Tennis
The old guard retains power in Australia
By
Sports Editor
Friday, February 3, 2017

For the tennis world, the Australian Open serves as a renaissance every year of tennis world fame.

It’s a place uniquely befitting new talents, exotic excursions and miraculous shot making. This year was no different. Melbourne continued to delight the sport of tennis with its electric atmosphere, sunny climate and happy abundance of kangaroos.

In mixed doubles, unseeded American Abigail Spears and her Columbian partner Juan Sebastian Cabal captured their first Grand Slam title in just 64 minutes, defeating Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig 6-2, 6-4. Second-seeded American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Czech Lucie Šafárová, claimed the Women’s Doubles championship defeating Andrea Hlaváčlová and Peng Shuai in three tight sets, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3. This was the duo’s fourth major title, ninth overall. Australia-native John Peers along with his Finnish partner, Henri Kontinen, captured their first major title, defeating Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, 7-5, 7-5, in just under two hours.

Serena Williams defeated her sister Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-4 in the Women’s singles final, capturing her 23rd Grand Slam title. This eclipsed Steffi Graf’s previous record of 22. Williams did not drop a set all tournament, dominating the field in a not unfamiliar manner with overwhelming power in what seemed to be her peak form. Williams became the oldest woman, at age 35, to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era.

Serena will regain her world No. 1 ranking after having relinquished it to the German, Angelique Kerber a defiant start to the 2017 season.

The Men’s Singles final this year was truly something special. It was an el classico matchup we all thought we would never see again. But alas, tennis fans were rewarded with a Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal Grand Slam final. It was reminiscent of the epics of old, atop the browned, weathered grass at Wimbledon.

Only this time it was Australia who was gifted with this modern classic. It seemed to be such an unlikely matchup, since both Federer and Nadal have been showing signs of deterioration, hobbling through a rough 2016 season riddled with injuries for both. Each man was to this point in a cycle of slow decline, visibly chafing with their age and battling to regain the sheen of their youth.

That said, from the beginning of the tournament, things seemed to be taking on a different hue. Both Djokovic and Murray were upset early (Djokovic, second round; Murray, fourth). The path seemed to be paved, the magic seemed to be starting to bubble up. But things still weren’t easy; Federer had to push through three five-set matches, as did Nadal.

When the final arrived, each player knew what was at stake: records, legacies and possibly the last chance for either man to take home another major title. The match was tight. Nadal’s forehands were zipping up the Federer backhand side, but Federer continued to step into his shots and rip at every angle. Neither man was afraid; however, one could tell after a few crushing backhands from Federer that he was playing at a slightly different level.

I have personally not seen Federer hit backhands like that in a long time — brutally crisp, angled and titanic. Federer won the first set, and the two men proceeded to then trade sets until the final deciding fifth set, a seemingly deserved end. Federer went down 1-3 in the final set, but dug out of a deep hole to lead it four to three, where he proceeded to win the point of the match, a laborious back-andforth, crosscourt/down the line showcase. Nadal hit a penultimate, cross-court backhand within an inch of both baseline and sideline; Federer lunged, planted a foot, stabbed and blasted a forehand down the line for a winner. After that, Federer won the set 6-3, and took home is 18th Grand Slam title. Australia is a magical place, foreign yet familiar, where years start and careers can end. But this year, Roger Federer is the king. He may be getting old, but man is he still kicking.