Naomi Osaka: The champion with a story

This article was written by Nicole Hunt. 

On Saturday night in front of a roaring crowd both Petra Kvitova and Naomi Osaka each walked onto Rod Laver Arena for the women’s singles final with a story.

Osaka’s story was more recent and perhaps fresher in the minds of those watching.  The 21 year old was all smiles, headphones on and waving at the crowd whilst holding her mobile phone.  You don’t often see that in tennis, phones aren’t usually on court and if they are, they’re hidden away.  But this is a new generation, the Next Gen, and a mobile and killer headphones are a compulsory part of their kit.  She of course won the most recent Slam, the 2018 US Open, but so many headlines were about her beaten opponent and not about Naomi’s maiden victory.  You can Google it, it will be for many years one of those ‘moments’ in tennis history and it doesn’t need to be described again here.  Suffice to say there was an altercation between Serena Williams and the match officials at the end of that US Open final in front of a parochial New York crowd.  Although Naomi was the victor that day it was far, far away from any typical moment of victory.  

Changing of the guard at the Australian Open

This article was written by Nicole Hunt – live from the Australian Open.  

Just after 11pm Sunday night John McEnroe interviewed Stefanos Tsitsipas after the 20 year old had beaten Roger Federer on Rod Laver Arena.  It wasn’t the first upset result on Sunday in either the mens or the womens draws, but it was arguably the biggest.

‘Ladies and Gentleman,’ McEnroe said, ‘You’re watching the changing of the guard.’

Federer later said that he’d already heard that line many times, but what seems different at Melbourne Park this year is the sheer weight of numbers behind that change.  It’s not just Tsitsipas knocking on the door.  It’s Zverev, Tiafoe, de Minaur, Popyrin, Shapovolov and in the women’s side, Barty, Osaka, Collins, and many more.  Most hover around the age of 20 and they’re not so much knocking on the door now as battering it down. 

Spot the Alex at the Australian Open

This article was written by Nicole Hunt.

There’s only one sign you need if you want to cheer from the stands at Melbourne Park this week.  ‘Go Alex!’  There’s a whole brigade of Alexes winning second round matches this week and most of them are Australian.

Let’s start with the one that’s not Australian, German Alexander Zverev, better known as Sacha.  One of the new guard who’s climbed up the rankings over the last couple of years to challenge the champions and be the youngest player in the current men’s singles top ten.  He had quite a scare last night with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy taking him to five sets but in the end Zverev was just too strong and will tomorrow play the next Alex on the list – Aussie, Alex Bolt.

Farewell, Andy Murray

This article was written by Nicole Hunt.

Is it possible we’ve seen the biggest story of the Australian Open this year on the very first day? I had never seen anything quite like the events that occurred within Melbourne Arena last night. When Andy Murray walked out to serve in the fifth set of his first round match at the Australian Open, 1-5 down after overcoming a two sets to love deficit to level up, the crowd was deafening.  It’s not usual for an Aussie tennis crowd to cheer the underdog when they come out to serve what might be the final game of the match but this was different.  Very different.  They were loud and they were persistent and only Andy Murray could make them quieten down.  He slowly blew out his cheeks in a long breath trying keep his composure.  The stiff upper lip was almost shaky.  He stepped back from the baseline amongst the noise and raised his racquet in acknowledgement to the thousands of people cheering him on.  His family were in the stands and his mum, well known tennis coach Judy Murray who coached both her sons to tennis success, had tears in her eyes.

Preview: Australian Open

This article was written by Nicole Hunt.

There’s a new chapter beginning in Australian tennis, both on and off the court.  Melbourne Park, home of the Australian open continues to have the upgrade of all upgrades with amazing new player facilities that make it one of the most advanced tournaments in the world. This week the NSW Government announced an extensive upgrade to the facilities at Sydney Olympic Park, including a roof on Ken Rosewall Arena.  That will at least make it feel less like you’re being fried in an enormous concrete wok when you’re trying to sit through an inevitable Alex DeMinaur comeback in the searing western Sydney heat.  That kid just doesn’t know when he’s beaten.  Not only have I been a spectator out at Homebush, I’ve been on those courts for some very long days myself and believe me, the facilities are in need of a bit of help.

The best women’s sports moments of 2018

This article was first written and published for The Roar.

It seems that with each passing year the Australian public becomes more and more invested in women’s sport.

For me, that’s the result of several things, including the lack of success of some of our elite men’s teams in recent times. Additionally, given some of the exceptional team and individual performances we have seen throughout 2018 from our women’s teams, it’s no wonder people want to get behind them. Add this to increased publicity, broadcast and coverage and you have a winning combination.

Reflecting on this year, here are some of my favourite women’s sports moments.

2019 Super Netball team welcomes 16-year-old superstar

This article was written by Natalie Akle.

You would never guess that high-school student, Matisse Letherbarrow, has been hurled into the deep-end of a promising netball career.

The 16-year-old’s relaxed demeanour displays no hint of worry as she juggles her netballing career and her education. The netball superstar trains a minimum of five days a week while still aiming to sit her HSC next year at her local high-school, Catharine McAuley in Westmead.

Cate Campbell shines at the Women’s Health ‘Women in Sport’ Awards

This article was first written and published for the Roar.

On Wednesday night, Women’s Health held their 8th annual ‘Women in Sport’ Awards at the Hordern Pavillion.

Amongst a who’s who of prominent media personalities, advocates for women in sport, athletes and representatives from sporting governing bodies, it was another opportunity for supporters of women’s sport to get together and recognise how far we have come, but also remember how far we still have to go.

Return of the WNBL highlights a longtime supporter of women’s sport

This article was first written and published for The Roar

Tonight the 2018-19 season of the WNBL commences with the Sydney University Flames in action against the University of Canberra Capitals from 7pm.

While sports like AFL and cricket have received plenty of attention in recent years for launching their women’s competitions and being at the forefront of the women’s sport revolution, it’s worth noting that the WNBL, now heading into its 38th year, is Australia’s longest running elite female competition – and an exceptionally entertaining one at that.

Super Netball semis time highlights Sydney’s other venue problem

This article was first written and published for The Roar.

With a 69-66 win over the West Coast Fever in the final round of the Super Netball competition, the Giants sealed the minor premiership and booked their place in the major semi-final, tomorrow at the Quay Centre.

It was an incredible finish to the season, particularly considering that the Fever had been at the top of the ladder for the entire season, only to be pipped in the final round.

As minor premiers, the Giants have hosting rights for the major-semi final. This would normally only be cause for celebration because of the big advantage this poses – especially against a team based as far away as the Fever.