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Australian Open

It was hard to see the light at the Australian Open

Briana Foust

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Pierre LaHalle/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know about you, but lately it has been hard to focus on the tennis.

As a contributor to Tennis with An Accent, I originally wanted to shine a light on Dominic Thiem’s achievements and how we could finally be seeing the best of fellow contributor Andrew Burton’s “Lost Boys” generation.

The Lost Boys are a grouping of players born between 1989-1993 consisting of familiar names: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov, Benoit Paire, or Donald Young. They have been known as chronic underachievers.

They have had injuries, burdened by a dynamic in which reality has diffused expectations. They have had to endure the Big Four winning trophy after trophy.

Dominic Thiem was showing us all for a few hours that maybe a fresh champion under 30 years old is closer than we think. Yet all the facts and stats from this tournament seem to be overshadowed by the complexities of life right now.

The 2020 Australian Open was overshadowed by events beyond the tennis world. It was hard to see the light through so much darkness.

For many the leadup to the start of the Australian Open was consumed by the Australian bushfires. Bushfires are common and recurring natural events Australia has to deal with.

Scientists have discovered that some of Australia’s plant and wildlife have adapted to where the seasonal fires are necessary for organisms to thrive. Unfortunately, a variety of causal factors have made this series of bushfires one of the most devastating.

According to ecologists, massive amounts of animals are estimated to have perished. The safety of a home and the stability of normal, everyday life have been tragically uprooted.

All this was the backdrop of the so-called “Happy Slam,” which seemed surprisingly unprepared or even cynically businesslike on how to best protect the athletes.

Just three weeks ago, practice before the main draw of the tournament was suspended due to dangerous air quality. A WTA player had to withdraw from qualifying due to a shortness of breath and an extreme coughing.

To be frank I felt the Australian Open got very lucky with the air quality situation. Watching from home, the tennis didn’t seem worth the risks. However by the later rounds — due to multiple days with badly-needed rain — the fears from the qualifying round were in the distant past and none of the biggest stars were hampered throughout the tournament.

That was a big relief to all the players and personnel who were openly taking to Twitter to discuss their apprehensions about playing.

On top of the brushfires, the sporting world was also in mourning for basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

He and his young daughter lost their lives in a helicopter crash alongside seven other people they were close to. It was a shocking event which made the world remember that life is incredibly fragile.

Bryant was respected all over the world and was a close friend to tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic. One of the toughest moments to watch was seeing the players giving emotional tributes to an inspiring person we all shared together.

On a brighter note, the serious events hanging over the Australian Open encouraged and inspired the players to take action. Nick Kyrigos quickly broadcasted his desire to help; his hometown of Canberra was affected by the fires.

That seemed to jump-start a snowball effect for help. Tennis Australia organized the Rally for Relief, the twin of 2010’s Hit for Haiti. Alexander Zverev offered his entire prize money if he won the Australian Open.

For perspective that would have been a cool 4.1 million in Australian dollars.

In total, the charitable efforts supported by the player’s aces and donations currently stands at $5.8 million for bushfire relief.

I hope you understand why my focus just hasn’t been on the tennis. The records and achievements will be there when we are ready.

Recovering tennis addict since the 2008 Wimbledon Final between Federer and Nadal. Creator of The Open Era Review: A tennis website that focuses on the achievements of African Americans in tennis. I have recently started covering tennis in a professional capacity. My first credentialed tournament was the Volvo Car Open in 2017 and I have been a guest writer on Tennis With An Accent since 2018. You can find me on twitter @4thetennis.

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