An Emotional Feeling

Australian Open, Semifinal

(1) Nadal d. (6) Federer, 7/6 6/3 6/3

The Australian Open provides those of us who otherwise avoid commercial television with plenty of excellent reasons not to alter our viewing habits for the rest of the year. Sadly, infrequent exposure means we have built up little tolerance for the unrelenting vibe of ecstatic anticipation, whereby even mundane events must be imbued with an unrealistic level of excitement, like a North Korean parade.Nadal AO 2014 -15 More interesting events are treated as pivotal to world history. Tonight’s semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer was promoted as the most unmissable spectacle since the Normandy landings.

Worse still are the promos for the dreadful shows the networks will inflict upon their loyal viewers in the coming weeks and months. My only exposure to these shows, or even these kinds of shows, comes at this time of year, therefore my grasp of their intricacies may be limited, assuming there are intricacies. Certainly the reality shows seem to feature arcane rule-sets, whilst conforming perfectly to the traditional mission of commercial TV, which is to bring people into your loungeroom that you wouldn’t otherwise allow in your house. Indeed, one of the shows – My Kitchen Rules, which sounds like a pun but might not be – bases its format on this very idea. Its conceit is to have a pair of contestants invite the other contestants and judges into their homes and serve them all a meal. We are thereby afforded the twin pleasures of watching people prepare food we’ll never eat, which is then consumed by people we’ll never meet. This last is a shame, because some of the table talk is sparkling. One guy does a serviceable impersonation of Jack Nicholson. There are some twins who by their own admission share a single brain, which seems an overgenerous appraisal. Last year’s champions described winning as ‘such an emotional feeling’.

Some of these contestants and judges periodically turn up in the crowd at the Australian Open, where they’re expertly picked out by cameramen trained for that purpose. Bruce McAveny and Todd Woodbridge clearly know which side their cross-promotional bread is buttered on, and are diligent in revealing who these non-entities are. Jim Courier does a serviceable job of feigning interest. His job isn’t to hype Australian television shows. His job is to hype the latest instalment of the rivalry between Nadal and Federer, a task he set to with gusto. They have now played thirty-three times, and Federer hasn’t won a match in any format in almost two years, and a match in this format since 2007. Nevertheless, a range of factors led nearly everyone to believe that their latest Grand Slam match might be closer. There was a sentimental desire in some quarters for an all-Swiss final. There was ecstatic concern elsewhere that Nadal’s blister was infinitely more severe than the blisters that the rest of us somehow put up with. There was Federer’s recent form, and Nadal’s indifferent performances against Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov. It was enough for Channel 7 to go berserk.

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