Writing this straight after the Australian Open Men’s final I find myself, like most British tennis fans, frustrated by, yet strangely resigned to the events that happened in Melbourne. The form that Andy Murray had shown through his unstoppable surge to the Australian Open final has been near perfect, only dropping one set in the semi final to Marin Cilic and still managing to dispatch him with relative ease which goes against all ideas formed about British tennis players and athletes. The British public have been so used to watching Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski huff and puff their way through matches yet fall agonisingly close to success. Whilst we have seen this with Murray, it is clear to see that he has the ability and sheer determination to win a Grand Slam as shown through his emotion and devastation at not winning the trophy and ending 74 years of wilderness for British tennis. Andy Murray was unstoppable en route to the final and it was no easy route either with him having to play a certain Rafael Nadal, who, even though injured and in poor form, is a superpower in men’s tennis. Murray showed us that he has the power and shots to defeat anyone, as shown through his winner against Cilic which completely swung momentum the Scots way; yet in the final he came up against one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Roger Federer showed the form and class which completely backs up his incredible achievement of 16 Grand Slam titles (and 22 finals). He saw the great form Murray was in and upped his game to such an extent that it deflated the Scot and he never ceded control of the game. He is a real class act and people, before they start ranting about Murray being a choker, must marvel at the sheer brilliance of Roger Federer. Andy Murray was no pushover though; even though he lost in straight sets he was more involved in the game than in his previous Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows in 2008 against the same opponent. He had chances, especially in the third set to take control of the game yet failed to take the break points; against Federer this is a big mistake, yet it is one which many tennis players have made and will continue to make for a few years more. For I predict that Federer can compete in at least 12 more Grand Slams, and he will be right in the mix in all these competitions, he is a true professional and will want to win as much as his body and mind will let him. However, with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Del Potro, Davydenko, Hewitt and our own Andy Murray biting at his heels, the next few years will be very interesting.
In the women’s final, there was no fairytale ending for Justine Henin who had just come out of retirement to play more tennis. The sheer power of Serena Williams proved too much in the end for the Belgian who could not repeat the feat of her fellow national Kim Clijsters who, herself, came out of retirement to win the US Open in 2009. However, the fact that she reached the final and took Williams to three sets proves one thing. She is back. With Henin back perhaps a proper challenge can be made on the Williams’ monopoly, proven again through the Williams sisters’ victory in the women’s doubles at the Australian Open. No other female tennis players can get close, many have shown promise such as Ivanovic and Jankovic, yet their form has deteriorated. With the entrance of Justine Henin, perhaps women’s tennis is about to be given the shot in the arm it has craved for so long; because as Serena Williams said: ‘I definitely think Justine’s back’. It hasn’t happened at a better time.
Therefore, what have we learnt from the Australian Open? Well we obviously know that Federer is the man to beat, yet we also know that Murray has the determination, drive, and skill to beat him, he just needs more composure and controlled agression which will come with more experience (and a little less pressure from the public!). It could be a bad year for Nadal who limped off in his game with Murray who was thoroughly beating him at the time, yet the Spaniard is irrepressible and will no doubt come back with a vengeance. Women’s tennis may have been spiced up with the entrance of Henin, and there may be something to come from Laura Robson who has impressed this January though falling short in the Junior’s final. All I can say is sit back and enjoy the year, because it promises to be a good one!