Saturday's men's final will be the climax of a record-breaking Australian Open 2011, as the Rod Laver Arena hosts the first-ever all-marsupial title contest.
The match, between an Eastern Grey Kangaroo and a Wombat, will be the first-ever grand slam marsupial head-to-head (or "pouch-to-pouch", as some are dubbing it) final.
Up to now, only the 1972 Albanian Open final has witnessed a marsupial shoot-out, when the Pitkin Arena hosted a promising match-up between a plucky under-marsupial Red-Necked Wallaby and the odds-on favourite American Virginia Opossum. In a sensational turn-up for the books, the wallaby ran out, or rather hopped out, the winner in straight sets. His success was short-lived, however, as he lost his next match, a first round tie in the Paraguayan Open, to Nastase. The sparse crowd were treated to the unedifying spectacle of Nastase making fun of the hapless pouched mammal by hopping about the court with his arms held to his chest. The match was a walk-over, or rather a hop-over, and the wallaby was never seen again.
Other than this, appearances by marsupials at world tennis tournaments have been, like the lands where the Jumblies live, far and few, and they have caused barely a twitch in the world tennis net curtains. The 1980 Druidic Trophy at Llangulldwrdrydrrch, Wales, England, UK, saw a game between a marsupial mole and a pig-footed bandicoot which the bandicoot won easily, its all-court mobility proving too much for the lumbering mole.
There was almost a sensation in the qualifying round of the 2002 Genghis Khan Ulan Bator Challenge, in a match between Britain's Tim Henman and a Numbat, or Banded Ant-Eater from Western Australia. Henman was leading by two sets to one, and the numbat seemed more interested in probing for termites beyond the doubles lines. An upset seemed very much on the cards, until the numbat realised that there were no termites to be found up the skirt of the line judge, and rallied, to win the next 14 games and take the tie.
Saturday's final, then, will break new ground in tennis history, as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (nicknamed "Skippy" by the unimaginative Australian Press), takes on its pouched adversary the Wombat (nicknamed "Willie" by the unimaginative Australian Press, after the character in the 1960s Childrens TV Show The Tingha and Tucker Club).
The big money is on the Wombat, after his stunning five-set semi-final victory over Roger Federer, but, in the likely heat of Melbourne Park, his squat, muscular frame may become burdensome. Another potential achilles heel is his tendency, mid-match, to revert to traditional wombat burrowing behaviour and start digging up the court; he was warned twice for this against Federer. Don't rule out a surprise. The Eastern Grey has stamina to burn, as he showed in the 15-13 fourth set of his win over Britain's Andy Murray in the other semi-final. Smart money may yet move over to the rangy kangaroo, for whom superior height and reach and a rock-solid baseline game may also prove formidable weapons against the brutal power and aggression of the wombat's serve and volley arsenal.
Whatever the result, history will certainly be made on Saturday. This is one not to miss, a real "I was there" opportunity.