Open closes with that familiar feel
THE Open is now shut. The Open is always open, even when it is shut. The faces remain the same, the names remain the same, the winners too, but they are only part of it. Because the Open shuts early for some, and never closes for others. The Open is always open because there are many opens.
There is the Open we have here. That is the Open of ''Oh Sam, not again, what happened this time''? And of ''Bernie, we know you can be a royal pain in the Ferrari, but jingoes we like it when you win. Now can you stop fighting with Our Pat (we really like him still)''. That is the Oi Oi Oi Open and this year had a familiar ring to it - lots of hope, more hype, and latterly even more tenuously adopted locals.
The ''Strayan Open'' really ended when Sam Stosur, ahem, choked (her words, not ours. Well OK, they were words put in her mouth but she humbly admitted she had swallowed them.) The Strayan Open halted there because as good as Bernie (Tomic) will be, he is not there yet. No one in their right mind, and that admittedly can be a small pool in tennis, seriously felt Bernie could press on and win the whole damn thing. But Sam was a different story. We figured it was OK to believe she genuinely could win it because as good as the other women are she has beaten them all before and more importantly she has won a slam. Sadly, she plays better with the white shorts on, the home thing seems to stifle her. Bernie is the opposite - he plays better in the black shorts of the home team.
So as those two flag bearers left the building (and it bears repeating that Stosur departed being just as likeable for her manner post-loss as she was pre-tournament) we had to rummage around for anyone with a link to the place as thin as Kurt Tippett deciding he needed to go to Sydney and not the Gold Coast because of his extensive family connections. So we found a ''Once Was A Kiwi'' (Sacha Jones) and took her to our bosom, then unearthed a girl who was born here and left before she was old enough to hit a ball over the net and called her Melbourne's own (Laura Robson). It did us no good.
In the end we loathed the girl with the name Victoria and backed the Chinese woman who endeared herself here years ago by bagging her husband's snoring.
There is the Open the rest of the world has. That is the ''Matthew Ebden who? Open''. The tournament that looks with unfiltered eyes at the whole competition and draws the conclusion that the last two weeks reinforced the pecking order of men's tennis. That Roger might have now officially and perhaps irredeemably slipped fractionally below Novak and Andy. The other men are a little way off.
The women's game was one of attrition. The winner looked like she would not get through another breath let alone her semi-final. Then she won the tournament. The runner-up kept falling over and cracked her head and Serena had a foot the size of a Sherrin (which almost qualified her for local hero status) when she was rumbled.
The departure of Serena was the biggest ripple to go through the tournament. Her foot had blown up, her back had seized up and the unexpected Sloane Stephens dispatched her. Initially Serena was having none of the injury mitigation, partly because she has been justifiably criticised in the past for finding excuses and offering little credit to opponents. But the numbers don't lie. They were the numbers that said she was serving at 130km/h when she ordinarily is around the 200km/h mark. And the pictures don't lie. Serena tweeted a pic later on and it was not pretty. Plainly she should not have played doubles with her sister and jeopardised her singles chances, but she played on anyway. Sisterly love.
But the Open will not be recalled for these injuries as much as the injury time-outs. Or more pointedly Victoria Azarenka and her odd 10-minute injury time-out in the semi-final just when she had dropped five match points and had her serve broken. Her treatment - six minutes in the rooms and the rest on the sidelines, seemed to involve deep breathing and a cuddle. Later she said she had a rib injury, but she had said nothing of that in the immediate post-match interview. Whoopsy. Many were doubtful of her injury and suspected trickery.
Her opponent, Stephens, was not fussed. She took Vicky at her word. So too Li Na, her next opponent. Li's problem in their match was staying on her own feet, she rolled her ankle twice and once collapsed to the ground, cracking her scone. Afterwards she was asked what happened with all those tumbles.
''Don't ask [laughter],'' she said. ''After the match, I was feeling like, How many years I didn't falling down in the court? What are you doing on the court, like juniors.
Pressed on why she fell: ''Because I'm stupid [smiling].''
Azarenka is a funny player. She has her idiosyncrasies. Like the fact she only takes the ball from one side in a match.
''I'm weird that way,'' she said. ''It's like a stupid thing that you're blaming a ball boy. I'm losing a point, but that's not true. I always take from one side. If I start losing, I go to another side. I'm just changing.''
THE OTHER BRIDESMAIDS
David Ferrer is the fourth best player in the world and admits that bridging the gap to the top three is virtually impossible.
''I am trying to do my best every match. But I know they are better than me. What can I do?'' he said after his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic. Next, shrieking, grunting players will admit they only do it to annoy opponents. No, that will never happen.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who also fell short to Roger Federer in one of the best matches of the tournament, figured on the same thing.
''You know, you cannot lie. You cannot lie. If they are No.1, No.2, No.3, No.4, it's because they deserve it and because they are the best players at the moment. That's it.''
But things are not so clear-cut in the women's competition and neither was Tsonga's answer.
''You know, the girls, they are more unstable emotionally than us. I'm sure everybody will say it's true, even the girls [laughter]. No? No, you don't think?'' he said, looking around the press room to some smiles and a few shaking heads.
''But, I mean, it's just about hormones and all this stuff. We don't have all these bad things, so we are physically in a good shape every time, and you are not. That's it.''
Now there was much mirth at Tsonga's comments, from him and others, so we can't presume to do anything other than write what he said.
A LITTLE CHARDY?
Jeremy Chardy isn't often called on to attend the main press room. Ordinarily the Frenchman can answer the questions of him in the media version of the outside courts. But after losing to Andy Murray there was presumed to be much interest in him. What transpired was not so much press conference as perfunctory statement. ''You, umm, played well … and you lost.''
It was a solitary question, but his one paragraph answer included something more considered than the ramblings of higher profile types. ''It's tough to lose with no solution.'' The French media were a little more loquacious and eager to continue the discussion in French.
Which was more of a relief to the press conference moderator than at the conclusion of a Serena Williams press conference when the moderator said it was now time to move on to questions from the foreign media.
Williams cut a look and said, ''I don't do foreign [language] questions.'' Yes. Quite.
The more heated issue for Andy Murray was one of heat. Murray was annoyed that by the time he was due to meet Roger Federer in the semi-final, Roger would have played all of his matches on centre court at night while the pale Scot had toiled in mid-afternoon heat.
Roger's was a cooler run. All quite reasonable for the Olympic gold medallist and reigning US Open winner to think he would get preferential treatment, but the sums were quite simple. More people liked to watch Roger - particularly playing Tsonga than Murray playing Chardy. The TV tail often wags the sporting dog, but on this occasion we can happily pat the dog's head and say, ''sit, play dead''. The organisers got it right.
THE FINAL WORD
I admit to having asked some spectacularly stupid questions, so am not without blame, but really, did this stuff need asking?
Of Andy Murray: ''Are you doing anything special for Robbie Burns day? Answer: No
Of Bob Bryan: ''Can you get both of [one-year-old daughter] Micaela's feet in the trophy? Answer: her bum is getting big.
In fairness the Bryans do like their Kodak moments with Micaela - she has her own Twitter page replete with 10 photos of her with Federer, Nadal, Serena, Novak, Andy, Ryan Harrison, Del Potro etc. All with amusing bubble thoughts and captions.
But we can't really conceive where the journo was going with this question of Serena Williams, or why?
''If you would have a second life, would you love to be a tennis ball?
Answer: ''A tennis ball? Absolutely not. I have no desire to be hit around. No pun intended. We should probably end this. It's late and my mind is not clear right now.'' (For clarity, that was Serena saying her mind was not clear - not the Gonzo journalism reporter.)