- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Water is wet. Fire is hot. And in other news, Roger Federer won the Australian Open. The mountainously talented Swiss star rarely summoned his best tennis in Melbourne, but--and this must be terribly demoralizing to the rest of the field--it didn't much matter. Federer played well when the situation demanded it, including the pivotal points of the final, in which he defeated the charismatic Marcos Baghdatis in four sets. Federer's seventh major title not only puts him squarely on the road to Samprasville but also takes care of the first leg of his (hardly unrealistic) quest to win the Grand Slam in 2006.
The women's winner was as surprising as Federer was unsurprising. France's Am�lie Mauresmo has long been a fluid, artistic player who fares well in small tournaments and in the rankings but requires the Heimlich maneuver in big-ticket matches. In last Saturday's final Mauresmo, 26, played exquisite tennis and didn't have the opportunity to choke. Her opponent, Justine Henin-Hardenne, retired in mid-match with an upset stomach. While it was a bizarre ending to the match and unsporting of Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo had played unsurpassed tennis, and her title struck a blow for karma. "I'm here with the trophy only because I've matured," she said. "I grew up, and I've had lessons from this professional career."
Speaking of lessons, here's what else we learned from the year's first major.
? Marcos Baghdatis is a future star. On account of his Greek-Cypriot heritage and his winsome disposition, the 20-year-old was the toast of Melbourne as he beat three Top 10 players. The lovefest had the perverse effect of obscuring his exceptional tennis. A pocket Federer, Baghdatis is a wonderful shotmaker who calmly zinged winners and even outaced Andy Roddick. This was no one-hit wonder Down Under.
? Nicolas Kiefer may have won five matches, but he may also have been the tournament's biggest loser. Beyond racking up $6,000 in fines for assorted breaches of conduct, the surly German disgraced himself when he tried to distract an opponent by throwing his racket across the net during play--and then refused to concede the point.
? Martina Hingis is still endowed with a surfeit of talent. And a deficit of power. In her first Slam event since 2002 a matured Hingis--call her the Swiss Ms.--looked like a Top 10 player, dissecting four inferior opponents and, for good measure, winning the mixed doubles. But unless she amps up her game, her impuissant second serve in particular, she will continue to struggle against the heavy hitters.
? Andy Roddick is a work in regress. The best American under the age of 35 looked uncharacteristically timid as he lost to Baghdatis in the fourth round. Does Roddick swallow massive quantities of pride and ask Brad Gilbert to coach him again?
? Europe has become the sport's epicenter. By the quarterfinals all but two of the 16 remaining singles players-- Argentina's David Nalbandian and California's Lindsay Davenport--hailed from the Continent. And this was without Russia's Marat Safin and Spain's Rafael Nadal in the draw.
?Instant replay is long overdue. Henin-Hardenne's wins against Davenport and Maria Sharapova were aided by crucial line calls that Shot Spot replays on TV revealed to be incorrect.
? Rafael Nadal, who won 11 tournaments in 2005, would likely have given Federer a run for his Aussie dollars on a court that played post-office slow. He missed the event with a foot injury. Did Nadal, as Andre Agassi recently suggested, write more checks in 2005 than his body could cash?