Victoria Azarenka’s on court mannerisms have long attracted criticism mainly for that grunting, of which of course she is not the only practitioner. But for once it was not the “wooooOHH” of the Belarussian that caused some upset, but her mysterious medical time-out in the semi final defeat of Sloane Stephens. The reason? Nerves became a full-blown panic attack in the space between the rushed on-court interview and the post-match press conference, few were convinced.
Azarenka recognizes – like the Sharapovas and Serenas before her, who posses that almost madamish on-court attitude with an imminently amiable and attractive off-court media personality – that she wont always be the crowd favourite. Yet, with an ability that echoes another of this new generation of sportspeople – Sebastian Vettel, she can block this out or simply accept it and adopt a ‘who cares’ attitude.
This talent played its part in Victoria overcoming the wealth of support for fellow finalist Li Na who had a somewhat more forgiveable call for the trainer in an entertaining 3-set Australia Day ding dong.
That, and some at times scintillating but always solid match-play that showed calmness and confidence.
Li was arguably the player of the tournament on the women’s side, such was her dissection of the white-hot Sharapova, but Azarenka – as you feel applies to every facet of her lifestyle – was not to be denied.
Apart from some mind games and some bad blood from years gone by, the men kept things 100% tennis. With Ferrer dispatched and a grumbling Federer dethroned it was left to the two best players in the world currently – and if Rafa Nadal fails to reach his best then for the considerable future – to reignite a rivalry that so enthralled the globe at Flushing Meadows last year.
There was precious little to choose between the two in the first two tiebreak sets. As he did in the Wimbledon final, Murray started strong – as he had to – and looked the more determined an brimming with a confidence possibly at its career high.
I have no doubt that if the Scot had managed to clinch that second set t would’ve been too much for even the elastic Serb, such is Murray’s belief and general quality of play which has soared in the last 18 months.
People speak of Murray’s mentality over the years, but the improvements in his shot-making and attacking play have made the difference, fitness too.
Blisters played their part in Andy’s defeat down under but perhaps there also existed a whisper of those mental gremlins creeping back into Murray’s mind.
Inserting self-doubt into his opponents is however one of Djokovic’s most devastating weapons. The Serb is the complete package and seems to possess at least two more gears than his competitors.
There are now murmurings that Murray’s maiden Slam victory were thanks to the blustery New York conditions and not a level of talent to worry the Big 3. Sunday’s final may have supported such a view in some areas, but in truth it showed that Murray will continue to place himself in contention for more majors.
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