Sunday, January 28, 2018

My Australian Open top 10

Here are my top 10 Australian Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. We are experiencing technical difficulties: The event takes place once a year, yet those in power were unable to give us a phone app (there was no tablet app at all) that worked during the first week. And when it did work, it tended to be intrusive. That meant we had to rely on the website, only that didn't work, either. Scores were unavailable for days. Toward the end of the event, the draws were missing. Really?

9. Power to the petite!: Lauren Davis is small--for a tennis player, she's very small--but you wouldn't have known that her size was supposed to be a disadvantage when she took Simona Halep to the edge in the second round. Davis hung in with Halep through every twist and turn in the match, and had a chance to defeat the world number 1.

8. De Groot does it again: Diede De Groot, who won the wheelchair singles title at Wimbledon last year, won the championship at this year's Australian Open, defeating Yui Kamiji in the final. She and partner Aniek Van Koot lost the doubles final to Marjolein Buis and Kamiji.

7. Dabrowski does it again, too: Gabriela Dabrowski and her partner, Mate Pavic, won the mixed doubles title, defeating Timea Babos and Rohan Bopanna in the final. Last year, Dabrowski and Bopanna won the French Open title.

6. Another veteran rises to the occasion: Known for her doubles acumen, Hsieh Su-wei reminded us all that she can also play some spellbinding singles. One of the stand-out matches of the tournament was her round of 16 match against Angie Kerber. Kerber entered the Australian Open as her old, warrior self, and swept through the first three rounds like a woman on a mission. Then along came Hsieh, with her angles, unpredictable strategies and nonchalantly (but perfectly) hit lobs. She dragged Kerber to three sets, and while the German won, no one is likely to forget her opponent's performance.

5. Remember my name: Elise Mertens won Hobart in 2016, then returned this year and won it again. She brought confidence and a very high-quality serve to Melbourne, and played some excellent tennis. Her quarterfinal match against Petra Martic was especially good, given how well Martic was playing. The "first semifinal of a major" nerves were very much on display, however, when the Belgian played Caroline Wozniacki. Nevertheless, it was an impressive run, and we're likely to see more of those runs from her.

4. Si-mo-na!: She said she had changed her attitude and had become more aggressive, and she wasn't kidding. The new Simona exudes calm and confidence, and her game, as lovely as ever, is deadlier. Rolling her ankle in the first round and then playing some long, grueling matches left her running on reserves by the time she reached the final, but even her "reserves" were very impressive. Stay tuned.

3. I'll be there for you: Timea Babos and Kiki Mladevnovic have been friends for a very long time. After Mladenovic played (and won with) several different partners, she settled into a partnership with Babos, but then--in preparation for the Olympics--she formed a partnership with Caroline Garcia. They won the French Open, but then things went sour. Mladenovic, whose singles career went from very promising to very disastrous this season, turned up in Melbourne with Babos as her doubles partner, and they proceeded to knock out all their opponents. Their final challenge was a formidable one, but 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina--looking for a career slam--also fell to the long-term friends. The Australian Open championship is their first major championship as a team.

2. Nerves of steel, legs to match: It was dramatic. It was intense. It was was stunning in every way. Simona Halep and Angie Kerber played an "instant classic" quarterfinal that outshone all the other matches of the tournament. That's saying something, because this tournament featured some amazing matches. The two took it to each other with such intensity that they both wound up staggering around the court, but they just kept fighting. Each woman would go on to save two match points, and after two hours and 20 minutes (it seemed much longer), Halep emerged the somewhat battered victor of this match, which won't be forgotten by anyone who saw it.

1. A really great Dane: Caroline Wozniacki, a model of endurance on the court, has also proven to be a model of endurance in every other way. It took her a long time, but this week, in Melbourne, she won her first major. Wozniacki defeated Simona Halep in the women's singles final, an event that was loaded with backstory and drama.

The Danish star almost went out in the second round. Down 1-5, 0-40 in the third set, she pulled off the seemingly impossible and won the match. After that, it was a smooth journey to the final, where she was tested by an injured, exhausted, but determined Simona Halep. It was a great match, and Wozniacki's 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory gives her not only her first major win, but also a return to the number 1 ranking. This is the new and improved Wozniacki, a player with a consistently good serve and a desire to do more than just run down every ball she sees (which, by the way, took her to the number 1 ranking years ago, and is a notable ability). The new Wozniacki is a player to watch!


Todd.Spiker said...

Heehee... we know the difficulties are *really* bad when a technical difficulties item makes your 10 "favorite" AO occurrences. ;)

That really *was* inexcusable. And the website was poorly designed, too. I mean, for one, who designs a live score page for an event that might has 20+ matches going on simultaneously where you have to scroll way down the page just to see more than one or two matches?

So many great, multi-event performances to start the season. I don't know if I can remember as many players getting off to such long winning streaks to start the season, and then those same players facing each other in the final matches of the AO. And that's with little or no input from the likes of Serena, Venus, Vika, Garbi, Alona and a few others, too.

Speaking of, I hope that's good news that Vika is at least hoping/planning to play in Doha. If she makes it out the U.S., maybe she *will* get to play some sort of legitimate schedule in '18.

Diane said...

I try not to get too excited over these Vika announcements. It feels like she’s being set uo over and over again (been there and know how it feels). It would be so nice to have her back.

colt13 said...

Actually used ESPN for scores.

According to the ESPN broadcasters during the final, no retirements on the women's side. Something else to celebrate.

Diane said...

Todd, I looked again--the word "favorite" wasn't supposed to be there! It's gone now.

colt, I hadn't realized that there were no retirements. That's most unusual.

Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, it's best to take a wait-and-see approach with Vika until further notice. Hopefully, she'll at least get to participate in the U.S. events this spring.

I used the Google scoreboard the entire tournament.