Ten most tennistastic things about the Australian Open 2014
The year’s first Grand Slam was one of the best in a long time. The tennis review had no problems finding ten things that made it so tennistastic.
1. New courts, new champs
The faster courts were rewarded with the most attacking and exciting champions and Li Na and Stan Wawrinka were the most popular duo of champs in recent memory. And not just for their charming personalities. Both players played with the intent to win not lose. Both players battled through a tough round before the final, their games seeing them through. And both of them had inspiring purple patches in their championship matches which showcased why the change to faster courts was the right decision and why both players were the worthiest of champs.
2. Federer reboot
Roger Federer reached his 11th consecutive semi-final in Melbourne. After not making it past the quarters of a slam since the French Open, pundits and fans were concerned he might not make it to the last four. But Federer’s teaming with Stefan Edberg and its consequent abundance of aggressive netplay in Federer’s game proved to be just the tonic. Federer’s last sixteen performance against Tsonga was one of the very best of the Championships and a great sign of what might be in ’14.
3. Dimitrov rising
Grigor Dimitrov made good on his promise in Melbourne. Step by step he gets better and better and his quarter-final showing was quite a jump. His win over Milos Roanic, against whom we will see him contest plenty of battles in upcoming slams, was mature and confident. His four set loss to Nadal was a case of what might have been, his missed forehand in the third set breaker surely still giving him nightmares. But tennis is not about coulda would shoulda but about results. And Grigor is certainly putting them together. The next step? A last four in a Major. Expect Grigor to put his best foot forward at one of the year’s remaining slams.
4. Stan vs Novak in Melbourne part 2.
Their battle in 2013 was a hard act to follow but these two measured up to it in a quite different but just as dramatic way. While ’13 saw heartache as Stan let slip his two sets to one lead, this one was full of the feel good factor as Stan led once more by two sets to one, only to be pulled back again but holding on to win 9-7, his confidence in his game holding up. The victory affirmed what we all knew: Stan had it in him to win big, and that tennis deserves to be anything but predictable.
5. Ana Ivanovic beats Serena.
The wilderness years are over; Ana Ivanovic is back. Six seasons have rushed by since her speedy climb to Major Champion status and world number one. Six years of early exits, inuries and peekaboo comebacks. Who was not thrilled to see Ana hitting those forehands with all the passion and bite of 2006-08? Serena Williams that’s who. Especially on a day when her body was being anything less than forgiving. Ana let rip, believed and conquered and it was quite the magnificent spectacle and one we hope to see again very soon.
6. Attacking tennis on the big stage in the last stages.
The Berdcyh-Wawrinka semi final saw two men going at each other with nothing less than attacking on their minds. Seeing this translate onto the court in a Major semi-final was a spectator’s dream. 117 winners to 98 errors in four sets from the two was what made us all dream it would go to a fifth. The sight of Berdych losing the third set breaker missing the lines because he wanted to win rather than grinding to not lose put the Gallant back into tennis.
7. Radwanska’s third set of spells and wizardry versus Azarenka in the last eight.
Download. Replay. Repeat. Those who love some beauty in their tennis would have been doing just that after this match. 20 years of playing tennis at its touchy-feely best culminated in the most exquisite sequence of spells and magic from the Radwanska wand as she zapped Azarenka, a woman who had gotten used to beating up on her, to love in the third. It was certainly a love-in for Radwanska and the tennis fans at Melbourne park who gave the Pole a standing ovation for was what was easily the best set at the Championships. And we are going to get carried away and say EVER.
8. Cibulkova charge to the top
And what a charge it was. The constantly charged up Slovakian never let up the whole tournament and it was only Li Na finding her very best form in the second set of the final that took the sting out of her. Her battle versus Sharapova in the fourth round was a virtuoso display of guts, belief and professionalism and one of the punchiest matches of the championships. Her words after had some punch, too. She had beaten Sharapova before, she could do it again. That’s the spirit and Dominika brought a lot of it to the Australian Open ’14.
9. Gracious goodbyes after gutting losses.
Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal lost in painful defeats- and they are always painful for these two- but these ones particularly so. Both were heavily expected to win. And would have been forgiven, considering their records against their opponents, expecting to win, somewhere deep down anyway. But it was not to be. They lost to inspired opponents who dug deep to beat them. Opponents who also dug themselves into the hearts of the crowd to become their darlings. There is no getting around it: Serena and Rafael, two of the game’s greatest champions, were not the favorites when it came to the crowd. Nadal was even booed after his medical time out. And Serena’s injury received barely any sympathy. But neither player made a fuss or excuses. They lost, fair and square, waved goodbye and paid the utmost respects to their conquerors. Gracious shown how by the game’s very best. They deserve our applause.
10. Young guns getting it done.
Both men and women’s tournaments were the scene of breakthroughs and progress among the young guns on the tours. The men’s gave us Nishikori push Nadal to the limits in what was one of the best three set matches you are ever likely to see and Dimitrov and Roanic battle it out in the last sixteen. The women’s saw Bencic take Li Na to a thrilling second set breaker, last year’s most improved player Halep make the last eight and Eugenie Bouchard got the media hot and bothered as she made the last four in only her fourth Major.
The Australian Open gets a grade A from the tennis review. Attacking tennis won out, some great matches had us on the edge of our seats, which is where we like to be in tennis matches, and the champions were, to put it simply, lush. Hope you enjoyed it as much we did. And yes we are already counting down to Roland Garros. Less than four months to go. More of the same please tennis Gods.
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