Grand Slam Fallout, Henin Gone Again and WTA Rankings Record

Djokovic Keeps Murray Waiting:

Two good friends, two very different sets of emotions kick off a bumper Grand Slam edition of  Tennis People. Melbourne Park saw Novak Djokovic repeat his 2008 triumph here to lift his second Grand Slam on Sunday which left Andy Murray staring defeat in the face for his third straight final. The Serbian continued the fearsome display which overcame Roger Federer in the semis to dismiss the Scot in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Murray simply had no answer to the explosive groundstrokes Djokovic continually fired over the net and his error count continued to rise as the match wore on. It follows Djokovic’s excellent end to 2010 where he was ousted by Rafa Nadal in the US Open final before leading Serbia to its maiden Davis Cup win over France in December. “[Winning a] Davis Cup title and another Grand Slam title. I’m living the dream of a tennis player, definitely,” declared Djokovic after the match. “I have been more focused and dedicated to the sport than I have ever been before. To be able to win in straight sets against a player like Andy Murray in the finals of Grand Slam, it makes my success even bigger.” He added of his friend: “I really have big respect for him and his game, because I think he has everything what it takes to become a Grand Slam champion. I’m sure that very soon he will be. This was a great match. From the start to the last point, I did what I intended of doing tactically, what I talked with my coach, what I prepared for. It’s the best way that I could ask for to start a season. Both of those guys [Federer and Murray] play their best tennis on the hard courts, as well as I do. But to be able to win against those players in straight sets is incredible.” “It’s better than it was last year,” said Murray on suffering his second-straight Australian Open final defeat. “It was obviously tough, disappointing. I thought Novak played unbelievably well. It’s tough, but got to deal with it. Anyone who played in three finals would have loved to have won one. But I haven’t. I just need to keep working hard and try and do it. I would have liked to have played better,” confessed Murray. “But I think he would have beaten every other player on the tour if he played like that tonight. He served well. He didn’t make many mistakes from the back of the court. He moved really, really well. He hit the ball very clean.” For more fallout hit the ATP website.

Novak Djokovic

Clijsters Claims First Non-American Slam:

Kim Clijsters fully embraced her ‘Aussie Kim’ adopted moniker by finally lifting the hallowed trophy last weekend. The three-time US Open Champion hoisted her first Slam off of American soil by outlasting the Chinese star Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was a sad end to Na’s historic showing which made her the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final (Michael Chang was affiliated to the United States). Na was more aggressive in the first set with her ten winners outnumbering three from Clijsters. But the Belgian steadied herself and her experience began to shine through as she slowly closed out the victory. “She did everything better than me in that first set,” Clijsters told the gathered press. “Her ground strokes were heavier, deeper. She served better, she returned better. She was playing really, really well – probably the best she’s ever played against me. I tried mixing it up, putting some slices in, hitting a few higher shots that drew some errors. I saw her get a little bit aggravated and I just tried to hang in there.” Clijsters also praised her adopted home crowd in her on-court speech: “I finally feel like you guys can call me Aussie Kim, because I won the title. I’ve been coming here for many years and you guys have always been amazing. It helps so much.” Li was philosophical following her defeat: “I take positives. I think I played great tennis. She played better than me. After the match, when I was going back to the locker room, I made a joke that a tennis match should only be one set. I’m still happy what I did today. Right now I’ll just take total rest, because Chinese New Year is coming soon. I’ll take time with the family and prepare for the next tournament.” More can be seen by hitting the WTA website.

Bryans Make it Ten of the Best:

Bob and Mike Bryan denied the ‘Indian Express’ of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes the Career Grand Slam after cutting them down in the final of the men’s doubles at the Australian Open. It was Slam number ten for the 32-year-olds who now stand just one behind the legendary Aussie duo of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. “It never gets old,” said Bob. “Especially to play those two guys, the ‘Indian Express’, who we have tons of respect for. We were jacked up for this match. These two guys are legends. It was an extra special feeling out there on the court playing two guys that have dominated the game 10 years ago.” “We had a great couple of weeks,” reflected Paes. “We had a tough draw. Pretty much played all the best teams in the world getting to the final. Today we lost to the best team on the planet who played lights out today. I thought they played the perfect match. As far as Mahesh and myself are concerned, a great two weeks.” See more at the ATP website.

Crown Jewel for Flavia and Gisela:

They had a fantastic 2010 which saw them rise to the top of the doubles rankings on the back of seven team titles. But 2011 has exploded in to life for Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko who lifted their first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park. Seeded No. 1 they faced a difficult test against the surprise package of the tournament; Victoria Azarenka/Maria Kirilenko. It looked evenly matched. Pennetta/Dulko had dropped only 26 games in five straight set wins en route to the final while Azarenka/Kirilenko had dropped only 25 games and one set. But the top seeds struggled early on and the underdogs rushed the first set 6-2. They even held match points in the second before the Italian and the Argentine rallied to take the match 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. “We were in shock,” Dulko said. “At a set and 4-1 down, at the changeover, we were looking at each other saying, ‘Come on, we have played less than an hour.’ We went for it. We tried to play more aggressively and didn’t wait for them to.” She added: “I think Victoria started to get a little bit more nervous than in the beginning and missed more balls. I think her level started to go down a bit, then Maria maybe as well. But most importantly we just kept fighting. In the end we believed we could turn the match around. It was a good ending.” “It’s a Grand Slam. It’s something really amazing for me,” Pennetta added. “Last year we played so well. We won the WTA Championships and so many good tournaments, but we didn’t make any finals at the Grand Slams or win one of them. We started this year really well and hope to do the same in the next one.” The full fallout can be seen at the WTA website.

Nestor Still Defying Age:

Canadian doubles expert Daniel Nestor made it two Aussie Open mixed doubles titles by partnering Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia to overcome home-grown hero Paul Hanley and Chan Yung-Jan in the final at Melbourne Park. He previously lifted the title in 2007 with Elena Likhovtseva. “She played great [and] I played well, too,” said Nestor. “That’s some of the best mixed I played this week. I don’t always play that well. In the first [set] we lost serve and then broke back. That was important to stay close there. I played a bad game to start the second, which kind of lost our momentum, but then we broke right back again. Then they played a pretty good game to break us to win the set.” It was mixed doubles Slam number five for Srebotnik who won her last two with Nestor’s long-term men’s doubles partner Nenad Zimonjic.

Henin Calls It A Day (Again):

It was the 3am announcement that triggered a massive scramble as journalists leapt out of bed to gain coverage of the second retirement of Justine Henin from professional tennis. The Belgian who has seven Grand Slams to her name has struggled to overcome the elbow injury suffered at last year’s Wimbledon and has decided to give up the ghost permanently rather than struggle towards her dream of that elusive grass-court Slam and suffer complications for the rest of her life. After her early comeback showed signs of promise her recent results have been less-so and she took the decision following her exit Down Under. “It’s time now to turn an incredible page of my life…What a wonderful adventure! I’m sad to end with an injury but that’s the life. I just want to thank you all for your support during all these years…I will never forget it,” she announced via her Facebook and Twitter pages.

United Nations at the WTA:

This week the Top 10 of the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings features ten women of differing nationalities for the first time ever. A Dane, a Belgian, a Russian, an Italian, an Australian, an American, a Chinese, a Serbian, a Belarusian and a Pole make up the Top 10 with an Israeli at No. 11. It shows just how truly global the sport of tennis has become during the Open Era as globalization has truly brought tennis to the four corners of the globe. More on this later on in Rankings Watch.

Dream Doubles Pairing for Close Friends?

Following his victory over long-term friend Andy Murray at the Aussie Open Novak Djokovic has announced that the 23-year-olds hope to team up for the doubles Championships at Indian Wells later this year. “We spoke in Melbourne of the possibility of playing doubles together in Indian Wells and I will raise the issue again with him,” Djokovic told the Serbian sports daily Sportske Novosti. At last year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto Djokovic teamed up with Rafa Nadal for a very high profile yet unsuccessful doubles campaign.

Nadal Confident of Swift Return:

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal expects to be fully recovered from the hamstring injury suffered in his quarterfinal defeat to David Ferrer by the end of next week. The Spaniard said in a statement on his official website on Tuesday: “Doctors estimate a recovery period of about 10 days from today.”

Queensland Victims to Receive Aid:

The final totals are in from the ATP and WTA as to how much will be donated to the victims of the Queensland floods following the completion of play at the Australian portion of the 2011 tennis calendar. Both organisations pledged $10 for every ace hit by players in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles categories at the Brisbane International, Medibank Open Sydney and the Australian Open. The total raised was $51,700 which adds to the personal contributions by stars such as the $10,000 donated by American No. 1 Andy Roddick ($20 for every ace he hit) and that of Sam Stosur who donated $100 for every ace she hit. The Rally for Relief event organised by Roger Federer also raised over $1.5m.

Djokovic Fit for a Queen:

Novak Djokovic has announced he will return to the AEGON Championships at the Queen’s Club alongside world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the run-up to this year’s Wimbledon. Djokovic has never won a title on grass and lost an exceptional final to Nadal here in 2008. He hopes the experience of re-finding that Grand Slam touch in Australia will help him progress on other surfaces too. “The AEGON Championships is one of the nicest tournaments around,” said Djokovic. “The Queen’s Club has got great grass courts, it’s a great atmosphere with always a packed house of spectators, and you just feel good there. Rafa and I had an incredible match in the Queen’s final in 2008 and it was the closest I ever got to a grass court title. Wimbledon is the most important tournament (of the year) for me, and I really want to do well at Queen’s and at Wimbledon this year.”

Serena Sets Comeback Date:

Serena Williams is set to make her comeback at an exhibition event organised by Nike just two days before Indian Wells begins in Portland, Oregon. She hasn’t played since cutting her foot after the completion of Wimbledon last year but is set to line-up alongside Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. She is yet to name her official comeback date on the WTA Tour.

Berankis in VMAN:

New Lithuanian star Richard Berankis has been featured in the latest edition of VMAN magazine after starring at this year’s Australian Open. The 20-year-old is now the youngest man in the Top 75 players in the world after reaching the third round. “I used to follow my older sister to the club and I would hit against the wall by myself while she practiced,” he says of his introduction to a sport. “I don’t really remember when or how I picked up my first racket but my earliest memory was my first match, which I lost. I was really pissed off afterwards, but I didn’t cry.” He added about the pressures of being a professional: “I guess I don’t really think about the pressure,” Berankis says nonchalantly. “I’m usually too focused and into the match. When you are competing almost every week, you get in a mode that is very focused and determined. I’m always working to get stronger and better, I’m always looking to the future. Sure there are times I get tight and nervous, like every other player, but the greatest ones know how to handle those emotions and still play their best.”

No Seeing Double for Bryans:

Bob Bryan will miss up to a month of the tennis calendar after hurting his left shoulder playing mixed doubles in Australia.

Fish out of Water:

Mardy Fish is still complaining of the thyroid infection that affected him at Melbourne Park so has pulled out of the upcoming tournament at San Jose. He hopes to return the following week at Memphis.

Coetzee/Schuettler Aim to Inspire Kids:

As the 2011 SA Open kicked off the No. 7 seeded German Rainer Schuettler joined Jeff Coetzee and wildcard Izak van der Merwe in hosting a tennis clinic for children from disadvantaged areas at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu, Soweto. “Development is the foundation stone on which we need to build the game of tennis in South Africa,” SA Tennis Association CEO and SA Tennis Open Tournament Director Ian Smith said. “We are committed to development and firmly believe that out there somewhere is a breathtaking talent just waiting to be unearthed. These clinics not only promote tennis but create a level of enjoyment that hopefully will motivate these youngsters to continue playing the game.”

Vigil for Mandela:

All South Africans competing at the SA Open joined tournament director Ian Smith for a candle-lit vigil in honour of ailing South African hero Nelson Mandela before the tournament began. Kevin Anderson, Rik de Voest and Jeff Coetzee led proceedings.

All Change in the Rankings Watch:

As mentioned above, the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings has seen drastic changes this week following the completion of the Australian Open. Kim Clijsters’ victory at Melbourne Park makes her the new world No. 2 and leaves her only 140 points behind the No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki who remains Slam-less. Francesca Schiavone leaps to No. 4 in the world (a career high) while Na Li also finds herself a career high No. 7 in the world. Agnieszka Radwanska re-enters the Top 10 after her impressive run Down Under. The Italian Flavia Pennetta leaps from No. 25 to No. 16 and Petra Kvitova jumps 10 to No. 18. Andrea Petkovic enters the Top 25 at No. 24 and Iveta Benesova goes from No. 60 to No. 45. The biggest mover is South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers who takes a gargantuan leap from No. 107 to No. 80. In the South African Airwaves ATP World Rankings there are movers too. David Ferrer climbs to No. 6 on the back of his semifinals appearance but he is the only mover within the Top 10. The Swiss Stanlislas Wawrinka jumps five to No. 14 while surprise quarterfinalist Alex Dolgopolov jumps 14 to No. 32. Nikolay Davydenko’s first-round exit sees him drop 10 to No. 35 in the world, a far cry from his No. 8 ranking of 2009. Spain’s Tommy Robredo re-enters the Top 50 at No. 40 while new Lithuanian star Richard Berankis is up 22 to No. 73. Germany’s Daniel Brands climbs 23 to No. 79 but the week’s biggest climber is new Canadian prospect Milos Raonic who led the teenage charge by gaining 58 places to enter the Top 100 at No. 94.

R-Fed Surges Ahead in GOAT Race:

With Rafa Nadal limping out of the Aussie Open at the quarterfinal stage it opened up an opportunity to fly out ahead in the GOAT Race for Roger Federer. Yet he came up against an emphatic and resurgent Novak Djokovic at the semifinal stage and went down in straight sets. He therefore scores an extra 100 points to take open up a 200-point lead over his closest rival.

Roger: 330 Rafa: 130