The Final Push

Jan 28, 2009

The last few days has been bursting with examples of the trials and tribulations players must go through to win a Grand Slam title such as the Australian Open. It explains this giant of a blog; the past few rounds have been so packed that it’s hard not to get giddy when called upon to write about them. And now, the stage has now been set for the semi-finals, and the elements that nagged at their games in the first few rounds now start to become a gruelling test. The title is so close, yet so far. And there are plenty of things that make a Grand Slam title even harder to grasp for the remaining players.

The heat

With temperatures reaching 40c quite regularly on the courts, the heat has already taken its casualties. Although not playing his best at the time and also beset with cramp, Djokovic struggled against the intense heat in vain; he eventually retired from his match against Andy Roddick in the fourth set. Many others have wilted under the heat to eventually go on to lose the game, but he is now the fourth to have retired from a match due to the heat in the past two days. The quarter-final game between Serena Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova had a break to close the roof at the Rod Laver Arena, attributing heavily to Williams’ recovery as she cooled and the effects of the heat died down. But some players haven’t been so lucky. It makes you wonder why the Extreme Heat Policy is there for if it is not to be put in place; one can only hope that no-one is seriously affected by the heat and the on-court drama is centred on the tennis, rather than poor health.

The opponents

The quarter finals sort the men from the boys (figuratively speaking) and the semi-finals beckon in the opponents who could really ruin a player’s game. They’ve often met before, are seeded highly and experienced enough to not be fazed by their semi-final position. Take Rafael Nadal, for example. Even as number one in the world and a player who has yet to drop a set in this tournament, Nadal has a formidable opponent in his semi-final match against Fernando Verdasco (also of Spain).  A determined firecracker of a player who took out Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the last round, he could give Nadal a real run for his money. Even though I still put my money on Rafa, it will be an interesting match  which has some potential for an upset…

Elena Dementieva will come up against Serena Williams in the semi final, another exciting match with both top players having an opportunity to oust the other. With only one world ranking place between them, they will be each other’s next big test, and each other’s toughest opponents.

The expectation

Unfortunately, now that the tag of ‘semi-finalist’ has been added to all remaining players, the expectation of the fans will start to rocket, but so too will the expectations of themselves. A semi-final match is no place to start beating yourself up for a mistake or lost game, not with a place in the final beckoning.  

 

With all of this in mind, I can whole-heartedly agree with anyone who claims to be stumped as to who will win this Grand Slam. I was honestly convinced that Djokovic had one of the greatest chances, but that is no longer true. My next bet will be Nadal, but he has yet to take an Australian Open title and who knows how he will react to a final in Melbourne. Federer has played consistently but only occasionally with the flair that we know him for. Serena Williams takes my top spot to take the women’s singles titles, but again who can tell. She has had dips in her game, and her last match against Kuznetsova was extremely close.

The majority of the top seeds are through, the stage is set and the temperatures are high. It’s now up to the players to show us what they’ve got. Hopefully this year’s finals will be as scintillating as the rest of this Grand Slam has turned out to be.

 

-          SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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