The quick and the dead

When it comes to risks in tennis, they usually don't come any bigger than the should-I-or-shouldn't-I decision about rushing the net to serve and volley.

But parting with your hard-earned cash for a sought-after ticket to the Australian Open women's final could be regarded as one of the riskier choices associated with the sport.

In short, the on-court action for the culmination of a two-week slam for the women's competition could come to an end in less time than it takes to mow your back lawn (depending on whether you have a tennis court).

It's not a new phenomenon, and it's not limited to grand slams played in Australia. Margaret Court and Steffi Graf used to regularly destroy opponents, with the German once achieving the rare 'double bagel' scoreline against Natasha Zverera in 32 minutes at Roland Garros.

Only last year at Melbourne Park did Victoria Azarenka monster Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-0 in 82 minutes in what was assumed was going to be an epic contest that went the distance. Not hard to find an argument about great value for money at up to $300 per ticket.

In other recent finals, there was even more cause to complain. In 2006 Justine Henin withdrew (perhaps dubiously) when trailing 6-1 2-0 to Frechwoman Amelie Mauresmo. Naturally, the Belgian champion came under intense scrutiny in the aftermath about her stomach pain.

Ugly one-sided tennis contests are not limited to the women's game but the undeniable fact that the women's finals are decided as best of three-sets contests only seems to accentuate feelings of an anti-climax.

When Andre Agassi obliterated the unexpected finalist, Germany's Rainer Schletter, on a Sunday afternoon at the old Flinders Park 10 years ago, it didn't quite leave the same searing impression on your memory. Maybe the fact that it was the last of the American's eight grand slam titles helped soothe any potential pain.

And before the fluffy-ball spotters out there start pointing their racquets at this correspondent in anger, it must be said the disappointment from lucking out with expensive sports tickets can be an across-the-board experience.

Risk is everywhere in the sports fan's experience. Richmond supporters who choose to overlook overseas holidays in September. Any AFL fans who pay exorbitant prices to bump up their membership with the reward of guaranteeing finals tickets when their team is just as likely to be heading off their end-of-season trip. What about splurging for day three tickets of an Australia-Sri Lanka Boxing Day Test at the MCG? Heck, surely that was a sound investment for cricket afficiodos, but for many all they got was a dissatisfying early finish to the event.

So, back to the tennis final. After writing all this, I'm tipping those at courtside will now be treated to a memorable three-set experience, possibly with an unexpected twist. After all, there have been several exceptions to the let-down feeling at Melbourne Park. Who could forget the classic last-woman-standing women's singles decider between Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis played in brutal heat in 2002?

The only thing risky that day was the potential damage to the players' long-term health.

This story The quick and the dead first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.