Australia fair? Sports stars given a grilling Down Under

Story highlights

  • Australia is world renowned as a country which is passionate about sport
  • Women's champions Victoria Azarenka criticized for taking a medical break in semifinal
  • Rising star Bernard Tomic is Australia's top male tennis player
  • But the 20-year-old is not universally rated by the country's sport fans

Are Australian sports fans the toughest in the world? They would certainly give the English football press a run for their money. They don't like you if you're too good. But they can't abide if you're rubbish either.

Admittedly I have only been in the country for five days. And with an office full of Australian cameraman, I'm more than aware that I'm putting myself in line for some thoroughly unflattering camera angles in the days to come. But this is what I have learned.

Take "Tall Poppy Syndrome" for starters. It's a new phrase I've discovered. The urban dictionary says it's Australian slang to criticize highly successful people and cut them down to size.

I was taught it by virtually the only fan supporting Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open women's final at the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night. It was her explanation for the icy reception the Belorussian received.

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Yes, Vika had upset a few people with her medical time out in her semi. But she'd fronted up to all the questions she was asked, and admitted she'd made a mistake.

And Sloane Stephens said it hadn't bothered her two hoots. Here she was fighting her heart out to stay as the world No. 1 and defend her grand slam title -- at just 23 years of age.

If the crowd had stopped booing for long enough, they might have seen she played some frankly brilliant tennis. What happened to marveling at excellence?

Homegrown talent doesn't fare much better, though. He's still some way from a grand slam title, but 20-year-old Bernard Tomic got further than any other Australian player at the opening grand slam of the year.

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He beat eventual winner and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic just a couple of weeks ago as well. But my taxi driver on Thursday told me he was rubbish.

Cast your mind back too, to the early days of Ian Thorpe's swimming career, and the pressures he faced at just 15, after becoming the youngest male world champion.

But if you can't win by winning, you'd think they back the underdog. But no, that doesn't always seem to be the case either.

Australian rugby fan Andrew Marmont on sports website Roar gives us a list of things he'd rather do instead of watching the Wallabies get beaten by the All Blacks -- again.

It includes vacuuming, and washing the car. I'm a woman, and I'll take the sport every time. Why not throw a party, sing your heart out and marvel in plucky failure once again. The Brits have been doing it for years.

Take Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards -- the first British ski-jumper at the Winter Olympics. In 1988 he became a national hero -- as a loser.

It's not just Australia though. Spain and Italy have some of the most passionate, positive football supporters in the world. Until their teams lose two or three games. Then watch the tide turn.

But I suppose at least they care.

I found a trip to the basketball in Miami to be one of the strangest sporting experiences of my life.

It was the Heat against the Clippers in early 2007. Quite a big game at the time. But you wouldn't have known it inside the American Airlines Arena. Fans turned up as and when they liked, or popped their heads in for a quarter, and then headed back to the popcorn stand. Very odd.

They've definitely got passion here. I saw that up close and personal as a few hundred Sydney FC fans arrived in Melbourne to see their team take on Melbourne Victory. You could hear their songs from half a mile away as they approached the ground.

And I have to say, Alessandro Del Piero told me he's loving the fans here. He joked that he's being asked for about a thousand autographs a day since his move from Serie A to the A-League. But he doesn't mind because he's being asked nicely. I'll give them that.

The thing about Australia is that on the whole, it loves sport. The people know sport. They have a lot of it here. Not just the Australian Open tennis, but cricket, F1's Australian Grand Prix, horse racing's Melbourne Cup, Aussie Rules Football, rugby league, and soccer's A-League.

What I don't understand is that there's so much to celebrate. But maybe when you have a horse like Black Caviar, human endeavor is just never going to be good enough.

PS. This is no reflection of the welcome I've had during my time in Australia! I've had a truly wonderful visit -- and very much look forward to coming back soon!


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