Aussie Open Unlikely Champions
When the 2014 Australian Open started two weeks ago Men’s Champion Stanislas Wawrinka and Women’s Champion Li Na were not in the conversation. But after every favorite and even the secondary favorites were upset the last two standing at the end were Na and Wawrinka.
China’s Na overcame an attack of nerves and weathered a feisty challenge from Dominika Cibulkova before roaring to a 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 victory to win her first Australian Open title on Saturday.
Heartbroken as runner-up last year and in 2011, the 31-year-old struggled on serve and battled an errant forehand in a tight first set, before finding her range in devastating fashion to become the oldest woman to win at Melbourne Park.
Cibulkova gave up two match-points when the Slovakian pushed a backhand long and saved one of them when Li did likewise, but the 20th seed crumbled on the second to give the Chinese her second grand slam title after winning the 2011 French Open.
Meanwhile, it is a small wonder that Roger Federer was one of the first people trying to get hold of Stanislas Wawrinka on the phone to congratulate him on winning the Australian Open.
With Rafael Nadal just four away from Federer’s tally of 17 Grand Slam titles, the now former Swiss No 1 needs all the help he can get from friends like Wawrinka to fend off the Spaniard’s charge.
Another ally Federer has in his bid to hold on to his Greatest Of All Time status is Nadal’s unpredictable physical condition, which made an untimely intervention to settle this extraordinary first 2014 major.
Nadal was upset by Wawrinka 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 a defeat, that saw him have back spasms that developed from the twinges he felt in the warm-up.
We know of his knee problems, there was an issue with hand blisters during this tournament, but this seems the first time his spine has severely hampered efforts to win another championship. But to Nadal’s credit he played hard and did not give up.
In the end the Australian Open was entertaining and it does set up a season of tennis that clearly is going to be wide open and very interesting.
Aussie Open Unlikely Champions by James Williams