Australian open- a curtain raiser for the rest of the season
Australian Open known as the happy slam (a tagline Djokovic would certainly agree), often throw many surprises as players struggle to get into the ‘swing’ at the beginning of a season. Apart from the scorching summer heat, incessant showers and the over-enthusiastic Aussie crowd tennis fans, makes a good treat.
The men’s draw started with the shock defeat of Rafael Nadal to fellow countryman Fernando Verdasco in an epic match reminiscent of the one they played here in 2009, only this time Nadal ending up at the wrong side of the score line. The man to beat was Novak Djokovic and he being at the peak of his peak meant the others faced an uphill task. The other contenders all managed to survive the first week. Especially notable was Roger Federer who was determined to make amends to his shock third round defeat to Andreas Seppi last year. Andy Murray took a step back because of his personal matters that he had to contend to as his wife Kim was expected to give birth anytime.
This was the last Australian Open for Aussie favorite Lleyton Hewitt who is known for his grit and fighting spirit. He bowed out to Spaniard David Ferrer and will now continue to nurture Aussie young guns in his new role as Davis Cup captain.
Federer notched up his 300th grand slam match win on his way to the semis where he met an imperious Djokovic. Federer was almost handed a humiliating drubbing by an almost perfect Djokovic but he managed to get some respectability to the score by taking the 3rd set. The odds on favorite showed no signs of letting off and met a familiar foe in Andy Murray in the final. There was never any doubt about the final’s outcome. Murray had to play out of this world and Djokovic had to slump down and self-destruct for him to have any chance. That did not happen and Djokovic won his 6th Australian Open matching Roy Emerson’s open era record. Akin to his eating the Wimbledon grass gesture he kissed the blue turf of Rod Laver arena and laughed at the possibility of a ‘DjokerSlam’.
The main question in the Women’s draw was who will meet Serena Williams in the final. After the initial rush where many seeds tumbled out, some interesting stories began to emerge. Zhang Shua who finally won a grand slam match on her fifteenth attempt by beating World No 2 Simona Halep was the story of the tournament. Aussies found a new sweetheart in home girl Daria Gavrilova who fought all the way to the fourth round. Angelique Kerber always had the game to beat anybody on her day but lacked the consistency. But this time she found a new dimension to her game and mental fortitude to grind out victories. She was match point down against Misaki Doi in her first round match and fought all the way back downing Serena in the Final.
The conclusions from this year’s Australian Open, are plain and simple. Djokovic is at an unimaginable level right now and the rest of the field have a lot of catching up to do. As for the Women’s, Serena is still up there but the rest will take inspiration from Kerber’s heroics at this Australian open and Vinci’s at last year’s US open and keep believing. The long grueling tennis season could not have asked for a better curtain raiser.