Going For Broke A Little Bit

The 2015 Australian Open concluded in a manner that proved satisfying even as it felt inevitable: Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli claimed their maiden Slam doubles title, just as we all predicted they would. More surprisingly, the singles title was won by world number one and strong pre-tournament favourite Novak Djokovic, who contrived victory despite rubbery thighs, a mangled thumb, some kind of virus, his coach, and an overwhelmingly strong record against all of his opponents. It is the Serb’s fifth Australian Open title, a record for the Open Era. Bolelli and Fognini meanwhile are the first Italian male pair to win any Major since 1959. Patrick Scala/Getty Images AsiaPacThey immediately announced their ambition to attend the World Tour Finals in November, Fognini being a long-term commitment kind of guy.

Until he lost, and even for a while afterwards, Nick Kyrgios was the talk of the tournament. He eventually fell to Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Bernard Tomic meanwhile lost a whole round earlier to Tomas Berdych, and wasn’t the talk of the tournament. No one thought to mention how their results would likely have been reversed had they swapped draws. What if Tomic had faced Andreas Seppi in the fourth round, instead of Berdych? What if Kyrgios had faced Philipp Kohlschreiber near his best in the second round, instead of Ivo Karlovic at his worst? There’s little point in dwelling on what might have been, but we shouldn’t forget that luck plays its part, especially when determining which player enjoys the warm glow of the nation’s affection.

Australia’s most popular media outlets only encourage this seasonal lunacy. They’d already accelerated to a patriotic gallop when James Duckworth beat Gilles Simon in Brisbane – imagine CBS going bananas at Jock Sock winning a round in Winston-Salem – and the pace barely slackened until Kyrgios left Melbourne. It helped that for once there was plenty to celebrate: of the 128 singles players who passed the first round at the Open, eleven of them boasted little Australian flags next to their name, a flowering of home-grown and imported talent that was commemorated with typical reticence on the front pages of the local tabloids. It even prompted Channel 7 to work some tennis into promos for their nightly news bulletin, which are otherwise compiled from whatever grainy footage of urban violence they’ve scrounged up that day (a habit noted by visiting athletes).

For Channel 7, any Australians lingering deep into the tournament provide a ratings boost not only for the duration of the event itself, but for the remainder of the year: the longer the locals endure, the higher the number of viewers exposed to relentless promos for their upcoming suite of unmissable shows. Prominent among these is the ridiculous My Kitchen Rules, a reality cooking show that invites us to worry on behalf of the kinds of people who’ve pinned their hopes on winning a reality cooking show: “We need this … cos of our dreams,” sobs one contestant, meaning it. Another contestant can apparently speak to turkeys. Then there’s the unending Home and Away, set in an idyllic beachside hamlet whose population has remained constant for decades, despite a ceaselessly regenerating cast of attractive youths. According to the ads, a bus rolls over in the new season, though sadly only one of the attractive youths is on board. “I won’t lose another brother,” sobs another attractive youth. He’s either related to the dude on the bus, or just very absent-minded.

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