Monday, 25 January 2016




I have always been rather mystified at the stance of Tennis Australia ( TA ) and their seemingly one track mind as far as a court surface is concerned for Davis Cup ties in this country. Looking back it seems that the last time a tie in Australia was played on hard court was in fact 2006 in Adelaide when Australia lost to Sweden. 
Several years ago a local tennis club was awarded a grant to resurface it's tennis courts however there was one stipulation, they had to be of the same colour as the Australian Open surface. Part of the 'deal' was that if TA helped with the funding then the courts were to look like the home of the national Grand Slam held at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. No argument there.
 The Australian Open moved away from a grass surface in 1988 when the new centre was put on display for the World to see and for the best players to perform at. My hero Mats Wilander beat Pat Cash in the final in five sets in what was a fitting way to end two weeks of a new Slam at a new venue.
There were possibly many reasons for the Australian Open to move away from the ageing stadium and grass courts of Kooyong but the seating capacity was possibly the greatest factor. Kooyong held just 8,500 whereas the Rod Laver Rena holds almost double that at 15,000. The decision to build a much larger stadium was a smart one no doubt yet the surface still remains somewhat of a talking point.
Why did the new stadium lay a hard court surface rather than simply remain with grass as it had done since 1927 ? Did Tennis Australia finally accept the fact that the Europeans owned a dominance in World tennis due to their home surface of clay and the ability of that surface to produce countless champions ?
Whilst TA were never going to even contemplate a clay surface a hard court was the next obvious choice as a surface Australia's best players both junior and senior could cut their teeth on and become competitive with the rest of the World.
 A hard court is an 'evener' as a player can develop an all round game as opposed to grass which is not a surface that can help a player develop ground strokes effectively due to the lower bounce and skidding nature of the ball. Let's face it if a player can win on a hard court he or she has some ability to say the least as there is no advantage on a hard court. It's just you versus your opponent, nothing more, nothing less. If you win on a hard court you really didn't rely on what was under foot, you simply won because you were a better player.
So to the point of this chapter, why are TA so pedantic about clubs around the country painting their courts the same colour as the Rod Laver Arena ? TA do not even practice what they preach. On one hand they are saying that it wants a court surface at small cubs around the country synonymous with it's home Grand Slam. On the other hand they are saying that it isn't really that confident of their players performing on it.
Why don't TA embrace the surface as one that it is proud of and one that should surely be showcased to the World in Davis Cup ties in this country and not just at the Australian Open ?
To me it is very much like the tennis coach who is simply a 'talker' and not a 'walker', you know the do as I say but not as I do type of coach. The one who never shows up to play a club match or a tournament which on many occasions comes from their inability to in fact play the game at all.
If TA endorse the surface yet play on a totally different one when playing the biggest tennis team event in the World what is it saying about it's players ? Do they have no confidence in them to win on a neutral surface ? A grass court looks for an advantage from a big serve or solid volley but not every Australian tennis professional owns both.
Wimbledon is once a year and apart from that no player who is in their right mind would train on grass as the majority of tournaments around the World are on clay and hard courts. Grass is basically a novelty surface so why do the Australian tennis hierarchy choose a surface for Australian players to play Davis Cup on that realistically is of no real advantage to them ?
It may just lay in the old traditional type of sentimental mindset as the players from our past, Laver, Newcombe etc dominated not only here on a grass surface but at Wimbledon. It was a surface that holds many fond memories yet that was many years ago.
Times have changed, the game has changed, time to move on and develop a new tradition that has Australian players winning neutrally with no real advantage and no sentimental influences. Imagine if Australia did in fact hold a Davis Cup tie on a hard court, preferably at the Rod Laver Arena against a nation as mighty as the USA. What would that say to the Tennis World ?
Pretty obvious, WE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR ANY ADVANTAGE AS FAR AS COURT SURFACE IS CONCERNED. Bring your best team, we are confident we can beat you on any surface and in particular a NEUTRAL one.
It's time this country embraced what it set out to do in 1988, build and develop a new culture.....

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