Top 25 Takeaways from the 2013 Australian Open

Paula Vergara
January 27, 2013

As I sat watching the women's Australian Open singles final, I thought to myself, if a Grand Slam were a movie, it would be a thriller, comedy, and drama all rolled into one. If it were a reality show, it would have more viewers than Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo combined. Fortunately, tennis is neither of those. The players are real people, their stories are unscripted, and for two short, yet seemingly endless weeks, many of their hopes and dreams are placed on the line for a shot at Grand Slam glory.

With the fortnight now behind us, but not far from our collective memories, it's a good time to debate, dissect, and lament this historical, record-breaking, and sometimes heartbreaking event. I've put together my top 25 moments that sum up the highs and lows from the tournament.

  1. Maria Sharapova scoring a double bagel in her first round match vs. Olga Puchkova, which happened to be the  first match of the tournament. She pulled off another double bagel vs. Misaki Doi in the second round. We'll see if she'll come up with a new Sugarpova flavor called "Bagel Bites."

  1. For a second straight year, Sam Stosur struggled with her game in front of her home crowd. She had surgery at the end of 2012 to remove a bone spur, hoping that would improve her game. She managed to avoid a humiliating first round loss, but was ousted the second round.

  1. No tennis player is more quotable than Li Na, but Maria Sharapova is proving to be a close second. She said in an ESPN interview that half of the Aussies are drunk. No one can confirm this, of course, but they certainly are a happy bunch of people.

  1. Serena Williams rolling her ankle in her first round match, and going on to win it 6-0, 6-0 (vs. Edina Gallovits-Hall). Give that girl a few minutes to rest, and she’s even more dangerous on court. 

  1. The most shocking news came on day 2 of the Australian Open. It was announced that ATP CEO Brad Drewett was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A jolting reminder of how fragile life can be.

  1. Brian Baker: Every time he steps onto a court, we are reminded of what determination really means. No stranger to injury, he fell during his second round match vs. Sam Querrey, and had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair. He was later diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee (a first time knee injury), and will be out of competition for approximately 4 months.

  1. Australia's Bernie Tomic, or as Brad Gilbert calls him, “Weekend at Bernie’s” chose a rather ill-fitting hat for his matches. I'm not sure if Bernie is on Twitter, but if he were, he would have gotten an earful about his hat. 

  1. Kimiko Date Krumm: At age 42, she made tennis history when she defeated No. 12 seed Nadia Petrova and became the oldest woman to win a main draw singles match at the Australian Open. She also defeated Shahar Peer in the second round.

  1. Venus Williams competing in her 58th Grand Slam. Regardless of her results, that stat is impressive.

  1. Great to see Gael Monfils back in the game, but the 71-hit rally between Monfils and  Gilles Simon in the  third round was a surprisingly boring baseline battle (Simon won).

  1. Speaking of Simon, he knew he couldn’t possibly beat Andy Murray after his body was reduced to rubble in his four-hour, 43-minute marathon match against Gael Monfils, and went so far as to admit it before his match vs. Murray.

  1. Jack Sock playing mixed doubles and getting hit with a ball by his opponent. Ouch.

  1. Serena Williams was busted by the umpire for a foot fault in the third set of her quarterfinal match vs. Sloane Stephens. It stirs up fond memories of the 2009 US Open, doesn't it? 

  1. By far, the biggest upset of the tournament came in the quarterfinals when 19-year-old Sloane Stephens ousted the anticipated champion, Serena Williams. Absolutely no one was prepared for that bubble-bursting surprise, least of all Serena, who took her anger out on her racquet.

  1. This tournament was the first time Andy Murray had beaten Roger Federer in 5 sets in a Grand Slam. That has to make a runner up feel some sense of victory.

  1. There was a bit of talk in the first week about changing the best of 5-set match format at Grand Slams to a best of 3, due to the increased risk of injury. Instead of taking that drastic route, how about adding a tiebreak to deciding sets? At this point, the only Grand Slam that has a final set tiebreak is the US Open.  

  1. Marathon Men: Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka pulled off a thrilling, 5-hour, 5- set match in the fourth round. Djokovic won 12-10 in the final set. Hats off to Stan for coming very close to knocking out the eventual champion.

  1. One of Li Na’s serves that she hit in her quarterfinal match accidentally made it into the stands. She later commented that she wanted to have better communication with the fans. It worked. Watch the video here.

  1. The most controversial moment of the tournament: Victoria Azarenka's injuries and consecutive medical timeouts in her semifinal match vs. Sloan Stephens at 5-4 in second set. Skeptics who saw the match might argue that she choked when it mattered most, and took the easy way out. The following day, there was a rush to pass judgement after inconsistencies in Azarenka's story. Was it gamesmanship? Was it a problem with her rib? Trouble breathing? Blame the Belarussian if you want to, but she owned up to her lapses in judgement, and learned a very harsh lesson. If anything, the medical personnel should have been questioned more than Azarenka. 

  1. Women’s singles final: Azarenka and Li Na were at 2-1 in the final set when the match was temporarily suspended for 9 minutes for the Australia Day fireworks display. The half drunk Aussies in the stands were elated by the interruption. Azarenka went on to defend her AO title and held onto the No. 1 ranking.

  1. The Bryan Bros. set new world record after winning their 13th Grand Slam doubles title. The twins were previously tied with John Newcombe and Tony Roche with 12 Grand Slams.

  1. Was every player wearing yellow? Yes...everyone except the Williams sisters. They didn’t get the memo.

  1. Men’s singles final: Djokovic pulled off a 3-peat, defeating Andy Murray 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2. This was an Open Era first for Djokovic, winning three consecutive Austrian Open titles. He took the match in just 2 hrs., 15 minutes. It was fitting that Andre Agassi, winner of four Australian Open singles titles, handed out the trophies.

  1. There is a 30 and 31 year old in the WTA’s top 5. That is just amazing.

  1. Despite the excitement brought by Djokovic, Federer, and Murray, no one can deny the void that was left by Nadal, as he continues to train for his comeback. We hope to see him back in action soon.

Top 20 Wishes for the 2013 Tennis Season

January 2, 2013

The holidays are over. That must mean that it’s time to role out my wish list for the 2013 tennis season. Last year, I had a bit of an anxious feeling heading into January. I was consumed by an unrelenting fear that history would repeat itself. Fortunately, I was wrong. Despite a few teary-eyed retirements, this past year was filled with fist-pumping comebacks, as well as some hints as to which up-and-comers will be making their move in 2013

Looking back on 2012, more than a few of my tennis wishes did, in fact, come true. Roger Federer won Grand Slam #17, his 7th Wimbledon title, and as a bonus, returned to the No. 1 ranking. Esther Vergeer still hasn’t lost a match since 2003. Alisa Kleybanova has made a full recovery and will be returning to competition this year.  John Isner broke into the top 10. Venus Williams made a huge climb back in the rankings, back into the top 25. And one of my biggest wishes for 2012 came true: Andy Murray won his first Grand Slam. The Scotsman also won Olympic gold, which more than made up for his tearful loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final.

There were also some wishes that didn’t exactly go my way. Caroline Wozniacki didn't win her first Grand Slam, but you gotta give her credit for having a sense of humor. Vera Zvonareva didn't win one either, and was sidelined with illness for most of the season.

As we enter a hopeful new year, I've provided a list of 20 things I'd like to see happen during the 2013 tennis season:

1)  Maria Sharapova's recent collar bone injury in Brisbane has people wondering if she'll be ready for the Australian Open. Longer term, I'm hoping she can remain injury-free to be able to repeat at the French Open. If injury strikes, she'll have plenty of time to promote Sugarpova. There's always a silver lining.

2) Serena. What can you wish for, other than to rewind 2012 and repeat?

3) Tommy Haas is just a few years away from getting his AARP card, but he's still playing high level tennis. My wish for him is to just keep going.

4) I don't know too much about golf, but I do agree that the Davis Cup is in dire need of some changes. Tennis doesn't need to look much further than the Ryder Cup for ideas.

5) From now on, the month of January should be referred to as "The Down Under Swing" in tennis. Thanks to my Twitter peeps @dootsiez and @StephintheUS for coming up with that one.

6) Rafa. We are still not certain if his return to competition is in the "if" or "when" category, or even how much he will be able to play. My wish for him is to pace himself upon his return.

7) John Isner breaking into the top 5. I'm hoping his new coach, Michael Sell can help get him there.

8) Less dancing, more playing. Football players dance, and it's funny. Tennis players dance, and well, you've seen Dancing With the Stars.

9) Repeat wish from last year: I’d like to witness one more Rafa/Federer Grand Slam final. Simply put, it is the greatest rivalry in tennis.

10) Sam Querrey joining the top 10. He came close at the beginning of 2011 (No. 17), fell sharply (outside the top 100), and now he's back to No. 22.

11) Gael Monfils. Nice to see him back. If he could dive for less for balls, he might be able to play more.

12) I wish someone would put Bernie Tomic and Donald Young in a room and explain a few things about life.

13) Juan Martin del Potro cracking the big 4. He's currently ranked at No. 7, and had a solid 2012, without injury. It really is his turn.
14) I'm hoping that no one gets sick at Indian Wells this year.

15) Poland has one other player to cheer for (other than Aggie Radwanska): Jerzy Janowicz. Give that guy a sponsorship deal, ASAP.

16) Mardy Fish: Be well.

17) It's likely that 20-year-old Jack Sock is starting to feel the pressure to represent American tennis as he continues his climb in the rankings. I'm hoping Chipotle restaurant can help him through it with a sponsorship deal.

18) Brian Baker. How can he top last year as having the most inspirational comeback story? Win BIG.

19) I'd like to see more substantial online viewing opportunities for tennis matches that don't feel like you're doing something illegal by clicking on a link.

20) Roger Federer should produce his own line of cologne, called Eau de Victory.