Sunday, January 29, 2012

Australian Open: The Finale

Don't really know where to begin in talking about the end of the Australian Open championships only to say that the eventual champions are also the best players in tennis right now not only because they are both the no. 1 players come Monday, but also by how they won their finals. One beautifully handled the situation outplaying her opponent in two quick sets, while the other suffered through a five-set battle outlasting his opponent. So it was that Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic won the 2012 Australian Open for their first and fifth major titles respectively. It was Azarenka's first major final and with her win, the streak of first-time slam winners continues with four players. Djokovic becomes only the fourth man to win to win three or more Australian Open titles in the the Open Era and only the fifth man who have won three Grand Slam events in a row n the Open Era. For the latter record, he joins the elite group of Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal.

It was completely understandable that Azarenka would have been tight right out of the gate of her first major final especially with Maria Sharapova right across the net from her who had more experience with these kinds of matches. The occasion, the noise, the crowd, and the cameras were all probably too much for Azarenka who dropped served early. She finally found her groove, with a bit of help from Sharapova to even the match at 2-all in the first set. Sharapova held the next game for a 3-2 lead only for Azarenka to reel off 10 straight games, bageling Sharapova in the second set, to win. While Sharapova's serve let her down, Azarenka was also the stronger, more aggressive player dictating points and playing with such a swagger. Sharapova will be ranked #3 after the tournament and she be pleased to have reached the finals after years of dealing with injuries, but like the Wimbledon final with Petra Kvitova last year, she'll see this as another slam she should've won. In the meantime, Azarenka remains undefeated this year, also winning a tournament in Sydney prior to the Australian Open.

Could it be possible for the match of the season to happen this early in the season? That seems to be what everyone was asking during the epic five-set brawl between no. 1 Djokovic and no. 2 Nadal. It was the pair's first five-set match and at 5 hours and 53 minutes, it also was the longest Grand Slam finals in the Open Era. Nadal won a tight first set only for Djokovic to take command in the next two. Djokovic had a chance to break Nadal down Love-40 3-4 in fourth set to serve for the match, but Nadal won five straight points to make it even. It was also right after this that played was suspended for 15 minutes in order for them to close the roof due to rain. It eventually went to a tiebreak where Djokovic again found himself a few points away from winning only for Nadal to make a great comeback and winning the fourth to force a fifth. Nadal was actually up a break in the fifth, but Djokovic broke right back. At 5-5, Djokovic finally broke Nadal's serve and was able to serve out the match after which he fell on the ground, probably due to ecstasy and exhaustion in equal measures. For Nadal, this match will haunt him especially at how come he came to winning. It was also Nadal's 7th straight loss to Djokovic, third straight in Grand Slam finals (an Open Era record). For Djokovic, if he can find a way to win the French Open, he would claim the Djokovic Slam and be the eight man to win all four titles.

A couple of unseeded teams won in Doubles with Leander Paes teaming up with Radek Stepanek avenging his lost to top seed Bob and Mike Bryan last year in the Men's Doubles Final and the last-minute Russian pair of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva winning over the 11th seed Italian team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the Women's Doubles Final. Eight seed team Horia Tecau and Bethanie Mattek-Sands won the Mixed Doubles title over fifth seed team Paes and Elena Vesnina. The end... now back to normal sleeping patterns!

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