Tennis

Bananaman, Nadal's kiss and a 'crazy aunt' - five Australian Open moments

Serbia's Novak Djokovic wipes the sweat from his face during his match against Austria's Dominic Thiem in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic wipes the sweat from his face during his match against Austria's Dominic Thiem in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

Looking back at five memorable moments from the first Grand Slam of the year

From bushfire smoke to a memorable kiss and a controversial banana, the Australian Open was never short of incident.

Mother Nature roars

Melbourne's weather is famously fickle and Mother Nature — seemingly no fan of tennis — appeared determined to steal the show. Air pollution from Australia's deadly bushfires saw qualifying matches and practice sessions delayed, with organisers roundly criticised for not protecting players better.

Torrential rain — some of it a murky brown colour — helped wash the smog away, but that brought problems of its own, caking courts in brown sludge.

Next there was ferocious heat, with beaten semi-finalist Simona Halep saying that temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius "killed me".

'Bananaman' slips up

Elliot Benchetrit of France reacts during his Men's Singles first round match against Yuichi Sugita of Japan on day two of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.

Elliot Benchetrit of France reacts during his Men's Singles first round match against Yuichi Sugita of Japan on day two of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

France's Elliot Benchetrit was dubbed "Bananaman" by Australian media after handing the fruit to a ball girl during a qualifying match and asking her to peel it for him. Benchetrit argued that he was struggling to get the skin off because he had cream on his hands.

But umpire John Blom wasn't impressed and told him to peel his own banana, allegedly berating him for treating the girl like his "slave". As the controversy rumbled on, making headlines in Australia and beyond, the Frenchman complained that the backlash against him was "out of control".

Nadal's scary moment

 

Rafael Nadal melted hearts after rushing to console a ballgirl and kissing her on the cheek after one of his fearsome forehands thundered into the side of her head.

The Spanish world number one was in the throes of wrapping up his second-round clash against Argentine Federico Delbonis when the unfortunate girl found herself in his firing line.

Watch | How sustainable T-shirts from Tirupur are being used at Australian Open 2020
 

Nadal went over to check how she was and gave her a quick peck on the cheek, leaving the youngster blushing.

Nadal called the mis-hit "one of the more scary moments of my career" and met 13-year-old Anita the next day to apologise again.

'Crazy aunt'

Margaret Court lifts a replica Daphne Akhurst trophy on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Men's Singles fourth round match between Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Rafael Nadal of Spain on day eight of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 27, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.

Margaret Court lifts a replica Daphne Akhurst trophy on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Men's Singles fourth round match between Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Rafael Nadal of Spain on day eight of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 27, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

She is the most successful tennis player in history with 24 Grand Slam titles, but Margaret Court loomed ominously over the tournament she graced as a player.

Now 77, the Australian is a controversial figure because of her deeply conservative views, once saying that "tennis is full of lesbians".

She was granted a low-key ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year Grand Slam, but John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova were having none of it.

McEnroe labelled Court "a crazy aunt" and he and fellow legend Navratilova staged an on-court protest demanding Margaret Court Arena be renamed. They later apologised for breaking tournament "protocols".

Baby-sitter Barty

Ashleigh Barty of Australia holds her niece Olivia during a press conference after defeat in her Women's Singles Semifinals match against Sofia Kenin of the United States on day eleven of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 30, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.

Ashleigh Barty of Australia holds her niece Olivia during a press conference after defeat in her Women's Singles Semifinals match against Sofia Kenin of the United States on day eleven of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 30, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

Ashleigh Barty, a surprise loser in the semi-finals to eventual champion Sofia Kenin, caught the world's media off-guard by conducting her post-match press conference with a baby cooing happily on her lap.

Australia's world number one said 12-week-old niece Olivia, who seemed perfectly at ease in the spotlight, put her defeat in perspective.

But not everyone was amused, some accusing Barty of using the baby to deflect attention away from her loss.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 1:51:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/bananaman-nadals-kiss-and-a-crazy-aunt-five-australian-open-moments/article30724337.ece

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