International tennis is no longer the attractive game it used to be, writes FRANCES THOMPSON.
THE Australian Open is over for another year and its end could not come fast enough.
My interest in the event was sparked about 10 years ago and each January since, it has been mostly a pleasure to watch the greats.
I’m old school.
As a youngster I always played tennis on asphalt and have the scars to prove it.
The family enjoyed playing on grass for a year or two when a relative bought a lovely old house with a court in good nick.
As a kid, I watched Roy Emerson play at Adelaide’s superb grass courts at Memorial Drive when a friend’s dad bought us tickets. That was a really big deal.
But 2013 will be the last Australian Open I will take time to watch.
Sure, some of the games were fantastic but the finals were ugly, played by unhappy people with support teams that looked as if their day job was running guns for the mafia.
Gone is the elegant and skillful serve and volley game, replaced by a boring slugfest from the baseline, massaged for television with bigger balls and bigger rackets and giant players who are now close to two metres tall.
The snarling faces of competitors after lost points left me cold.
Throwing towels and other paraphernalia at the audience is another nasty habit of players developed over recent years.
One doesn’t have to be a lip reader to know what Andy Murray thought of his performance at certain points during the final.
In case someone missed the first time, the close-up is repeated in slow motion to make sure you read the obscenity right.
Goodness knows what the highly-religious Margaret Court thinks sitting in the greats’ box while the organisers and sponsors use hers and other famous faces of past eras to lend some sort of continuity and respectability to what’s called the modern game.
The face of the modern game is Vika Azarenka in a hoodie, ears plugged with an iPod and emerging out of the tunnel and onto the arena like a boxer.
The modern game is a gladiatorial contest as offensive as those repeated obscenities.
Giving up on final night, I switched to a worthy show about cold case archaeology but no luck.
I couldn’t escape what for me has become the modern game’s signature: players screaming with jaws fully extended after a winning point, in slo-mo again.
The tweed and cardie-clad British researchers had found a skeleton buried in a castle.
The skeleton’s jaw was wide open in that awful position that looks as if the dead are laughing at the living.
Problem was it looked just like Novak Djokovic claiming victory against Andy Murray.
I just can’t win.
MODERN FACE: Women’s Australian Open champion Vika Azarenka.