Tennis down under: recapping the 2014 Australian Open


The Rambler

Even though 2014 has just begun, tennis is already under way, and the first major of the year, the Australian Open, was one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory.
On both the men’s and women’s side of the draw there were two new champions. The eighth seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland won his first Grand Slam over top-seeded Rafael Nadal, although the win did not come without some controversy due to Nadal sustaining an injury. The fourth seeded Na Li of China became the first Asian woman to win the Australian Open, defeating the twentieth seeded from Slovakia, Dominika Cibulkova.
On the way to crowning the champions, there were tons of upsets across both the men’s and women’s draws.
The fifth seed on the men’s side, Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro lost in five sets in the second round to Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. In the third round, there were plenty of higher seeded upsets, including ninth seed Richard Gasquet of France and eleventh seed Milos Raonic of Canada. The eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka got a walkover in the third round in his match against Vasek Pospisil of Canada, which means he did not have to play his match and went straight on to the fourth round.
The fourth round saw all the lower seeded players advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, three of the four matches were upsets. Only the first seed Rafael Nadal got to the semifinals without being upset, defeating Bulgaria’s Grigor Dmitrov 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2.
The semifinals consisted of Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, and two players from Switzerland, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. Nadal defeated Federer 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 and Wawrinka beat Berdych 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 and advanced to the finals.
Nadal looked to have an advantage coming into the match since he has won 13 Grand Slams. Wawrinka came out firing though, and won the first set 6-3. During the second set, Nadal appeared to injure his back and left the court to seek medical treatment. The injury seriously affected his play in the second set, allowing Wawrinka to take the set 6-2 and go up two sets to love on the number one seed.
In the third set, Nadal’s painkillers kicked in as he was able to break Wawrinka’s serve and win 6-3. Wawrinka continued to fight in the fourth set, and was able to break serve and take the lead. Wawrinka served for the championship and won the fourth set 6-3. He had a subdued reaction when he finally won, more concerned with Nadal’s health than finally winning a major.
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam Wawrinka has ever won. He had only gotten to the semifinals of a major once before in the 2013 US Open, and only gotten to the quarterfinals four other times, in the 2010 and 2013 US Open, the 2011 Australian Open, and the 2013 French Open. The win will also move him up to third in the world rankings, finally surpassing the Swede who has owned all the spotlight for the past decade, Roger Federer.
Nadal does not play his best tennis in Australia, only getting to the finals twice before and winning once. It will be interesting to see what kind of injury he sustained and if it will plague him throughout the year.
For the full men’s draw, see below:
On the women’s side of the draw, upsets were happening all over the draw and the favorite to win seemingly changed daily. Although it was not an upset since she was not seeded, it was still a shock when Venus Williams was eliminated in the first round by Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. The sixth seed Petra Kvitova also lost her first round match to Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.
The favorites started dropping in the fourth round when Serena Williams lost to Ana Ivanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and Maria Sharapova lost to Dominika Cibulkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. In fact, Cibulkova, the twentieth seed, needed to upset almost all her opponents during the tournament. She beat fifteenth seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-0, eleventh seed Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0, and fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the finals.
Radwanska also provided an upset in the quarterfinals, defeating the second seed Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 5-7, 6-0. Azarenka’s loss left Na Li as the only remaining player ranked in the top four in the women’s draw.
Na Li proved that she is the best player on the women’s side right now, even though she faced match point in the third round to Lucie Safarova. She overcame and played spectacularly to advance to the finals.
The semifinals were a contest between Cibulkova and Radwanska and between Na Li and thirtieth seed from Canada and the surprise of the tournament, nineteen year-old Eugenie Bouchard. Cibulkova and Na Li defeated their opponents 6-1, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-4, respectively, to move on to the finals.
In the final, both Na Li and Cibulkova held serve in the first set and went into a tiebreaker. Na Li won the tiebreak 7-4 and was up one set to love. The intensity of the match got to Cibulkova in the second set as she was broken three times and Na Li won the set six to love to become the Australian Open champion.
For the full women’s draw, see below:
The 2014 Australian Open gives good hopes for tennis this year. Higher seeded players are beginning to beat the top players, providing promise for both the future of tennis and great matches and upsets in the other tournaments later this year.