Tennis starts, expect a good year

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The new tennis season kicked off this week at the 2009 Australian Open in Melbourne, where players are braving the heat on their way to claiming the Grand Slam title.

In addition to the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open are included in the Grand Slam hunt.

The other night I was trying to figure out what makes each championship different. On one hand you have the many number of players from all around the world competing for the No. 1 spot.

That wasn’t it.

And, on the other hand you have the dominant few who rise fast in their groups to the championship match — namely Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sarapova, Jelena Jankovic, Venus and Serena Williams, to name a few.

That isn’t it, either.

The one thing that makes all four tournaments different is none other than — turf.

Yes, the surface that these and other players play on can make the difference in how they play.

How the ball bounces, speed and maneuvering around the tennis court can all be affected by the surface of the court.

At the Australian Open and U.S. Open, hard surfaced turfs are used, namely a Plexicushion at the Australian and Deco Turf at the U.S. Open.

At the French Open and Wimbledon championships, they use a more natural surface.

The French Open employs the use of red clay, while Wimbledon takes extra care and time to ready the grass surface in June.

The Australian Open will not end until Feb. 1, yes the same day as Super Bowl XLIII, and I have a feeling the American-born Andy Roddick will take the title.

For Federer and Nadal, I know they will make it to either the quarterfinals or semifinals at Melbourne.

It would be great if they came back together after the monumental final match last year at Wimbledon.

That would be poignant.

Think about it, Roddick has hired a new coach, lost 15 pounds, and, like Federer and Nadal, has opened at the Australian with wins.

In an interview with ESPN the other day, Roddick said his new coach has been drilling him with repetition at practice.

That sounds familiar.

Repetition, in all its forms, is essential to any athlete’s skill in their choice of sport.

With the hard court Plexicushion surface in Australia, I think Roddick will have no trouble maneuvering the court while pounding the ball across the net to win the title.