5 Things We Hated About Australian Open Week 1

The Australian Open 2017 is half over!! While there were many things we loved about the year’s first Slam, including some sublime tennis from back-from-injury Roger Federer and an epic on-court battle between Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova, we have to admit there’s some stuff that’s been making us really cranky this week. Like, no-chocolate-in-the-house levels of cranky. So, we thought we’d rant about it and share it all with you, dear Tennis Inside Out readers, and you can feel free to rant right along with us.

1. Tennis Channel and ESPN Coverage

Anyone that follows @TennisInsideOut on Twitter knows that this is one of Val’s pet peeves, but she’s not the only one with gripes against the network coverage of the Slams. Sometimes there are minor complaints, like the “bush-birds calling” commercial that is played so often we surely must have been subliminally brainwashed to do something–we just don’t know what it is yet…and we’re scared.

The major complaints are when the channels continually ignore the matches of top-ranked players in favor of Americans who are playing horribly or locked in boring serve-fests that go on for four hours. Or showing top-ranked players in embarrassing blowouts rather than a spine-tingling thriller that’s in a crucial TB or heading into extra sets. While it can be tough to please everyone when there are so many matches going on, there are some days when they truly please no one at all.

Probably the biggest gripe is the lack of any coverage at all. ESPN especially takes huge swathes of time out from live tennis, recapping stuff we’ve already seen 12 times, conducting 20-minute-long interviews, and showing talking heads at the desk for a half hour. Look, we get that you want to appeal to some of the less diehard fans who may tune in and don’t know what all the drama’s about, but you don’t need 45 minutes to do it. Also, let’s be real — at 4:30am, the only people watching your station are the people who want to see the damn Bacsinszky/Gavrilova match. SO PUT IT ON THE AIR.

Yes, we are Stan Wawrinka fans. Yes, we are biased. But the lack of coverage for a three-time Slam champion is often pushed to the point of hilarity, where the Swiss player is only given screen time when it looks like he may be losing. His matches are scheduled against other top players who are given all the coverage, and four sets in, we’ll suddenly be rushed over to Stan’s match because he’s facing a break point.

The ladies, of course, are also given the short straw many times. On the night of the aforementioned Daria/Timea match, coverage was given to all of the men’s matches proceeding, switching to another men’s contest as soon as one ended. When those were over for the day, and we all excitedly anticipated the ladies’ night match, ESPN went into recap/interview mode, neglecting to tune in to the Rod Laver Arena or to the Pliskova/Ostapenko match going on simultaneously, until they were already five games into the first set.

In a double whammy of pet peeves, when AO champ Stan and AO champ (and current #1) Angie Kerber both played on Rod Laver, neither was shown during the live coverage. Clearly the Open organizers thought they were headliners…but our cable sports networks did not.

YES, ESPN has nice coverage online or in their app, and we are grateful for having the freedom of finding that obscure match only we want to watch while Serena humiliates another low-ranked player on our big screen TV. However, it seems like filler content, talking heads, and interviews would be more suitable on the online platform, and putting actual live tennis on our flatscreens. I mean, I’ve never watched a hockey game and had them leave the action in the middle of the 2nd period to interview a player from another team. Why does tennis get this treatment?

2. Commentators Off the Rails

Griping about commentators is an international pastime, and can be very subjective and a hell of a lot of fun. Most tennis fans agree on some major fails however, and one of them is a lack of respect for the players. Constructive criticism is fine, and even the *occasional* rant about the antics of Nick Kyrgios or Benoit Paire is understandable. It’s more offensive when it’s a pattern of negative speak, and one of the commentators mentioned most often is former pro and volatile line-call challenger, John McEnroe.

Then there is the 75-year-old former pro Cliff Drysdale, who is repeatedly condescending of women’s tennis, yet always is scheduled to commentate WTA matches. One of the most egregious comments we’ve heard him make this year was in a discussion with co-host Mary Jo Fernandez (former #4-ranked player and Fed Cup captain for eight years) about Caroline Wozniacki’s attempts during her career to change her defensive style to a more aggressive one.

Sadly, this wasn’t the worst comment made by those calling the match for ESPN, or more specifically, the worst animal reference. By now you’ve likely heard about Doug Adler’s offensive description of Slam champion Venus Williams.

Once the social media firestorm erupted over Adler’s comments, ESPN responded swiftly, and as you can read above, action was taken. While less inflammatory, the other issues remain unaddressed, and it seems disappointing that many of these major networks lock themselves into their commentators and never remove them from duty unless they say something *SO* outrageous that it can’t be swept aside. We would love the networks to have more oversight of their on-air representatives, and to do something about those who are repeatedly insulting players and/or offending viewers/listeners.

3. Aga Radwanska Goes Out in 2nd Round

While this was a feel-good story for 34-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who won her first match at the AO in 19 years, it was another disappointment for faithful Radwanska fans.

One of the most gifted and entertaining tennis players to watch, the crafty Ninja defeats opponents with her agility, creativity, defense skills, and obscene variety of shots in her repertoire. Every tournament inevitably ends with Radwanska in its highlight reel of masterful points, wickedly arcing drop shots, forehands behind the back, or that trademark squat shot way back at the baseline.

While many hoped that Radwanska would someday win a Major, every year that dream seems further away. As each tour progresses, the Polish player inevitably meets doom–often going out meekly in a match immediately after one in which she performed amazingly well. While there do seem to be times when Radwanska seems to lose mental focus in her matches, which is devastating to her complex game, there is also another common theme in her losses:

Tennis icon Martina Navratilova recently said on air that she feels World #2 Novak Djokovic is “too skinny” and she feels it’s affecting his level of play. Tennis players often have to find the right balance between being light enough to move quickly around the court, but having enough muscular strength to hit powerful shots — and also to sustain their opponent’s hits on their racquet. One can’t help but wonder if the lithe Radwanska can ever work through her entire side of the draw by dancing out of the way of rocket-launched tennis balls, rather than eventually failing at absorbing the onslaught. We live in hope.

(Article continues below.)


4. Genie Bouchard’s Horrendous Nike Outfit

Yes, Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard is an attractive woman. Yes, we know that the men in her Genie Army are very happy that Nike is putting her in outfits so skimpy they barely even count as “clothing.” However, we can’t help enjoying the more traditional side of tennis and the idea of wear what you want and show off those killer abs in front of your drooling fanbase while on the practice court, but dress a little more professionally when you’re on the court for a real match.

We aren’t alone, either. Plenty were horrified by Genie’s “nightie” kit last year at the Australian Open, and this year’s see-through crop top wasn’t appreciated by many tennis fans, either. Aside from whether you want to completely see Genie’s bra when she’s playing or not, the outfits just honestly haven’t been flattering or practical, with too-small, ill-fitting cuts, and tops that fly up when hitting a big powerful serve, or in the wind, which can seriously distract any player. Or distract the men attending the match who will trip and fall down the stairs and SPILL THEIR $20 BEER OMG THE HUMANITY.

So, once again, we gotta label the #StripperGenie line of clothing a #NikeFail

5. All That Anti-American Player Hate on Twitter

While Twitter is not always a hotbed of positivity, there’s been an upswing of player bashing and just general unpleasantness sweeping the tennis community online lately, that upsurged dramatically this week. Normally we like to drown out the bad stuff with a never-ending stream of unintelligible nonsense screamed out during live-match-tweeting, RTing funny gifs, and worshipping Angie Kerber’s thighs and Stan Wawrinka’s arse, but we found it difficult to endure this week.

It was painful enough that it was one of the first things we wanted to include in our AO Hate List, but we ended up writing so much that we felt we had enough for a post of its own. So, if you’ll indulge us, please cast a vote for our sanity and read our heartfelt plea:

A Word About All that Anti-American Player Stuff on Twitter

Thanks for reading, and please share or RT if you enjoyed! Or even if you didn’t enjoy, because hey, we need the ad money.

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