NPR's Liane Hansen previews the Australian Open with USA Today's Doug Robson.
The Australian Open begins Monday — in a part of the country which is not inundated by floods. This first, grand-slam event of the year also serves as the launch of the 2011 tennis season. NPR's Liane Hansen previews the Australian Open with USA Today'sDoug Robson.
LIANE HANSEN, host:
The Australian Open begins tomorrow in a part of the country which is not inundated by floods. This first Grand Slam event of the year also serves as the launch of the 2011 tennis season.
For a preview, Douglas Robson, who reports on tennis for USA Today, joins us from member station KQED. Welcome to the program.
Mr. DOUGLAS ROBSON (Reporter, USA Today): Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.
HANSEN: Now, I understand you're not attending the Australian Open this year but you've been to other Australian Opens a number of times. How does this compare to the other Grand Slam events?
Mr. ROBSON: Well, Roger Federer once called the Australian Open the happy slam. If Wimbledon is staid and clubby and traditional and the U.S. Open is high octane and glitz, the Australian Open feels like a giant Barbie break. There's a real festive atmosphere.
HANSEN: Yeah. Let's talk about this season's cast of characters. Rafael Nadal of Spain, Roger Federer, they've had this great rivalry in recent years. What do you expect from them in Australia and this entire season?
Mr. ROBSON: They've won 21 of the last 23 slams and, of course, Nadal is coming off a spectacular season in which he won three of the four majors. And not incidentally, he is going for a fourth major in a row in Australia - the so-called Rafa Slam - which hasn't been done in 42 years, since Rod Laver did it in 1969.
Federer, of course, is the record holder. He has 16 majors, more than any other player, and is a defending Australian Open champion. And he comes in after really being the hottest player on tour the last few months. He beat Nadal in the year-end championships. But you almost have to tip Federer as the favorite.
HANSEN: Who are you watching on the women's side?
Mr. ROBSON: I mean, on the women's side, I think, you've got the top seed Caroline Wozniacki and the knock on her is that she hasn't won a Grand Slam yet. Kim Clijsters, who's a three-time U.S. Open champion, is probably the favorite in most people's eyes. And she really is someone that can, I think, restore some order to the game.
I think with the Williams sisters sort of being in and out - Serena is the defending champ in Australia and won't be there, Venus will be there but she's hardly played in the last few months and it's hard to know what to expect from her.
HANSEN: Are you excited about this season?
Mr. ROBSON: I am. I think it's a great time. I mean, the men's game with the rivalry between Federer and Nadal is really one of the great rivalries in all of sports. These are two guys that really like each other off the court. I mean, they participate in exhibitions in each other's countries to raise money for their respective foundations and yet, once they step on the court, you know, it's all business and the contrast in styles is just so beautiful.
I mean, you've got Federer who's sort of walking on air and Nadal who's the muscular grinder and it's a great contrast in a really special time in the sport.
HANSEN: The Australian Open begins tomorrow. Douglas Robson covers tennis for USA Today and he joined us from NPR member station KQED. Thanks so much.
Mr. ROBSON: Thank you.