Much has been made of Australia’s run in their home Grand Slam. The most amount of locals in the 2nd round in over a decade, three Australians in the third round, and now, at time of writing, a teenager through to his second quarterd final in a year. Nick Kyrgios is set to face Andy Murray in the quarter final while fellow future start Bernard Tomic fell just short against a dominant Tomas Berdych. Kyrgios was ranked 53rd before this tournament and now he’s into the final 8, Tomic was in the final 16 despite his lowly rating of 66th. It’s certainly a good story and nice for Australian tennis considering the last time an Australian male made the quarter finals was in 2005 and it was the old war horse, Llyeton Hewitt. However these results seem to have pasted over the cracks in our female tennis. Our highest ranked female, Sam Stosur (21st) got bundled out in the 2nd round, Casey Delacqua (29th) was the same. Two very different stories in Australian tennis. No less than seven men made the second round of the Australian Open while only four women made it. Three of those men progressed through to the third round, no female did so.
So why are the men batting above their rankings while the females either stagnate or aren’t living up to their obvious potential?
A lot of it lies in those around them. Australia have three women in the top 100, Stosur, Delacqua, and Jarmila Gajdosova (62nd). The men, on the other hand, have five, Kyrgios, Tomic, Marinko Matosevic (81st), Sam Groth (82nd), and Hewitt (87th). The fact that the males have more competition between them is one thing but when you add in that Kyrgios and world number 149 Thanasi Kokkinakis are a year apart in age and have been pushing each other since they were eight years old. Tomic is only a year older than Kyrgios and is aware that he needs to work hard to ensure that Kyrgios fast rise doesn’t leave him behind. Then there’s Hewitt, who no matter what ranking he is seems to be content just going around the circuit one more time. Groth and Matosevic are both journeymen tennis players who are right on the cusp of a big result if they can continue a consistent run throughout the year. The women however are not challenged within Australia. Stosur and Delacqua are the two clear best with daylight back to Gajdosova and then even further back until the next best Aussie. To keep their positions in Australian tennis the women don’t have the constant pressure the men do.
Pat Rafter has recently become Tennis Australia’s Director of Performance and all the latest media has been his focus on Tomic and Kyrgios, perhaps it should be more on the younger females coming through the ranks, the likes of Sara Tomic and Olivia Rogowska, as it seems the more competition we have within Australia, the better off we’ll be. Hopefully I’ll be writing a very different article next year!