Mark Philippoussis’s swift departure from the Australian Open will not have
surprised too many people. Through a combination of injuries, poor form, and a
loss of confidence, the Scud’s ranking has plummeted to 165. He was only on
centre court last night thanks to a wildcard and when he drew Sebastian
Grosjean in the opening round, the result was not a hard one to predict.

But predicting which Mark Philippoussis
will turn up on the night has never been easy. He’s long been one of the most
erratic players in men’s tennis. Watching him last night, his big serve and
volley seemed to function, he still moves around the court with an agility
belying his size, and he hasn’t lost the ability to bash winners from anywhere.
He looked the part, but still got rolled in three fairly ho-hum sets.

Is anyone surprised anymore?

It seems Melbourne’s Herald Sun wasn’t: “It was an all
too familiar story for Mark Philippoussis last night with the big-serving
Australian again failing to kick-start his much-awaited career resurgence,”
Scott Gullan wrote.

The SMH
agreed. “Australian Mark
Philippoussis’s slide into the tennis wilderness continued tonight as he
suffered a first round Australian Open exit for the first time in 11 years.”

Australian tennis fans would greatly enjoy
watching the Poo redeem himself to stand alongside Lleyton Hewitt as a serious
contender. But how much more goodwill does he have with tournament organisers?
And how much longer does an event like the Australian Open keep giving out
wildcards to perennial under-performers?

Peter Fray

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