© Ella Ling

Rod Laver Arena

Australian Open diary: change in fortunes for Dokic


It was very nice to see Jelena Dokic with a smile on her face at Melbourne Park after her 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anna Chakvetadze of Russia in round one on Tuesday. The 28-year-old Australian has been through enough off-the-court problems to last anyone a lifetime and it would take a heart of stone not to feel delighted for her.

Her recent reconciliation with her father, Damir, whose shenanigans were a regular part of the tour in the early part of his daughter’s career, caused more than a few ripples at Tennis Australia, fearing more confrontations in the future.

But Damir remains banned by the WTA Tour for his previous indiscretions and though in theory, he could buy a ticket to any tournament, organisers have the right to reject anyone if they choose to. Luckily there was no need for that here as Tennis Australia confirmed that he had not asked to come. Good luck to Jelena as she targets a return to the top 20. A former world number four, she is well capable of climbing from her current ranking of 64.

It will be fascinating to see how the Australian papers will react to the first round defeat of their top player and the defending US Open champion Sam Stosur. Those of you familiar with the media here will know the term Tall Poppy Syndrome, the enjoyment in cutting successful people down to size.

Stosur is a real Australian hero and a very quiet, modest person so maybe they will go easy. But it would be a rare showing of compassion from a media described by their former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash – to the Sydney Morning Herald – as having “the most ruthless, unforgiving and cruel sports media in the world”.

The recent scandal of phone hacking and the illegal obtaining of records in the UK might suggest otherwise but Cash ‘It’s tough for anyone to come out here and enjoy themselves and be able to talk openly. ”It’s really disappointing for me because I’m Australian and most Australians I know aren’t like that, but the media is,” he said.

It’s not always that blatant. In Tuesday’s online edition of the Herald Sun, a story about Alicia Molik having her first child was accompanied by a photograph of her with her husband, pictured in front of a bar stacked with wine bottles. Was that really necessary?

Best wishes to Mats Wilander, the former Australian Open champion and ex world number one, working here with Eurosport. In an accident in his apartment, the Swede fell and lacerated one of his kidneys. A statement on his Facebook page said he would be “out of  commission for a while” and hopes to be fully recovered soon.

It’s no laughing matter, of course, but it does refresh the memory about some other sportsmen suffering injuries at home. Stephen Hendry, the seven-times world champion, once fractured his elbow after slipping in his bathroom and Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand strained his back when stretching for the remote control. The sports field is clearly a safer place than the home.

Finally, if ever there is a sign that you’re not top dog any more it’s when you’re shifted away from the main stadium court. When Roger Federer plays Andreas Beck of Germany in the second round on Wednesday, it will be the first time he has not played on Rod Laver Arena since the second round in 2004, a run of 52 straight matches. Wonder if he remembers the way to Hisense  – then called Vodafone – Arena?

  • Oliver Bett

    Can’t resist a dig at Roger can you!