Those spectators old enough to remember the era of Australian tennis where Rosewall, Laver, Newcombe, Emmerson, Court and Goolagong ruled are being subjected to the same sort of treatment racing fans experience when they watch the Melbourne Cup go yet again to an international.
One possible exception is Ash Barty, who is battling through the Australian Open and is into the third round after defeating Yafan Wang of China 6 – 2, 6 – 3.
Superlatives were in abundance, as commentators Todd Woodbridge and Sam Smith tried to outdo one another in praising Barty.
“Just purrs around the court, doesn’t she? John McEnroe has called her the best volleyer in women’s tennis,” Smith said.
“It’s ‘Feder-esque’. It is that type of play that we see Federer play so well,” was the follow-up from Woodbridge.
Federer did not appear his usual Feder-esque self, going to tiebreak in two sets before Britain’s Dan Evans wilted.
Barty next play Maria Sakkari of Greece. Sakkari had no trouble with local qualifier Astra Sharma. Sakkari is young and hungry and has managed to claw her way as high as world no. 29, compared to Barty’s ranking of 15.
Another of the Aussie women, Kimberly Birrell, took out the 29th seed, Donna Vekic. The match went three sets, but Birrell took control in the third and surrendered only one game. The win gains her the dubious task of facing off against Angelique Kerber.
On the men’s side, local boy Alex de Minaur has advanced by beating Henri Laaksonen in the second round, only to walk away from the court and learn that his next opponent is Rafael Nadal.
Cheer up, young man, the AO officials turned down Nadal’s request to replace the surfaces in Melbourne with clay.
“It’s a different position for me, a position I’m not really used to. It’s sort of come out of nowhere,” De Minaur told reporters after beating Laaksonen on Margaret Court Arena.
It might be a familiar position following round three. One bookmaker has given Nadal the Winx-esque odds of $1.11 to De Minaur’s $6.50