© Ella Ling

Melbourne Park

Australian Open diary: the junior hot-heads


Marcos Baghdatis will take the award for greatest racket smashing over the fortnight here (four in a row when seated at a change of ends) but in terms of pure petulance, Russia’s Yulia Putintseva runs him a close second.

At 17, Putintseva is the second-youngest player in the world’s top 200, behind Britain’s Laura Robson. Based at the Mouratoglou Academy on the outskirts of Paris, she has been working with former world No 1 Martina Hingis.

The Swiss was prone to the odd spat in her time – remember her throwing the toys out of the pram during the French Open final against Steffi Graf in 1999 after a particularly bad umpiring decision – but her actions compare favourably with Putinsteva’s behaviour in the girls’ final here on Saturday.

The Russian had been expected to beat America’s Taylor Townsend for the title but came off second-best in three sets in brutally hot conditions. The heat surely didn’t help but as she waited to shake the hand of Townsend, who was busy celebrating, Putintseva smashed her racket into the court, leaving it in smithereens. “It was so difficult for me to lose this match,” she said. “It was just an explosion, this situation, because I controlled myself all the match. I didn’t throw my racket as much as I could (smiling) but in the end, I just lost it. It happens sometimes. I gave the racket to some people (fans).”

Hingis believes Putintseva can go a long way but Russian coach Olga Morozova said her fear is that at 5ft 4in (1.63m), she may be a bit small. But she has made some strides in the senior game already so there is clearly plenty of potential there. If her racket-smashing antics are not on YouTube yet, they surely will be soon.

Now the Australian language may not have quite the passion or the flair of French or Italian but in terms of the vernacular, it is right up there with the Brits. Luke Saville won the Wimbledon junior title last summer but with Australian great Ken Rosewall in the crowd to see him win the boys’ title here on Saturday, it’s probable that winning in Melbourne is the crowning achievement in his young career to date.

Saville is a genuinely nice guy and a fine prospect but he also has a tongue on him. When accepting the trophy he explained that losing in the final 12 months ago had been a difficult experience. “It feels a s—load better this year,” he said. Well, quite.

Margaret Court was among the guests of honour at the women’s final between Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka on Saturday but the winner of 24 grand slam titles may have just been feeling a little chastened after reading the words of Martina Navratilova. Court has courted controversy (see what I did there?) by maintaining her views that gay marriage should not be allowed in Australia and Navratilova finally lost patience as she wrote an open letter to The Herald Sun newspaper.

The nine-times Wimbledon champion said she still admires Court for her achievements in the game but felt compelled to express her views. Here’s a sample of what she said. “I remember looking up to you. You were one of my role models, and I felt so privileged to be on the same court with you, even as your ball girl. I think that is why it truly pains me now that we can’t see eye to eye. And while I still admire all your accomplishments on the court, I’m disappointed by your inability to acknowledge me as your equal off the court.

“Giving gays and lesbians the right to marry isn’t just a gay rights issue; it is a human rights issue. It is about equal rights and protection under the law for all human beings. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do. It most certainly is a secular issue and not a religious one.”