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.

Prediction for the Super Bowl

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By: Evan

Can Peyton Manning conquer the Legion of Boom?
Can Peyton Manning conquer the Legion of Boom? .
Courtesy of MMQB.SI

As all the fans prepare themselves for the cold in Metlife stadium, the Broncos and Seahawks are preparing themselves for the biggest game of their lives. This should be an exciting game as the #1 offense and defense square off, playing to go down in history. Here are a couple of reasons why each team can win the big game.

How the Seattle Seahawks can win:

Can Marshawn Lynch lead Seattle to victory? Courtesy of Fansided
Can Marshawn Lynch lead Seattle to victory?
Courtesy of Fansided

1.) Defense wins championships: In the Super Bowl Era, the team ranked #1 in team defense has gone on to win all but one time. This Seattle defense is currently setting its legacy as one of the premier defenses in NFL history. This might be upsetting to those who remember the 85′ Bears or the 00′ Ravens or even the Steel Curtain of the 70s but it is true. In order for Seattle’s defense to have a major impact on this game they need to stop Manning from converting 3rd downs and force 1-2 turnovers. Both have been routine for the Seahawks as they led the league in turnovers forced and came in 3rd in first downs allowed. As I accurately predicted, if Seattle can force Manning to make errant throws they have a shot.

2.) Percy Harvin: Coming into this week there was a lot of talk about Richard Sherman and his bravado and Peyton Manning’s legacy, but the real X-factor will be Harvin, by far the most explosive player on either team. He has the ability to wreck games and I think he will play a major role in Seattle’s offense. He is also a dynamic special teams player with the ability to take any punt or kickoff to the house. Look at last year’s Superbowl, the real MVP was Jacoby Jones, a quick receiver who can stretch the defense and alter field position. Jones returned a kickoff for a touchdown and caught a 56 yard pass for a TD. Watch Harvin make a couple of big plays if Seattle is to win.

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3.) Beast Mode: He may not talk much but as he says “I’m just about that action” and its true. Marshawn Lynch is one of the most powerful yet elusive backs in the game, racking up 1257 yards on 301 carries, proving to be the bell-cow of Seattle offense. Although Denver ranked 7th in yards allowed to running backs, Marshawn has conquered better defenses running for a combined 170 yards in two games against San Francisco  (ranked 4th) and another 181 yards in two games against Arizona (ranked 1st). Actions speak louder than words and Beast Mode will be yelling all night against Denver.

How the Denver Broncos can win:

Peyton better be ready, because this game could decide his legacy. Courtesy of Football Perspectives
This Superbowl could define Peyton’s legacy.
Courtesy of Football Perspectives

1.) Too many weapons: Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Knowshown Moreno, Montee Ball. All have been major contributors in Peyton Manning’s spectacular MVP season and will have to be if they want to win the Superbowl. The Seattle Seahawks secondary is stout, armed by Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman as well as some less heralded but talented players like Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond III. The constant pressure these receivers and backs provide make it hard on even the best secondaries to cover all of the options. Even if Peyton’s first, second and third options are shut down he still has the ability to dump it down to his backs in the flat or find a slot receiver across the middle.

2.) Keep the Ball: Denver had 26 turnovers this year with 16 fumbles and with a playmaking defense this is recipe for disaster. In their three losses the Broncos have seven turnovers, proving that they are not as invincible as everyone believes they are. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball better cover up that ball because losing a Peyton Manning possession would be demoralizing.

3.) Keep Wilson in the Pocket: Russell Wilson had the highest completion percentage when scrambling out of the pocket and with his ability to run, this could make for a long day for the Broncos defense. Wilson has been struggling lately with only a 34.7 total QBR in post-season, granted those were two elite defenses in New Orleans and San Francisco, but still the point remains that Wilson is vulnerable. Denver ranked last in sacks this year but Seattle ranked last in pass protection and sack rate, so it is possible to penetrate the offensive line. The pass rushers need to have a good game for Denver to ward off Wilson and the Seahawks.

Prediction: Seattle 24- 20

Seattle defense proves to be the kryptonite to Peyton’s remarkable season as the Emerald city gets its first Superbowl ring.

All Stats from ESPN.com