Charles Petzold

Australian Open: On to the Semi-Finals

January 25, 2006

As if by magic, I suddenly awoke at 1:30 this morning, turned on the TV, and the Kim Clijsters / Martina Hingis quarterfinal was just about to begin. I hit Record and went back to bed, and was able to catch up with it this morning. Great match!

It's so hard watching the Australian Open if you're not actually in Melbourne. The 8-hour difference with Eastern Time is confusing enough, but it's actually a 16-hour difference because it's already Thursday in Australia, and it's tough wrapping your head around ~100° temperatures in the middle of January. Play usually begins at 11 AM, which is 7 PM ET, but ESPN2 doesn't start coverage then. Instead, they wait until about 10 or 11 PM ET to show a couple live afternoon matches. (That's mostly when we've been watching. The last two women's quarterfinals were supposed to begin about that time last night, but the preceding men's match ran for 5 hours, and that threw the whole schedule off.) The marquee matches are usually scheduled for the evening (7:30 Melbourne time) and ESPN2 has been showing those live at 3:30 AM, which is a little beyond my realm of consciousness. ESPN2 then shows taped matches the next afternoon (Eastern Time) but to make those fun you have to abstain from morning news.

Despite the difficulties, it's great to see Hingis back. She retired about 3 years ago when power-hitters like the Williams sisters, Lindsay Davenport, and Jennifer Capriati began to dominate the game. But players like Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters have demonstrated that there's still a role for smaller cagier players. And Hingis, who entered this tournament as a wildcard, has been playing just wonderfully. For a few minutes there, it even looked like she would be heading for the semis.

If I'm reading today's schedule correctly, the two women's semifinals start in about twelve hours at 1:30 PM Melbourne time and 9:30 PM Eastern Time when they'll be carried live by ESPN2. These are four first-rate players who have all won major tournaments and are hungry for another.

I don't much care for making predictions (I still have OS/2 prediction scars) but in the Justine Henin / Maria Sharapova match I see Sharapova taking it in a crazed battle. I'm also predicting Kim Clijsters over Amelie Mauresmo in a shockingly sedate two-setter, and then Sharapova defeating Kim Clijsters in a real nail-biter on Saturday afternoon. (That's Friday evening for us.)

But I could be wrong.