I follow a lot of people on twitter, but one of my very favorites goes by the handle @phenom1984. He is smart, he is funny, and he knows a lot about baseball. And football, and apparently tennis. Come to think of it, I have no idea why he isn’t a staff writer here. Oh wait. I remember now. He has a job and kids and school and a life, he even has a blog he doesn’t write on much.
Anyway, I’ve been bugging him to write stuff for me for a long time now and he did and so I am very happy. Please welcome Phenom.
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Despite facing an alarm that would be going off at 4:30 in the morning, I could be found at 11:30 last night watching, of all things, tennis. Specifically, the Australian Open, which started a couple days ago in Melbourne. Considering Australia is on the other side of the world, all the good stuff happens overnight for those of us in the Eastern Time Zone, so I have to take what I can get and sacrifice some things like, well, sleep.Directv has no fewer than six channels dedicated to Australian Open coverage, and these can be found in the 700s for those of you wondering where to get your tennis fix. One of these channels is a mix channel which shows as many as six matches at once. Those of you familiar with Directv mix channels know that it’s the most awesomest and most crappiest way to watch, because we are simultaneously treated to tons of similar coverage wrapped into the smallest of available screen space. This, however, did not deter me as I settled into the pulse-pounding excitement of the much-ballyhooed and overhyped second round match between… umm… crap, no Wikipedia today… wait, there it is…USA’s own Christina McHale and neighboring New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic.
I’ll pause while you slide to the edge of your seats.
I tuned in as McHale was placing a chokehold on the second set, up 5-2 on Erakovic despite losing the first set 6-3. McHale, however, was thoroughly outplayed by Erakovic and fell behind 6-5 before tying and eventually winning the set with a 7-4 tiebreaker. I watched until it was 2-2 in the 3rd and realized I had to either sleep or pull an all-nighter, and this morning I found that McHale won the third set 6-3 to advance to the 3rd round, where she’ll face Serbian Jelena Jankovic, who will likely send the spry 19-year-old back to Jersey, or wherever the hell she’s from.
I’ve always enjoyed watching tennis. I could never play, because you have to run and stuff, but the sport always fascinated me and I have no idea why. There’s plenty of action and maybe that’s what does it for me, but beyond that, following the strategy within a single game or even a single volley brings my mind to a place that’s usually reserved for baseball, or maybe 4th and 1 at the 37. It’s dinking the outside corner over and over again until killing you with a fastball on the inside black, or calling plays all day that lead to the flawless timing and execution of a screen pass in the middle of the 4th quarter. For many people tennis is hitting a ball back and forth, but I see each volley as another move in a chess game. I’m going to lull you into thinking… absolutely knowing what I’m going to do next and then I’m going to beat you another way.
The men’s game often turns into power against power, but the women’s game is often all about strategy and finesse. A notable thing about this particular match was the television announcer calling it a “physical” match. I think you’ll agree that “physical” is a term generally reserved for football, basketball, hockey and the like, but it was an apt description. McHale and Erakovic were working incredibly hard and thankfully for them, it wasn’t going unnoticed.
I am willing to admit that the enjoyment I find in tennis may cost me some man points, and I guess I’m okay with that, and if you’ve found as much excitement in tennis as you do in, say, competitive photosynthesis, well, I guess that’s okay, too. I get dibs on the remote, though, and I’ll still drink the good beer while I watch.