Heroes and Zeroes of the first Slam of the year

Another great Australian Open (the most consistently entertaining major over recent years) is now over. Time to look at the players that, regardless of what stage in the tournament they reached made the last fortnight so special. A mention too for those that perhaps failed to deliver.

Heroes

Jo Wilfried Tsonga (Finalist) – The 22 year old has been a true revelation this fortnight. Showing no signs of nerves and fighting to the very end he displayed a maturity and quality of play that defied his youth and ranking. His list of victims included Murray, Youzhny, Nadal and Gasquet.

Novak Djokovic (Champion) – The number three seed justified his standing as the man to challenge the two top dogs. Held his nerve against some surprise packages (Tsonga) and dogged fighters (Hewitt). Oh and he outclassed Roger Federer. The most consistently solid player of the tournament.

Maria Sharapova (Champion) – I am not a fan of hers as is abundantly clear, but the level at which – during this fortnight at least- the Russian number one raised her level of play was simply too good for anyone and everyone. Unplayable.

Lleyton Hewitt (4th round) – A player who despite being only 26 is regarded already as a last generation player whose style of baseline play looks outdated and tired in todays era of superhitters and incredibly fit men. Once again the Aussie won the hearts of fans worldwide with his sheer willpower and determination. His match with Marcos, started just before midnight and lasting for over four hours, saw some small pockets of the Australian’s Slam – winning form.

Casey Dellacqua (4th round) – A tough choice between the lady from Perth and the other seedkiller Agnieska Radwanska. What clinches it for Dellacqua is the fact that her opponents (Schnyder, Mauresmo) disn’t quite crumble to the extent of Radwanska’s. Brave and at times brilliant, becoming her country’s number one is proof of her bright future.

Other worthy mentions: Phillip Kohlschreiber, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Agnieska Radwanska, Marat Safin, Maria Kirilenko, Jankko Tipsarevic and Daniela Hantuchova.

Zeroes

Roger Federer (Semi Finalist) – It’d be hard to find a bigger fan of Federer than me, but this was a tournament which he never looked like winning. To call the Swiss a ‘zero’ is a bit severe but the World number one never really clicked into even 4th gear let alone 5th or 6th. Arrogance? Probably more the case of just too many off days. A bit moody too.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (3rd round) – Losing to Agnieska Radwanska is no embarassment, but the really quite timid fashion in which the supposed number two in the world slumped out in the first week was unforgivable. The Russian needs to get back to her powerful best to stay in the top 5.

Venus Williams (Quarter Finalist) – For a main contender Venus never showed the kind of form that justified such a tipping. Struggling in most of her matches and incapable of holding onto any sort of momentum for a whole match the American was not impressive.

David Nalbandian (3rd round) – One of the few players regarded as someone who has the natural talent to beat Federer, David Nalbandian, like Kuznetsova lost to a worthy opponent but not in style. The Argentine looked despondant and a little bored throughout his trouncing by the 2002 French Open champion.

Justine Henin (Quarter Finalist) – Like her fellow top seed, Henin never really turned up to Melbourne. Her dominant 2007 form has not yet been rediscovered. After such a trouncing by Sharapova, even with the Belgian’s mental strength it may take her some time to show that form again.

Lesser disappointments: Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Daniela Hantuchova (do i want to reach my first Slam final…nah!).

Images: BBC Sport

One thought on “Heroes and Zeroes of the first Slam of the year

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