Australian Open 2011 Recap

Djokovic at his 2008 Australian Open quarterfinal.
Image via Wikipedia

I was planning to write my thoughts of this year’s Aussie Open a while ago but got distracted with other things. I think it was a unique event with some interesting stories. Of course, the Men’s final having neither Federer or Nadal present was the biggest change and it was nice to see two similar players and friends fight it out for the title.

It would have been even better had Andy Murray been able to win and tie it at 1 grand slam each with Novak Djokovic but the fact was that Novak was just far better on that day, as well as Murray not seemingly being able to play his best tennis in the final. How much of that was pressure and how much due to Novak’s dominating play is unknown but I still think that Murray can win a grand slam. The problem is that many other players can also win grand slams and there won’t be many better opportunities to get off the board.

When Nadal and Del-Potro are fit again, Federer and others on top form it will be very difficult to get back to another final, nevermind winning the tournament. Not only the opposition but the pressure of Wimbledon will probably prove too much. He’ll likely have to wait until the US Open for his next big chance, but we’ll see.

On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters is one of my favourite players and her comeback is a great story. She was the obvious pick for the title with Serena out and many other top players either struggling for form, such as Ivanovic, Safina and Venus, or recovering from injuries like Justine Henin, who has now retired a second time due to persistent knee injuries which is a great shame for her. Caroline Wozniaki looked to be the other obvious pick but she still hasn’t won a grand slam and may end up like Safina and Murray in continually falling just short.

Kim faced Li Na in the final. She did win a set but ultimately couldn’t fend off Clijsters. Li Na is really starting to gain in popularity with her comedy interviews as well as her tennis. I hope she continues at this level and maybe she can win a grand slam this year.

Both players were funny at the post-final ceremony with Kim talking about her dentist and someone in her box’s horrible green pants that she forced him to wear for superstitious reasons. She even gave the ok to Australian fans calling her Aussie kim officially now that she won the event after she had been called that for years after her engagement to Lleyton Hewitt.

Overall I think it was a good start to the grand slam tennis year and I hope the partial trend of seeing different players at the contending for top honours continues.

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US Open 2010 Thoughts

The US Open is the grand slam I can never get into as much as the others, mainly due to the fact that the Eurosport coverage isn’t as all-encompassing as it is for the Australian or Roland Garros, as well as Wimbledon on the BBC. Those events, especially Wimbledon are covered so well that you feel like it draws you in completely for those two weeks. It could also be partly to do with the fact that this is the final grand slam of the very long and tiresome tennis season. It’s harder to be excited at this time of year.

However, despite the fact that I wasn’t able to see as much of the tournament than I’d have liked to, I still caught enough and stayed up to date with all of the main stories of the fortnight, and there were a lot of highlights.

It started with lots of shocks, including Murray who, as I predicted, had a tough time with Stanislas Wawrinka and eventually lost that match in the third round. A notable match I enjoyed was the all-spanish encounter between Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer in the 4th round. It was one of those with twists and turns constantly. They both kept having fluctuating levels of play and the 5th set was a spectacle. It looked as if Verdasco had given up almost, before he came roaring back to win with some incredible shots. There’s always an epic 5 set match to really get me drawn more into a tournament, and this is the one I’ll take away from this year’s US Open.

As far as the late stages go, I was happy to see players like Mikhail Youzhny get a share of the limelight for once, and actually put up a good performance in the semi’s to Nadal, who no one expected to be troubled. Novak Djokovic also played well and actually looked like a player deserving of his number 3 seeding. The end of his match against Federer was a demonstration of how mental strength and never giving up can get you everywhere in tennis. It looked as if he was hanging on by a thread but managed to break Federer’s after narrowly holding his own under immense pressure saving two match points.

The final was one step too far for Djokovic though, especially with how well Nadal is playing, but he did put up a decent fight and took a set off Rafa, which isn’t too bad going.

On the Women’s side, there’s not really as much to say as the draw is quite wide open from the beginning. It was nice to see Vera Zvonareva get to another final, although she also lost another one. This time to a very worthy and likeable champion, Kim Clijsters who seems to somehow be able to produce her best at this tournament. She said something poignant in how she told Vera to not be downhearted because of these losses, as it took her a long time to win her first grand slam. It’s definitely a good message to send out, that it’s never too late to achieve great success.

Overall I think it was a pretty historic US Open. Rafael Nadal now has a career grand slam, Kim Clijsters has cemented her dominance of the US Open and proven it wasn’t just a lucky one off last year, and we’ve seen many great matches. I can’t wait for the end of year championships and the Australian Open 2011 now.