Year-end events are the pot-liquor of the ever-lengthening year, served up lukewarm to those of us who watch ALL of the tennis, when the worst elements of the pro tour combine in one last wringing-out of the tennis calendar: The China swing that wasn’t supposed to happen (see: Peng Shuai. Oh wait; you can’t). The hastily-organized WTA finals. Exhibition matches.
But come January, those of us who endured all that are gifted with the glory of the Summer Down Ummer (or the Sunder Down Under, if you prefer; pick one, but it has to rhyme). This is the month during which we in the northern hemisphere are most likely to be stuck indoors, looking for inspiration in whatever Tennis feeds us. And Tennis, thankfully, always lays out a smorgasbord. This year’s spread looks promising: Pickleball has its own cacophonous channel, Dimitrov is back, Osaka’s outfit is fire, and Andy Murray is crying again.
All is not right with the world, however, because the best reason to be upbeat at the beginning of a new tennis year is not the tennis. It’s not the bright, hot sun entering our pupils or the festival atmosphere surrounding Melbourne Park. It’s the Visit Melbourne ad.
Tennis is a lifestyle and a vibe and a sport, not necessarily in that order; every trapping plays into our experience of it, including the ads we mute—or don’t—as we watch. And every year, the kind people over at Visit Melbourne spend their hard-earned AU$ and remind us all—at just the right time—that we can have nice things. That there’s a place where it’s currently warm that isn’t Florida.
Sometimes it’s Holly Throsby singing “A Heart Divided” while people in northern climes interact with their sun-kissed antipodean counterparts. Or Ali Barter crooning “New Night” over Wes Anderson-esque stop-motion Melbourne scenes. One year, it was a moving excerpt of E.J. Brady’s poem “Far and Wide” over images of laneways, cool restaurants, people in spaghetti straps, adelie penguins and surfers and wineries.
So this year, as ever, we made sure our ESPN+ subscriptions were paid up, limbered up our channel-changing thumbs, and bellied up to the television, excited for something that isn’t a pharmaceutical ad, and: We got drums. Just, drums. Beats, albeit funky ones, as people move around Melbourne looking cool. Thwacks over dinner. Thumps by the sea. As if the start of a new tennis year has all the promise of an Iron John drum circle.
So we here at Racquet would like to lodge an official complaint to whoever is responsible for the general zeitgeist over at Visit Melbourne: You need to understand how important the dulcet tones of an Australian singer-songwriter, or at the very least an actual Australian voice, are to those of us up here in the dark, hungrily consuming every part of Aussie Open coverage as we try to form an optimistic view of the coming tennis year.
Please, keep our delicate northern psyches in mind when you start riffing ideas for next year’s ad. And while we’re at it, here’s a suggestion: If you persist in using only percussion to get your point across, you might want to buy ad time over on the Pickleball Channel, since those people clearly don’t care about noise.
Wendy Laird is a frequent contributor to Racquet and the author of The Road Less Graveled. Above: The 12 Apostles courtesy of, you guessed it, Visit Melbourne.