Have Australian Open officials deliberately sped up the courts for the 2017 event to suit the likes of Roger Federer?
Tournament director, Craig Tiley, gave a firm no when asked, but his comments came after claims that the court speed – and the fact some courts appear to play quicker than others – have annoyed some players.
When asked about the theory, Tiley told AAP: “That’s not true. I mean, you had pretty good clay court players in the semi-finals.
“So if people think the courts have been designed to suit one particular player – Rafa [Nadal] has had great success on clay, he made the semis.
“Stan [Wawrinka] has had great success on clay; he made the semis. So, no, that’s just not true.”
Tiley added that players had provided “interesting” comments on court speed, which led to tests.
“All the courts were a medium to fast surface. We always have been in that range. We’re still in that range.”
Federer’s run to the final of the men’s singles has raised eyebrows, given his six-month lay-off in 2016 due to a knee injury, but despite the fact the court speed may have helped, there is no doubting the 35-year-old Swiss maestro has played some outstanding tennis.
His straight-sets wins over Tomas Berdych and Mischa Zverev were clinical, while the 17-time grand slam champion has also shown he can fight through wins, getting past compatriot Wawrinka and Japanese ace Kei Nishikori in straight sets.
Rafael Nadal’s deal with … Tennis Australia
The Spanish star’s new partnership with the governing body for tennis Down Under was announced on Friday and could seriously benefit our younger players.
The deal with the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy will, according to Tennis Australia, result in “Australian players utilising the world-class facilities for training and camps, as well as a destination for coaches and Australian tennis enthusiasts.
“The agreement will also allow Australian athletes and their teams to use the Mallorca-based academy as a base during their European tours.”
Head of Business Development for the Academy, Carlos Costa, said it was a “complete honour” to link with Tennis Australia, while the star’s coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, added “I am sure that we will be able to give plenty of good advice, besides the excellent facilities we have in Spain.”
Australians have often struggled on clay and it is likely some players will use the facility in the build-up to the French Open, which begins in May.
TV ratings war
As thrilling as the Australian Open has been, it has been consistently out-rated by the Twenty20 Big Bash League, the fast-paced cricket competition screened on Network Ten.
But with the Big Bash now in finals mode, and matches no longer being screened nightly, tennis is pulling its weight.
And they were quick to crow about it, with Tennis Australia titling a media release, sent late on Friday with “Howzat!? Australian Open wins the ratings war again.”
They said that Australia’s one-day international against Pakistan – a dead rubber in a relatively meaningless series – drew “500,000 less viewers (metro and regional) than Seven’s primetime tennis broadcast.”
That may be true, but similar releases weren’t seen after nights the tennis matched up against the Big Bash.
Picture of the day
Time for a bit of a reality Czech
Czech veteran Andrea Hlavackova unleashed a bizarre tirade at the chair umpire during the women’s doubles final.
Hlavackova and Chinese partner Shuai Peng lost 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 to Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Friday’s decider.
The match took an unexpected turn midway through the second set when Hlavackova complained about the big screen on Rod Laver Arena, claiming the display was being changed during her serve.
“You must understand it’s not right when we’ve started play to have something changing like that,” she told the umpire.
“Just tell them ‘three seconds earlier’. It’s not acceptable.”
The umpire pointed out that nobody else had complained about the screen during the tournament.
Australian four-time grand slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs was also unimpressed.
“It’s amazing when she won the first set how she didn’t say a word to the umpire,” Stubbs said while commentating for the Seven Network.
“Now that she’s down 3-0 … ridiculous.”
Bad news for Aussies in the doubles
Neither Sam Stosur and Sam Groth — who go by the nickname ‘Sam Squared’ — or Chris Guccione could progress to the final of the mixed doubles on Friday.
Stosur and Groth, playing together, were beaten by second seeds Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig, 6-4 2-6 (10-5), while Guccione and Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina had no luck, either.
They were beaten in straight sets by Abigail Spears and Juan Sebastian Cabal, 7-6 (7-1) 6-2.
— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) January 27, 2017
There was better news in the quad wheelchair singles, at least, as Dylan Alcott beat David Wagner 6-1 7-5 to book a spot in the final, which will be played on centre court for the first time at a major.
Matt Preston loves …
The celebrity chef is often spotted at Melbourne Park, catching a match or two, and it is no wonder.
He revealed in the ‘Kia Motors Open Drive’ that he has been attending the Australian Open for 24 consecutive years.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2017
What’s on for Saturday
The much-anticipated women’s singles final between sisters Serena and Venus Williams headlines action on Saturday, with action to begin from 7.30pm on Rod Laver Arena.
That match will be followed by a men’s doubles clash featuring an Australian, John Peers.
Peers teams up with Finn Henri Kontinen as they face American duo, Bob and Mike Bryan.
During the day, the singles finals of the boys and girls singles are on centre court, while the men’s and women’s wheelchair singles finals also take place.