Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Lukewarm Australian Open Is Ready To Turn Up The Heat

By Shane Thomas

The men's tournament at the Australian Open has been a touch lukewarm thus far, not fitting of what is a golden age for men's tennis. But that should soon change as we've now reached the semi-final stage.

Despite the portents of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro, not to mention the coming names of Milos Raonic, Bernard Tomic and Alex Dolgopolov, the sport remains the domain of the big four, and it's those men who will slug it out amongst themselves in the first Grand Slam of the year.

Andy Murray - the only member of this group yet to win one of the sport's major titles - will go up against reigning champion, Novak Djokovic. Over the past 12 months, Djokovic went from a man with tons of potential to, "the man". He's the benchmark in the sport, and will go into Friday's contest as favourite.

Murray has a good record at Melbourne Park, reaching the last two finals Down Under, and has looked in good form throughout the tournament. Many pundits think that Murray is drawing closer to breaking Britain's prolonged wait for a Grand Slam champion. Also in his favour is that while Djokovic has breezed to the semis, he has been suffering with injury & illness, so if Murray can make the match last as long as possible, he may be able to outlast the Serb.

Murray knows what it takes the beat the world's best, and the key to these victories in his serve. His major weakness is his chiffon-like second serve, which gets devoured by any returner worth their salt. But when Murray gets a high percentage of his first serves in, he lays the platform to dominate rallies, and many overlook just how good he is in this situation. No player has the range of shots in the game than Murray.

However, his serving has been alarmingly inconsistent. In his quarter-final against Kei Nishikori, it was less than 50%. Repeat that, and Nole will win in straight sets. Either way, the winner will face the victor of the Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer semi-final. And I've said plenty on what happens when they do combat.


This week brought the news that former American football coach of Pennsylvania State University, Joe Paterno, passed away from lung cancer.

Now, Paterno became notorious for his association with the child abuse scandal that took place in November at Penn State. I recently rained verbal fire & brimstone upon all involved, including Paterno. Given that he's passed away, do I now feel regret for my comments?

Not a bit of it, but personal conduct doesn't have to directly correlate with professional achievements. His career as an American football coach is outstanding and speaks for itself. The same goes for his failure to take requisite action when made aware of the behaviour of his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Whatever your opinions on the man, it should never cause us to absolve ourselves from common decency. Unconscionable actions doesn't give one an excuse to follow suit. To the people who made petty and infantile jokes in the light of Paterno's death, you should be ashamed.

To those who continue to defend Paterno with such maddening fealty, you should also be ashamed. But the fact is that a human being - who did both good and bad things - has died, and that should give no pleasure to anyone.

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