The ladies’ draw started off missing a major component: defending champ Maria Sharapova, who withdrew when her surgically repaired right shoulder rendered her unfit for the Melbourne fight. However, a slew of other eager lady ballers were already prepared to stake their claim on the first Grand Slam of the year.
Serena Williams knows what it takes to win the Oz Open crown – she’s won the title every odd year since 2003 – so would fate be on her side this time around? It wasn’t so clear at the outset when she fought through some scratchy patches in her opening rounds and lost the first set to Victoria Azarenka in the Round of 16. But, as luck would have it, Vika retired from their match after having been ill earlier in the day and gave safe passage for ReRe into the quarterfinals where she battled familiar foe Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 27-year old lost the first set but as luck would have it again, the scorching Aussie heat caused the Rod Laver Arena retractable roof to be closed and in turn caused ReRe’s supreme game to open up.
The rest, as they say, was history as were her opponents including Sveta, semifinal foe Elena Dementieva, and Dinara Safina in the final. She earned her second consecutive Grand Slam, a 10th career major moving her past Monica Seles on the all-time list, regained the keys to the WTA Penthouse, and topped the list of career prize-money earners in all of women’s sports (surpassing golfer Annika Sorenstam) by winning the doubles title with sister Venus and making the final. ReRe will be on the short list of faves for Roland Garros and if she grabs that one too watch out!
Dinara entered Melbourne with a some matches at the Hopman Cup and a finals appearance in Sydney but her form, particularly the serve, were still off. She needed needed 3 sets in 3 of her matches including her fourth round tussle against Frenchie Alize Cornet. After going down 2-5 in the third set, the Russian found the range on her groundies and saved 2 match points along the way to make her first quarterfinal in Oz. Unfortunately for D, she got spanked by ReRe in the final 6-0, 6-3 but it was a solid effort nonetheless for the new World No.2.
There’s a big difference between reaching No.1 and actually staying there. Such is the problem for sister Serbs Jelena Jankovic + Ana Ivanovic. After a 2008 breakout season which saw both lady ballers rise to the top spot and both make a Grand Slam final - JJ in Flushing Meadows and Ana at Roland Garros where she grabbed her maiden major – their games have tailed off considerably. Like Nole, outside concerns may be to blame: JJ switched clothing sponsors from Reebok to ANTA, was rumored to be leaving Prince, and battled a flu at the JB Group Classic that left her short of matches. Ana had her off-season romance and on-season breakup with Fernando Verdasco and announced she was no longer working with adidas baller development coach Sven Groenefeld though they reconnected during the fortnight.
In most winning scenarios, consistency is THE key and these issues seemingly left them with no confidence and both lost early – JJ to Marion Bartoli in the fourth round and Ana to the unheralded Russian teen Alisa Kleybanova in her third rounder. Let’s hope their focus turns back to tennis or their slippery Serbian Slide may have no end in sight.
Breakout Performance (tie): Jelena Dokic's inspiring run to the quarterfinals, taking out 11th seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round; Borna Bikic and his arms making their welcomed appearance in her baller box
Most Disappointing Performance: Venus Williams second round debacle, going down to Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro after winning the first set, leading 2-5 and holding a match point in the third
Kudos also go out to Elena Dementieva who came in with two warm up titles under her belt and reached her first Oz semifinals; Bart for schooling JJ, Alisa for schooling Ana; Vera Zvonareva for serving 4 bagels in her early matches before going down to Dinara in the semifinals; and Carla for making good on her defeat of V and reaching her second major quarterfinal (surely one to watch during the upcoming clay-court season.)