By Dave Seminara
Weâ€™re not even a full week into this yearâ€™s Australian Open and Iâ€™m already exhausted. As a tennis fanatic, my four seasons are the Australian, the French, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.Â If Iâ€™m not at the tournament, I have to be parked in front of the T.V.Â Friends and relatives who have the temerity to request my presence during these times can generally count me out.
And while some tennis fans snooze through the first week of majors, waiting for the heavyweights to square off, Iâ€™m dialed in from the moment the first ball is struck. There is nothing like the first week of a major for sheer quantity of tennis.Â I can watch one court on T.V., have another dialed up on my laptop and a third on my iPod.Â Sometimes I use a second laptop to get some work done, while the three matches coexist around me.
But the Australian Open, played in Melbourne 16 hours ahead of E.S.T., presents a unique set of challenges for tennis mad Yanks like me.Â ESPN offers live coverage all night and my DVR struggles to cope. Inevitably, the programs my wife and children watch have to be deleted to make room for my tennis. I try to be reasonable, but am I supposed to miss the 3 a.m.Â Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match just to make room for Top Chef and The Cat in the Hat? Not bloody likely, mate.
Into this orgy of tennis comes the news that the Tennis Channel has ended its five-month-long dispute with Verizon. As a frustrated Verizon subscriber, Iâ€™ve been leaving pleading, wistful, ex-girlfriend-like messages on the Tennis Channelâ€™s Facebook page for months, along with many other like-minded tennis junkies, so this news comes like manna from heaven.
I stay up well past midnight to watch live action and then when my eyes get too tired to focus, I lay down and listen to the Australian Open radio feed on my iPod.Â Trying to follow tennis on the radio is laughable; I have no clue whatâ€™s going on, but I love falling to sleep with the thwack of tennis balls ringing in my ears. If I wake up during the night, I might check back in to see whatâ€™s happening Down Under, or I might not, if I think Iâ€™ll have time to relive the whole thing on D.V.R. the next day.
Either way, friends are cautioned not to reveal the results of matches to me, in case Iâ€™m behind on my tennis.Â During the first week of any major, Iâ€™m tuned in looking for the epic five setters. I get riled up when the networks cut away from live action in favor of interviews. With online streaming there isnâ€™t much to complain about these days but still Iâ€™m never satisfied.
Four days into the fortnight, Iâ€™ve heard ESPN commentator Brad Gilbertâ€™s â€œstick save and a beautâ€ line about 20 times, and the Melbourne tourism boardâ€™s commercial, featuring Holly Throsbyâ€™s ballad, â€œA Heart Divided,â€ roughly 14,000 times. I still love them both.
Iâ€™ll enjoy week two of the tournament but will also feel a twinge of sadness when the live action is reduced to just a few courts and all the players from tennis backwaters like New Zealand and Luxembourg are long gone from the draw.Â The chorus of Thosbyâ€™s song sums up that bittersweet feeling perfectly.Â I wanna know where you go when youâ€™re gone.