James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — The Australian Open is over, and Novak Djokovic has been crowned champion again winning his third title in a row.
A lot went on today, more than just Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic hitting a few balls.
A huge number of people arrived early to watch the game on the grounds, taking in some of the live music and consuming a seriously jolly amount of booze.
Within the cornered off zones the linesmen sat tensely in their portable offices watching TV, hoping later that they wouldn’t be ridiculed by Hawkeye.
The ball boys and girls meanwhile added each other to their various Facebook accounts or goofed about playing cricket with a tennis ball and, as a substitute for a bat, a diseased looking flip-flop possibly borrowed from a vagrant.
Things started to heat up early for the journalists securing their court passes for the big game. It’s amazing how many chose instead to watch the game, whether it a first round or final, down in one of the media hubs on their own personal screen. A plus side is the constant availability of stats; the negative is the lack of feel or atmosphere.
A walk through the corridors and all feels remarkably lonely compared to the hustle bustle of only a few days before. Like a summer hotel that attempts to stay open through the later seasons, looking after only a select few guests.
One of the guests is a former regular that now wears a suit, and happens to have a TV camera following him. He speaks to another more recent guest who carries a racquet bag in preparation of a hit. This guest wears a hoody, and seems a little in awe of the guy in the suit. They are Andre Agassi and Andy Murray respectively.
Back at the Media Hub the journalists again prepare, and what a sight. Some are cracking their knuckles for a tough night on the laptop. The others limber up their belts for an extra serving at the media café, which I must say are very generous.
Before you know it, it’s game time and some journalists find they haven’t prepared properly, even though they have been provided with a plethora of information both online or in print.
The match starts and all goes to form. Deep baseline rallies that evoke memories from Wilander to Agassi to Safin to present day and Djokovic. Nobody giving an inch, both wanting a mile.
A change of ends brings the KIA adverts, and I genuinely mean that I like them. Actually, I now want a KIA Sportage and even want a job with KIA. No, not as a mechanic, but thinking up cool adverts.
Ah, The Nappies.
Back to the tennis, no breaks of serve. Lots of baseline rallies, slides and amazing gets. Andy saves one break point with a 23 ball rally. Scottish and Serbian fans given up momentarily trying to electrify their man, neither has the patience.
The game stays the course. Tiebreak time. Andy Murray gets it and looks officially on his way to a heroic victory. He is playing great aggressive inspiring tennis and is not Scottish but British. Officially Great British in fact.
Change of ends, no breaks of serve. I spot Andre Agassi’s head in the presidential box and it is very shiny. The rumour that he is to star as Lt. Theo Kojak in the new season of Kojak is one I made up, but want to become true.
Hey did you hear that Andre Agassi is going to be in Kojak on TV?
Back to the tennis, four games all and Novak is talking to himself, at his box and bouncing his racquet on the ground. He is not happy, but still in the game, no breaks of serve yet…Speaking of servers, what happened to all the big servers and one-two punch of years past? Imagine a deck of cards with no Aces — that’s modern tennis. Boom Boom Becker would be rolling in his…big bed in Monte Carlo.
Another KIA advert, good but not as good as the nappies but still kinda cool.
If you stay in Australia long enough you become a citizen. You can fill out all the documents, learn the anthem, take the immigration test or simply have your name Aussiefied meaning it will have an ‘O’ inserted on the end of it.
This just happened for Novak who has just become ‘Doco!’ He is now an Australian.
Agassi watches intently as the 2nd set heads for a tiebreak, I’m tweeting too much and the 3g keeps dropping out on my phone. A true first world problem. Need 4g now, I can’t live like this.
Andy Murray is serving and a flock of seagulls (not the band) flying above interrupt his second serve with an errant feather that drifts down. Andy misses the serve and loses his focus.
Novak gets the second set. Andy looks distraught and has blisters. Andre looks impressed.
More holds of serve until Murray loses his at 3-4 down. Is this the match decider? Keyser Söze/Kevin Spacey looks worried. Everybody who has been going for Murray suddenly changes allegiance. Djokovic chases down everything, like Hewitt on drugs. Djokovic gets the set, his confidence flowing and breaks Murray. The match is all but over.
Djokovic is unbreakable. Murray is spent, losing points easily and thus England, Wales and Northern Island have given up on him meaning he is back to being Scottish.
After 3 hours and 40 minutes Novak claims victory and is soon screaming at his entourage in delight. Moments later some tech guy who looks like a bearded gamer dressed like a teenager is setting up the trophy island.
Some speeches later and Novak gets his trophy again from a former owner, Andre Agassi.
The 2013 Australian Open is over. All the winners have been decided. Congratulations Novak.
The quickest way to a journalist’s heart is through his stomach. Djokovic talks about his victory then goes round the press conference room and hands out chocolates. A bad word will never be printed about Novak again — what a genius! Raise your game Roger and Andy, the press need chocolates. This is not bribery but necessity.
P.S. Real good chocolates and see you next year Aussie Open, miss you already.
January 25, 2013 — This year’s Australian Open has seen surprise runs, intense five-set battles involving the top three, and of course, controversy. But with the final stage of the men’s singles draw about to commence, it’s time to take a look at who is most likely to win the season’s first Slam.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is guaranteed to keep his top ranking next week and is further looking for his third-straight Australian Open title, having also previously won it in 2008. His road to the final included routine wins over Paul-Henri Mathieu, Ryan Harrison, and Radek Stepanek in straight sets in the early rounds, and his quarterfinal encounter against Tomas Berdych was never really in doubt, handing the world No. 8 two 6-1 sets. He made quick work of a (possibly) labored David Ferrer in the semifinals and it was mostly smooth sailing for Djokovic with the exception of his fourth round five-set five-hour encounter with Stanislas Wawrinka who really tested the Serb. In the end, experience prevailed over adrenaline and Djokovic squeezed through the win.
Andy Murray, on the other hand, crept quietly threw the draw, never even having played on Rod Laver Arena until his semifinal match up with Roger Federer. Having just won his first Slam at the US Open last September, some questioned whether he would not only be able to win the Australian Open, but even reach the final. But with his improved mental and physical game, the Scot came out in full force. He dispatched of his first five opponents in straight sets (Robin Haase, Joao Sousa, Ricardas Berankis, Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy) before finally outplaying Federer in a five-setter last night. The Scot has been playing more aggressively and it was none more evident than against Federer.
So the question remains: Who will walk away victorious come Sunday night, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray?
Our team gives their insight:
Each men’s semifinal result, when looked at individually, would be sufficient to predict its winner would go on to take the title. On one half, Djokovic put on another master class, capping yet another dominating performance Down Under with a decisive victory over David Ferrer. On the other, Murray broke through to beat Roger Federer at a Slam, boasting impeccable numbers in the process. Playing any other man, Djokovic or Murray would be heavy favorites. Playing each other, it’s a clash of the titans. Given Djokovic’s past performances here and longer recovery time, the slight edge goes to the Serb, but Murray is on quite a run at the tournament’s biggest stages, and would like nothing more than to assert himself as the best player on tour, if not the “real number one.”
Prediction: Djokovic in 5
Both finalists have shown some of their best tennis in the more recent rounds, so a five-setter would not be without question. In fact, it’s almost expected when these two play each other. Each has battled through their respective “demons” on court in the form of Wawrinka for Djokovic and Federer for Murray, but Murray has looked the stronger player through the entirety of the tournament. He has really emerged from his shell and grown in confidence now that the proverbial gorilla (winning a Slam, finally) is off his back. He may not lead the head-to-head record against the Serb, but he also had never beaten Federer before at a Slam — and looked what happened last night. If Murray comes out swinging freely on his forehand again, while keeping his backhand and first serve percentage up, there’s nothing that could stop him.
Prediction: Murray in 5
Djokovic always has played his best tennis in Australia, and his semifinal victory over Ferrer was a masterpiece of the controlled aggression that works so well on this medium-speed surface. That nearly flawless effort suggested that he is peaking at the right time. Meanwhile, Murray is riding his own wave of momentum after defeating Federer. The Scot’s serving in that match was stunning, but he’ll get a sterner test from Djokovic’s return. The two men have similar styles and weapons, so it will come down to execution and confidence. Djokovic’s highs and lows (not Murray’s) have defined most of their meetings so far for better or worse. He’s on a high here.
Prediction: Djokovic in 4
Experts and betting markets alike were almost unanimous in installing Novak Djokovic as the favorite to win this tournament weeks before the tournament started, and only an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka has given us any reason to doubt that prediction. With only one match remaining, and no Wawrinka in sight, I can’t see any reason to change my initial prediction of a Djokovic title.
Form can, of course, change from match to match, even for the top players, but the Serb’s performance against a decidedly sub-par David Ferrer was overwhelming in its completeness. Andy Murray naturally had a far rougher time in his semifinal, seeing off Roger Federer in five sets. I don’t think that match will inhibit the Scot physically, but nor do I think it will act as useful preparation. I predict Djokovic to win. I’ll resist the strong urge to pick four sets, and say (brazenly) that he’ll do it in three.
Prediction: Djokovic in 3
So its official, the two fittest players in the men’s draw are playing in the final. With Rafa away the Novak Murray rivalry could well turn into the sports headline act. The last 3 times these players met the result went the distance with Novak claiming victory the last two times. Still, there is something about this new Murray in slams, compounded by the Lendl connection and the extra fight for friend Ross Hutchins who is battling cancer that gives Murray an edge that cannot be measured.
Prediction: Murray in 4