Google Down the Line!: 2009 AUSTRALIAN OPEN WRAP-UP: The Boys

Monday, February 2, 2009


The first major of the year, the Aussie Open, is now in the history books and the champions have been crowned. If you're anything like me, you had a number of questions running around your noggin but left Oz with even more. Regardless, the 2009 tennis season is now shaping up to be one for the ages.


Can enough be said of Rafael Nadal and his effort of the past fortnight? The world's top baller entered Melbourne with a new look (it's got sleeves!) and concerns about some '08 season-ending injuries that left him short of match play and with a little bit of rust. Plus, he'd just lost early in Doha to Gael Monfils and had never been to a hard-court major final in his career. Like that mattered.

The 22-year old blew through his draw in blazing form up until the now-classic semifinal heavyweight bout against compatriot Fernando Verdasco. The pair threw body blow after body blow for 5 hours 14 mins (an Aussie Open record) and in the end Rafa's trademark mental toughness pulled him through in 5 sets. And with only a day to recover and practice for the final against Roger Federer, pundits and fans (including his most loyal Rafanatics) wondered if there was anything left. But the steely-eyed Spaniard put all concerns aside, dug in his Nike heels and put on one of the most impressive physical displays ever seen in the sport, going another 5 sets to defeat the Swiss stylist for his first Aussie Open title (the first Spaniard to do so) and sixth career major (the second youngest to earn six majors by 22 behind Bjorn Borg.) And with only the US Open title eluding him, a career Golden Slam is within his reach as is the ultimate prize: the calendar-year GRAND SLAM this season.

Roger Federer came into Melbourne healthy this time around after beginning the '08 season with mononucleosis. He also began in fine form but bumped up against a zoning Tomas Berdych in the fourth round, needing 5 sets and his bag of tricks to get by his Czech foe. But his biggest test came in the final when he battled Rafa for the 19th time in their respective careers. On paper the 27-year old held the advantage: multiple hard-court majors titles in his pocket including 3 Oz Open crowns and a fatigued foe in Rafa. Like that mattered.

His poor record of not converting break point chances in their past matches continued (only 6 of 19) and his serve (52% success on first serves) was nowhere to be found during the match. He fell to Rafa for the sixth time in a Grand Slam meeting, third consecutive time in major final meetings, and a added a fifth consecutive loss to the Spaniard. His post-match pool of tears bared the naked truths: he may be further away from a record-tying 14th Grand Slam crown than ever before and, more strikingly, Rafa is clearly the better baller now and may be the better baller when all is said and done. Let's hope he gets a full-time traveling coach sooner than later.

Defending champ Novak Djokovic flew mostly under the radar and gained more attention for his switch to HEAD from Wilson than for his game. He made his way to a third round encounter with American via Bosnia Amer Delic which included a violent encounter between fans from the respective countries outside the stadium. Nole then faced a rejuvinated Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, their first since the contentious US Open meet up in the same round last year. The Serb won that encounter but wasn't so lucky this time around, retiring mid-match after struggling mightily with the heat. It seems his personality has become prickly and his game more stagnant which leaves the outlook for the rest of his season very muddy.

Andy Murray entered the Aussie Open as the prohibitive fave to take the Aussie Open crown to the dismay of a few after going undefeated in the warmup tourneys, earning wins over Rafa + Fed. But the Brit baller had the unfortunate luck of running into the buzz saw known as Nando and was shell-shocked in the fourth round. However, the 21-year old is still developing his vast arsenal and should be a contender at any tourney he enters for the rest of the year.

The breakout star of the tourney was, of course, Nando. The 25-year old was the Davis Cup hero when Spain defeated Argentina in the final last season and spent the off-season not only romancing Ana Ivanovic but also training intensively in Las Vegas with Gil Reyes. He entered the Aussie Open with high hopes and a confidence-building appearance in the Queensland final but nothing could predict what would happen next: defeat of Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and his first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal. Nando, of course, made the trip worthwhile by playing a now-classic epic encounter with Rafa. Unfortunately for him, a double-fault on match point sealed his fate but if Nando keeps the focus and dedication on building his game he should be in the mix for the rest of the season.

Big props go out to Andy Roddick for putting in the hard yards during the off-season and making his fourth semifinal appearance Down Under; Juan Martin del Potro for making his second consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal (though his mental game needs a tune up); Yen-Hsun Lu for his second round upset of David Nalbandian and his mustached belly bump; Gael Monfils + Gilles Simon for their PDA; and Marat Safin who most likely played, and lost, his last match ever in Oz. *still wearing sad face*

What were your fave manly moments from this year's Aussie Open?


(image via Getty)


  1. I liked Simon and Rafa's at-net moment.

    Besides obviously Rafa winning, making history, being amazing like he is, the semi with Fernando is just instant classic and will never be forgotten.

  2. When he beat Juan Martin Del Potro, the sixth-best player in the world, for the loss of three games in the quarter-finals, Federer said that as the contest drew to a close, he was simply happy to put the Argentinian “out of his misery”. Five days later, and he knew how that felt. Not at all nice.

  3. Great tournament, displayed real characters:

    Men: Rafa, Fernando, Gilles Simon

    Pussies: Federer, Del Potro, Djokovic

  4. Was so rooting for both andys' during this open!! roddick looked so fit and murry was playing unbelievable...if he made it passed verdasco, no doubt he could have beaten rafa and make it to the final... But my least favorite moment of the open was Fed's breakdown...I felt HORRIBLE and so sorry for him..AND I also couldnt stand djokovic's retirement from the roddick match...his press conference after the match was so lame...very disappointed by him.. I think we need a new number 3 in the world..

  5. "Jonus said...
    ...if he made it passed verdasco, no doubt he could have beaten rafa and make it to the final... "

    Now that's just not true. Murray has only beaten Rafa once in competition, and Rafa was exhausted at the time. Murray may have had his chances is he made the semis in Aussie, but given the way he played against Verdasco, i honestly think Rafa would've come out on top.

  6. Good wrap-up there Rich. I agree with everything you said and I think you touched on all the points worth making.

    The Fed-Nadal dynasty is still going strong but it's crumbling (at least on Fed's end). And now Murray and Nando have established themselves as potential major winners this year. And you can never count out Djokovic and a newly-fit Roddick. 2009 is going to be an interesting year.

  7. One of my favourite moments for sure was the hug Rafa and Fer shared after their semifinal battle.

    Then of course Rafa's amazing win and the Trophy Ceremony, with him consoling Fed.

    Unfortunately I didn't get to see a lot of matches due to the time difference, so there's not much more I can comment about.

    The Gilles/Gael moment sure was very cute, too.

  8. My fav manly moments? Gilles and La Monf frenching, and every Rafa shirt change, and thigh rub. If there was anything else that took place, I didn't see it.


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