Every tennis extremist has their favourite Grand Slam, and hands down mine is the Australian Open.
It’s the best of the bunch, and while I know there’ll be a fair bit of resistance from those Wimbledon purists who insist the grass surface is where true tennis was born, the Melbourne event always kicks off the season with rejuvenated players back to their physical peak and with a handful of fresh New Year’s goals for the upcoming calendar.
The 2013 Australian Open has proven yet again why this is true as we head into the business end of the tournament. Number one seed Njovak Djokovic disposed of David Ferrer in the first semi-final of the Men’s draw, spanking the fourth seeded Spaniard in a three set walkover that took less than two hours to wrap up. The Serb is my safe bet to take the title again but it’s now a matter of whom from?
…defeating him at the All England Club in the 2012 final…
Andy Murray and Roger Federer hit Rod Laver Arena for the second of the men’s semi-finals in a battle which I cannot pick the outcome of. The Scotsman and the Swede first came to pass in 2005, and 19 meetings later the former holds the slightly upper hand, winning 10 of these encounters. Interestingly though, if you peruse over their Grand Slam get-togethers, Federer is all over it, with a 3-0 stronghold over Murray, most memorably spoiling the tearful Brit’s Wimbledon party by defeating him at the All England Club in the 2012 final. But there was some redemption for Murray, when he took the Olympic gold medal only four weeks later from Federer, claiming back his home soil dominance.
Admittedly, Murray has had an easy ride through the Open so far, while not dropping a set on his ride to the semis; he’s also come across less than trying opponents in doing so. The argument for this wavers – is it a good thing that he’s well-rested for his clash with the Fed-Express or a disadvantage that he’s yet to be tested?
…has adopted a more aggressive style of play…
Federer has had a slightly more challenging journey, spending three and a half hours in successfully toppling Henry Tsonga in a five-set quarter final. This means the Fed has spent three hours more than Murray on his feet this tournament, something that may be the difference for the second seed.
Murray is a changed player now than he was in their last meeting. He’s now rid the Grand Slam ghoulies in winning the US Open last year and has adopted a more aggressive style of play, reflective of the Lendl coaching regime he’s been under, a partnership which celebrates their one year anniversary at this very tournament. Perhaps they may commemorate it with an Australian Open title?