The Australian Open – the first of the four major Grand Slam ATP event held in January every year is eagerly awaited by tennis lovers the world over. New year, new beginning – the stakes are too high for professional tennis players qualifying for this tournament.The prize money from 1st round onward, at each subsequent round, gets significantly enhanced. Imagine , the winner of men’s and women’s singles, this time , apart from the glittering trophy, also walked away with a cheque for Aus $2 .55 million each, while the finalists, with a smaller trophy, also pocketed a cheque of Aus $1.27 million each. Additionally, the top players generally find lucrative endorsement money from the advertising world awaiting them. This perhaps explains why the players are seen toiling so hard on the court, hurling booming serves, chasing every ball from corner to corner and rushing to the net for the drop shots and to find winners. This also explains why the players now have the option of challenging chair umpire’s/ line judges’ decisions for review.
In a scenario like this, it is no wonder why and how the world’s top ranked players these days maintain, apart from the coach, team of doctors, physios and possibly a psychiatrist too and hop around in private jet from one playing venue to the other.
Modern tennis in major tournaments is getting fiercely competitive each day, demanding a combination of players’ skill, stamina, temperament and the staying power – both physical and mental – that is put to an ultimate test. The one who is able to hold one’s nerves under crunch situations and play big points well turns out the winner at the end of the day.
A fortnight of tennis at Melbourne’s hard courts saw some of the finest contests in men’s and women’s singles in the run up to the title round. The most memorable being the one between Novak Djokovic and Wawrinka in the 4th round that lasted 5 sets and 5 hours. The winner Djokovic, in a post match interview very aptly summed up the contest when he said, “it’s a pity that one had to lose” and thus paid a huge compliment to Wawrinka’s effort that day.
In the finals between World # 1 Novak Djokovic ( Serbia ) and # 3 Andy Murray ( Great Britain ) – a repeat clash between the two in US Open, 2012, where Murray had won – Djokovic showed more tenacity, grit and determination and brushed aside the challenge in 4 sets, the last one at 6-2. In the process, Djokovic completed a hat – trick of Australian Open titles and continue to enjoy the fabulous # 1 ranking – truly an awesome performance.
In the women’s singles, ahead of the tournament, most tennis pundits had predicted Serena Williams (USA) emerging title winner. It was, therefore, a huge upset when she was eliminated at quarter finals stage by her teen-aged compatriots, S Stephens. Maria Sharapova (Russia) had a wonderful run in this tournament when she kept humiliating her opponents by easy wins, match after match, till she bumped into Li Na of China in the semi- finals. Women’s final between Victoria Azarenka ( Belarus) and Li Na was a gripping duel after both shared a set a piece and each having availed of the medical time out, the decider showed Azarenka more determined and desperate for the win and her tenacity saw her through. Victoria thus retained the title she had won last year.
However, since the Australian Open is also hailed as Asia-Pacific Major Grand Slam event, the title win by Li Na of China would perhaps have been a befitting finale on this venue.
Now, over to French Open 2013 at Rolland Garros in May/June 2013.