There is a slightly surreal quality to this year’s Australian Open. We have been here for five days, sitting on the other side of the world, and nothing has happened. Fair enough, the lovely Rodge was pushed by Gilles Simon in the second round, Belgium’s Mighty Atom (Justine Henin) and her sorely-poorly elbow were given the heave-ho by Kuzzy and another bit of Venus appears to be falling off, but all of the above was to be expected. No, this is the quiet before the storm – and it is too damned quiet out there.
The surreal atmosphere is not helped by the fact that every time I step outside for a gasper, I bump into a trumpet, trombone and saxophone combo dressed as kangaroos. I kid you not. To date, I have never heard them play but as I head for smokers’ corner on an hourly basis, I see them, complete with huge hairy feet and big fluffy ears, trudging silently through the complex, looking glum. They never speak, they never play but they never stop moving.
Then again, nothing was quite as it seemed as the Open headed towards the weekend. Novak Djokovic was ushered into the fourth round at double-quick speed when Viktor Troicki pulled up injured after just one set. That left him at something of a loose end but those quick-thinking people in the Tennis Australia publicity department had plans for him. Would he like to step out to Court 16 where someone was waiting for him? Oh, why not.
Now, should any famous people be reading this – we at 10sballs.com have a handy hint for you. Never let on that you might, possibly, perhaps, be going to Melbourne Park to watch a bit of tennis. TA’s publicity people will snaffle you for a photo-shoot, a stint on the radio or, at the very least, an autograph or two before you are allowed to take your courtside seat.
So, when Kym Johnson of ‘Dancing With The Stars’ fame – she was David Hasselhoff’s partner last season – happened to mention that she had tickets for Friday, she was asked if she wouldn’t mind bringing one of spangly frocks and maybe teaching a player a few moves. Out on Court 16. It was a match made in heaven: Kym and Novak strutting their stuff in the summer sunshine.
Kym put Djoko through his paces, teaching him the cha-cha-cha, while he showed off his muscles with a few lifts. Encouraged to take his shirt off by one of the photographers (and, really, it doesn’t take much to get Novak to get his kit off), he was happily swirling Kym around as if he had been practising this dancing lark for years. According to Kym, Novak is a fast learner. According to the look on Novak’s face, Kym could ask him to dance any time she liked. He even gave her a tennis lesson and Kym even managed to hit a ball or two. In a quiet week, Kym and Novak (hang on, wasn’t she a film star?) brightened up the Open nicely.
There was clearly something in the air on Friday and Caroline Wozniacki had inhaled deeply. Our Wozzy, normally a good, solid but not exactly exciting performer in press conferences, decided to change things up. Apparently, she had heard that some members of the press corps found her a little dull so, she thought, to hell with the normal waffle about string tensions and grips, let’s have some fun. Before the first hack had drawn breath to ask the first question, Wozzy jumped in.
“Yesterday I got the question by the media, they said that my press conferences were kind of boring,” she began. “Yeah, that I always gave the same answers. You know, I find it quite, you know, funny because I always get the same questions. So I’m just going to start. I know what you’re going to ask me already. So I’m just going to start with the answer.”
Our Wozzy then reeled off the usual guff about her match – she thought she played well, she feels no extra pressure as the world No.1, she is happy to be in the fourth round, she doesn’t know who she is playing yet and, no, she didn’t think she played too defensively – and then handed proceedings back to the floor for questions. “Now you can maybe, yeah, give me some questions that are a little bit more interesting, a little bit different than what I usually get,” she said.
At this point, there was a stunned silence. What to ask her? And then someone ventured: “What do you think of the appointment of Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool?” (King Kenny, the greatest player ever to pull on a red shirt and play for Liverpool, has recently returned for a second stint as manager of the club. And Wozzy is a Liverpool fan. She is clearly a woman of great taste and a shrewd observer of football.)
“Well, I’m hoping that that will give some positive energy into the guys, into the lads,” she ventured, using that well-known Danish term “the lads”. “I’m hoping things will be turning round and they’ll start winning more matches. It’s tough to be a supporter and see them having a hard time. But it’s a sport, and I’m sure it will turn sooner or later.”
OK, that’s footy dealt with. How about global warming?
“Global warming?” she pondered. “I’m flying quite a bit, so that doesn’t really help. Uhm, go green. Make cars that don’t use so much gas. Make them electric. That would already help. Use the buses, the trains, instead of taking the car. You know, just a few things. When you take a shower, don’t stay there for half an hour. Two minutes is enough. Even the girls.”
Our Wozzy was on a roll. The presser became the talk of Melbourne Park and players from far and wide came to congratulate her on her bravery and her quick thinking. Andy Roddick, something of a star in the pressers himself, looked and the transcript and was impressed, wishing that he had thought of idea years ago. Quite how Wozzy is going to top this performance remains to be seen but the world No.1 will certainly have stamped her mark on the Australian Open, whether she wins here or not.
Sadly, 10sballs.com’s very own X – Xavier Malisse – will not be around to see what happens to Wozzy. He got a three set clumping from the Might Fed on Friday, beaten 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in the third round. He is still in the doubles, though, and will play with Jamie Murray on Saturday against Bjorn Phau and Janko Tipsarevic, and hopefully X will have marked his spot in the third round come teatime.