Australian Open diary: Sunday Jan 16
Originally published on: 16/01/11 07:15
The sun shone bright on Melbourne Park on Sunday as the tennis family united to raise money for Australians affected by the recent Queensland flooding in an event dubbed ‘Rally for Relief’.
The top players took to court on Rod Laver Arena at 2pm in teams aptly named ‘Team Green’ and ‘Team Gold’. More than simply another showing of the humility and generosity of the world’s best, the event was another chance to see those players that have true entertainment value. And since we at tennishead love to give a little back ourselves, our award for the most entertaining man is split jointly between Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic – who again did enough to indicate that a stand-up career might await them upon retirement.
At one point, the quick-witted Texan delighted fans by donning a pair of shades and a wide-brimmed hat and assuming the role of a linesman on the baseline. “I don’t know how you guys ever miss a call from here,” he joked, straight-faced.
Djokovic had his own fun, hopping into a photographers pit, grabbing a camera and snapping furiously with his new toy. “This is going to be in the English Sun,” he grinned at Caroline Wozniacki, who takes the award for the most entertaining woman after posing playfully for ‘the Djoker’ and laughed off the cheeky Serb after he said: “I can see a lot more than you think.”
The scoring, under the watchful eye of Jim Courier, was pretty arbitrary, but the multi-millionaires on court weren’t so confused by numbers, playing their part on court and also pledging money to the fund.
Such is the nation’s sympathy for those Queenslanders who have lost their homes in the flooding, tickets were sold out within six hours of going on sale last week. Energy company Queensland Energy Resources pledged to match dollar for dollar all donations at the event – which had raised $1.8million dollars by 6pm in Melbourne – with CEO Pearce Bowman saying: “We shouldn’t underestimate the enormous damage from this natural disaster and the massive effort required over many months and possibly years that it will take to bring some level of normality to so many victims’ lives.
Sunday was also the last day of qualifying and British No. 2 Anne Keothavong successfully overcame opposition from Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu to claim her place in the main draw of the Australian Open for the second time in her career.
“It’s a nice feeling to qualify,” said Keothavong after the tie. “It’s actually the first time I’ve qualified for a Grand Slam. All the other Grand Slam main draws I’ve done on the back of my ranking.”
On Monday she meets another qualifier – Russian-born Melbourne resident Arina Rodionova – in the final match on Court 7.
So, after fun in the sun on Sunday, the stage is finally set for the start of the 2011 Australian Open, but once again it was a fitting prelude to see the players united towards a common cause. It wasn’t just the players – all in the game, media included, got involved. Charitable work goes on most of the time behind the scenes, but today’s event on centre stage at Melbourne Park was a very public show of the ability of sport – and tennis – to unite people and raise money when it is most needed.
Now, let the battle begin.