Unpredictability in the women’s draw, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic open with wins and more after three days at the 2018 Australian Open.

By Jon Wertheim
January 17, 2018

MELBOURNE – We’re three days into the first Slam. At least we think we are. The app keeps crashing. Most of the Americans are aboard Qantas return flights as you read this. Novak Djokovic has done a convincing Novak Djokovic impersonation. Rafael Nadal is not only winning but winning fast. Roger Federer was rocked back on his heels and caught flat-footed. (But that was only after his match, when interviewed by Anchorman himself, Will Ferrell.) The women’s draw is wild and unpredictable, the perfect complement to the predictability of the men’s. Players are fighting with management. All of which is to say, tennis is up to its usual hijinks.


Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Can we all agree that we are watching the tail end of the GOAT and that following Nadal-Federer-Djokovic-Serena retirements we are in for a serious generational tennis lull and we'll have to spend nights on our rocking chair recalling "the good old days" much as our grandparents used to tell us about Joe D and winning WW2?
Dominic Ciafardini, New York

• Chronologically, you’re right. At some point, the titans will retreat, we will be left with a new cast and there will be some anticlimax. We hear the bleating already: “We used to get Federer and Nadal. Now it’s Rublev and Zverev.” A few points:

a) Doesn’t this beat the alternative? Wouldn’t we take the chance to live in this (cliché alert) golden age, even if it means a bronze age follows?

b) Other sports go through this, too. And survive. Michael Jordan leaves the NBA and the product suffers for a few years. Then LeBron and the Warriors and the Greek Freak arrive.

c) As long as they still hold tournaments and still hold finals on the last weekend, there will be new champions. It’s not as though there will be no more Grand Slam winners.

d) This is another reason why tennis benefits from two genders. The men are in a down period? No worries, here come the Williams sisters. The Williams sisters are out of the draw? Federer and Nadal will pick up the proverbial slack.

Hey Jon: I keep hearing and reading from commentators how Denis Shapovalov reminds them of a young Nadal. Personally, he reminds me more of Henri Leconte. Super talented, all court tennis with a very aggressive mindset. He, like Leconte, also has a wide variety of shots, and a one handed BH. What do you think?
Ben, Queens, New York       

• Sure. But, do note, we’re going on three decades already. Shapovalov is 18. Leconte is 54. But that’s a good one. Muster is another name that I’ve heard, but—apart from the lefty one-hander—I’m sure that quite works. Muster was almost Nadal-like in his grinding, pugnacious play. Shapovalov is light, lithe and lively.

Hey Jon, I've been waiting with bated breath for your mini-mailbags for the Aussie...no pressure. Speaking of which, WTHIGOW the Aussie Open mobile app??? How can the same tournament use technology to incredible effect in creating the "Game Insights" stories and not have a functioning app for their fans to simply see results? 
JP, Chicago

• For a tournament that prides itself—rightfully so—on being so buttoned up, this is especially surprising. The website and app are abject failures as so many of you have noted. An international sporting event technology is like a tennis player with a string-less racket.

Jon, I have a rant, actually two. First of all, I'm tired of "fans" of Federer, Nadal, and to a lesser extent Djokovic tastelessly tearing down their favorite’s rival to make a case for their guy in the tiresome GOAT debate. For one thing, I believe that is a debate best left to when their careers are over. If you must debate, why not compare their successes, which far outweigh their failures. Those three are friendly rivals; it seems to me their fans can, and should be at least civil. Please stop and appreciate what has occurred in this era. Prior to Federer/Nadal/Djokovic, there were five men total who had won 10 or more Grand Slam singles titles in their career. There are three playing in the same era, and they're not finished yet! It is unprecedented, so please appreciate it while it's going on.

The second part of my rant is I often hear or read that players who are ranked No. 90 or No. 100 being referred to as mediocre or even lousy.  I know it's hard to compare to team sports, but if you look at the other major sports, it is a big deal when the lists of the top 100 players comes out. While the top 100 players may not all be great, they aren't mediocre or lousy either.  
Andrew Krouse, Hummelstown, Penn.

• 1) The great irony. One of the great virtues of the Big Four: the respect and collegiality they confer on each other. What a pity that their fans often conduct themselves at odds with that civility.

2) Totally with you here. Imagine being the top 100 practitioners of another global profession and being referred to as a “journeyman.”

Just finished my two days at the Australian Open. Was as fun as advertised thanks in part to your suggestions. My two proposed additions:

1. Show courts 2 & 3 have several shaded areas, which are godsends on sunny days.

2. If possible, try to catch a match with an Aussie player. It's lots of fun to hear the home crowd get fired up & scream their various cheers. Thanks again.

• Good to hear. We’ll do more tips next year. Add this one right now: there’s no shame in napping on one of those beanbags.

Read your roundtable story about the Australian Open and I think you're all correct: the Margaret Court issue will be mentioned (and should be). So how about the Australian Open works with a gay rights group in Sydney? As part of a charitable fundraising drive, get a sympathetic match umpire to officiate a same sex wedding (or weddings) at Margaret Court Arena on the court. Has to be some same sex couple who have been waiting for too long and also massive tennis fans. A nice proud middle finger to Margaret Court as part of some good cause.

• Not bad. Sigur Ros almost beat you to it. I’ve said my piece about Margaret Court Arena. To me, anyone who has a certain set of rights and seeks to deprive people of those rights is, by definition, a bigot. Is she entitled to her opinions? Yes. Is she entitled to immunity from the consequences? No.

Shots, Miscellany

• Busy tournament for Ivan Ljubicic, coach of Roger Federer and manager for 15-year-old phenom, Marta Kostyuk.

• Interesting to see these new coaching relationships. Some players (Kevin Anderson comes to mind) had a rough Grand Slam honeymoon.

• Someone get Simona Halep a clothing deal.

• Check out Ian Katz’s blog.

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