7 Thoughts from the Australian Open
1. Rafael Nadal‘s injury was a shame. You hate to see a guy going for an amazing accomplishment like the Grand Slam stopped by injury. On the other hand, no asterisks should be placed on the tournament on the idea that Nadal wins if not for the injury. The truth of the matter is that Nadal has never reached a point where he has impressive odds of winning a particular hard court tournament.
2. It was great to see Djokovic step up. He looks like he’s finally ready to take that next jump, which I was beginning to think he didn’t have in him. It’s going to be interesting, presuming he keeps this up, to see him square off over the next year against Nadal. I don’t expect that anything but injury will keep Nadal from repeating as Player of the Year, but I also think the Djoker has a very good chance at keeping Rafa from ending the year on another 3 Slam streak.
3. Andy Murray‘s destruction in the finals at the racket of Djokovic is definitely discouraging for the guy. However, the reason everyone is talking about it is misguided. “3 finals, 3 losses”, they say, implying the man is a choker – and granted if there’s one national media capable of turning all their citizen athletes into chokers, it is the British. He hasn’t exactly faced weak competition though in those 3 finals. He’s been the underdog all 3 times, and each time the favorite has played stellar. The “choking” shouldn’t bother Murray anywhere near as much as the fact that it looks like he’s peaked, and he’s clearly a step below 2 guys his own age. This tournament gave Murray about as good of a break he could hope for not having to face a real contender until the finals, and he still didn’t seem close to the promised land. At this point, there’s a solid chance he’ll never get there.
4. We were wondering when Federer would fall out of the top 2. Yeah, technically he’s been ranked 3rd at times, but he hasn’t been considered worse than the 2nd best player in the world in about 8 years. Now I think you’ve got to put Djokovic ahead of him in addition to Nadal. Of course the 3rd best player sometimes wins majors, so it’s certainly possible Fed will win some more, but it’s going to get a lot harder from here on out.
5. Clijsters I’ve already written about, but it is worth noting that she doesn’t have a game that’s particularly sensitive to surface. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if she wins the French Open or Wimbledon and joins the ranks of those who’ve held 3 major tournament titles at once.
6. Caroline Wozniacki thus far appears to be an anomaly. In recent years, we’ve either seen women players breakthrough to become slam winners, or self-destruct under the pressure. In either case, it’s less a matter of talent than mental fortitude. Woz seems quite mentally stable so far, but just not talented enough to beat whoever is hot at the moment. Kind of reminds me of Lleyton Hewitt, except he had just enough to actually win a couple majors, and it’s not clear if Woz ever will.
7. However, Wozniacki remains the star of the young generation thus far. It’s amazing that with women’s tennis we essentially have the best women athletes in the world because you can make more money as a women’s tennis player than any other kind of women athlete – and yet we haven’t seen a breakthrough of any top tier performers in years. I tend to subscribe to the theory that the superstars at any given time vary greatly in quality, while the “pack” behind them tends to be quite stable in its level assuming there’s no major changes to the sporting landscape – so such a dearth at the top isn’t *that* weird. Still pretty surreal though.