Players serve up ace tennis menu

2012-02-04 15:05

There are many confessions to be made following last Sunday’s epic battle at the 2012 Australian Open men’s final between World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the second-placed Rafael Nadal.

Let me be the first to admit that I missed church because there was no way I was going to miss what promised – and proved to be – one of the best tennis matches in years.

Writer Daniel Seidel confessed in an article he wrote for The Atlantic that he nearly missed the final point of the match after setting his recorder for six-and-a-half hours.

This followed his missing out on the semifinal five-setter between Andy Murray and Djokovic when he had set his recorder for three hours.

It’s now history that the Serb fought back from losing the first set and took a 2-1 lead before Nadal took his second, forcing the match to go the whole hog of five gripping sets, with Djokovic emerging as the eventual winner 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 in 5 hours, 53 minutes– not before collapsing on his back following a 31-shot rally.

Spare a thought for umpire Pascal Maria who had to stay in his chair all that time – the equivalent of a car journey between Johannesburg and Durban.

The victory in front of a sold-out 15 000 Rod Laver Arena (with the legend himself, Laver, present), saw
24-year-old Djokovic join Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Nadal as the only men who have won three consecutive majors since the Open Era began in 1968.

Nadal, who has now lost seven successive matches to Djokovic, was his vanquished opponent in all three.
The match, as well as the results, sent statisticians scrambling for their calculators.

One of the fascinating statistics that emerged this week, thanks to this match, was that the longest rally was recorded between two American women players, Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner, at the 1984 Virginia Slims Tournament in Richmond, Virginia.

They played a 29-minute, 643-shot rally, the longest in professional tennis history to date, in a match which was won 6-4, 7-6 by Nelson in six hours, 31 minutes.

The performances at the 100th Australian Open, which prides itself as a tournament “Where Stars Are Born”, has whet the sports connoisseurs’ appetite for the remaining Grand Slam tournaments spread throughout the year.

Fans can’t wait to see what happens at Roland Garros, where Nadal has proved to be king, as the tournament is played on his favourite surface, clay, and where he won his sixth title last year.

The French Open runs from May 27 to June 10.

From there it will be off to grass, at what the English just call The Championships: Wimbledon.

The smell of grass will waft through June 25 to July 8 to be followed by yet another hard-court event in the US Open, which wraps up the Grand Slam season from August 27 to September 9.

While the two gladiators are enjoying the limelight, the chasing players Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer
and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga might have a say on how the year pans out.

The women’s circuit failed to produce fireworks at the Australian Open.

However, Victoria Azarenka’s victory over Maria Sharapova in what turned out to be one of the most one-sided Grand Slam finals saw her jump from No.3 in the world to No.1.

Caroline Wozniacki, who has has had many pundits questioning her No.1 ranking that lasted for 67 weeks despite her never winning a Grand Slam, has dropped to No.4 following her 6-3, 7-6 quarterfinal loss to Kim Clijsters.

All one can say is: fasten your seatbelts, the stage is set for a scintillating tennis season this year.

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