Australian Open 2015: Top seeds rise high Down Under despite sickness and sprains

All smiles – Serena and Novak remain the ones to beat in 2015

Forgive that title and the delayed posting of this.

After a good tournament and a very special penultimate match (Djokovic and Wawrinka making it a hat-trick of epic Australian annual matches) the drama and quality was left to the final matches.

Serena Williams def Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6(5)

In a match that delivered fully in drama and personality also had many an isolated moment of quality, not least from the Russian who produced some of the shots of the tournament when saving numerous championship points.

I was blown away by the stat produced late last week – that Sharapova hadn’t beaten Serena since 2004, the year of course of that Wimbledon show-stopping breakthrough performance, surely there had been an Tier 1 triumph or something similar in the last decade?

Nope, nada, niente…the writing was surely on the wall for the second seed. Only if the American suffered a real off day (which of course is always possible given her 2014) would Masha triumph.

And so it proved, the first set in particular was one way traffic – albeit one where Maria had her chances and perhaps reasons to dare to hope. For her opponent was visibly hampered by a serious bout of flu-like symptoms never really fully confirmed.

Was it an act? doubtful – yet if Sharapova could just raise her game in the second set or even get a foothold in proceedings then she could test her rival.

The second set was great stuff, an early break for Sharapova seemed to point to a three set epic, but Williams was shrugging off the sickness and allowing her intensity to seep slowly back.

Ultimately it proved too much for Sharapova, and in many ways the match reflected the typical encounter between a Williams sibling and the rest of the tour – a case of two very different levels of power and technique (including that serve) that cannot be rivalled by the rest.

Novak Djokovic def Andy Murray 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0

After the gruelling semi final against Stanimal, I predicted that Djokovic would succumb to Scotland’s finest in a repeat scenario of Wimbledon 2013 – the Scot once again enjoying a relatively easy draw to the final only to face a weary opponent come the final hurdle.

It seemed a likely scenario after two punishing sets of outstanding tennis in nearly three hours of the final. Murray had fought back brilliantly from a break down in the first set (only to lose the breaker) before producing his attacking A-game not seen since the Lendl era to take the next tiebreak.

The talking point of this match is what happened from then onwards. Djoko had endured one of his trademark mental wanderings coupled with numerous injury niggles that were as obviously broadcast as Serena’s struggles a day earlier.

This is nothing new – despite what some pundits were proclaiming, and it is something Murray simply shouldn;t have been affected by. Easy for me to say of course, sitting here – but it is difficult to imagine a Federer or Nadal getting sidetracked by Djokovic’s antics across the net.

For Novak, it was a pretty nasty blemish on an overall wonderous performance, and certainly questions can (again) be asked of the Serbs integrity – Murray has a right to feel aggrieved, but still only himself to blame.

With Novak seemingly on the ropes and Andy fully in the ascendancy, the Serb suddenly started producing his best tennis from out of nowhere. From visibly cramping and failing to stretch for points, Djokovic suddenly bounded around the court and crucially found his groundstrokes too.

It was all over very quickly – Djokovic relaxed and serene, Murray a sorry wreck of what-might-have-been emotions, his racquet massacre at the conclusion told its own story.

On this evidence however – the Scott will be in hunt for the big silverwear and perhaps that number one ranking – but Djokovic will be a mighty tough obstacle to both.

Image courtesy of the official Australian Open site.


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