Australian Open 2017

You may have guessed that it’s been a while since I last wrote about tennis. I’m sure a lot has gone on since then. Let’s see…

  • David Nalbandian retired. And then cheated death. Why did I focus on his shitness back in 2008? Why am I leading with him now? No idea. 
  • Novak Djokovic went from one major title to 12. He won 11 majors in the gap between my tennis blogging! That’s obscene. 
  • Andy Murray even won some stuff. Three majors and two Olympic titles. Including two Wimbledons. That’s not bad at all. Almost as many majors as Jim Courier! And he’s currently number 1 in the world. Fair play. 
  • Makiri Watch: I… think she retired? She got to top 10 in 2013, which is pretty great. She had a baby in 2015, and doesn’t seem to have played since. I should pick another plucky underdog to watch. Any ideas?
  • Tipsarevic Watch: He’s still rocking! Yes. Just outside the top 100 from a high of top 10, but he’s still in the mix! Sort of. But hey, he was 686 in may 2016. At 32, I don’t see him going too much longer, either. Ad he’s not been as far as a major fourth round since January 2013. Dang. This is what happens when my support of these players drops off!

And, just after that previous blog, we bore witness to the greatest tennis match I’ve ever seen. I’m not even kidding. Thanks to rain stoppages, Federer and Nadal played for seven hours, on and off (4:48 actual play time). Nadal won this epic encounter 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5–7), 6–7(8–10), 9–7. 

As you can see, though it was super close, Nadal’s sets were won by breaking, rather than tie breakers (my memory ain’t what it used to be, so there may have been broken serves in those middle sets; they weren’t deciding).

Since then, Roger got very old, and Nadal got very knackered. Djokovic and Murray became the undisputed top two (Novak arguably the top one, out on his own, until his motivation seemed to evaporate, halfway through 2016: Murray caught a stalled Djokovic in the rankings, rather than the two battling tooth and nail for supremacy).

So we get to the first major of an intriguing 2017 season. Novak was the first of the biggies to exit, doing so in round 2, against Denis Istomin. Weirdly, that was his earliest exit at a major since the last time I wrote about tennis on this blog. Spooky! Istomin, to his credit, didn’t immediately implode, going out in the fourth round to the sort-of-great Grigor Dimitrov.

Clearly that made Murray the favourite (though he was number one seed going into this, Djokovic’s history at the event is fucking miles better). He capitalised on this by doing an Istomin, and getting kicked out in the fourth round, at the hands of Misha Zverev (who also eliminated John Isner).

Though the field still contained loads of dudes who were pretty young and very dynamic, they all got beaten by the quietly resurgent crafty veterans: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Well, damn.

On the way to the final, Rafa put out Gaël Monfils, Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov (Monfils and Raonic being seeded higher than Rafa); Roger eliminated the higher-seeded Tomáš Berdych, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka.

The final was the first either man has had in, let’s say ages. 2013 for Federer, I think. Nadal won the French in 2014. They had gone from pretty much meeting in every final (Nadal usually winning) to barely featuring. It had seemed the sport was passing them by. Sure, they got a lucky draw with other players eliminating the top two seeds, but they personally accounted for 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 (that was Nadal himself) and 10. That’s a pretty good indicator that they still have a lot left.

As you’ll know, Federer won it in five sets: 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3. It was weirdly back-and-forth, as you can see. Federer looked super sharp in the first. It looked like Nadal had his number, reducing his unforced errors in the second set, but Roger thrashed Rafa in the third. It was mad. To be honest, though, it didn’t end up feeling very close. Federer’s stronger serve meant he often aced his way our of trouble, and won very comfortable games on serve, while Nadal scrapped for everything, as he always has.

While I wanted Nadal to win, if anyone were to top him in the final, I am happy Federer was the one to do it. I’m pretty intrigued as to whether this was a blip in the grand scheme of things, a last hurrah, or whether it will inspire the pair to more greatness this season.

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