Written by Jay Jarrahi
A complete overview on the Australian Open for women. Written by Jay Jarrahi , the Sportsmagician. This review includes Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Nicole Vaidisova, Elena Dementieva and many more.
Unseeded Champion – Guess whose back? Serena Williams, that’s who, coming into the Australian Open off the back of a defeat in Hobart to Sybille Bammer and only 4 tournaments played in 2006. That didn’t seem to bother the now 8 times Grand Slam champion as she claimed her 3rd Australian Open title. Williams knocked off the number 5, 10 and 11 seeds on her way to the final. In 2 matches she had to break to stay in the tournament against Nadia Petrova and Shahar Peer. Williams improved her Slam final record to 8-2. Her most impressive performance and victory came in what was expected to be a hard fought and close final, her performance ensured that it was anything but close. In winning the tournament off the back of so little match practice, Williams reminded the tennis world she is still the best player around when she is healthy. What remains to be seen is how much she will be able to play for the rest of the season, but the message is loud and clear, Serena Williams is back. And she means business.
A Shell-Shocked Number One – Maria Sharapova is the new number one. But many will say Serena Williams is the real number one, and that it’s just a question of her staying healthy and playing enough tournaments before she eventually reclaims that position. In her third Slam final, Sharapova suffered her first defeat. It was quick, but certainly not painless. The Russian was unable to contend with the power and precision of Williams’ ground strokes and could not gain any foothold in the match whatsoever. Like Williams, Sharapova also had to break to stay in the tournament in her 1st round encounter against Camille Pin, a match that was played in extreme heat. Even Sharapova’s fighting spirit and will was not enough to challenge Williams, in a very one-sided final. The ‘Siberian Siren’ will need to work on her second serve if she is to avoid similar punishment from Williams in the future.
No More ‘Aussie Kim’ – Adopted by the Australian crowd after once dating Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Clijsters bid farewell to the Rod Laver Arena in a manner she would have preferred not to. Having been talked up as a legitimate contender for the title in Melbourne, Clijsters showed none of the form expected of her when the tournament reached its business end. An astonishing 62 unforced errors against Martina Hingis in the quarter-final did not stop Clijsters progressing to the last four. How that happened, not even she knows. Her semi-final performance was not much better, having led by a break on two different occasions in the 1st set, Clijsters put up a thoughtless and feeble display against Sharapova and was dispatched in straight sets. It was a very low key end to her Slam career in Australia for the Belgian. It is impossible to see Clijsters winning one of the remaining Slams in the last year of her young career if she does not improve significantly on her quarter and semi-final performances in Australia.
No Defence Of The Defending Champion – Having won the Australian Open in 2006 thanks to retirements by the Belgian duo of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne (soon to lose the Hardenne) in her semi final and final, Amelie Mauresmo put up a poor defence of her title. Mauresmo was defeated in the third round by young Czech, Lucie Safarova. Her younger opponent out thought and out hit her to complete a 6-4, 6-3 victory and send Mauresmo home earlier than many would have expected. Having won two Grand Slams in 2006, there is a big question mark over whether Mauresmo will add to that tally in 2007.
Serbian Youngsters Disappoint – Much was expected of Ana Ivanovic, but more specifically, Jelena Jankovic. Neither was able to deliver in Melbourne. Ivanovic was crushed in the 3rd round by Vera Zvonareva, 6-1, 6-2. Ivanovic looked devoid of ideas or any kind of game plan to get back on track as she was swept aside by her Russian opponent. Jelena Jankovic was set for a 4th round meeting with Serena Williams, and when it came turned out to be as anti-climactic as the eventual final. Much like Sharapova, Jankovic was unable to deal with the power and intimidation of Serena Williams and left the tournament without showing her true qualities. Jankovic is set for a very bright future, but we did not see her best in Melbourne.
The Next Big Thing Still A Work In Progress – Nicole Vaidisova is a future number one and multiple Grand Slam champion in the making. Believe it. Still only 17, Vaidisova reached the second Grand Slam semi-final of her very young career before being ousted by eventual champion, Serena Williams. Vaidisova’s serve is fast becoming the most devastating weapon in the women’s game, banging down 51 aces in her 6 matches (only Serena Williams served more). Still with room for improvement, Vaidisova is going to be a major force in the very near future, for many years to come.
Some Things Never Change – In 4 matches, Elena Dementieva served 33 double faults, her tournament was ended by Nicole Vaidisova in the 4th round. Still refusing to compromise with her all-out tactics, Sania Mirza exited the tournament in the 2nd round; totalling 58 unforced errors and only 32 winners in comparison (she may want to give Fernando Gonzalez or Larry Stefanki a call?). Tatiana Golovin, Maria Kirilenko and Gisela Dulko continue to flatter to deceive.
Making Some Noise – Anna Chakvetadze continued her good start to 2007, following a title in Hobart, with a quarter-final appearance in Melbourne, losing to Maria Sharapova 7-6, 7-5. Shahar Peer picked up 3 titles in 2006, and served for the match against Serena Williams in her quarter-final having recovered from a 4-1 3rd set deficit. The 19 year old Israeli pushed Williams to the limit, before succumbing 8-6 in the decider.
Gone But Not Forgotten – Justine Henin-Hardenne, ended 2006 as world number one, the 5 time Slam champion withdrew from the Australian Open following the announcement of her divorce. Anastasia Myskina, the former French Open champion was not in Melbourne due to injury, the same can be said of Venus Williams and Mary Pierce.
Written by Jay Jarrahi