The results of the recently-completed 2013 Australian Open offered very few upsets to the established form book. The elite of the game again came out on top with World No. 1 in both the men’s and women’s game, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka winning their respective singles events. Their opponents in the final, Murray and Li Na are themselves at the very top of the game, indicating a consistency and continuity at the top. That said, a player like Sloane Stephens in the women’s and Tsonga in the men’s put down heavy markers for the future with some impressive performances. Both the international men’s and women’s game are in good shape.
The event at Melbourne provided some exciting matches throughout the fortnight. Memories are still strong of the Djokovic v Wawrinka encounter in the last 16 and that of Murray and Federer in the semis. Sloane Stephens beating Serena Williams was a great feather in the cap for the young American, showing too that the future of American woman’s tennis looks potentially bright in her hands, even if things in the American men’s game look less rosy.
The men’s game looks to be transforming now into a two-horse race between Djokovic and Murray. The ‘Top Quartet’ may no longer have the same status as before, as Nadal’s injury impedes his return to the game and as Federer records a series of key losses in Grand Slam events to raise questions over his former dominance. Murray has now been ‘blooded’ with an Olympic and a US Open win behind him, but Djokovic is clearly the man to beat. His playing out of the final stages of the Australian Open particularly demonstrated the irrepressible force of his dominance. Having won the Australian, he is now in pole position to assail that citadel of a Grand Slam in one year, something that evaded both Sampras and Federer, and was only achieved by the great Donald Budge and Rod Laver many moons ago.
Another comment on the Australian Open. 2013 is the 25th anniversary of the event being staged at that venue (formerly known as Flinders Park and now Melbourne Park). It provides some of the best state-of-the art facilities of any sport in the world and is a beacon of excellence on the ATP and WTA tours. It is a testament to the commitment of the Australian authorities to provide public funding to sport in a country that is highly ‘sport-literate’, which has a fine tradition in tennis (as well as many other sports) and which is prepared to invest in resources that showcase the country and the sport in a positive light. Other countries may well take note.