The Australian Open: A Predictor of Things to Come?

By: Josh M.

 

Men’s Draw:

This year’s Australian Open came with very unlikely victors. Although it might not have been a very exciting major, it left tennis fans everywhere contemplating the future of tennis.

In the men’s draw, No. 6 Roger Federer was reinvigorated and played some of his best tennis in years. It gave hope that the legend may return to his classic, preeminent style of tennis. Under his new coach and serve-and-volley king, Stefan Edberg, Roger has been playing superb tennis. Edberg has been trying to implement a more aggressive style of play in Roger’s game while also introducing a serve-and-volley technique; however, in today’s era of tennis, it is virtually nonexistent. Most players today are either aggressive baseliners or all-around players, but apparently this new formula was fruitful. Roger defeated defending Wimbledon champ, Andy Murray, in the quarterfinals in just four sets: 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. Roger led the tiebreaker 5-2, but couldn’t shut the door. Ultimately, he won the match to advance to his 11th straight Australian Open semi-final.

Will Roger Federer return to his old form in 2014? Courtesy of Zimbio
Will Roger Federer return to his old form in 2014?
Courtesy of Zimbio

Unfortunately, Roger lost to his all-time rival and tennis legend, Rafael Nadal. He lost in a mere straight set victory for Nadal: 7-6, 6-3, 6-3. Although Federer’s straight set loss could be frustrating and seem discouraging, Federer revealed some potential for future majors in the 2014 year, and seems to have returned to his old self.

Stanislas Wawrinka, known for being a hothead on the court, has shown great prospective the last couple years. This world #8 has tried to penetrate into the top 5, but just couldn’t seem to knock off some of them. He has come close to beating Djokovic before, so this rematch in the quarterfinals was a good comparison for how well he developed his game.

This match was a nail-biter. Lasting just over five hours, the game went into 5 sets. The first four sets were 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. With Wawrinka cracking one of the fastest serves of the tournament at 219 KPH and serving up 17 aces, he ultimately etched out the victory. The last game was tallied at 9-7. When the score was 8-7, 30-30, Wawrinka hit a low ball that hit off the net and took a high bounce. Djokovic eagerly rushed to the ball with more than enough time to easily put the ball away. Wide-eyed Wawrinka stared at Djokovic and faced the virtually inevitable loss of the point. Whether he was nervous, frustrated, or experiencing a bad case of Murphy’s Law, Djokovic put the ball about a foot to far wide into the ally. Feeling completely agitated and depressed, Djokovic served-and-volleyed the next point. After a good serve, he rushed to the net for the easy putaway; unfortunately, he found the alley again. Wawrinka celebrated.

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Wawrinka won his next match against Berdych in a four set victory. 3 out of the 4 sets were tiebreakers.

In the finals, it was a miserable game to watch where Stan squared up against Nadal. “Stanimal” (Stan’s nickname) won the first set 6-3. In the second set, Nadal almost retied from the match with incredible back pain and ailments, but refused to lose. He lost the second set 6-2, but then won the third set 6-3, making the match just a little interesting only to be defeated in the fourth set 6-3. Nadal’s injury surely impacted his play, particularly when he lost the 7 out of 8 points following his medical time-out. To compare some stats, it is easily tangible that Nadal was suffering harrowing pain and was therefore impaired.

Aces:                               Nadal-1                Wawrinka- 19

Net points won:        Nadal- 63%        Wawrinka- 92%

Winners:                       Nadal- 19            Wawrinka- 53

Total Points Won:   Nadal- 88            Wawrinka- 116

Stan Wawrinka was aided by an injured Rafael Nadal in the finals Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
Stanislas Wawrinka was aided by an injured Rafael Nadal in the finals
Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Nadal also only won 27% of Wawrinka’s first serve points. Wawrinka then humbly celebrated, shook both Nadal’s and the official’s hands, and rose the Australian Open trophy; Wawrinka then moved up to world number 3. The question still remains, which Swiss will be more successful: Roger or Stan?

Women’s Draw

Unpredictability and bizarre outcomes extended into the women’s part of the draw, also crowning an unlikely victor. Two bizarre upsets took place in the women’s 4th round. World  number one and America’s star Serena Williams took a devastating loss to world #14 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia.

After going into the third set, it seemed almost as if Serena had accepted defeat for some reason. I know that she’s always used to crushing her opponent, but some matches can be close. The final score was 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Serena was outmatched in some categories that she usually dominates in. For example, Ivanovic recorded 33 winners contrasted to Serena’s 22. Also, Ivanovic won 12 more total points, won more net points, and had 14 break point opportunities. Ivanovic advanced to the quarterfinals only to lose to Eugenie Bouchard in three sets.

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Maria Sharapova’s loss to Dominika Cibulkova was very surprising too. The score was 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. In almost all the statistics, they were almost exactly equal except for one category: unforced errors. Cibulkova recorded only 25, but Sharapova had 45 unforced errors. This is undoubtedly the reason for this 4th round upset.

The quarterfinals match between Radwanska and Azarenka could be deemed the most eventful and interesting match in the Women’s Australian Open draw. With only one ace recorded in the entire match, these two superstars battled it out against each other for a 3-set match. Again, the match came down to the unforced errors. Radwanska, sometimes deemed a “pusher” hits for high percentage shots, rarely double faults, and has a very low amount of unforced errors and winners. This match was very indicative of that nature. Radwanska only had 15 unforced errors to Azarenka’s 47. It could be said that they are opposites. 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 was the final score; it is clear this match was “all over the place.” She eventually lost to Cibulkova in the semi-finals 6-1, 6-2.

Two unlikely finalists came out of the women's draw Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk
Two unlikely finalists came out of the women’s draw
Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

The finals were yet again somewhat uneventful.  #4 Li Na battled  #20 Dominika Cibulkova. The final score of the match was 7-6 (7-3), 6-0, Li Na winning the Australian Open. She won the first set in a battle, but breezed through the next set in only a mere 27 minutes. Li Na recorded 34 winners and three times the second serve points won than Cibulkova. Li Na finally won after her third appearance in the Australian Open final becoming the first Chinese woman to win the Australian Open. Li Na celebrated humbly and gave an admirable and amusing speech.

This year’s Australian Open proved to be shocking. It leaves us interested to see how the rest of the year plays out and who will win the next three majors.