After going 1-1 last week, football season is on a break. Our record is 13-20. We’re not picking the Pro Bowl because no one cares—it’s football how it’s not supposed to be played. Even though we’d like to see if Bill Belichick can somehow make a meaningless end-of-the-season exhibition game in Hawaii miserable for everyone involved, like he’s done with everything else in his life. But I digress.
Instead, we’re moving to tennis and the Australian Open, where all the stars are gone, and all the matches are played while you’re sleeping. But very, very quietly, it’s turned out to be a great event with some big characters. Federer, Nadal, and the Williams sisters might not be playing, but it’s still worth watching if you’re up at 3 a.m., sober or not.
On the women’s side, it’s ninth-seeded Li Na of China facing off against the Belgian, third-seeded Kim Clijsters on Saturday. She’s the first Chinese tennis player to make a Grand Slam final. And if Na wins, she’ll be instantly adored by over 1.3 billion people. Remember, Yao Ming was voted into the starting lineup of the NBA All-Star game, and he’s played in five games since May 8 … 2009. This country lionizes their star athletes, and it’ll be no different with Na. There’s a good chance more people watch her match against Clijsters than Americans watch the Super Bowl. A win for her would be a huge boost for women’s tennis. Plus, she’s pretty damn funny:
But, then we’ve got Clijsters, who, unfortunately, had to go through this from Aussie announcer Todd Woodbridge:
That was awesome, and Clijsters handled it perfectly. If you’ve ever asked a woman not bearing a child if she was pregnant, it’s no fun. (Not that I have or anything, I’m just spit-balling here—obviously.) When Woodbridge called her fat, she just shrugged it off. The last time I can remember that happening with another woman was … never. So, despite her three Grand Slam titles and the massive repercussions of a win by Na, we’re going with Clijsters.
On the men’s side on Sunday, it’s Andy Murray, the fifth-seeded Scot, against Novak Djokovic, the third-seeded Serb. It’ll be only the third final of the last 24 Grand Slams that wasn’t won by either Federer or Nadal. (That sound you hear is an ESPN executive ramming his head into a wall.)
It’s Murray’s third Grand Slam final, the previous two being losses to Federer, including last year in Australia. We like Murray. He’s the next tortured British tennis hope who just hasn’t been able to get over the Grand Slam hump. His frenetic, frantic style is hard not to root for, and we’d love for him to finally win one.
We would’ve gone with Murray over Djokovic and his one Grand Slam title if this hadn’t happened:
That’s Robert Flores with the greatest call in the history of SportsCenter. Anytime you can connect a Serbian tennis player with a self-mocked improv comedian, there’s gonna be magic. Oh, and Djokovic’s dad wears a T-shirt—like those crazy wolf ones—with his son’s picture on it. Djokovic is the pick.
—Photo via AP