After dispatching Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-finals, Novak Djokovic seemed to have already won the 2011 Australian Open final. It did not matter whom he faced on the other side of the net. On that day, even Nadal would have had a hard time stopping him were he in the final. Joining Djokovic in the final was Andy Murray. Murray did not have to face Nadal in his semi-final match, and Djokovic made sure he did not have to face Federer in the final. This must have been a huge sigh of relief for the Scottish player. After all, who can forget the beat down he took from Federer last year in Melbourne? The loss was so humiliating it would bring Andy to tears. This year brought a different hope. And for Britain, this was a chance to witness their local tennis hero win a grand slam, something a British player hadn’t done since Fred Perry won the U.S. Open in 1936.
Both players play a similar style. Strong on the forehand, good two-handed backhands, and very good defensive players. Like most, I woke up this morning at 3:30 a.m. eastern time in Florida expecting to watch a 5 set match. Was I in for a huge disappointment! Murray just did not look like he felt comfortable being in the final. He looked defeated as the match progressed. First it was his eyes, then his jaw, then his thigh, then his hip, then he was telling his camp who tried to encourage him repeatedly to “shut up”. At one point he seemed to suggest they stay calm and he had things figured out. He must have been in another world, because what followed was a complete dismantling of any game plan he may have had.
Down 15-30 in the third set, I figured Murray would make his move. What ensued was an amazing display of tennis from both players, defensively and offensively. When the point was over, Murray had lost the rally, both players were breathing heavily, and Murray was down two break points. Eventually he would lose his serve and Djokovic would go ahead and take the first set.
That was the beginning of the end. He could not mount a comeback, and so Britons will have to wait till the French Open to see if Murray can win their first major since 1936. Obviously, the weight of the country could be playing a factor. Murray is too good and too talented a player to not have won a major this far into his career. He seems to not have the mental strength to win the big games.
Congratulations to Novak for playing an outstanding game from start to finish. His two major wins have come at the Australian Open, and from the looks of it, if he keeps this form, tennis fans can be excited as Nadal-Djokovic could eventually be what Nadal-Federer has been.
On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters continues to wow people after un-retiring and coming back on the professional tour. She won the U.S. Open last year, and now has claimed the Australian Open for her 4th Grand Slam title.
This was a hard earned victory against the Chinese Li Na, who became the first Asian tennis player to ever play in a grand slam final. She gave a valiant effort only to fall short in the end. She is a force to be reckoned with, and with the Williams’ sisters battling various injuries, Justine Henin retiring again, Wozniacki not ready to make that next step, Li Na has the chance to stay atop the women’s rankings and compete for majors for years to come.
The first grand slam tournament of the tennis season is over. The next major is the French open in Roland Garros, Paris. It is hard to make predictions now as there are many more tournaments between now and late May. This is an exciting tennis season on both the men’s and the women’s tour.
Congratulations once more to both champions, Kim Clijsters and Novak Djokovic.