Australian Open 2010 Notes

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I’ve gone almost 2 months without adding a single blog post here. That’s probably one of the longest spells I did. Trying to look back in the past two months, there are two major sporting events that prevented me from doing so.

The first one is the Australian Open – the first grand slam in the tennis calendar held in Melbourne. I’m a huge tennis fan, and last month, I stayed awake late into the evening watching live matches from Down Under. I was cheering on Roger Federer to extend his record number of tennis grand slams, amidst the challenge of younger up and coming players such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Jo Wilfried Tsonga; and established rivals such as Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko. Federer passed the hurdles along his way and went on to capture his 16th grand slam title, the most amongst male tennis players.

Then there’s the drama on the women’s side. After being defaulted at the semifinals of the US Open last year, world #1 Serena Williams was intent on proving that she deserves that spot. The un-retirement of rival Justine Henin was another motivating factor. She breezed through her first four matches before almost being knocked out by the talented Belarussian, Victoria Azarenka, in the quarterfinals. But Williams dug deep and made an almost impossible comeback. She then won the championships by defeating Henin in a thrilling 3-set match that saw both players go on streaks until Williams proved to be the steadier player at the end. Serena Williams successfully defended both her singles title and also the doubles title which she won with her older sister, Venus.

Chinese women tennis players also made a stir in the grand slam of the Asia-Pacific as two players from China reached the semifinals of a major for the first time in history. China, with its more than a billion gene pool has been tagged by a lot of tennis observers to be a major power in the future and the performance by a couple of its veteran stars just proved what has been expected all along. Now, the top Chinese player, Na Li / Li Na is now in the top ten. Expect China to produce more top 20 players and rival Russia in the most number of women players at the top in this decade.

I’m looking forward to the French Open in June. In the men’s side - will Rafael Nadal be able to bounce back and reclaim his dominance in Rolland Garros? Or, will Federer defend his crown to add to his 16 major titles? I think the only players capable of challenging Nadal and Federer in Paris will be Novak Djokovic and my name-sake, US Open champion and 2009 French Open semifinalist Juan Martin del Potro. Then again, it’s tennis. Let’s see what the clay court season produces.

In the ladies side, Henin would be the favorite coming into the French Open given her previous four wins in the tournament. But, I wouldn’t discount Serena Williams who made a serious run last year before falling to the Svetlana Kuznetsova, the eventual champion. This year, Serena is the only player with the chance of winning all four grand slams, and even if she doesn’t stay 100% healthy, I think she’ll be able to pull it off. Henin, Serena and Kuznetsova would be my top favorites, and they would be challenged by Kim Clijsters, Dinara Safina and if she can get her act together, maybe 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic will be able to do some damage.

To be continued...