Grandslam

Novak Djokovic Wins Australian Open 2008

Serbian tennisplayer Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open 2008 this Sunday. Djokovic defeated French tournament revelation Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals in four sets: 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.

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It was the first Grandslam title for the 20 year old Djokovic, who reached the finals of last year’s edition of the US Open where he lost to Roger Federer.

Djokovic, who was seeded third at the Australian Open 2008 took his revenge when he ousted Roger Federer in the semi finals. Tsonga reached the finals by beating Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray among others.

Tsonga had a dreamstart. The 22 year old won the first set which meant the first set loss for Djokovic this year in Melbourne. However Djokovic bounced back and broke Tsonga’s serve in the seventh game of the second set which he won with 6-4.

In the third set he cashed in his seventh setpoint. The fourth set ended after an injury treatment for Djokovic in the tie break. Djokovic only needed one matchpoint to take the crown of this year’s edition of the Australian Open.

Djokovic is the first Serbian player to ever win a Grand Slam tournament.

He jokingly thanked the Australian spectators who supported Tsonga during the final.

“I still love you guys, don’t worry,” he laughed.

He also thanked the Serbian supporters who stood by him through thick and thin throughout the tournament.

“I’m so proud of course with myself in the first place but then to be the first Serbian who won the Grand Slam title, I think it’s a crazy house back in Serbia and thankyou (to) my country.

“I love you guys if you’re watching.”

Australian Open Men’s Preview 2007

Written by Jay Jarrahi

The first Grand Slam of the season is almost upon us; the draw has been made, and has thrown up the usual dissections of the 128 man field. Here is a look at what the draw has delivered and the possibilities over the next two weeks.

Easy pickings for Federer

The first quarter of any slam draw in the past few years has seen the same man waltz through each time – world number one, Roger Federer. Between 2004 and 2006, Federer has failed to negotiate his quarter only once (Roland Garros 2004), often ending up with the trophy or a semi-final place at worst. Few would be brave enough (or indeed foolish enough) to suggest he will not continue his efficiency in disposing of his quarters. His toughest test looks likely to come in the 4th round in the form of Novak Djokovic.

Other players and matches to keep an eye on; Can Juan Carlos Ferrero break the losing streak? The former King of Clay has lost six matches on the spin dating back to last season, and will be hoping to remind himself of what victory tastes like against Jan Hajek. Before Djokovic can think of a meeting with Federer, he will first have to get past double Olympic gold medallist, Nicolas Massu. Last year’s final could be this year’s quarter-final, if Marcos Baghdatis can get that far for a re-match with Federer. Three of the ATP’s current crop of young talents have been drawn in close proximity, Baghdatis, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet. However, 7th seed Tommy Robredo will be looking to uphold his ranking and make the quarter-finals at the expense of these youngsters.

The quarter of aces

A quarter containing Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic, Joachim Johansson, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick can be described as nothing else. Despite the excellent serving likely to be on show from these players, only one at best will be making it out of this quarter in what would be a likely showdown with Roger Federer. Undoubtedly, the most anticipated match up of the first week is a possible 3rd round encounter between Safin and Roddick.

Mario Ancic and Joachim Johansson are set for a 2nd round meeting, meaning that at least two of these four big servers will be gone by the start of the 4th round. Ivan Ljubicic will like his chances of at least equalling his Melbourne performance from 2006, where he reached the quarter-finals. Before last year’s Australian Open, Ljubicic had never been beyond the 3rd round of any Grand Slam in 25 attempts. He backed up his Australian Open effort, by making the last four at the French Open, but has since reverted back to type with 3rd and 1st round exits at Wimbledon and the US Open respectively.

Who wants it?

The highest seeds in the third quarter are Nikolay Davydenko (3) and David Nalbandian (8), not only do they share the same quarter but they also share doubts over their fitness after early season injuries. At the time of writing both players are expected to start the tournament, but whether that remains the case is to be seen, or how long their injuries will hold up if indeed they do begin the tournament at all. There is never a good time to be injured, and both players will be cursing their luck, as each of them will consider they have strong possibilities to come through this quarter.

Brotherly love may be in order in the 2nd round if the Rochus (Olivier & Christophe) brothers can win their 1st round encounters and meet in the following round. Both face tough challenges in the form of Chris Guccione (for Olivier) and Sebastian Grosjean (for Christophe).

Looking to take advantage of the doubts surrounding Davydenko and Nalbandian, will be Tomas Berdych and Tommy Haas. It is approaching the time where tennis fans want to see if Berdych can realise some of his potential in Slams, or whether he will prove to be more hype than substance. The Czech has not yet been past the 4th round of a Slam in 13 attempts, and has an especially poor record to date in Melbourne (2 wins in 3 years). Tommy Haas has been to two Australian Open semi-finals in his career and will be hoping he can take advantage of a draw that sees him avoid Roger Federer (in early 2006 Haas saw Federer block his path in a number of tournaments).

Xavier Malisse versus Arnaud Clement is the pick of the 1st round matches from this quarter.

Who wants it II?

Number two seed, Rafael Nadal, cannot be considered a hot favourite to come through the bottom quarter given his form since Wimbledon 2006. The Spaniard began the season in Chennai, but was disposed of by Malisse, and then had to withdraw in the first set of his tournament in Sydney against Guccione. The injury is not considered serious enough to put his participation in doubt, but nonetheless it is a possible factor counting against him going deep.

In the match of the 1st round, James Blake faces Carlos Moya (both players will be meeting later today in the final in Sydney). The winner of the clash in Sydney will not only pick up a title, but also a huge psychological boost going into the battle in Melbourne. The pressure is on Blake to start delivering in Slams, as of yet, he has failed to reach the quarter-finals of a Slam outside of the USA.

Lleyton Hewitt comes into the 2007 tournament with a new coach, Scott Draper, after Roger Rasheed cut his ties with the former world number one. Hewitt will be encouraged to have avoided a number of players with the potential to blow him off court, and this represents an opportunity for him to build on the quarter-finals he made in the final two Slams of 2006. His first big challenge could come in the form of Fernando Gonzalez in the 3rd round. The Chilean has the firepower to shoot Hewitt down, and it could be another explosive 3rd round match to go with Safin-Roddick.

Another player who will be hoping to go deep into the second week is Andy Murray. A possible 4th round match with Nadal awaits him should both players reach that stage.

Roger Federer is Great for Tennis – and Sports

Written by Alessandro Nicolo

Here’s the thing: tennis is one of those sports I play more than I watch. It’s just one of those things. There’s not enough time in a day for me to watch every sport. On the other hand if someone would pay me – trust me – I’m watching anything.

You’re reading the words of a guy who has watched curling on more than one occasion.

Tennis is a great game. The athletic demands are complimented by the technical aspects of mastering the sport. A few years ago my close friend, a former tennis player and instructor, told me that by the time he’s done Roger Federer may very well be the greatest tennis player who ever lived. I took those words seriously since my friend was not into hyperbole. More sober and sane than he they don’t come. “There no weaknesses in his game,” he said.

Well, Roger Federer won his 10th men’s singles grand slam title, winning in straight sets over a feisty Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open. That’s good for fifth all-time, which ties Federer with Bill Tilden. He’s two titles behind Ray Emerson and only one behind Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.

More importantly, at 26 he is just four grand slam titles away the all-time leader Pete Sampras.

Wow.

Tennis has a problem on its hands. Through most of the sport’s history tennis was blessed with classic rivalries. Who can forget those battles in the 1970s and 1980s between Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Lendl? Sampras and Agassi had a thing going too. But who will dance with Roger?

Andy Roddick has the attitude and will to challenge him, but if his serve is off he struggles. Rafael Nadal has flair and is blessed with a more complete game but outside of clay he’s a mere mortal.

In modern tennis there is no one that comes remotely close to Roger Federer. His dominance is pure net – excuse the bad pun. What captivates me is how smooth and beautiful his game really is. He’s perfect in all aspects of the game without looking like a robot.

Let me take this a step further. Forget statistics. I’m dropping the gloves here. Forget Tiger Woods. Forget Babe Ruth, Pele, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Forget Michael Schumacher and Mohammed Ali – to name a few.

Yeah, I may be getting excited here but I’m going with a sports junkie’s instinct here. People will always debate Montana or Unitas? Chamberlin or Jordan? Lemieux, Orr, Howe or Gretzky? Even Pele has legitimate challengers in Diego Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano. Some even swear that we wasn’t the greatest Brazilian player ever. For this they look to Garrincha.

For his part, Ali is sometimes not referred as the greatest heavyweight of all time. It’s notoriously hard to judge auto racing or cycling – though Eddie Merckx can easily plead his case as the greatest cyclist ever. Come to think of it, he Woods come as the closest challengers that I can think of. But even experts admit Tiger has some weaknesses to his game. I’ve yet ot hear that about Federer.

I know I’m mixing some team sports in there but you get the picture. Yes, tennis has had its fair share of dominant players. The consensus however has Rod Laver as the greatest and most complete player ever. Sampras has the numbers to back him up.

I recognize all that. Still…

There is a very real chance that when Federer retires he may close out his career as the most dominant professional athlete ever.

Just for that I’ll be watching. There may not be any parity in tennis (sometimes dynasties are just plain good) but Federer’s class and elegance may just enough for sports fans to forgive and forget.

Alessandro Nicolo – the hack with a knack – is a freelance writer and sedentary bon vivant living in Montreal.