|ESPN.com: Australian Open 2014||[Print without images]|
When heat first descended on Earth, it made a beeline to the southeast corner of Australia.
Now, of course, Australia wasn't officially founded until 1788, when a group of European convicts were shipped to the "new world." For their punishment, criminals were sentenced to one week at Melbourne Park to endure the torrid temperatures that today's tennis players have to suffer through.
That's how truly cruel the sun has been since the outset of this year's Aussie Open. For four-plus days, the 100-plus-degree heat that melted Caroline Wozniacki's water bottle has been the main source of consternation and concern among the competitors.
But then something pretty cool happened. At 8:41 p.m. local time Friday, after a 25-minute rain delay, players, umpires and fans suddenly found themselves basking in some biting weather. Just as quickly as Bernard Tomic was booted from the tournament, temperatures dipped to a frigid 73 degrees. If you're doing the math, as ESPN's Chris Fowler noted on air, that's a 36-degree difference.
Long johns, anyone?
Anyway, in deference to the new Aussie Open temperatures, how about our first-ever Cool Power Rankings?
1. Not the heat
The heat is not, no matter how you look at it, cool. There is nothing cool about every single player being bombarded with questions about the temperature. There is nothing cool about players, cameramen and ball boys collapsing. There is nothing cool about the heat stealing the headlines day in, day out. The heat is not cool. At all.
Cool Power Ranking: 0.0 (Enough said.)
2. Cool air
What a welcome relief. Finally, we can settle down and watch tennis without outside factors playing a prominent role. I mean, think about what Zheng Jie was experiencing Friday? "I feel is so hot, my mentally is no working," Zheng told reporters after her 6-2, 6-4 loss to Aussie Casey Dellacqua. "Sometime I watch the ball, I cannot focus to watch the ball. Then, yeah, I lose the concentrate. Is very difficult for me, this weather. … I just watch the ball and just hit it. I don't know where I hit it. … I cannot deep breaths." The poor woman. She couldn't see; she couldn't breathe. Not a winning formula in professional tennis. Compare that to Novak Djokovic, who played after the Melbourne temperatures dropped. His most compelling postmatch comments: "It's always nice to have some fresh air." Sure, give the guy who needs no help some help.
Cool Power Ranking: 9.7 (The cool air wasn't fair to Zheng.)
3. Bethanie Mattek-Sands
You can't spell cool without BMS. Well, actually you can. Despite the fact that she lost to Sharapova in the Aussie Opener, Mattek-Sands, tennis' leading Lady Gaga, sported purple hair with hints of pink and fuschia and perhaps some other colors. She also donned a flecked skirt, which complemented her knee-high black socks almost flawlessly. This compared to Victor Hanescu, who wore a white hat, a white shirt, white shorts, white socks and, not to be outdone, white sneakers.
Cool Power Rankings: 8.2 (She loses nearly two full points for the loss. Hanescu was too low to register.)
4. Sam Querrey
No one cooled off as much as Querrey did from his first two matches to his third-round debacle. He committed 41 unforced errors in a loose and listless encounter against Fabio Fognini. Querrey, who was really confident about his game coming in, was the United States' best hope to make it to the second week. Now that honor belongs to Donald Young. We are pulling for the Donald to win, but not even the guy who was arrested two days ago at the Aussie Open for using a betting device concealed in his shorts is going to wager on that happening.
Cool Power Rankings: 4.6 (Give Querrey credit for a good run while it lasted.)
5. Li Na
Li, last year's runner-up in Australia, came this close to bowing out in the third round against Lucie Safarova. And Li knows it. After her match, she offered this to reporters at her postmatch presser: "I think the five centimeters save my tournament. If she hit in, I think, [the] whole team on the way to the airport." If anything, Li sees the bigger picture.
Cool Power Rankings: 8.9 (Li is the funniest player in the game. Period.)