Christopher O’Leary

It’s January and once again the nation rest its hopes of
Grand Slam glory on Lleyton Hewitt’s shoulders. And as usual, he airs his views
and thinks that they should be followed without hesitation.

Hewitt was quoted in Melbourne’s Herald Sun yesterday
saying that there had not been “any effort” made to speed up the Open’s courts
to aid his title chances. Hewitt also said that “it was disappointing” given
that he always tries to do the right thing by Australian tennis. Apparently,
tournament organisers owe it to him.

Apart from being Australia’s great hope, no one can argue
that Hewitt’s blistering returns and epic battles, not to mention his home
life, generate great interest in the game. But does that mean tournament
organisers should go out of their way to create playing conditions that favour
the home town player?

Because of the way other sports associations aid their
talent, Hewitt may expect to be given a home court advantage. Davis Cup tennis
is renowned for it. Cricket teams have been known to get in the ears of
curators, and soccer bodies have haggled over kick off times to aid sides at
the threat of cities being burnt down (which was probably the case in
Montevideo last year).

But tournament chief Paul McNamee says a decision was taken
to keep the court speeds the same this year as last. “A grand slam has to pick a surface that it
believes is in the best interests of the tournament,” McNamee told the Sydney Morning Herald.
That’s right, the tournament, not one player, even if he is the home town

While Aussie tennis fans would love to see an Australian
win, there’s no reason that should come at the price of sportsmanship, fair
play, and the Australian Open’s reputation. If anything, our great hope
probably has his toughest Melbourne Park campaign ahead of him.

Is that what motivates his rancour? Or is it a fear that
he’ll never win at Melbourne Park without a helping hand?