Once again, I am so extremely sad to see the tennis end at the Australian Open Wildcard playoffs here in Atlanta at the Racquet Club of the South (RCS). But here we are and I have to admit that the result somewhat surprised me, at least from the men’s perspective.
I was thinking that 16 year old Madison Keys would most likely come out the winner on the ladies side, and she did not disappoint.. winning rather easily in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 against 20 year old New Yorker, Gail Brodsky. The real surprise came to me on the men’s side however, with 24 year old Jesse Levine coming out the winner, and doing this so convincingly.. defeating Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 in just 1 hour and 24 minutes.
Ginepri was also surprised by this outcome and quickly packed up his things and left, even before the trophy ceremony. But one of the tournament executives ran him down, and made it clear to him that part of his responsibilities was to take part of the final ceremony and accept his runner-up trophy. He graciously, although somewhat reluctantly, conceded and accepted his 2nd place fate. A very difficult thing to do in front of all the local Georgia fans of his.
The outcome was surprising to me for several reasons, but this was only after sorting through Sock’s retirement which came the day before at 4-5 in the third against Denis Kudla.
At only 19 years of age, you would think Jack could fight through minor cramping, especially at an indoor tournament, but unfortunately it was more than minor, and there were other obstacles for the teenager that most weren’t aware of. You see, Jack was fighting off a cold and had taken some cold medicine earlier that day, which somewhat exacerbated the problem and dehydrated him more than he would have liked. When he fell on the court grabbing his legs in pain, I knew it was over for him and I thought okay, it’s Ginepri’s tournament to lose now.
After discussing my opinions with Jack later, he informed me that indeed Jesse would win the event and that he was so certain of this that he was willing to take a bet on it. So, me being the extremely competitive person that I am, begged to differ, and took him up on the bet. Let me assure you when I say, that I have never wanted Robby Ginepri to win anything more IN MY LIFE than I did at that moment. I had a great deal to gain by winning this bet.. but unfortunately, and much to my surprise, I came out the loser.
What shocked me even more about the result was how convincingly Levine won against the veteran Ginepri. It just goes to show how much I don’t know, or my lack of keeping up with what is going on in the tennis world among players ranked in the world’s top 100. Shame on me.
So, a couple of things I learned at the tournament this year: After a presser with Patrick McEnroe and Robby Ginepri, I was taken back by a couple of things. McEnroe is a tough customer, taking nobody’s “bull” let me assure you. I’m thinking this runs in the family what do you folks think? And Ginepri is nothing what I thought he was. The first time I met him (in 2010) he seemed very aloof and not really the friendliest of sorts. I came to find out that he is somewhat shy and introverted and that this is not really indicative of who he is at all. He was very friendly and seemed more than happy to answer the questions asked of him with a big smile on his face at all times.
On day 2 of the event, while some of the matches were still taking place at RCS, I was able to spend some time with 2011 US Open Mixed Doubles Champions Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin. The two couldn’t be nicer and their friendship is somewhat adorable. So much so, that fans came up to them asking for their autographs and subsequently asked them if they were dating. They just laughed and said no they weren’t. They do make a very cute couple if I do say so myself. Although they will not be playing together at the 2012 Australian Open, I am certain we will be seeing Jack and Melanie play more mixed doubles together in the future. Of course, I had to put my two cents in and told the pair that they should indeed play together again. I’m certain they took my advice seriously as who would be a better expert on the sport of tennis other than “moi”. Unfortunately, Jack will not be going to Australia, but Melanie will be heading Down Under to play in the qualifying event and I’m hoping to see her do well there.
So, when I asked Jack how he liked being endorsed by Adidas now, rather than the Beaverton, Oregon giant Nike, he stated that he was loving it. One of the big reasons: he has wide feet.. and Adidas makes a wider tennis shoe than Nike. Adidas also has his name engraved on his shoes and a large “N” on his tennis jackets. The “N” represents his beloved University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, where his brother Eric is a junior and plays tennis. His father, Larry also attended Nebraska and played golf there. Needless to say, there is a lot of athletic “giftedness” in the Sock family.
By the way, speaking of Melanie earlier, she is now training full-time down in Boca Raton, Florida with many other up and coming young American players (including Keys). She’s hoping to take her game to the next level in the very near future. By the way, did you know that Melanie is endorsed by Wilson now? (okay so I didn’t know that)
One last random thing to mention before I sign off: Jesse Levine is so much SHORTER than I thought and Madison Keys is so much TALLER than I thought. She’s 6’1 by the way.. I see another Venus Williams or Maria Sharapova in our future for sure.
So lastly, let me say that Levine is extremely excited to play in the “big show” in Australia and both he and Keys are carrying a great deal of confidence going into the first Grand slam of the year.
So let’s get Down Under already shall we!