Laura Robson was not even a twinkle in her grandparents’ eyes (if that makes sense) when Margaret Court was winning her 24 grand slam singles titles in the 1960s and 1970s but the Briton made a pretty bold statement when she wore a rainbow hair band in her hair for her match with former world number one Jelena Jankovic on day one. Robson does not even turn 18 until Saturday but, in response to a mini-campaign on Facebook and Twitter, the English teenager chose to wear the ribbon, making a statement of her own in unity with those angry at Court’s vocal opposition to same-sex marriage.
It was a bold move from Robson, who received huge support from the crowd. Born in Australia but raised in England from a young age, the teenager was obviously not afraid to make her views known on a very public stage. “I never saw a direct quote from Court so I don’t want to comment when I haven’t actually spoken to her,” Robson said after her defeat. “But I believe in equal rights for everyone – that is why I wore it.”
For the record, the Facebook Rainbow Flags over Margaret Court Arena group would like the Australia legend’s name removed from the stadium. Australian Open organisers say they respect Court’s achievements in the sport but add that her views are her own.
Brad Gilbert has long used a series of nicknames for the world’s top players, from Dr Ivo, for Ivo Karlovic, Swordfish for Mardy Fish, Tuna Melzer for Jurgen Melzer and Muzzard for his former pupil Andy Murray. His original name for Bernard Tomic was Weekend at Bernie’s but he came up with a new one via Twitter on Monday: Gin and Tomic. The young Australian gave a kick to the home nation’s hopes as he came from two sets down to beat number 22 seed Fernando Verdasco in a thriller.
Another Briton, Elena Baltacha, is a recent signatory to the gluten-free army that is sweeping the tennis world. The dietary regime was made popular by Novak Djokovic, who won three grand slam titles in 2011 after ditching the heavy pasta and pizza. Baltacha promises she is not doing it because everyone else is: “I’m not copying, I promise” but says she is already feeling the benefits. “I think everyone who does it would say the same thing, you don’t feel that stodginess in your stomach after heavy pasta.”
Finding gluten-free food might be more difficult when it comes to the French Open, where steak, bread and cheese are the food of choice. But here in Melbourne, it is far easier, with much of the food in the players’ restaurant gluten-free, aided, no doubt, by the fact that a number of Melbourne Park staff are gluten-free themselves. It’s no surprise that gluten-free bread and pasta is available but Baltacha also had a bit of extra help with the arrival of some gluten-free jaffa cakes from Sainsbury’s, kindly brought over by a friend. Nice.
Tennis continues to fight corruption within the sport, especially when it comes to illegal betting and spot-fixing. Players are becoming more aware of their role in the battle and there have been fewer examples recently of players being suspended for betting on other players’ matches, something banned under the ATP code.
The battle to eradicate “courtsiders” – those who sit by the court and send information to gamblers to exploit the delay before bookmakers get that same information – is being stepped up but it is encouraging to see the Australian Open taking a refreshingly adult approach to the whole subject.
Unlike at the French Open, US Open and many other tournaments, where fear gets the better of common sense, journalists are not blocked from accessing to betting websites on site at Melbourne Park. Accredited journalists are not allowed to bet – and that’s fine – but it’s nice to see them not bowing to the paranoia and ignorance that often clouds judgement.
When is it not good to be first? When you’re the first person to lose at a grand slam event, that’s when. Britain’s Heather Watson had that unfortunate honour on Monday after she was outclassed by No.3 seed Victoria Azarenka. The 19-year-old lasted just 67 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, just about edging Kimiko Date-Krumm to the dubious milestone.
The captions on host broadcaster Channel 7 have room for only a certain number of characters and the operator was clearly having a laugh during Li Na’s match with Ksenia Pervak. There is no need to shorten Li’s name, of course, but the Kazakh’s name didn’t quite make it. The result, you guessed it, Perv. Lovely.