So I wrote about the “Major Down Under” losing some of its thunder last week. And I am not going against this statement. But what a weird tournament it has been. On the women’s side, the finals, semifinals, and quarterfinals were “Williams-Less.” On the Men’s side, we will miss out on watching Mr. Federer or Mr. Nadal in the finals. Are we witnessing a change of the guard or are things just strange down under this year?
Lets first take a look at the women’s side of the draw. Kim Clijster’s gets pregnant and retires from tennis. No problem for the World’s Number 2 ranked player. Clijsters officially retired from tennis in 2007. Then returned nearly 2 years later and in her 3rd tournament back, took care of business in Flushing Meadows capturing the US Open. Clijsters is now 27, which in the women’s tennis world, is dinosaur age, yet she is definitely not extinct. How does a woman retire for 2 years and come back like Kim has? That is a topic for another day.
Now Kim’s opponent in the finals was little known Li Na. Miss Na is the 11th ranked player in the world, but is really not known by the tennis masses. She played outstanding all tournament and took down the number 1 ranked female player in the world, Caroline Wozniacki, in the Semifinals. Also it should be known, Li is the first Chinese player ever to reach a Grand Slam Final. Another eerie fact of this year’s version of the “Slam Down Under.”
The real topic for discussion on the women’s tour regards the Williams sisters though. Venus is now 30 years old and struggled with injuries leading to an early exit from the tourney. Serena, aka “Superwoman,” is now 29, and was not even able to participate in the Melbourne Tourney. But with the Williams sisters hitting the end of their respective careers, who is the next big thing? I mean Clijsters has made it known that 2011 could be her last year on the tour. You tell me who is the next big female star because I am at a loss for words on this one. Take a look at the WTA Top 10. Only 2 of its members are under the age of 26. Each of the Williams could take home another Grand Slam title to top of their amazing careers, but really how much could possibly be left in the tank?
On the men’s side, neither Federer nor Nadal will be participating in the Men’s Final tomorrow. Instead, we will get to watch Andy Murray, aka the “Great British Hope,” take on a former Aussie Open Champion and avid comedian, Mr. Novak Djokovic. No player from Great Britain has brought home a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry did it in 1936. Can Murray end one of the sport’s most well documented droughts?
I am going to go with a no. Streaks like this are meant to continue on into eternity (just kidding). Sadly, Boston ended the vaunted course in regards to the MLB, back in 2004. Outside of Boston, most people loved that streak. The Chicago Cub’s streak of ineptitude continues. And the majority of the world loves it. It is not that people hold any animosity towards Great Britain, and I am not turning this into a political rant by any means, but streaks like this are a part of professional athletics. It will eventually end, but I do not see it happening on Sunday.
These guys have somewhat similar careers. They have each spent the past 5 years sitting in the rearview mirror of Nadal/Federer. Consistent top 5 guys. Great players who just have happened to play in an era that has 2 of the greatest players ever to play the game (yes I said it, 2 of the all time greats). Both, Djokovic and Murray are similar types of players. They each rely heavily on their baseline game. I think one difference would be that Murray is perhaps a bit more of a defensive counterpuncher. But they can both play no doubt. Djokovic won “Slam Down Under” in 2008, while Murray was the runner-up here last year.
Djokovic iced Mr. Federer in straight sets here. Who has Murray beaten of note on the way to this final’s appearance? My edge goes to an extremely confident Novak. Great Britain will continue to wait for a Grand Slam Title. The real question on the Men’s side though, which is similar to the debate on the Women’s side, are Federer and Nadal on the way out (similar to the Williams sisters). I would say that Federer and Nadal each have some more left in their tanks. But I would love to hear what you think.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.