January 27, 2005

Forget Super Bowl Hoopla, Watch Tennis

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Here’s a task for all you sports fans out there. Instead of making Dr. Mark Myerson (T.O.’s doctor, in case you already didn’t know) the most talked about person in sports for the next 10 days, I want everybody to take a few days off from the pre-Super Bowl coverage and tune into ESPN2 to watch the Australian Open.

But I don’t want everyone to watch simply to see what Serena will wear during her next match or see Maria Sharapova in a miniskirt. I want people to watch the most despicable player in all of tennis taking the court. Australian-bred Lleyton Hewitt. Or shall I say, Master Lleyton, as any child should be rightfully addressed.

This hometown “hero”, with his long flowing golden locks, backwards hat, and cutoff shirts has screamed his way into the semifinals, where he will meet up with the second seed in the tournament — Andy Roddick. Yet, on his path to the final four, Hewitt has displayed the grace and tact of a five-year-old that has been tagged out in a kickball game.

His most prominent outburst of the Open thus far was in his match against Juan Ignacio Chela, when his patented and tasteless shouts of “C’mon” grew louder and louder as the match wore on. Fortunately for Hewitt, Chela’s reaction was even more tasteless, as he tried to hit Hewitt with a serve and then spat in his direction during a break in play. Though Chela’s actions were highly inappropriate, they are almost understandable because when a bully pushes someone around, they can only take so much until they snap. And “bully” is the perfect word to describe Hewitt.

People will argue that shouting during a match is something many tennis players have done in the past. True, but how many have been accused of making a racial slur at a black linesman because he made a questionable call in favor of a black player? Hewitt was accused of such in a 2001 match against James Blake at the U.S. Open. How many players go to the tournament’s hosts, demanding they make the court faster to increase their chances of winning? Hewitt’s the only one I know. How many players would call the fans of their hometown “stupid” because they cheered for an opposing player? I’ll give you one guess.

The upsetting thing is that people would always write that the four-year pro would eventually outgrow his antics. Instead, he’s doing his best to make his rivalries last a lifetime. A round before his match with Chela, Hewitt was his usual self against Blake. This time, the usually mild-mannered Blake got so fired up, that he mimicked Hewitt’s “C’mon.” But it backfired, as all it did was ignite the pro-bully fans.

Think two incidents in one tournament is enough? Hewitt obviously doesn’t, because in his quarterfinal match against David Nalbandian, he brushed shoulders with the Argentinean as the two changed sides. Not only that, but the always moronic Hewitt said after the match that Nalbandian “brought it on himself a little bit.” Of course he did Lleyton.

Okay, I’ve gave you enough examples. Now I really have to reveal the real reason why I want everyone to watch Master Hewitt despite the fact that he is an obnoxious bully. I want everyone to watch in order to get a good laugh. How you ask?

Look at the names of the people he had run-ins with — Chela, Blake, and Nalbandian — not quite household names. Hewitt is a combined 11-1 against those three opponents. In fact, since he is able to bully them around so much, they often succumb to his wrath in the midst of a tough match. But what happens when Hewitt faces some of the stiffer competition? Yes, he still hoots and hollers if the going is good, but if he goes down a couple sets against the likes of Roddick and Federer, listen. Not a peep. Everybody’s favorite screamer loses his voice. It’s quite funny, but everyone will just have to see for themselves.

So, in the end, I hope Hewitt makes it to the Open final, so that we can watch him burn inside, wanting so badly to yell at Federer, to whom he has lost six straight matches. But we all know that yelling won’t do any good when you’re looking a straight set loss in the face to a man that is a picture of class and would never let himself get caught in Master Hewitt’s hoopla. Chris Mascaro is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. He may be contacted at ccm29@cornell.edu. He May Be Tall appears every other Thursday this semester.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro