GAME, SET AND MATCH – THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2011

The winner of Sportsmart and Wilson’s tennis sponsorship program, Scott Lyons, provides regular blog articles on his favourite topic – tennis …

Well what an Australian Open it has been so far. Just when we thought everything seemed to be going to plan, the last couple of days have brought a brand new twist.

Nadal is out. Federer is out. For the first time in three years we are going to have a grand slam final without either players participating. While it is exciting that other players will now have a fantastic opportunity, it is also sad to see two great champions fall.

Even as I have typically been a Roger Federer fan, I have always had the upmost respect for Rafael Nadal. Yet that respect has only skyrocketed since Nadal’s exit. In obvious pain, he fought on since the second game of the match, fighting for every point, knowing deep down it would not lead to victory. To me these are the characteristics of a true warrior, and it was one of the finest displays of respect and sportsmanship seen in a long time.

While Roger Federer also lost in straight sets, it was under different circumstances. Despite coming in with good form, Federer was convincingly outplayed by Novak Djokovic on the day. While you cannot take anything away from Djokovic, as he was near flawless all night, Federer was not at his absolute best. He made too many unforced errors and struggled tactically to expose Djokovic’s weaknesses. I do believe that this was just a bad day for Federer though, and that he will still have one of his best seasons ever this year.

Whether up against Murray or Ferrer in the final, I believe Djokovic will win the tournament. His flat hitting will test both players and take away their time to defend. His speed should prevent his opponent from penetrating through the court. Also of course, he is in great form!

The women’s final looks like it will be a brilliant match. Both players have very similar game styles, and we can expect hard, hard hitting. Given this, it is almost impossible to predict a winner. I think Clijsters may just have a bit more versatility with her ability to find angles in the court, as well as having a slightly better retrieving ability.

With great drama having occurred already, I have no doubt that we are in for some cracker matches to finish off the tournament. I guess we will just have to wait until the French Open for hopefully another Federer- Nadal clash!

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