WASHINGTON, January 21, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
On Sunday morning, I awoke at 6 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Time) and turned on my living room flatscreen TV to the third set of the Grigor Dimitrov versus Nick Kyrgios R16 clash, arguably the most anticipated men’s match so far at this year’s Australian Open not featuring a member of the Big Four. Perhaps, unlike any of the other Grand Slams, the “Happy Slam” in Melbourne presents its own set of challenges that have nothing to do the occasional outbursts of 40º heat. Namely, it’s the time zone difference between the U.S. and Australia – not to mention, trying to keep track of what day and time it is Down Under.
On the U.S. east coast where I live, we are 16 hours behind Melbourne. Thus, for me, following this year’s AO begins each evening at 7 p.m. while I’m enjoying dinner with my wife – and, when it’s already 11 a.m. the next day in Australia as the first competitors take court on Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena, or any of the other tennis courts spread throughout the Melbourne Park grounds. While it might be easy enough for me to adjust my sleep schedule just for a fortnight – and stay awake through the night here in Washington, D.C. – it’s not very practical. After all, I know my body clock best, and pulling all-nighters are something I gave up a long time ago after my university days ended. Instead, I usually try to catch about four hours of tennis each night before my bedtime by tuning in to one or both of the U.S. broadcasters, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, which provide American fans with excellent coverage and analysis regardless of how good or poorly the Americans are faring on the court. Plus, ESPN’s WatchESPN app enables me to catch action on all of the “outside” courts not being featured during their live TV presentation. Between the two broadcast networks showing live matches and replays throughout the day and night – and Tennis Channel’s daily pre-game Tennis Channel Live at the Australian Open airing one hour before first match that nicely sets the stage for the day ahead – there’s 24/7 tennis on TV here in the U.S. for everyone to tap into and enjoy.
Plus, keeping up with the AO through social media – especially Twitter, where I follow an assortment of American and international tennis writers, several of ESPN’s commentators like Brad Gilbert, various tennis websites and tennis podcasters, and the ATP and WTA media insiders – is not only a must; it opens up a great opportunity to learn “live time” what others are seeing and thinking, and to exchange thoughts and comments. And, it’s also a quick way for me to get caught up on what I might have missed while sleeping.
For instance, Sunday evening’s featured match on RLA between No. 3 seed Dimitrov and the mercurial Aussie Kyrgios, who many pointed out showed tremendous on-court maturity, began about 4 a.m. my time. That’s just a little too early for me to be awake for any reason let alone watching a tennis match taking place 16 time zones away. Mind you, it was already 8 p.m. in Melbourne when the match started, which meant it was 10 a.m. throughout central Europe – a much more sane and reasonable time for anyone else in the world to be tuned in. Instead, I joined the action late, and as I made a pot of French roast coffee to perk me up, I perused through a few hours of old tweets parked on my Twitter feed and, quickly, gained a feel for what I had missed overnight, both in this match as well as others that took place earlier (learning that Rafael Nadal, Marin Cilic and Kyle Edmund all had advanced to the quarterfinals). Soon, as my first cup of coffee hit the spot, I was caught up and ready to watch the Dimitrov-Kyrgios match to its thrilling conclusion, which ended well after 11 p.m. in Melbourne. Indeed, as I learned, a lot can happen in just a few hours when my TV is off and my smartphone is put away all in the noble pursuit of catching a few hours of quality shut eye.
The bottom line: Each day during the AO, there is a plethora of newspaper and website articles and opinions, tweets and podcasts available to stay on top of all of the tennis action. While it may be impossible to digest it all each day, certainly, there’s no shortage of good and informative and – at times – entertaining information. In addition to Tennis-TourTalk, of course, my favorite must-reads and must-listens each day, include:
• New York Times tennis columnist Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey), a 25-year veteran of covering the AO;
• Sports Illustrated executive editor and tennis writer Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim), who also contributes commentary and analysis for Tennis Channel;
• WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen (@WTA_insider and @FortyDeuceTwits), who adds the right mixture of fact and humor to her writing, tweets and WTA podcasts;
• Ben Rothenberg, New York Times tennis correspondent (@BenRothenberg), who like Nguyen, is very knowledgable on the history of the sport, and is quick at disseminating facts, opinion and other interesting nuances about the tennis.
• Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil), an Egyptian tennis journalist who, like Roger Federer, is fluent in many languages, and who contributes a wealth of features for the Dubai-based Sport360.com sports daily.
• The Tennis Podcast, a downloaded radio show presented weekly throughout the tennis season by the U.K.’s David Law (BBC 5 Live) and Catherine Whitaker (Eurosport), which features guests, chat and predictions. During the AO, much to my delight – and I’m sure others, too – Law and Whitaker have been producing a highly enjoyable and informative daily podcast (each episode is usually about 30 minutes in duration) that’s definitely worth checking out.
• Hall of Famer John McEnroe and his brother, Patrick McEnroe, both of them commentators for ESPN, whose contributions greatly enhance any match they are assigned to broadcast. On Sunday, the McEnroe brothers brought much excitement to the Dimitrov-Kyrgios match for those of us who were awake early enough to witness it. Consider this late exchange during the fourth set with the outcome of the match still hanging in the balance: John – “Nerves can freak you out.” Patrick – “Consider these two freaked.” Or this, said by John McEnroe, about Dimitrov and Kyrgios following the conclusion of their nearly four-hour battle, which Dimitrov won by winning all of his sets via tie-breaks: “You are damn right they both brought it.”
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.