Looking Forward

Feb 3, 2009

So the Australian Open has been and gone, but like every other Grand Slam tournament, what we saw will echo throughout the tennis year. There’s plenty of things to take away from the tournament, by players, fans and Grand Slam organisers.

One of my only concerns when looking back over the tournament has been the organisation. The organisation has been a worry to players and audiences alike in two different ways: one is the way in which the tournament itself is placed in the tennis calendar. Before the Grand Slam started, Roger Federer (President of the ATP Player Council) called for the tournament to be pushed back a bit to allow players to play in more exhibition tournaments etc before coming to Australia. Players have to make the tough decision as to how many matches they can play before they come the Australian Open; finding a balance between resting themselves and getting back into the swing of things before the first Grand Slam of the year.

The second issue I believe that the tournament needs to address, is the way in which the matches are spread. There were many occasions in which a player had to battle through a tough match whilst their prospective opponent gained – in most cases – a great advantage whilst resting. Although he went on to win the title, Rafael Nadal’s hard slog against Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals springs to mind. It must have been hard going into his final against Roger Federer, knowing that his body was still recovering from his previous five set battle. There also seems to be disadvantage to the men that their matches are played so late; surely it’s a little unreasonable to make the guys consistently play late at night, with their matches (which often run a lot longer than the women’s matches) often finishing at 1 or 2am if they go into five sets. There doesn’t need to be any discrimination between the men’s and women’s tournament with regards to timing; just a sharing of the late night matches to even things out.

There is a disappointing taste in the mouth of any British tennis fan; Andy Murray disappeared relatively quickly despite the massive media build up; and Anne Keothavong, Melanie South, Elena Baltacha, Katie O’Brien managed to make it through the qualifiers but were all out in the first couple of rounds. But on the bright side, Laura Robson kept British hopes alive by getting to the girls’ singles finals.

Looking back on the Australian Open, of course, brings more pleasure than concern. There have been some truly stunning matches. For starters, there’s been the upsets. Personally, I found the greatest shock to be Venus’ second round upset’; the world number six was beaten by determined Carla Suarez Navarro. Although she does go through lapses of form, it was disappointing and surprising to see her depart so soon.

Alongside the upsets, there’s been the pleasant surprises. Fernando Verdasco was my biggest surprise; he was a delight to watch as he scaled the tournament with a determined energy not unlike another famous Spaniard who went on to take the title. And I knew little about Jelena Dokic before this tournament, making it a great experience watching her do so well in the face of obvious personal hardship.

As enjoyable as the initial rounds are – that brilliant point in which upsets are all the more shocking, the new and the young make a name for themselves, and the greats start to get into their stride – the finals are always special. This year, there was an exception when it came to the women’s finals; it wasn’t so much nail-biting as it was straightforward. But the men’s singles final was an awe-inspiring five sets of tennis. I won’t go too much into this as a) I have already written a gushing blog on the matter and b) I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about, but it truly was a fantastic match to watch. My heart goes out for Federer, but I think that Nadal deserved it on the day and I’m happy to see his career continue along the same sort of vein as it did last year.

The Australian Open was all that you wanted in a Grand Slam: hot and sweaty, full of climaxes and disappointments. It’s set a good standard for this year’s tennis circuit, and you can’t help but wonder about all of the things we’ve got to look forward to.


-          SophieG


Written by: SophieG

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