Right of the bat you must be thinking, how in the world could a banana not only be a character in a sporting story, but the villain of it and why would anyone take the time to write about it. Well, it is and I am.
With everyone in the 6ix being focused on local matters such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and their continually third period “slips” or the ap”peel”ing announcement of DeMar DeRozan as a starter in the NBA All-star game, many might have missed out on what has been going on in the Australian Open Grand Slam.
With the scheduling not so North American friendly and with the early departure of Canadians, it certainly hasn’t raised as much attention as it normally does. Despite coming off an injury plagued year, a first round exit to unseeded Lukas Lacko was still quite a shock for the 22nd seeded Milos Raonic. A deep run may have been out of the question as he gets back into game shape, but no one was expecting him to have his worst Australian open either. A few days later unseeded Eugenie Bouchard bowed out in the second round to Simona Halep. This match wasn’t a shocker since losing to the number one seed never is.
Which brings us to Canadian Denis Shapovalov and the first of the two banana incidents to happen in Melbourne in the same week. After defeating Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, Shapovalov went on to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the second round. It was a difficult match as the Canadian could not put away the wily veteran even though he led two sets to one and also led 5-2 in the fifth and final set. Certainly a tough way to lose and this may eat at the youngster for quite some time but I feel he has the mental and emotional acumen to overcome it.
But can he overcome the toughest opponent he faced this week? It wasn’t Tsonga or Tsitsipas and as a typical Torontonian complaint, it wasn’t the chair umpire either. Shapovalov lost to a banana. Several times in fact before being able to score a decisive fatal blow of his own. Here is the video footage:
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2018
I have to give credit where credit is due and after giving the bananas a three point advantage, he didn’t give up and managed to win in the end. That dear children is an example of true dedication and hard work. Yes, that was sarcasm folks. Shapovalov though did have the last laugh (or bite for that matter) with the banana. I know… cringe worthy right?
Not all incidents involving bananas this week were humourous. Ok, who am I kidding, they were funny. This next incident however, did not end very well for CoCo Vandeweghe. The women’s 10th seed was defeated by Timea Babos ranked 51 in the world. During her straight set defeat, CoCo had a couple of little tantrums. One of which was because there was no bananas left for her.
Although technically, the grounds crew should have made sure that a banana or two was available for her to consume between sets; her reactions, her rant and her time wasting did earn her a technical. The lack of bananas may have started the downward spiral, but CoCo went cuckoo a little later on uttering some unrepeatable words to her opponent. That earned her a second technical and loss of a point.
Vandeweghe did go on to lose the match and joined many of her compatriots with an early exit. 9 out of 10 American women were knocked out on the first day and 3 out of 5 of the men were as well. Certainly not a great start for them or any other country in North America.
The 2018 Australian Open didn’t finish (or start for that matter) as well as Canadian fans may have hoped, but the future of Canadian tennis certainly looks bright. I’ll be honest in saying I don’t know how much Bouchard may be a part of that, as she has never come close to regaining her 2015 form, but give Raonic some time to heel and Shapovalov a little more experience and I think the time to put a Canadian’s name on a Grand Slam trophy is very close at hand.
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