The Reuters global sports blog
Best Australian Open semis and final – Rusedski
By Greg Rusedski
Again, in the men’s draw it turned out to be all about the top four in the world. In the semi-finals it was Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic versus Andy Murray. Could Federer finally beat Nadal in a major again? The last time he beat Nadal at a major was 2007 in the Wimbledon final. Nadal leads Federer in their Grand Slam matches 7 wins to 2 losses.
Federer started like a house on fire to win the first set, but Nadal wasn’t worried. He knew he could not lose to Federer in a major because he knew that physically he would wear him down. When that happens Federer loses his concentration ever so fractionally and that is when Rafa pounces and turns the match in his favor. The strategy against Federer is simple for Nadal. Nadal’s left handed high heavy topspin forehand moves Federer all over the court and breaks down Federer’s backhand side. Physically, Federer cannot keep up with Nadal in a three out of five set match anymore. Federer has to beat Nadal in three sets, which is nearly impossible. Also on his serve Rafa can start the point on his terms because Federer cannot really attack his serve with the one-handed backhand.
Rafa won in 4 tight sets and this really hurt Roger because he felt that he was playing well enough to win and that Rafa had to have been a bit tired after his epic four hour win against Berdych in the previous round.
At the moment I do not think Roger will win another major because Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray are all five years younger and stronger which makes a huge difference physically in major play. I hope I am wrong because he is such a great champion.
The other semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray was a classic. In the beginning it looked like Novak was going to win easily, up 6-3 2-0 with a chance to get a double break. Murray showed great tenacity to hold serve and kept his composure. He mentally stayed strong throughout, keeping close to the baseline and willing to go toe to toe with Novak and go through the pain on the court. In the past against the big 3 in majors if things weren’t going well he would lose it mentally and the match would be over. This time it was different. He won the second and third sets to take the momentum away from Djokovic. In the beginning of the fourth set Andy had a slight lapse and this proved to be very costly because Novak pounced and ran away with the fourth set. Also Murray lost serve at 5-1, which was pivotal. It allowed Djokovic to start serving in the final set, which is usually a huge advantage because you are always coming from behind in the score if you don’t serve first. At the end of the set, break points become match points, which in turn adds more pressure. Djokovic ran off to a 5-2 lead in the decider, but Murray fought back brilliantly to get back to 5 all. At 5 all in the final set Murray had a break point, but being the champion that Djokovic is, he saved it with a 30 ball rally and held serve. Djokovic then went on to break Murray and win the match 7-5 in the final set in just under five hours.
Ivan Lendl has made a huge difference with Murray and if he keeps listening to Ivan it is only a matter of time before Murray wins his first major.
The big question going into the finals was, could Djokovic recover in time to beat Nadal?
Djokovic started the finals sluggishly and Nadal took full advantage to win the first set. Djokovic then hit full form and took the next two sets and looked like he was going to win in four sets. At 3-4 0-40 down on serve, Rafa showed us why he was such a great champion and came back to hold. The entire crowd got behind Rafa and he went on to win the fourth set in a tiebreaker. In the fifth set Djokovic looked exhausted and all the momentum was with Rafa, who got up 4-2 in the final set but then Djokovic broke back amazingly and found a way to win again 7-5 in the final set to defend his Australian Open crown and win his fifth major. It was a super human effort to win the longest ever Grand Slam final match in just under six hours.
Novak Djokovic looks like he will dominate men’s tennis again but Nadal and Murray are getting closer. This was the best Australian open semi-finals and men’s finals I have ever seen.
On the women’s side it was all about who was going to be the new world number one, after Caroline Wozniacki got knocked out in the quarter-finals against Kim Clijsters. Three of the four semi-finalists had a chance apart from Kim Clijsters; this made it very exciting. Clijsters played world number three Victoria Azarenka, who was in tremendous form and who had not lost a match all year.
While the other semi-final was the world’s number two Petra Kvitova versus the world’s number 4 Maria Sharapova. Both semi-finals went the distance with Azarenka beating Clijsters in three sets and Sharapova upsetting Kvitova in three sets. This meant whoever won between Azarenka and Sharapova would not only win the Australian Open but also became the world’s number 1. Many people believed Sharapova would win because Azarenka has had a history of getting tight in big matches and this was also her first ever Grand Slam final. Azarenka got off to a nervous start and was down 2-0 very quickly. After holding her first service game Azarenka dominated Sharapova and won 6-3 6-0 to win her first Grand Slam final and became the world’s new number 1. Now there cannot be any more questions about her nerves after winning her first major.
This is just what the women’s game needed; a world number 1 who has won a major and who can hopefully win multiple majors. The new generation of women is starting to break through. Azarenka and Kvitova look like they will be carrying the torch of the women’s game for quite a while.
I hope they can handle the pressure.