The Beauty and the Beast

G'day from Melbourne! Two flights and roughly 24 hours of total travel time later, I have arrived at Melbourne Park where the faces are fresh and the hopes high for both players and the press corps at the year's first major - what Roger Federer calls "the happy Slam."

A colleague of mine at and I were marveling as we scanned over today's matches at the number of names we don't know. We are supposed to be the tennis "experts," and yet at each major a dozen or so names pop up that register nothing in my brain synapses. For instance, Monday's slate of first-round matches includes the likes of Marcel Granollers-Pujol, Renata Voracova, Yaroslava Shvedova, Nick Lindahl, Meng Yuan and Edina Gallovits. Admittedly, some of the strange names at Slams are typically lower-ranked wild cards that the host country, in this case Australia, automatically can place in the draw. But plenty of others just seem to crop up out of nowhere - which these days usually means Russia or some other former Iron Curtain republic.

I may be wrong, but I think this is what both delights and frustrates fans - the beauty and the beast of tennis. The kaleidescope of new faces and personalities, each with their own story, is constantly evolving and shifting. It's an organic cauldron of facts to keep straight, but it means the tapestry of the game is constantly re-woven from year to year, and in fact from major to major. The downside is that it makes it hard for even the most dedicated aficionados to keep track of recognizable figures. "He's playing who?" is a common refrain, even in the press room. No doubt, some fascinating stories will emerge from Melbourne from new comers and up and comers. Yet fans also want to connect with the faces they already know, which is why there is sometimes a disconnect. Any thoughts from readers?

Myskina Preggers? Career over?
Remember the feisty Anastasia Myskina, the first female Russian Grand Slam singles champ in history? A women's tour officials confirmed what has been reported previously in the Russian Press, that the hot-tempered 2004 Roland Garros champ is pregnant. Myskina has been reluctant to talk about the situation since she is broken up with her on-and-off boyfriend, the Russian hockey player Konstantin Korneev. Word is the 26-year-old is thrilled about the pregnancy and plans to raise the baby (due in May) as a single mother. My source also tells me that her impending motherhood, combined with a chronically injured foot, means her career is likely over, though she has made no official announcement. In any case, Myskina continues to do TV work (commentating of all things about soccer), and is enjoying a more sedentary life away from planes and hotels. Too bad, since the fiery Muscovite was always a good quote and a welcome, volatile presence on the tour. Hey, maybe she can join Lindsay Davenport, Sybille Bammer and Rossana de los Rios as racket-wielding moms!

Contest Winner
By the way, we have a winner on my little photo contest. The as-yet-to-be determined schwag goes to Josh Cooper, a colleague of mine from the Olympic News Service in Athens and Torino. I'll spare him by not mentioning the nickname I gave him when we worked together in Greece. Kudos to Josh for correctly identifying the headless babe as a pre-"bootylicious" Serena Williams (her words describing her body  after winning the title here last year, not mine) in the S.I. swimsuit issue a few years back. 


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  • 1/14/2008 8:48 AM Shane Read wrote:
    Thank you for this exciting blog. It will make following the Australian Open and other tournaments a lot more interesting and fun! I agree that the number of new names is very confusing, particularly for a casual fan such as myself. I think it hurts the game more than it helps. Many sports succeed based on good rivalries and tennis needs more. When you have time, I would be curious why Eastern Europe and Russia are producing all the new players as you suggest.
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