sunday survey: aussie farewell

There are probably too many to choose from, so we’ll let you guys decide: Which was the moment you’ll remember from this year’s Australian Open the most? There was plenty to talk about over the two weeks of the tourney, including a wacky week one. Did Rafa’s exit surprise you? Or how about the way Roger and Murray went down to eventual-champ Djokovic in straights? Li Na made it a step closer to a slam title, but Clijsters was there with her agility and power. Can anyone stop her?

More afterthoughts to come this week… but for now, we’ll leave it up to you.

(mark dadswell/ getty images)

nike's 'clash of champs' exo

Nike is pulling out all the stops for its just-announced March 8 exhibition featuring four superstars: Serena, Rafa, Maria and Roger. The exo itself is being held in Eugene, Oregon, traditionally known as a running town and mecca for all things University of Oregon related (including an almost national football title). Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 AM.

(screengrab via matthewknightarena.com)

the battle of the husbands

By Benjamin Snyder of TenaciouslyTennis.com.

The final of this year’s Australian Open women’s event signifies more than a battle pitting Belgium’s three-time US Open champ Kim Clijsters against Chinese tennis’ greatest hope, Li Na. It’s also the story of two husbands: retired basketball player Brian Lynch and Jiang Shan, a former tennis player-turned-coach.

For Kim, husband Brian left a lucrative basketball career on the European circuit to give his wife a second chance at tennis success. She’s done pretty well for herself, too. With two majors in 18 months – and the potential for a third – she’s the most successful mom in tennis history since Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s win at Wimbledon in the 1980s. | TSF Vault: Kim Clijsters

She’s even survived the limelight-shifting comeback of Belgian rival-turned-friend-turned-rival Justine Henin. Yeah, JuJu came back and then retired for the second time just as Kim claimed a spot in the Melbourne final. Oops.

Through it all, however, Brian’s been there to back her up. He goes to every match, bites his nails hoping for Kim’s success, and helps out with their daughter, Jada. And all so that his wife can do her thing: win.

As for Li, husband Jiang not only serves as her coach, but also is the guy who apparently deserves the credit for improving her mental game. He also inspired her to play again after she quit a few years ago. Even more importantly, he’s the brunt of some jokes she’s cracked on her way to the AO final.

Apparently, he snores pretty loud. After keeping her up the night before the semifinal match versus world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Li didn’t think twice about calling him out on it. No bed for Jiang, she told the world. Instead, he’d be sleeping in the bathroom, she said. We’ll have to keep an eye on him in the player box as Li takes to the court against Kim. Maybe Mirka could lend him some sunglasses?

To make matters worse, Li had trouble remembering the date of their anniversary. In the same interview, the Chinese no. 1 got flustered when told her win came on their fifth anniversary. Is it the 27th or the 29th? In the moment, such a fact escaped the tennis-hot Li.

So, sorry, Jarmila Groth, these husbands simply ooze positive support, unlike Sam. They also seem keen on keeping the controversy and yelling to a minimum. Well, at least publicly and during match play.

In the end, the question isn’t just: Who will win? Which husband’s support reigns supreme also stands to be determined in this historic match between mother Kim Clijsters and Chinese trendsetter Li Na.

(photos via getty)

feeling peachy

The International Tennis Hall of Fame followed up their announcement of Andre Agassi joining the Hall in 2011 by adding another name to the list: Peachy Kellmeyer. “Peachy,” whose real name is Fern Lee, was the first employee and director of the WTA way back in 1973 and still serves the organization today as Operations Executive Consultant. She will be inducted alongside Agassi on July 9 in Newport, R.I. | TSF Vault: Hall of Fame

(photo by getty images)

aussie open podcast w/ david thorpe

As the Australian Open launches into its final weekend, David Thorpe joins us for a TSF podcast, our first of the 2011 season. We catch up with David on his thoughts of Justine Henin‘s re-retirment, the future of Li Na (and the domination of Chinese tennis?!), AO scheduling for the men and our favorite moment from the last 10 days. | More podcasts from TSF

Listen now: TSF-Podcast-Aussie-11

(photo by getty images)

a letter to juju… from the tennis establishment

Benjamin Snyder contributes to Fortune.com and writes for his blog, TenaciouslyTennis.com. He serves as an editor for Goucher [Md.] College’s newspaper, The Quindecim, and plays for the college’s varsity tennis team. Benjamin swears that he is distantly related to WTA veteran Patty Schnyder. Today he pens a letter to Justine Henin. From the tennis establishment.

Dear Justine,
What happened? You’re retiring, again? After everything you’ve been through, you’re letting an elbow injury prevent you from playing for good? Fine. It’s not like any other big name players are sidelined right now. Oh, wait. Sorry, Serena and Venus….

But let’s get this straight: Kim wins the US Open as a mom, and you decide it’s time to hit the courts again. You seem jealous that she’s getting all the attention. You’ve never been best friends with Kim, especially with such an intense rivalry since childhood. Plus, there’s that time her father accused you of taking drugs in 2003. Things improved between you both, the Belgian Sisters were back, but Clijsters prevailed in the end.

It’s 2010. You play a tournament for the first time, losing to Kim. But it was the match of the year. You shock the world by clawing through to the Australian Open final. There, you face Serena, make it to the third set, and lose again. You take two titles during the year, lose to Kim some more, and hurt your elbow against her at Wimbledon. Ouch. But – fine – it makes sense that you lay low for the rest of the year.

In 2011, you’re not feeling 100 percent, but decide to play. Why? Apparently, winning again means more than anything. You tell the press that another major would be “a bigger achievement than what I did in the past.” | More from the TSF Vault: Justine Henin

Apparently, that’s not enough anymore. You tweak the elbow against Svetlana Kuznetsova in Melbourne and completely call it quits?

Happier (and healthier) times: Justine once held the tennis world in her hand. (Philippe Buisson)

That doesn’t sound like the Justine I know. The Justine who overcame so, so many challenges. A mother who died when you were young. A divorce. An estrangement from her family. Big babe tennis. Being vertically challenged. An obsession with pudding.

You say that you came back with “a lot of questions and a lot of doubts,” but you’re leaving us with even more by retiring so quickly. You’re in shock, according to your farewell letter – and we are, too. Remember the first time after getting owned by Dinara Safina as the world number one? These retirements come pretty quickly after losses. Don’t you want to take some time to think it through?

Well, I’m sure Kim will be fine that you’re taking the spotlight away from her again. It’s not like she’s about to win the Australian Open, or anything. Oh, and how about teaming up at the 2012 London Olympics? Good luck with keeping that friendship.

We’re left with another burning question before you tune us out: Who is going to make a comeback to inspire you to play again? Elena Dementieva? Not likely. Guess you better call Belgian Idol, they’ve got a microphone ready for you.

Sincerely,

The Tennis Establishment

(justine ao photo via getty images)