. Temperatures have been reported to be near 110 degrees.

The key players left in the tournament are a good reason to tune in. It's a crazy mixture of different styles and personalities both on and off the court.

I don't know if Andy Roddick has shaken the stigma of being known more as "Mandy Moore's ex-boyfriend" rather than an accomplished tennis player. Either one isn't too bad when you think about it. After winning the 2003 US Open, Andy Roddick became the great US hope in the tennis world after the Golden Years of Sampras, Agassi, and Courier. Roddick might have been in the company of those names had there not been a player named Roger Federer. Roddick has lost 3 Grand Slam Finals to Federer (his overall record against Federer is 1-13). Maybe he's not putting out world class tennis right now, but he always can be counted on for a great quote. Check this doozie about Serena: "When we were ten, I had to literally run around in the shower to get wet. I was this big. She was bench pressing dump trucks already at that time (on losing a tennis match to her 6-1). "

Serena Williams
might be borderline manly and disgusting to look at in skimpy clothes, but there's no doubt that she's one of the best women in tennis right now. The media constantly attacks her and questions her dedication to tennis. Remember, this is a girl who grew up in Compton, CA by an obsessed dad who only let them focus on tennis. Yeah, maybe she spends way too much time dabbling in the fashion industry (Serena PLEASE have other people try on your designs), but she continues to put up strong showings in the Grand Slams. Currently, she's in the Semi Finals in both singles and doubles (with sister, Venus).

In an era of Curt Schillings, Barry Bonds, T.O.'s, and all the other shameless, self-promoting athletes, Roger Federer is a welcome change. Federer is one of, if not the most accomplished tennis player ever. His off-court demeanor is low key. While he does star in a few commercials, Federer, by and large, is content to stay behind the scenes in the world of glitz and glamor. On the court, his speed, power, accuracy and intellect is nearly unmatched. He's the guy your mom wants your sister to grow up and marry.

Rafa Nadal is easy to dislike when you look at him. You ask yourself, "Seriously, is that a guy wearing capri pants?" Sadly, yes, it is true. He sprints around the court with capris, sleeveless shirts, and sculpted arms. But if you take the time to listen to people talk about him and you watch his style of play, he's tough to dislike. By all accounts, his work rate is second to none and he's a classy guy. He's only 22 years old, but already has four French Open titles, all of which have been consecutive. Upset that people were labeling him a clay court specialist, he's worked hard at his all-around game and has won a Wimbledon Title on grass and an Olympic Gold Medal on the hard court.

There you have it. Now you're primed and ready to go. My advice would be to stay up and watch it until 5am. What else do you have to do the rest of the week? The way the economy is now, it's just a matter of time before your job is eliminated. Don't go down fighting, go down with a cold vodka and lemonade while sitting on your couch and watching the best duke it out on Rod Laver Centre Court. It's so much easier. G'day.

*Hilarious picture via www.downthelinetennis.com

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