Forsaken Geometry

Australian Open, Fourth Round

The first week of the 2014 Australian Open was feverishly warm, generating liquid quick conditions that caused results to flow in all directions, and ensuring that reporters who’d spent too little of their off-season toiling on Agassi’s magic mountain could remain an appropriately high simmer. Renee McKay/Getty Images AsiaPacThe cool change that swept through Melbourne late on Friday night wrought a dramatic change, bringing kinder conditions, an abrupt lessening in the number of self-righteous articles about the tournament’s heat policy, and the return of Lleyton Hewitt to the Channel 7 commentary booth. On balance, I declare it a net positive.

Hewitt took longer than usual to turn up. Usually he turns up after a couple of days spent processing his latest early-round loss, but this year he tarried for almost a week. It’s conceivable he got lost, since Channel 7’s commentary booth has been relocated, and renamed. The previous iteration was known as the ‘bunker’, and consisted of a low wooden structure placed out on the court surface, just to the side of the entrance tunnel. It was cunningly painted the same blue as the surface, yet somehow failed to blend in, probably because it was still a shack on a tennis court. The new arrangement is more traditional, consisting of a booth partly recessed behind the back of the court, permitting commentators an unparalleled view of the linesman’s buttocks. The voices emanating from within this enclosure, you’ll be relieved to hear, have not changed. Channel 7’s commentary remains a special brand of magnificent.

Scornful of Tommy Robredo’s remote court positioning, Jim Courier remarked with a tone of faux-wonder that the Spaniard ‘was intentionally giving up geometry’. I once gave up physics for an afternoon, and can attest to the risks involved. Courier of course hails from a culture in which the right to maintain geometry is constitutionally enshrined, in which lunatic lobby groups famously insist that their beloved set-squares and protractors will have to be pried from their cold dead hands. Having forsaken geometry, Robredo lost to a rampant Stan Wawrinka, whom Channel 7 has cruelly nicknamed ‘The Stanimal’. Robredo mastered the heat for a while, but he’s cold news now. Hewitt’s return was accompanied by a sharp upswing in the use of the word ‘tremendous’ and the phrase ‘extremely well’. He can be an ornery character on court, but in commentary his contribution is invariably positive. Marvelling at Roger Federer’s continued excellence, he took care to highlight ‘the self-belief he has, not only in himself, but in his racquet as well.’ High praise, indeed. Bruce McAveny, famously so thorough in his research, persists in pronouncing David Ferrer as David Fer-ur, as in ‘urn’. He’s either incorrect, or knows something the rest of us don’t, including David Fer-ur.

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