Aussie Open Wrapup

Well, this was a really good tournament.  On the mens side, I’m always pleased with a Federer win.  Last year, he seemed to be weighted down with the effort to match Sampras’ slam record.  Running into an inspired performance by Nadal, his serve broke down in the crucial fifth set.  This year, he seemed very relaxed and held off a strong challenge from Murray in the third set.  Some will say that the win did not come against Nadal, however, the hyper-physical style of play that lead to much of Nadal’s success has now come back to haunt him.  At  that level of physical intensity, the window of time to play at one’s absolute peak is very small.

Speaking of wear and tear, it seems like the grind of the tour has really caught up to Roddick.  I had higher hopes for him coming off the prior tournament win, but the two-week format of a major championship does not bode well for injuries, especially to your playing arm.

Also on the US mens side, I had hoped for slightly more depth from John Isner, but he ran headfirst into a strong performance from Murray, who seems well on his way to becoming the first Brit since Fred Perry to win a slam.  If Murray continues to improve at his current pace and remains fit, it’s truly only a matter of time.  I do believe he needs to learn how to adjust to a more aggressive level of play.  Had he come into the net more, it might have been a different final.  Federer was playing lights-out from the baseline, although he did not appear to be hitting passing shots all that well.  Murray was winning a very high percentage of points at the net when he did come in throughout the entire tournament.  When pressed, he seems to revert to his more comfortable role as a baseline counter-puncher.  Get beyond that and we should see several majors from Murray.

Congrats to the Bryan brothers on regaining the doubles championship.  Interesting move by their coach to switch court coverage for the brothers.  Seemed to work well, though, and the result speaks for itself.

Speaking of results, how about those Williams sisters!  When Serena serves the way she’s capable of, it’s pretty much a question of whether or not she will beat herself, not whether her opponent will beat her (unless someone on the women’s side every matches that serve).  Great performance by Venus to put the singles loss behind her and take the lead in an impressive doubles championship.

Great tournament to start a new year.

Nadal Wins Australian

Just finished watching the Open.  Thought Roger had a chance after coming back in the second, but then he seemed to relax.  Nadal is too mentally and physically tough (anyone see the match against Verdaso).  Back and forth, trading sets,  and then I saw something very unusual.  Roger’s edge in big matches has always been his ability to come up with a big serve to get out of trouble or get up in a game.  His serve completely deserted him in the fifth.  Nadal up a break and it was all over.

Nadal is to be congratulated not just for a big win but for elevating his game to complete at the highest level on all surfaces.  Federer’s time is not necessarily over, but on the downslide while Nadal is reaching a peak.  Federer will have to go back to the proverbial drawing board and find a way to elevate his play to solve the Nadal problem, a person who is clearly inside his head.

Federer in Aussie Open Final

That was a solid win over Roddick.  Personally, I thought Roddick had a chance at winning at least a set.  Good back-to-back matches for Federer as he awaits the winner of Nadal-Verdasco.  While Nadal is the popular choice, Roger will still have to elevate his game one more level in order to tie Sampras’ record, regardless of opponent.  It seems he’s up for it mentally, so continued best wishes from this end.

I hope Roddick continues to improve.  The change in both physical conditioning and strokes resulted in a solid tournament.  Once the changes have a chance to become more second nature, perhaps we will see an American mount a serious challenge for a major.

Federer Responds

Just checked the live scores on and noticed that Federer must read my blog 🙂  He shook off the poor play from his prior match and must have played very aggressively to not just beat del Potro, but smoke him in straight sets, including back-to-back bagels!

del Potro is no slouch and there is a reason he’s seeded number 8.  This seems to be an appropriate response to both a resurgent Roddick (his next opponent) and the seemingly invincible Nadal.  Continued hopes on this end that the Fed Express rolls on.  Great win Roger!

Federer v. Berdych

I had heard Berdych was a highly talented player and was worried about a Federer letdown from the level of his prior match.  The first two sets confirmed my worst fears.  It was astounding to see Federer forced a yard or two behind the baseline, playing almost bewhildered-looking shots for two full sets.

But, what’s more exciting – a Federer blowout or a Federer comeback?  I was literally screaming at the TV for him to play more agressive and come into the net even behind returns.  I was about to turn the match off at 3-3, 40-15 on Berdych’s serve.  Then, came the agressive backhand and the follow-up into the net.  Finally, Federer won that critical game and adjusted his play to quit teeing up the ball into Berdynch’s strike zone.

While physical talent is important, it’s often mentality that makes a champion.  Federer proved it in this match.  Sometimes a test like this can propel you to greater heights and much greater heights will be needed to reach the level at which Murray and Nadal are competing.

The Fed Express Rolls On

One of the advantages to getting up very early to start the work day (usually 5AM) is that I can watch the Australian Open while eating breakfast, initial email check, etc.  Federer v. Safin was viewed as a very challenging match for Roger, considering the previous meeting between the two in the semis.  Safin is a very capable player, with a huge serve. With nothing to lose, he is the type of person that can easily eliminate a top seed.

I haven’t seen Roger in this form in quite some time.  The serve was business as usual and the forehand was unbelievably explosive.  The only backhands he seemed to miss were those where he raised up during the stroke (note to self – pay more attention to that in practice).  He was able to elevate his game at critical points and was mentally tough in the tiebreaker.  I wish I had recorded the match just to watch that final backhand passing shot again.  Another note to self – get TiVO.

As long as he does not relax and lose concentration, this could be a great tournament for him.