Sunday, February 1, 2009

Australian Open Report Card

With the Australian open wrapped up, and thrilling performances by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal written in the history books, it's time to give out the grades on the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Straight A's

Rafael Nadal: Nadal played dominant tennis all the way through the tournament. Rafa didn't lose a set until his memorbale and fantastic semifinal with Fernando Verdasco, which was the longest match in Aussie Open history. Nadal came into the final as the underdog, although he is ranked number 1. After playing for 5 hrs. and 15 minutes, nobody expected him to come out firing, and many were in awe that after 44 hours, Nadal could even step on Rod Laver Arena, but, with the heart of a champion, Nadal fought his fatigue and defeated Roger Federer in yet another epic final between the two.

Serena Williams: She started the fortnight off slow, giving herself a D- in her match against Gisela Dulko. Here at Serve and Return though, the younger of the Williams sisters gets an A+.
Serena seems to improve when the matches are bigger and she did just that, playing best matches in her semifinal against Elena Dementieva and her dominating final against Dinara Safina. Serena showed that when she wants it, she really does want it more than anyone else, coming back from down a set and a break in her quarterfinal against Svetlana Kuznetsova. After a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Safina, Williams is number 1 again.

Honor Roll

Roger Federer: After a determined comeback in the 4th round against Thomas Berdych, Federer rolled to the final, allowing a combined 15 games in his matches against Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick. Federer was chasing history, aiming to earn his 14th grand slam to tie Pete Sampras for most all time. Federer knew the stakes were tremendously high in his final against rival Rafael Nadal. The best rivalry in sports produced nothing short of what was expected, when Federer and Nadal met for the 19th time. Federer's serve let him down, although it usually is a lethal weapon, getting him out of holes routinely. He got just 51 percent of his first serves in, which proved the difference in the match. After 4 tantalizing sets, Nadal took adavantage of scattered Federer errors and won. Federer showed more emotion than ever in the ceremony, failing in an effort to hold back tears. Number 14 will have to wait for now.

Andy Roddick: Roddick proved that he is still a threat at the slams, when he reached the semifinals in Melbourne. On his way there he defeated world number 3 Novak Djokovic. Roddick and new coach Larry Stefanki showed signs of the Roddick from 2003, when Andy dominated numerous players on his way to the round of 4. His serve was on, his forehand was on, his abckhand was improved and his volleys were better than usual, but Roddick proved no match for Roger Federer.

Dinara Safina: Arguably the fittest player on the women's tour, Safina reached her second Major final. Expierence played a very big factor though, as Serena Williams had been in the position 12 times before. Safina defeated local favorite Jelena Dokic, and saved match points (by an inch) against Alize Cornet and showed that she will win multiple grand slams. Her slams will have to wait for now though, as the grit of Serena Williams could not be matched.

Fernando Verdasco: The unlikely semifinalist defeated 2008 runner-up Jo Wilfried Tsonga and pre-tournament favorite Andy Murray on his way to the semis, where his 5 hour 14 minute match against compatriot Nadal ended up being the best match of the tournament, or the best match in the history of the Australian Open. Verdasco hit 95 winners, forcing Nadal to come up with all the answers in the end. Verdasco and Nadal could barely move at the end, which was a clear problem when Fernando double faulted on match point. Verdasco played the best tournament of his life, and will be a factor later this year.

Honorable Mention

Elena Dementieva: She came in to the tournament without a loss in 2009, and she was the pick to win it by many. She played good, solid tennis until her semifinal, where Serena Williams won it much more than Dementieva lost it. Although her serve has been a downfall her whole career, Dementieva was able to seldom to use it to her adavantage, but didn't make to many bad mistakes. She dominated Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarterfinals and will be a part of the mixed up women's tour for the rest of the year.

Carla Suarez Navarro: She defeated Venus Williams in the 2nd round, and rolled to the quarterfinals where the pressure got to her. She showed the world her picture perfect one-handed backhand and the small spaniard had the tournament of her life.

Vera Zvonareva: The Russian reached her first major semifinal after dominating Marion Bartoli, who defeated Jelena Jankovic, and beating Nadia Petrova. She played a good match against Safina in the semis, but couldn't pull it out. Zvinareva should be happy with her performance, as she backed up her stellar play from the 2008 WTA Championships.


Novak Djokovic: He may have reached the quarterfinals, but I am expelling Nole. As the defending champion, Novak retired against Andy Roddicm down a set due to the heat. Many players acknowledged that as the world number 3, Djokovic should have been ready for the heat and should have been prepared for it. He wasn't, and because of it, he's getting kicked out of school.

David Nalbandian: Nalbandian was a projected sleeper pick by a few, but he was ousted by Yen-Hsun Lu in the second round. More was expected of the 10th seeded Argentine, who didn't look at all prepared for the extreme heat or the extreme play.

Venus Williams: Venus was predicted to go far in this tournament, and even win it after a magnificent performance at end 208 at the WTA Championships, but she was defeated by Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round. Watching Venus in that match, you could tell it wasn't the Venus we're used to seeing. She was standing 5-8 behind the baseline, unlike her usual inside the baseline, and she choked, up 5-3 in the final set.

Serving up the topics for you to discuss,


Congrats to Rafa and Serena!

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