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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

The Australian Open women's final between Li Na and Victoria Azarenka "was not sold out" as of Thursday despite tickets having been "on sale for almost four months," according to Richard Hinds of the Melbourne AGE. With adult tickets costing AU$294.90 and children's tickets AU$279.90, "maybe the brevity of some women's finals had persuaded would-be ticket buyers the event did not stack up on a dollar-for-play basis." The "value-for-money final was supposed to have been" between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. But for the WTA Tour, trading Sharapova and Williams "for a popular woman from the lucrative Chinese market" in Li means "no commercial damage has been done." Sharapova's semifinal defeat "might even have a counter-intuitive outcome." The absence of the "world's most marketable female athlete (and, particularly, her shriek) will make the final more enticing for some" (Melbourne AGE, 1/25). In N.Y., Christopher Clarey writes Li's return to the final "presumably will spark greater interest in China than in Melbourne" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/24).

SLOANE STREET: Azarenka is making her second straight trip to the Australian Open final after beating Sloane Stephens late last night. Stephens made her first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal after defeating Serena Williams, and Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said this is "what people need to be excited about, a 19-year-old American tennis prodigy in the semifinals of a Grand Slam event." Cowlishaw: "It’s something we’re not going to see with the men for a long time.” The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said Stephens is the “first hope that America has had since the ascendency” of the Williams sisters and the "aging of Lindsay Davenport and Mary Joe Fernandez.” Ryan: “This is really an exciting moment in American women’s tennis to think that there’s somebody rising.” ESPN’s Pablo Torre said, “It’s important to remember that an American teenager hasn’t made the semifinal of a major since 2001, when Serena did it” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 1/23).
NBC's Natalie Morales said Stephens “has clearly won a place on the tennis world stage” (“Today,” NBC, 1/24). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, “Give Sloane Stephens some credit, this is a big-time win." However, he added, "Does it mean that a star is born? I’ll give you two words: Melanie Oudin” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/23).

THE WIZARDRY OF OZ: SI's L. Jon Wertheim writes the Australian Open is a "two-week bacchanalia masquerading as a Grand Slam tennis tournament." It is the “infield of the Daytona 500, only with the rhythmic thwock of tennis racket meeting ball instead of the Doppler effect as the sound track,” and it is the “way all big-time global sporting events ought to be.” A commonly-held belief in tennis is that each major “exudes the vibe of its host city.” The U.S. Open is a “carnival of chaos and energy that, like New York City, exhilarates some and repels others.” Wimbledon is “brimming with tradition and elegance,” while the French Open is “fashionable and chic and moody and slightly arrogant.” But the Australian Open “comes closest of all to approximating its nation’s character,” being “whimsical but pragmatic, dignified but unrestrained.” Above all, there is a “quintessential Aussie emphasis ... on having fun.” Tournament Dir Craig Tiley said, “Look, go have a good time. Buy yourself a drink, sit out on a (public) beanbag. You want to shout for a player? Shout. You’re hot? Go stand in the mister.” Wertheim notes the tourney is “an exercise in populism.” It is affordable and “on free TV” in Australia, and remains “resolutely middle-class.” Flags at Melbourne Park “might as well be part of the dress code.” Last week an “army of Serbs came swaddled in blue and red and serenaded” defending champion Novak Djokovic, while a “cluster of Greeks came in blue stripes to cheer little-known Eleni Daniilidou” (SI, 1/28 issue).

HAVING A BALL:’s Peter Bodo wrote, “I don’t know if the Australian Open is the best Grand Slam or not, unless by ‘best’ you mean ‘most fun,’ ‘most comfortable,’ or ‘least stressful.’” Those things “it certainly is.” Striving for those distinctions “may not yield much in the way of gravitas -- notice that [not] many players have said this is the title they most want to win -- but the formula has paid big dividends.” The tournament has “clearly won the public relations war” (, 1/22).

Eleven days before the "big game," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that the city "is ready to host Super Bowl XLVII," according to Danny Monteverde of the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. Landrieu yesterday said that the "many infrastructure projects that crews have worked to finish by the time crowds begin to arrive ... will be completed and cleaned up by Monday afternoon." Meanwhile, public safety officials said that they are "ready to begin deployment strategies aimed at the safety of residents and the estimated 150,000 people who will be in town for the Super Bowl and Carnival celebrations." Landrieu said, "We’re no longer preparing to host the Super Bowl. We’re hosting it as we speak" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 1/24). In New Orleans, Richard Rainey noted city officials expect Super Bowl Sunday crowds "should provide a major boost to the local economy." Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said that besides "a few minor fixes to be completed in the next week, all construction and beautification around the Super Dome, the French Quarter and the Central Business District was finished, including more than $330 million in improvements to the Superdome itself" (, 1/23).

BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jonathan Clegg writes as temperatures in N.Y. have "dipped into the teens this week, the idea of playing an outdoor Super Bowl in the North has sent a chill through the NFL coaches and executives huddled in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl." Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said, "I think the weather up there would be an issue. For what that game has become, with all the festivities and the hoopla, it will be hard." Falcons coach Mike Smith said, "I think everybody is hoping it won't be the type of weather they're having now." Clegg notes chilly weather "doesn't always put a downer on the Super Bowl." Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI last year, and "though it was played inside a dome, the 40-degree weather during the week didn't stop the city from earning rave reviews" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/24). ESPN's Adam Schefter notes some of the NFL's greatest games "have been played outdoors in frigid conditions," but the Super Bowl is "more than just a game." Schefter: "It’s a week-long gala affair. It's for all the sponsors, all the corporate people that follow the NFL. It's a week-long list of activities for everybody that comes. To do it in New York and New Jersey in a week like this where it's 11, 12 degrees below, I can't imagine that a lot of people are going to enjoy being outdoors” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/24).’s Andy Dolich said, “The Super Bowl is an ultimate party and if I’m going to a party I want flip-flops, I wants shorts, I want drinks with little umbrellas in them. I don’t want parkas” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/23). 

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday officially announced that the ‘15 All-Star Game is “coming to Cincinnati,” and the league also has “pledged $1.5 million to the development of a Reds MLB Urban Youth Academy,” according to John Fay of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. The day “belonged to” Reds Owner Bob Castellini, the “driving force behind landing the 86th Midsummer Classic.” Selig made a point of “signaling out Castellini for his determination.” Selig said, “I’ll say this for Bob: Man, he is persistent. I could use a couple of other terms. One starts with ‘a pain in.’ Tenacity is a great virtue.” It will be the “first time the Reds have hosted the game since 1988 and the first time it’s been played at Great American Ball Park, which opened in 2003.” It also marks the “fifth time that the Reds will play host” to the event (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/24). The AP’s Joe Kay wrote the Reds “lobbied hard for years to get the game” (AP, 1/23). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty in a front-page piece writes Castellini “doesn’t want a lot of credit,” as he “prefers that others do the talking.” Daugherty: “Forceful personalities don’t need public acclaim, only private respect.” Still, it should be known that “this was the The Big Man’s Deal.” Daugherty: “It was the father’s vision and persistence that drove it. When Castellini fights for something, his personality can be just this side of brawling. He hounded Bud Selig for years” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/24).