Remember when the Australian Open draw was live streamed a few weeks ago and the presentation ended up confusing, irritating, delighting and surprising those who made it through? Well I think that draw ceremony was the precursor to an unpredictable AO that had fans feeling all those of emotions at least once during the fortnight. But what we might remember the most about this year’s AO, aside from the winners, is what happened before and after each match. I can’t remember a Slam where more news was made about what players wore, said, didn’t say, made up, retracted or were bleeped for saying in recent memory. Even the media and the way they covered the AO became a story itself. And though Kim Clijsters and Novak Djokovic were crowned as champions, this year’s AO belonged to a charismatic fighter from Wuhan who by now everyone should know how to say her name and two warriors who’ll be forever linked together after giving us one of the best sets of tennis we’ll ever see.
Buzz Kill and Blow Outs.
Maybe it was because I jumped around so much on ESPN3.com during most of the event, but I can’t remember too many compelling men’s matches at this year’s AO. I mean the dramatic last sets of the Marin Cilic/John Isner match and watching young Canadian Milos Raonic take out Michael Llodra jump out for me, but there were so many blowouts among the men, that you wonder if that might be a continuing trend, especially for the top five guys this season. Meanwhile, Djokovic truly deserved to win the AO especially with his performance over Roger Federer while I’m hoping Murray, who’s now watched the AO trophy glide into someone else’s hands for a second straight year, does bounce back if only to tell the UK press to “sod off”. Nadal’s injury, though unfortunate in that it prevented him from going for the “Rafa Slam”, showed us what a great champion he is in the way he handled his post-match interview after losing to David Ferrer. Nadal will get another chance at a Slam final as will Federer, but the sport and the media might now finally realize that banking on Federer and Nadal to meet each other everytime, like that guy who bet a million on Nadal to defeat Ferrer, is not a sure bet anymore.
I Am Woman. Hear Me Roar.
The women’s event owned the AO and not just because of “Franlana”. From Venus Williams’s stunning comeback in the second round, Andrea Petkovic’s dismissal of Maria Sharapova, the topsy-turvy match between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Justine Henin that no one knew would be the last of Henin’s career and of course, Li Na’s run to the finals that saw her give more good one-liners than many standup comics, this year’s AO hopefully proved that the WTA has plenty of stars and rising stars capable of creating headlines in the sports pages for some time. Speaking of safe bets, in the end Clijsters was the sure money after all despite looking rather rusty for most of the event and with her fourth Slam, and one won outside of New York, who’s to stop “Aussie Kim” from being known as “Le champion français” in a few months time unless the roar of another standout at this event, Francesca Schiavone, who would have beaten Caroline Wozniacki, had her body not given out, is the one we hear on the final Saturday in Paris. But the roar I’ll remember from this fortnight will be the one Henin let loose during the end of her second set loss to “Sveta”. It was a cry of frustration and anger that I have never heard before. Whether you are pro or con in the way Henin announced her retirement, one thing everyone can agree on is she will be missed.
For me, this AO will be remembered for “Franlana”. Now I will admit the first two sets of this now classic weren’t the highest quality. But that last set was special. Because no one quit. No one got nervous. And no one gave it away. Schiavone earned that victory because she had to take it from Kuznetstova. What more could you ask for from two players on a tennis court. Clijsters may be the champion, and Li Na the deserving finalist who could spark a new revolution in her native land. But it’s not everyday you can create tennis history. And I’m glad it was “Fran” and “Sveta” who proved that women’s tennis can be just as “epic” as the men’s game. Perhaps these lyrics from Moby’s song with MC Lyte and Angie Stone say it best.
You know I can’t stand to be held back (it’s so fly)
And all the ladies y’all got my back yeah
Even when we’re solo in action
We come together like six sets of jacksons
For the ladies and a superstar
It’s a jam for the ladies and the superstars
I could leave the whole set but never go too far