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Why You Should Watch the Australian Open

I feel the need to justify my being voluntarily awake at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning, tuned into ESPN2.

I was watching the Australian Open, which is taking place in Melbourne between January 14th and 27th. Melbourne, Australia, is GMT + 11:00, while we are – 5:00. This means that Melbourne is 16 hours ahead of us, unfortunately.

For those of you with little tennis background, I will cover some of the basics. Each calendar year there are numerous tournaments on the pro circuit, but the ones with the most coverage are the four Majors—French Open, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open. They are often (incorrectly) referred to as “slams” or “grand slams”; technically a grand slam is when a player wins all four majors in a calendar year.

The Australian Open is the youngest Major and the least steeped in history. For this reason, in the past, players such as Bjorn Borg skipped the event. However, the AO has risen in prestige and the top players never miss it.

This year’s Australian Open is bound to be gripping based on a number of factors that are combining to create excellent tennis. For instance, pundits have spoken of a “changing of the guard” for several seasons now. Tennis fans continue to wait for the young, rising stars to upset the entrenched Big Four—Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray—but few have been able to do so. The Australians had put their hope in the up-and-comer Bernard Tomic, but Federer eliminated him.

In the top half of the draw, things have gone as close to predictable as one can safely assert. Predictability, however, does not take away from entertainment. Top drawer tennis from the top seeds has been undeniable.

Players are seeded based on the ranking points they have earned in previous tournaments. The no. 1 seed has the most points, the no. 2 seed the second most, etc. Seeded players are paired with non-seeded players in the first rounds of a tournament, but more often than not seeded players end up playing one another in the later rounds. 

The Djokovic-Stanislas Wawrinka match showcased the Swiss’ impressively improved game, though he failed to make it past the no. 1 seed. Djokovic will surely be physically exhausted after the close five set match he played, if not more mentally tired. This leaves room for speculation about his ability to pull through the semi-final.

If the promise of excellent quality tennis is not enough to convince you to stay up to ungodly hours, perhaps the imminent threat of Roger Federer’s retirement may suffice.

Federer is nearing the end of his career, much to the dismay of Federer fans, tennis fans, sports fans, and the world as a whole. Setting a 3 a.m. alarm seems a small price to pay to watch the widely-recognized greatest tennis player of all time—he’s 31-years old and still in peak form.

While I recognize most people are not cut out for this sort of commitment, most people will regret forgoing the chance to witness Federer’s genius on display. No one knows how much longer he will play and we take for granted that he will make it deep into the draw—so each match counts.

Looking forward, David Ferrer will face Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. In the bottom half of the draw, Federer will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray will play the French Jeremy Chardy, who was unseeded. It is safe to say that Murray will get through his match with relative ease. The Scot seems to have overcome his mental trials by capturing his first Major title and the Olympic gold this summer.

Federer and Tsonga’s match will likely be more interesting. The pair’s head to head—the record of all of the official matches they have played one another in—is 8-3, with Federer leading. The element experts will focus on in this match is whether Federer is slipping due to age and the slowing down of his body. T

Though experts love to tear Federer apart and predict his descent, the Swiss has played a near flawless tournament. Tsonga will surely be Federer’s biggest challenge in the tournament, but it is unlikely an upset will occur. Federer has conserved energy winning in straight sets every match so far and his form has been consistent.

But right now, it’s still anyone’s game.

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