Archive | January, 2012

The Grand Slam?

30 Jan

We’ve had Rocket Rod Laver in the building for the past week – and it got The PRO thinking – are we ever going to see another player dominant the ATP tour to the extent of winning all 4 majors in the one calendar year.

Many have tried, one man has come close – very close in recent times – Roger Federer. The Fed express in 2004, 2006 and 2007 won 3 of the 4 only missing out on the French Open each year. In two of those years he was runner up in the French – you cannot get any closer than that. His last “big” year was 2009 – where he won the Wimbledon and US Open titles and was runner up in the French and the Australian Open.

Raphael Nadal also had a dominant year in 2010 winning 3 of the 4. He fell however at the first hurdle by going out in the 1/4 finals at the Australian Open. Close but no cigar.

One thing about the Australian Open  – it always eliminates ALL but one player from making the Grand Slam a reality. So that leaves Novak Djokovic. His 2011 was stellar, posting victories at 3 of the 4 majors – missing the French Open along the way. So again in 2012 it is Novak Djokovic as the only tour player with the Grand Slam dream alive. Can he go one further than he did in 2011?

The PRO.

 

5 hours and 53 minutes later….it’s no shirt Novak.

30 Jan

Novak Djokovic - Get me out of this shirt.

In a day of extreme heat, extreme anticipation, extreme crowds and extreme hitting, world #1 Novak Djokovic finally reigned supreme in his title defence for the Australian Open mens singles title with a gruelling 5 set victory over world #2 Raphael Nadal.

It may have taken a touch shy of 6 hours, but this was certainly no dull affair. Raphael Nadal and Novak Djokovic stood toe to toe like two gladiators from days of old, and traded blow after blow looking for the knockout punch. The simple fact is these guys are so fit and so well prepared that it was a battle to the end – literally the last man standing. Although on that count Rafa was the last on his feet as Novak celebrated on his back on the baseline of Rod Laver Arena.

This match will go down as part of Aussie Open folklore, the night the moths and seagulls looked like upstaging the players and taking off themselves with the Sir Norman Brookes trophy. At one point tournament officials could be seen hovering over the “roof closed” button as thunder clouds rolled in over the Melbourne skyline. Should they have closed the roof they still may have had a “rain” delay due to the puddles of sweat tumbling freely from Rafa’s nose.

If you get the chance, do yourself a favour and watch this match – at least the last 2 sets, and if that is not possible, then get yourself a QANTAS flight and a ticket for AO 2013 – I’ve got a feeling we are in for a rivalry of the ages.

The PRO.

Record crowds at Australian Open 2012

30 Jan

Novak Djokovic thanking AO tournament staff with an AC/DC tune!

In what seems to be an annual event – the 2012 Australian Open has broken its own Grand Slam attendance record. It is staggering to think that over 686,000 fans have poured in through the gates at Melbourne Park over the past fortnight. The fact the event was blessed with idyllic weather and some tantalising match-ups, as well as a resurgent Australian male contingent led by Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic, combined with the pre-event expectations for Sam Stosur to shine, all played a part in helping to set the benchmark crowd figures.

2012 will go down as history making in so many aspects. It was the 100th playing of the men’s singles title – and what more fitting end than to have Rod Laver present the trophy to world #1 Novak Djokovic after a history making 5 hour 53 minute marathon. This epic match also broke many records – the longest Grand Slam final ever, the longest match at the Australian Open, the first time a player has lost 3 slam finals in a row (Nadal).

Many say our sports stars are overpaid and need a dose of humility – after watching the battle rage out on Rod Laver arena for just on 6 hours in searing heat, then to listen to the humble and uplifting responses from both Nadal and Djokovic at their press conferences at 4am this morning gives more than hope, that in tennis, at least, we have some quality role models for our young athletes to look up to.

The PRO.

Azarenka crowned AO champion and world # 1

29 Jan

Rod Laver Arena and another big crowd in.

In a one sided final lasting just 82 minutes, Victoria Azarenka won her maiden major – the 2012 Australian Open womens singles title. To the victor, Victoria, go the spoils and she also took over the womens world # 1 ranking as well as $2.3 million in prize money.

This was expected to be a close encounter of the shrieking kind. Maria Sharapova looking to have the edge in experience, with this final being her sixth major and already holding 3 slam titles. Azarenka did get off to a nervous beginning, understandably for a first time slam finalist. after going down early 2 games to love, she quickly found her rhythm and was clearly the dominant player. Sharapova was left with a gameplan that was inadequate against the surging Belarusian, and with no plan B she succumbed 6/3 6/0 still trying to outslug Azarenka from the baseline right to the finish.

In a night of firsts Azarenka became the first Belarusian to win a slam, and also the  first to be ranked #1. She completed a unique double here at Melbourne Park – where she was Australian Open junior girls singles champion in 2005, and now the 2012 womens singles champion. Long and loud may she celebrate.

The PRO.

Aussie junior Luke Saville secures 2nd junior slam title

29 Jan

Aussie junior Luke Saville serves up a storm.

Luke Saville, the 17 year old right hander from Adelaide, who looks as though he would be more comfortable on a beach with a surfboard tucked under his arm, won the Australian Open boys junior singles title yesterday. He defeated Canada’s Filip Peliwo 6/3 5/7 6/4.

In what must have been a huge thrill for the players, the boys singles was played as the warm-up match on Rod Laver Arena prior to the women’s singles final. It is extremely unusual for the juniors to play on the main arena – and does not happen at all at either Wimbledon and the US Open. A key staffer with the ITF recalled a French Open junior final being played on the Stadium court at Roland Garros the year Richard Gasquet was in the final.

Saville and Peliwo have something of a junior rivalry going on with Peliwo winning the previous battle in another tight 3 set match just last week in the lead-up event for the juniors down at Traralgon. Saville had match points in that one – but could not convert, so this victory was sweet revenge. Luke Saville completes a trifecta of recent winners of the boys singles for the home nation. Brydan Klein (2007) and Bernard Tomic (2008) were the most recent winners.

Saville is the current number 1 world ranked junior boy and also is the current Wimbledon junior singles title holder. He hopes to clean up in a couple more junior slams this year whilst also embarking on a breakthrough year on the mens ATP tour. He currently is ranked around 1200 on the ATP computer. Saville’s goal is to finish 2012 inside the top 400 on the ATP mens computer. He is one to watch.

The PRO.

Boom Boom – the big servers.

27 Jan

Australia Day fireworks seen from the concourse at Melbourne Park.

Today’s tennis is increasingly becoming a power game. Racket and string technology, superb athletes and a mastery of sports sciences has led to monster forehands, killer backhands and the real weapon. The Serve.

Here is the lowdown on serve speeds from the official IBM radar at this years Australian Open. Serve speed leaders for the tournament to date in the mens draw: Milos Raonic (Canada) 228kmh, closely followed by a cluster of servers clocked at 224kmh – John Isner (USA), Andy Roddick (USA) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France). Rounding out the big servers was Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) with a 220kmh bomb.

On the womens side of the ledger no surprises for guessing the fastest server – though not by much – yes Serena Williams (USA) with a 191kmh cannon ball, closely followed by Sabine Lisicki (Germany) 190kmh, and Aussie Jarmilia Gajdosova rounded out the top 3 with a 187 kmh blast. Some very strong serving – and match this with good target areas and you have the back-bone of today’s power game.

** And what about 15 year old Aussie junior Daniel Guccione who served a 228 kmh bomb in his 1st round juniors match!

The PRO.

Rod Laver is in the house!

27 Jan

Many regard him as the greatest of all time. The Rockhampton Rocket – Rod Laver – pictured here at Wimbledon.

Rocket Rod has returned to Melbourne Park to celebrate 50 years since his first Grand Slam in 1962. Laver, the Aussie left handed serve and volley player is looking fit for his 73 years of age and was justifiably chuffed to be honoured in his house – Rod Laver Arena. Laver not only won the 1962 Grand Slam but then went on to become the only male player to win the Grand Slam (all 4 majors in a calendar year – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open) in the open era, and was ranked world # 1 tennis player for 7 consecutive years (1964 to 1970).

In a typically humble press conference Laver spoke of the honour  of being invited and how it is the crowning jewel of his whole career to see the stadium lit up with his name on it. For a fantastic listen for tennis historians – follow this link to a chat yesterday on ESPN (the US network) with Roger Federer, Rod Laver and Darren Cahill.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=7501282&categoryid=2491545