Sportswriter and author David Fearnhead, Women’s Tennis Blog’s loyal supporter who has recently contributed with an exclusive interview with Bojana Jovanovski, shares with you the Top 5 things that marked his 2015 Australian Open experience.
Dominika Cibulkova vs. Victoria Azarenka – MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT
At the same time Miss Universe was being crowned in Miami, another contest was being decided on Rod Laver. Only one of these truly celebrated women, and it wasn’t the beauty contest. It was the two hours and ten minutes of tennis which perfectly encapsulated why I love the women’s game. This fourth-round encounter was my match of the tournament.
Too often in tennis we get lost in the statistics, but they can only tell us so much. As an unseeded Victoria Azarenka was finding her form, she was met by the lightning feet of Dominika Cibulkova, who refused to be beaten. Yes, she might be only 1.6 m tall, but she squeezes every bit out of herself. She returns balls which no one has a right to even get to, let alone hit winners from. Azarenka must have been left wondering what she had to do to get the ball past her opponent.
What I enjoy about Cibulkova is that hers is a game built on speed. She doesn’t have the massive weapons of her amazonian opponents, but she has a speed of foot better than anyone I’ve seen play the game. Yet, the weapons are there, her serve belies her stature. She is a player who knows how to get the best out of herself and mentally she’s as tough as they come. Cibulkova proved that her appearance in the 2014 Australian Open final was no fluke, and was only stopped from repeating that success by the eventual winner Serena Williams.
She thrives on self-belief, and her performance in Melbourne must be a good sign for the year to come. Hopefully we’ll be hearing pome! at the business end of many more tournaments this year.
Just shy of her 20th birthday, the teenager is becoming the great hope of the future for American tennis. Keys signalled her intent with a straight-sets third-round dispatch of Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, but her run looked to have been derailed when an injury saw her playing against Venus Williams on virtually one leg.
Quite how she came back from seemingly being unable to continue I have no idea. It was not a ploy, the pain and her lack of movement was obvious. Although, the injury appeared to focus her killer instinct, as she went for her winners and they paid off. There was good humour, too. After Keys fluffed an easy overhead put-away, the crowd held its collective breath every time a high ball came her way.
Keys looks to have a big future on the WTA circuit, and for American tennis fans who have been searching for an heir to the Williams sisters, they may well have found the real deal.
Simona Halep’s UNDERPERFORMANCE
I’m an unapologetic fan of Simona Halep. I love her game, love watching her play, and if truth be told I even had money on her to make the final. She showed little sign of any illness which had plagued her pre-tournament and was cruising through the rounds comfortably. There were no clouds on the horizon, nothing to say that the best she would get from Melbourne was to be voted best-dressed. Then came the match against Ekaterina Makarova.
Was it a blip? Or is it a sign of a more serious chink in her armour. Halep never looked right from the start. Her shoulders looked tense, she looked off her game. What surprised me was not that the tension may have been playing its part, or that she had an off day. It was how easily she appeared to accept defeat. She looked as if she was in a rush to get off court, and even the post match press conference was cold of emotion.
It can’t be easy being Halep, she’s pretty much it for Romanian sport. A whole nation rests on her young shoulders, and she is no more the rookie. No longer is every victory greeted with special joy. No longer do I have to say, “You should check out Halep, she’s got a great game”. Now everyone knows it. Victory is expected, and with it comes a certain pressure.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova DOUBLES DELIGHT
They might seem an odd pairing, the tattooed American rock-chick with the taste for flamboyant clothing and the doll-faced Czech, but together something special happened. Their victory was enjoyable all the more because it seemed as unexpected to them as it did to the rest of us watching.
A chain of events which consisted of the German duo Goerges and Groenefeld putting out the Italian favourites Errani and Vinci in round 3 and then having to retire in semis, saw Mattek-Sands and Safarova as surprise finalists and eventual Grand Slam champions.
It was the second Grand Slam title for Mattek-Sands, who also won the 2012 Australian Open mixed doubles title with Horia Tecau of Romania, but if the mixed doubles is rarely seen as a serious competition, then the women’s doubles very much is.
Serena Williams’ 19th GRAND SLAM
What more can be written about Serena Williams? I’ll say just this: It was highly appropriate that the best female player of this era was handed the trophy by Martina Navratilova, her rival for the title of greatest female tennis player of all time.