Now that the first Grand Slam of 2016 is over, some thoughts on the Australian Open.
1. Djokovic’s Era
He crushed Roger Federer, manhandled Andy Murray and he’s already whipped Rafael Nadal and to make matters worse for the field he’s only 28, he’s fit and he’s hungry. So until someone steps up or he gets injured – which hasn’t happened since…?? – it’s his show. He’s the boss. Get used to more.
Djokovic played some remarkable tennis the last two weeks. And he played some unremarkable tennis as well (see his 100 unforced error total against Gilles Simon), but he’s the best and he’ll likely stay the best through this year and problem into next.
2. Serena Slammed
She’s 34 and even in a watered-down WTA landscape, you just can’t win at that age all the time, especially when you are not as fit as the other players. And that’s what happened Saturday in Melbourne.
To her credit, Angelique Kerber just kept getting balls back, forcing Serena into errors and it worked in the end. And she deserved the win, especially after saving a matchpoint in her opener!
Serena probably will tie Steffi and may even pass her last this season, but it won’t be easy. Even though there really isn’t anyone on the WTA stepping up per se – Kerber is No. 2?!?!?! – Serena struggled in Paris last year having to win five three-set matches, then had early round scares again at Wimbledon before Roberta Vinci finished her off at the US Open.
Serena’s a champ, but at her age and with that body, it going to get tougher and tougher to win.
3. WTA Madness
With Serena’s decline underway, who will take the reins on the WTA the next few years?
Angelique Kerber – One Slam wonder?
Simona Halep – Does she want it?
Maria Sharapova – After so many years on the tour, how much is the “corporation” thinking about wins vs. starting a family?
Petra Kvitova – Has the game but too many injuries?
Victoria Azarenka – Might be a contender but my gut tells me she’s passed her prime.
Agnieszka Radwanska – Good player, but not No. 1 material.
Madison Keys – Everyone’s pick, but often injured.
Is there someone I’m missing? Belinda Bencic? Garbine Muguruza?
Honestly, the eye test tells me the WTA is nowhere near the level it was 8-9 years ago when you had Serena, Venus, Clijsters, Henin, Sharapova and Mauresmo and competing for the top. You think against that field Angelique Kerber wins a Slam? No chance.
Obviously, once Serena goes someone will have to be No. 1. Maybe it will be Sharapova who will see the opportunity with her greatest nemesis gone to finally clean up, but otherwise the future is quite bleak and quite uncertain.
4. Raonic’s Rise
If someone can challenge Djokovic 18 months from maybe it’s Milos Raonic. With that monster serve and awkward, but decent groundstrokes, maybe he can put that brain of his to use and come up with a plan to thwart Djokovic and others.
That is, if he can stay healthy. Just 25, he’s already had a multitude of injuries for someone so young. But the weapons and the head are there and it sounds like the fire is too.
With the teen wave still a few years away, maybe Raonic can be the next guy before his window also shuts.
5. Federer SABR
I never saw it, did you?
6. Raise The Roof
With all the rain there this year, imagine if they had no roofs on their three big courts. They might still be playing today.
That investment and foresight paid off nicely this year for the tournament. Other events are smart for taking notes on what they’ve done in Melbourne.
7. Moving The Final Times
I know TV is involved – they have to be – with the start times of the men’s and women’s finals of 7:30pm local time in Melbourne, but for us Americans (yes, I’m being selfish!) that’s a horrible hour to watch live at 3:30am.
8. Match Fixing
Like I said before, I want the names and not just unknown challenger and futures players. If this is a serious problem then show me where it’s happening in main draw ATP/Grand Slam matches. Not in matches at the minor leagues.
And if this is such a huge problem, then why do betting companies continue to take bet on minor league matches? And why are there 68 different ways to bet live on a match? Why?
9. Rafael Regression
After all that work, the positive results the last half of 2015, what a demoralizing way to start the year losing to Fernando Verdasco in five sets.
You have to feel bad for Rafa and unfortunately it further signals the end is nigh.
10. Roger Federer’s Knee
Match fixing aside, the biggest story off the court from Australia is recent news of Roger Federer’s knee injury. The durable Swiss underwent his first surgery that I can recall yesterday to repair a meniscus tear he apparently suffered while walking the kids the day after his loss to Djokovic.
He’ll return – I’ve had friends undergo this surgery and it’s a good recovery rate – but Federer can kiss the upcoming two months of outdoor hardcourts goodbye.
He’s already out of Rotterdam and Dubai where he’s the defending champ. And he won’t play Indian Wells either – playing hardcourts on a just-surgically repaired knee can’t be a good idea. But I expect him to add a few events in the clay season when he’s back at full strength or just rest for Wimbledon and the Olympics.
As long as he comes back and plays well, he should be fine. But another flare up in that same knee later this year could spell doom for someone his age and his reliance on timing.
And unfortunately, at 34, this is just par for the course. Welcome to getting older, Roger.
11. Juan Martin Del Potro’s Back
Really great news to read of Juan Martin Del Potro’s return in Delray Beach in just over a week.
It’s been so long since he’s been he’s been a factor that my fingers crossed, but it’s a real longshot he returns to contending for Slams. Maybe he can get back to the Top 30, 20, maybe even Top 10.
Whatever it is, I’m rooting for him. It’s hard not to.
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