Sunday, January 27, 2013

Australian Open: The Finale

As a tennis fan, I feel slightly bad about not even seeing a minute of either the Women's or Men's finals at the Australian Open this year. Part of it is of course has to be because of the time difference, but to be honest most of it was probably due to having no real rooting interest. With that said, it seemed like both finals delivered in drama and captivating tennis with the top seeds and defending champions coming out on top as Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic won their 2nd and 4th Australian Open title respectively. For Djokovic, it's his 6th slam title overall tying him with Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker.

Azarenka came into her final match with sixth seed Li Na finding herself amidst some controversy in taking a medical time out at the end of her semifinal match with Sloane Stephens, which many thought was superfluous and stalled the momentum of the young American. Li meanwhile surprised everyone by reachign her second Australian Open final after easily taking out presumed finalist Maria Sharapova in the semifinals especially considering the Russian's peak form during the tournament. So it was no surprise that the crowd for the final, if not exactly anti-Azarenka, was very pro-Li Na. This atmosphere must have helped the top ranked Chinese player to bounce back after being broken in the first game to take a topsy-turvy first set. Unfortunately, a couple of falls resulting in a slightly injured ankle in the second set and hitting her head in the final set enabled Li to break focus and for Azarenka to pounce ultimately winning 4-6 6-4 6-3. With her win, Azarenka is the 8th woman to win back-to-back Australian Open titles, and also holds on to her #1 ranking which she would've lost to Serena Williams if she hadn't won.

Djokovic was in cruise control all tournament with the exception of his 5-set brawl with Stan Wawrinka, but the Serbian showed off his impressive form by absolutely dismissing 4th seed David Ferrer in the semifinals. Murray, too, moved through an easy draw without any real challenge until the semifinals against Roger Federer. While Murray had a positive H2H record against the Swiss, he had been unable to defeat Federer in a Grand Slam match. Playing the best he has had against a struggling Federer, Murray found himself in a fifth set with Federer only barely surviving by winning two previous tiebreak sets. Murray would step it up in the final set, however, to book his spot in his third Australian Open final. He did well to carry that momentum to win the first set, but Djokovic would win the tight second set in a tiebreak and it was the beginning of the end for Murray. Murray ended up with a painful blister after the second set and this might be one of the reasons why Djokovic finally broke the Murray serve, the first break of the match, in the third set. Djokovic won that set enabling him to play even more freely in the final set pushing Murray, who must still be recovering from his 5-set match with Federer. In the end, he won 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 becoming the first man in the Open era to win three Australian Open titles in a row.

Like the singles draw, the doubles draw saw the top seed winning. Mike and Bob Bryan padded their Hall of Fame careers by winning a record 13th Grand Slam title against the unseeded team of Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling. Italian team Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who took our the Williams sisters, won their third slam victory defeating Australian team Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. The lone non-top seed to win was coincidentally enough Australian Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden who won the Mixed Doubles title.

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