Please Lleyton, put an end to this painful pants dance
Update: Lleyton lost, again.
Excuse the disturbing imagery, but imagine for a moment Lleyton Hewitt as a burlesque dancer.
Imagine Lleyton as one of those Dita Von Teese types that have lead a popular resurgence for the art in recent years. Emerging out of a large bowl and dressed in emu feathers, Hewitt begins the Australian Open by holding an expectant crowd’s attention with his potential to nude-up with a win.
But year after year the tease is interrupted by a stern order from backstage and Lleyton goes running off, leaving the crowd to go home frustrated and merely fantasize at the potential of what we might have been treated to.
Like a good burlesque dancer, this trance continues to work for Lleyton because he’s never going to be completely crap. He always shows enough promise prior to the tournament and in its early rounds, but goes on to get knocked out by a 12-year-old Serbian or Spanish Matador called Jose.
The fact that tonight he is playing Roger Federer is no surprise because it’s classic Hewitt to play with our emotions like this. In his forfeit win over Marcos Baghdatis Hewitt looked on fire, and has appeared so the entire tournament.
But now he’s stuck facing Roger Federer. He hasn’t beaten this guy in 14 straight matches and hasn’t looked like doing so. Granted he took a set of the Swiss great when they met in the US Open last year, but one set is a long way off three with Federer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love Lleyton to beat Mr Perfect.
Unlike the top players running around today, there’s no particularly compelling trait to Hewitt’s game other than the guts with which he plays it.
Australia has a weird relationship with Lleyton these days. We’re kinda like a nation of mothers who preferred his old girlfriend Kim Clijsters to his current wife:
“Yes that Bec Cartwright is fine, but why did you stop going out with that lovely Dutch girl? We all liked her.”
But besides secretly disliking his wife, we largely respect the way our son has coped with the way history has consigned him to be a good, but not great player, when compared to the rise of Federer and Nadal.
That’s why we’ll all turn up or tune in to watch Lleyton Hewitt tonight in the vain hope that maybe this year he’ll go the Full Monty at the Australian Open just once.
Actually Mr Tiley, Tomic was right
Besides the petulant nature of Bernard Tomic’s post-match tantrum on Thursday morning, the predictable scorn being poured on the 17-year-old ignores the fact that he’s right about late finishes.
What other sport does expect its athletes to be performing at 2 am during one of its marquee events? And, perhaps more importantly, what fan wants to see that?
Australians are regularly getting up at bizarre hours to watch sport being played in Europe, America or South Africa, and given the Australian Open is one of the rare occasions where we host the world would it be too much to ask that we don’t have up to 2 or 4:34 am (as was the case in 2008) watching a match?
Australian Open director Craig Tiley’s reply to Tomic was that he would be given an “education on how scheduling works. You’re playing a grand slam event, a global event, and while it’s nice to always get exactly what you want, it’s not always possible. But on the other hand, feel privileged that you were on Rod Laver Arena playing in front of an excited crowd and having that many people watching you play.”
Perhaps somebody could educate Craig Tiley that at 2 or 4 am there is not a stadium full of fans at Melbourne Park or anyone much watching it on television (except in Europe and America of course).
Maybe they could also educate Mr Tiley that despite his “this is just the way it goes son” line, as the only other Grand Slam to have night games the US Open doesn’t seem to have the same level of problems with late finishes (there was a one-off under the roof night match during Wimbledon last year as well).
The record late finish there was 2.26 am back in 1993 and last year a minor controversy at the US Open was that fact that Andy Roddick’s first round match finished at 12:45 am.
Whatever the reason for Aussie Open finishes I did like the Tomic’s honest reply to reporters who were expecting him to admit what a bad boy he’d been:
“What’s there to learn? I just finished the match and I said a thing … what was I supposed to say? It was two o’clock in the morning.”
From the mouths of babes.
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