Halfway through the Aussie, here's a status report
Posted: Monday January 20, 2003 11:52 AM
It's Monday in Australia. Which, of course, means that it's November in the U.S. and midsummer in Europe. So it can seem, anyway, in this time-zone-challenged event. Notwithstanding the usual jet lag, it's been a darn good first week at the 2003 Australian Open. Through four rounds, here are some midterm marks. All grades are based on the same curve applied to American Studies majors at Yale University.
Younes El Aynaoui: Sweet-swinging Moroccan earned arguably the biggest win of his career by taking out Lleyton Hewitt in Round 4.
Andre Agassi: Like Hewitt, he faced an early challenge (courtesy of flashy Frenchman Nicolas Escudé) and hasn't been in danger since.
House of Williams: Barring the unlikely (i.e., Kim Clijsters playing out of her mind in the semis), it's looking like a fourth straight intrafamily Slam final.
Belgian women: One (Clijsters) has yet to be tested. The other (Justine Henin-Hardenne) won a gutsy match against Lindsay Davenport. Both appear to be semifinal-bound.
Meghann Shaughnessy: Under the radar as usual, the hardest working woman in tennis is tunneling through a soft draw.
Andy Roddick and James Blake: Look out Croatia. The two best American men under the age of 30 appear to be on their games.
Australian Open: First-rate sporting event rewarded with a major sponsorship deal from Kia.
Mardy Fish: What will he take away from a mini-breakthrough Down Under? The defeat of Carlos Moya for the second time in two weeks? Or that blown backhand volley against Wayne Ferreira that cost him a trip to the round of 16?
Monica Seles: Looked fit and refreshed before turning ankle in Round 2.
Nicolas Escudé: Played point after point of breathtaking tennis against Agassi. Quick question: Why aren't you in the top 20?
Nicole Pratt: Aussie veteran offered scant resistance against Venus, but previously won over crowd with inspired march to fourth round.
Anna Kournikova: Won her first singles match at a Slam in two years. But after getting tattooed by Henin-Hardenne, it's clear that a return to the top 10 is a longshot.
WTA Tour: The last thing a sponsor-deprived tour needed was the hasty exit of another CEO.
Jennifer Capriati: The NASDAQian slide continued as the two-time defending champ flamed out against Marlene Weingartner in Round 1.
Lleyton Hewitt: Another disappointing showing for native son in his home Slam, being ousted by El Aynaoui in the fourth round.
Andrew Ilie: His baseless, ill-informed speculation about rampant steroid use in tennis was simply reckless.
Marat Safin: Last year's finalist (truth to tell: last year's should-have-been-the-champion) arrived with a bum shoulder and left with torn ligaments in his wrist.
Jelena Dokic: The event is not remotely depleted by her absence. On the other hand, she's either dooming her ranking or consigning herself to Tier IIs by playing hooky.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim is in Melbourne covering the Australian Open for the magazine. Click here to send a question to his Mailbag.
Interesting as always
Glad he mentioned Moni though