Let’s Talk Tennis, and Politics

Matteo Berrettini of Italy came out of that section to reach the semifinals. But the final four men are all stars or superstars and all ranked in the top eight. Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas have both reached Grand Slam finals. Daniil Medvedev won the U.S. Open last year, and Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest players in the sport’s long history and equal with Djokovic at 20 Grand Slam singles titles. So I think the men’s tournament has retained its legitimacy and interest, even if no one can ever say it was a full-strength event with Djokovic missing.

I’m curious what you make of how the Peng Shuai case has been handled by the tennis world. Do you think Australia’s response fit with the general consensus or diverged?

Like too many things in tennis, the response has been far from unified. Power and governance is fragmented in the sport, with the WTA, ATP, International Tennis Federation and each of the four Grand Slam tournaments making their own moves and decisions. Though all those entities have expressed concern for Peng’s safety, the only one to commit to action is the WTA, the women’s tour, which has suspended its tournaments in China and called for a full Chinese investigation into Peng’s allegations of sexual assault and for an open line of communication with her.

Seen through that prism, Tennis Australia, which runs the Australian Open, is not an outlier. But it does have more at stake with China than the other Grand Slam tournaments. It has a major Chinese sponsor, which has its name on one of the show courts at the Australian Open. Tennis Australia also has offices in China and has promoted Chinese tourism to the tournament. It also wants TV coverage in China, because the time difference with Europe and North America is not ideal for those broadcast windows.

The Australian Open promotes itself as the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific, in part because it wants to block the emergence of any potential rivals for its Grand Slam status in the fast-growing region. But Tennis Australia, like the sport, is at something of a crossroads with China. Australia-Chinese relations have deteriorated. Peng’s predicament and the censoring of her allegations in China highlight the nature of the Chinese regime.

For now, unlike the WTA, Tennis Australia is playing a game of wait and see.

Let’s switch back to the game. What’s been your favorite match up to this point?

There have been a few that will stick with me. Matteo Berrettini holding off, just barely, dynamic Spanish 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Alizé Cornet of France feeling all the emotion of reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal on her 63rd attempt with a grueling victory over Simona Halep. Rafael Nadal hanging on at age 35 in the heat to defeat young Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who did not go quietly, accusing chair umpires of being “corrupt” for favoring Nadal and the biggest stars.

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