By Maud Watson
Pair of Threes
Brisbane was the first stop of the Aussie summer hard court season, and it was also a very lucrative location for the third-ranked players of the WTA and ATP. Serena Williams continued her dominance from 2012 by sailing to the Brisbane title. Even while acknowledging that Serena benefited from a draw that fell apart between the number of withdrawals and early upsets, it’s still a very promising sign for her that she was the last woman standing. She’s already stated her goal is to win the Grand Slam, and based on what we saw in Brisbane in comparison to the competition, she’s in with a solid chance. Andy Murray was slightly more tested in his run to the title, but like the American, he fought his way into the winner’s circle where he gave a very emotional victory speech dedicated to his “sick friend” (later revealed to be fellow British pro Ross Hutchins). The win was also important for the Scot in that he successfully defended his 2012 Brisbane title and looks perfectly poised and confident as he heads into Melbourne as a Grand Slam champion for the first time in his professional career.
Off And Running
Last week saw four other Top Ten players get their seasons off to the best start possible with title runs. The most consistent of the four was Radwanska. The Pole opted to stay away from the big guns in Brisbane and compete in Auckland, which paid off handsomely with her picking up the 11th singles title of her career. Equally, and surprisingly impressive, was Li Na. She was one of the bigger underachievers and disappointments of the WTA last season, so for her to not only start off with a win, but to do so under the pressure of playing in her home nation bodes well for her 2013 chances. On the men’s side, it was second time lucky for Tipsarevic. The Serb narrowly lost to Raonic in Chennai last year, so he was undoubtedly most pleased that he was able to seal the deal at the second time of asking. Finally, Frenchman Gasquet took the title in Doha against a resurgent Davydenko. A tournament title run to kick off his 2013 hopefully means he’ll be in the right frame of mind to finally start delivering on his boatload of talent and go deep in Melbourne.
Bad to Worse
John Isner’s run of bad luck has continued with the American being forced to withdraw from the Aussie Open due to bone bruising on his right knee. Isner previously withdrew from the Hopman Cup with what he thought was knee tendinitis. He also attempted to play Sydney but lost his opening match to compatriot Ryan Harrison. Isner then revealed he was suffering from bone bruising of his right knee, and after consulting with doctors, came to the appropriate conclusion that he’d be best to skip the 2013 Aussie Open so as to avoid a more serious injury. It’s disappointing to both Isner and American tennis, but with any luck, he’ll recover quickly and return in better form.
Every draw has at least one. Typically the term is applied to an established player still relatively in his or her prime that’s coming back from a semi-lengthy layoff, hence the low ranking. It may apply to a talented up-and-comer who’s on the way to breaking through to the upper echelons of the game. Or it may simply refer to that handful of players that just missed the cutoff for being seeded. It doesn’t frequently apply to a veteran player that is past his or her prime, especially if that veteran has battled a litany of injuries and surgeries. But despite all of that, Lleyton Hewitt is building a case to be labeled a dangerous floater after his performance at Kooyong. The Aussie bowed out in the Brisbane Round of 16 to Istomin in a tight two-setter before heading to the exhibition event where he has defeated No. 15 Raonic and No. 6 Berdych. Hewitt has drawn confidence from the wins and stated that after hitting with Federer, he feels like he can hit with anyone. Between his current form, competitive drive, and the home crowd support he should enjoy, Hewitt looks to be a tough out for most anyone in the field in Melbourne.
We always hear the phrase, “it’s just a game,” yet it can be so easy to lose sight of that. For professional tennis players, that “game” is their livelihood. It’s their goal to be the best and collect the most prestigious hardware the sport has to offer. The fans become absorbed with the highs and lows of their favorite players, hanging on with each swing of that player’s racquet. Yet, inevitably, something always comes along that reminds us once again that “it’s just a game.” Tennis received that reminder in the opening week of the 2013 season when Ross Hutchins revealed that he’d recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would be taking some time away from the game. Despite being shocked by the news, Hutchins sounded both positive and confident that he would overcome this devastating challenge. The Brit looks forward to returning the ATP and “full steam ahead” with his career. His remarks and attitude should serve as an inspiration to everyone. Here’s to hoping he experiences a complete and speedy recovery and that he always be a reminder that tennis is, after all, just a game.