Monday, February 2, 2015

Takeaways from the Australian Open 2015

The first grand slam of the year is over. There are three more to go and an even otherwise long and competitive season looms. Lets look at the takeaways from the recently concluded Australian Open and the possibilities for the rest of the year.

1. Serena Williams will continue to make/break records

Champion for a sixth time in Australia, she has stamped her authority once again. Serena grabbed her 19th Grand Slam and now stand 3 short of Steffi Graf and 5 less than Margaret Court's all time record of 24. Serena is hungry, the records in sight are a great motivation and there is no evident challenger.

2. Novak Djokovic is one of the best in Australia

The Djoker is a great player but is not yet in the conversation of all time greats. His peers Federer and Nadal reserve that distinction for now. However, when it comes to the Australian Open he is one of the greatest. With the fifth title this year, he is only one short of Roy Emerson's six wins. While Federer has four, Rafa has only one Australian Open title. It's clear who is the boss in Australia.

3. Maria Sharapova is good but second best

It's not just the WTA ranking or the AO'15 result that puts Maria at No.2. She is good and can beat anyone on the tour; anyone but Serena Williams. As long as Serena is in the draw or on the tour, Sharapova will only be a second choice. It's been almost 11 years since she last beat Serena and twitter is full with 'how famous celebs look when Sharapova last beat Williams'. Grigor Dimitrov included.

4. The Big Four still rule

Ok, Federer went out in round 4 to a player he never lost and Nadal went out in Quarters to a player he has never lost in last 17 meetings. Still the 'Big Four' are still a class above the rest. Murray returned after a dismal 2014 and Djokovic continued to pile up big titles. On their way to the final they dismantled the young guns Raonic, Dimitrov, Kyrgios in routine matches. About Federer and Nadal, rule them out at your own risk. Come grass and clay we know they will be back.

5. Mr. Honest Tim Smyczek

The world is rotting with liars and cheats and sport is as competitive as ever. Yet Tim Smyczek stood courageous. Against Rafael Nadal in the fifth set at the Rod Laver arena, with the greatest win of his life a possibility, he did the right thing. A spectator shouted while Rafa was serving disturbing his rhythm and the ball went in the net. As the umpire begged for silence again and Nadal prepared to deliver his second serve, Tim asked the umpire to let him serve the 1st again. That potentially ruined his chances as Rafa being Rafa won the point and brought up match points. Tim lost the match but he won the hearts and the right to a proud and peaceful sleep.

6. Djokovic gunning once again for Paris

Djokovic has the right game, slide and potential hold the French Open. But, Spanish Bull is too adamant to move out of his territory. Djokovic is a potential threat at Roland Garros at least since 2011 when Federer stopped him in the Semis and gifted the trophy to Nadal in the Final. The next three years, Djokovic lost to Nadal in hard fought battles and even losing the advantages. Can he cross the hump this time having already regaining his mental edge in big matches? Wimbledon '14 and AO '15 suggest so but the Bull will be ready.

7. Federer will pin his hopes at SW 19

With a shock upset the mighty Rog got his streak of 11 consecutive Semis broken at the Australian Open. Nobody will write him off not after his showing in 2014 and not because its too risky. These champions prove the critics wrong time and again and make them look like fools. But at 34 in August, Federer's best hope of winning a major is still Wimbledon. He may go deep in Paris but winning is nearly impossible. The US open hasn't brought him any luck since 2008. Grass on the other hand, is his territory. Roger Federer at the centre court of Wimbledon will always be a threat. However, the clock's ticking.

8. Nadal need the French Open

Even though Nadal has 9 French Opens, higher than anybody else at any slam, he needs it this year even more. Great players have great goals. Nadal's will be to try and cross Federer in the number of Grand Slams. Though he is just three short and is only 28, it is clay where he thrives. Winning the French sets the tone for the rest of his year. And to fend off Novak's challenge once again can provide him a plenty of edge for their other encounters and a 15th title. If he did not get the French, Federer's 17 won't be easy. History at stake.

9. Andy Murray need the killer instinct

Muzz is a top talent, two time grand slam champion and a trendsetter on tour. What he lacks is the major trophies that keep on going in the cabinets of Rafa, Djoker and here and there. He is now better than last year and the back injury is now in hindsight. With both Novak and Rafa his peers in terms of age, he needs to find another gear to snatch some more of those majors. This year will define Murray's legacy.

10. If Novak wins the French this year....

A great 'if' but a lucrative 'if'. With AO in bag, if Novak wins the French people will talk about the the most illustrious achievement in the sport of Tennis. The Calendar Slam - which means winning all four grand slams in a season. Rod Laver did it twice but nobody in the open era has ever. Roger came close for many years and failed. Rafa showed that form for a year or two but fell short. Djoker has the game but a Calendar Slam need some luck as well. Let's take them one at a time for now.

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