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Time-out: tournament may have run its course but the talking points continue to entertain

Date

Michael Gleeson takes a sideways look at the stories of this year's Australian Open.

Andy Murray and Noval Djokovic before the the men's final. Click for more photos

Australian Open, Men's Final

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic battled it out at the Australian Open 2013 Tennis Mens Final on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Djokovic won 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2. Age photographers Joe Armao, Sebastian Costanzo and Wayne Taylor captured the highlights. Photo: Joe Armao

THE INJURED

The women's game was one of attrition. Victoria Azarenka 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 Williams had a foot the size of a Sherrin (which almost qualified her for local hero status) when she was rumbled.

The departure of Williams 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, Williams 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 hits around the 200km/h mark. And the pictures don't lie. Williams tweeted a picture later 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.

Villain ... Victoria Azarenka during her controversial win over Sloane Stephens.

Villain ... Victoria Azarenka during her controversial win over Sloane Stephens. Photo: Pat Scala

But the Open will not be recalled for these injuries, more for the injury time-outs. Or, more pointedly, 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 consoling 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 and suspected trickery.

Her opponent Stephens was not fussed. She took Azarenka 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 head. 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 [did I not fall] down in the court?' What are you doing on the court, like juniors.'' Pressed on why she fell she offered with a smile: ''Because I'm stupid.''

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. It's like a stupid thing that you're blaming a ballboy. 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,'' she said.

THE OTHER BRIDESMAIDS

David Ferrer is the fourth best player in the world because, well, the other three are better than him. True, just ask him.

''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, again falling short in a grand slam when he came up against one of Djokovic, Andy Murray or Roger Federer. Outrageous candour from a player. Next shrieking players will admit they only do it to annoy rivals.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who also fell short to 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.''

However, things are not so clear 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 he 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.''

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 upon 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 a press conference as a 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 all more of a relief to the press conference moderator, no doubt, than at the conclusion of a Serena Williams press conference when the moderator momentarily forgot themselves and said it was time to move on to questions from the foreign media.

Williams cut a look and said: ''I don't do foreign questions.''

HEAT STROKE

The more heated issue for Murray was one of heat. Murray was annoyed that by the time he was due to meet Federer in the semi, his opponent would have played all of his matches on centre court at night while the pale Scot had toiled in mid-afternoon heat. Federer had a cooler run.

All quite reasonable for the Olympic gold medallist and US Open champion to think he would get preferential treatment, but the sums were quite simple. More people liked to watch Federer - particularly playing Tsonga - than see Murray play Chardy. The TV tail can, unfortunately, often wag 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 in my time, 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 Fed, Rafa, Serena, Novak, Andy, Ryan Harrison etc, all with amusing bubble thoughts and captions.

But we can't really conceive of where the journo was going with this question of Williams.

''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.''

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