Federer Wins the Australian Open 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

For a split second, it seemed like Roger Federer's reign of dominance might end Sunday.

Up 10-9 in the third set tiebreaker and holding his second match point, he drew his foe Andy Murray into the net with a drop shot and moved over to cover the line as the quick Scot sprinted forward. His brain briefly screamed 'hit the volley,' but instead, he let the ball whiz past him and watched it fall in the corner.

"I thought, 'Oh no, I'm going to see myself in the fifth set and not winning the title,' " said Federer, who slapped himself on the forehead. "I'm thinking, 'My God, he just grabbed the trophy out of my hands. I might end up losing this thing.' "  But, Federer doesn't lose matches like that. Five points later after Murray buried a backhand into the net, Federer came away with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) victory for his fourth Australian title and his record 16th major title overall.

The longtime No. 1 continues to defy the odds, as at the age of 28 and with just about every conceivable record in his pocket, he's stays motivated and amazingly, seems to be improving. To be able to face down a young player as smart and as talented as Murray in straight sets when it appeared as though Britain's greatest hopeful was at the top of his game is astounding. Murray came into the match with a 6-4 record against Federer and had scored mind-boggling knockouts of Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic en route to the finals. He was smoking big serves, teeing off with his forehand, closing on the net and was no longer just a brilliant tactician with a hatchet of a backhand and eye-popping return of serve.

But Federer cautioned before the match that their head to head record had to be thrown out. Why? Because it was he who knew how to perform in major finals, and not Murray, who had only been there once before at the 2008 U.S. Open in a loss to Federer. That it was Murray who really needed the win to cement his status as an elite player.

Instead of bringing the up-tempo, suffocating attack that had wowed Nadal, Murray largely played a passive match, where Federer went right at him early, serving with precision and power, daring him to play into his ultra-dangerous forehand.  After Federer fought off three break points in the fifth game of the match, he seized control, breaking Murray to 5-4 with two forehands down both lines. He easily held to close out the first set and then broke the Scot to go up 2-1 in the second set with a flying forehand crosscourt pass and then forced Murray into a forehand error.

"I was just floating and trying to be dangerous," Federer said.  Unlike in previous matches when he was able to break Federer's backhand down and make major statements on his own service games, Murray merely poked the ball around and could get no real rhythm on his serve. The second set quickly disappeared with a vintage Federer serve and forehand swing volley and Murray dragged himself around the court.

But in the third, he woke up, but not for long enough. Heartened by the fact that Federer had lost two five-set Grand Slam finals in the past 13 months -- to Nadal at the Australian Open and to Juan Martin del Potro at the U.S. Open -- Murray began to claw and cut loose a little more. He got off to a 5-3 lead but then began to get shaky again as Federer began to press him. He was broken back to 5-4 on a lousy forehand and he screamed at himself.

Murray kept battling and brought the set to a tiebreaker, but he simply couldn't capitalize on five set points, three of which were lost on unforced errors and one, a backhand volley he missed at 7-6, will surely haunt him for the rest of the winter.  "I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him," a despondent Murray said during the awards ceremony.

Now Murray's long preparation for his next realistic chance to win a major -- the pressure cooker of Wimbledon -- will commence, while Federer can put up his feet and revel is his self-made glory. How about this: the Swiss has reached 18 of the last 19 Grand Slam finals, and has won 16 of the last 29 majors. Although the cliche goes that records are made to be broken, those are almost unapproachable marks. Here's another: He's won 16 Slams in the last six and half years. Who is going to approach that feat?

"I always knew I had something special, but I didn't know it was that crazy," Federer said. "I definitely had to work extremely hard so I would pick the right shot at the right time. I always knew I had it in my hands. The question is do I have it in my mind and in my legs. Now I feel like obviously I'm being pushed a great deal by the new generation coming up. When I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to.

"Today that doesn't exist anymore. That's also thanks to guys like Murray. They've made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances in a long time, or maybe forever."

Outside of his main rival, Nadal, whose longevity as a standout player may be in jeopardy because of chronic tendonitis in his knees, no player has been able to consistently touch him at the majors. He'll take an odd loss here (to Novak Djokovic at the 2008 Aussie Open) and the odd defeat there (to del Potro), but no player in history has been so consistently lethal, so clutch, so willing to stand up and deliver just when it seems like he's about to take a step back.

"I'm flabbergasted to know what still motivates him," former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said. "I certainly couldn't keep it up. There must be a real challenge there. He had great year last year, but was beaten by some young up-and-comers and for him to come out and play as well as he did here shows he still has stuff to prove to himself and to match up with the young guys. I didn't expect him to play this well."

Federer is confounded why he's even asked what still drives him. He's the father of twins now and became the first dad since Andre Agassi in 2003 to win a major. So why not just retire, take it easy, raise the kids and dreamily think back to his glory days. Maybe because there are more glory days ahead, or maybe because he was simply born to play.

"Unlike any of the other great champions who had angst or insecurities or needed something financially, this guy has a pure love of the game that we haven't seen before" said Tennis Channel analyst Justin Gimelstob. "It's the pure fulfillment of achievement and being the best that he can be."

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Serena Williams Wins Australian Open

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Once again, Serena Williams is the queen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. By defeating Justine Henin, the formidable Belgian comeback kid, in three sets 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, Williams claimed her fifth Australian open single title and her 12th championship at a major grand slam tournament. On Friday, less than 24 hours earlier, Serena and Venus Williams clinched the doubles title, defeating top-seeded doubles specialists Cara Black (Zimbabwe) and Liezel Huber (U.S.) handily 6-4, 6-3.

The women's final was riveting, with two seasoned champions and wily competitors slugging it out, doggedly, playing generally at a very high level, and the momentum shifting. The 27-year-old Henin has a resume comparable to that of 28-year-old Williams, with seven grand slam wins, including a win in Australia in 2004.

Both players looked uncomfortable and displayed grim determination and few smiles throughout the joyless but fascinating two hour, seven minute contest. Neither player connected with the crowd. Although the final score does not look all that close, in fact Henin scored just five fewer points throughout the match. This reflects Williams' success at digging deep to win key points at critical junctures throughout the match—a hallmark of her tennis career.

This was the physically slight and non-flashy Henin's 11th match since returning from a one-season layoff (a brief retirement), during which she worked systematically to make changes in her technique and strategy. Expert commentators, such as Mary Joe Fernandez on the Tennis Channel, noted that she was moving in to the net frequently, even when that might not have been the ideal response in all instances. She also had difficulties with her serve, racking up six double faults and a low 50 percent first serve percentage

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Williams sisters win Women's Doubles title at Australian Open 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Venus and Serena Williams defeated Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-3 in the Womens' Doubles Final at the Australian Open 2010 last night to take the title for the fourth time in their careers.

Not surprisingly, it was their offensive tactics of breaking the opposing team's serve that allowed them to take the lead and finish the game quickly. Venus did not repeat her mistakes from the Singles round and held her ground. Ultimately, Black and Huber played right into the Williams' sisters hands with several missed and netted shots.

"I have to congratulate Venus and Serena for a great tournament -- you guys are too good," Black said in an interview with ESPN afterward.

Serena still has to face former No.1 Justine Henin in the Singles Final on Saturday which will certainly be a tough match for both. Venus was eliminated by Na Li in the Quarterfinals on Wednesday.

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Federer, Tsonga reach Australian Open semis

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In a record that will surely stand the test of time, Federer on Wednesday night advanced to his 23rd consecutive grand slam semi-final with an iron-willed four-set comeback victory over Nikolay Davydenko at the Australian Open.

"It's incredible looking back on how many years that is now that I'm able to deliver at grand-slam play," Federer said after rallying from a set and a service break down to snap the Russian's own impressive 13-match winning streak with a 2-6-3 6-0 7-5 quarter-final triumph at Melbourne Park.

"Especially this year, I think, looking at the draw with Hewitt in the fourth round and Davydenko in the quarters, who has been on fire the last weeks. "Even today we saw big signs of it, why he's such a great player. "So, for some reason, I was just a bit worried I was not going to make it this time to the semis. You always believe the streak is going to be broken.

"I stopped thinking about it after the second round on and just started focusing on the tournament "It helps once the tournament starts. You focus match for match and point for point, so I forget about the record. "Now obviously that it's safe again and I've been able to add one, it's amazing. "Definitely one of the most incredible things I have in my resume."

Federer will play Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Novak Djokovic in a late finishing quarter-final on Wednesday night. Former champion Djokovic held a two sets to one lead, before an upset stomach caused him to meekly surrender the fourth set, and Tsonga pressed home his advantage in the decider. The 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (5-7) 1-6 6-3 6-1 victory over the man who downed him in the 2008 final gives Muhammad Ali look-alike Tsonga a semi-final shot at world No.1 Roger Federer.

But if he is to make his second Australian Open final he will need to cut the errors from his game. What the match lacked in brilliance, it made up for in tension, drama and changes of fortune. The turning point came early in the fourth, when Djokovic began to clutch repeatedly at his stomach, before calling a medical time-out so he could leave the court to throw up. Tsonga seized his chance, racing through the fourth set with little trouble, then with the finish line in sight, quickly delivering the knockout blow in the fifth.

Federer's phenomenal run at the majors ranks alongside the likes of Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France wins, Michael Jordan's seven NBA scoring titles on the spin, Edwin Moses' 122 successive 400m hurdles victories, Steve Redgrave's five successive Olympic rowing gold medals, Byron Nelson's 11 straight PGA Tour titles, Tiger Woods' 142 straight PGA cuts made and squash legend Jahangir Khan's 555-match winning streak.

Federer's record puts Rod Laver's 12 straight semi-finals - either side of his grand slam exile from 1963-67 - and Ivan Lendl's modern-era second-best 10 straight from 1985-88 into the shade. Federer's victory also clinched the world No.1 ranking for a 268th week, matching Jimmy Connors - the pair now tied for third behind only Pete Sampras (286 weeks) and Lendl (270 weeks) on the all-time list of longest reigns.

Federer was halfway to the Melbourne Park exit gates after dropping the opening set and staring a double break in the face in the second set. But the 15-times major champion barely blinked before reeling off 13 straight games - and winning 51 of the next 64 points in the process - to avert disaster against a confident foe who'd won their two most encounters over the past month.

"It was in a tough situation at 6-2, 3-1 down and 15-40 on my serve," Federer said.  "I knew I wasn't looking very good.  "But that's the beauty of best of five sets. I wasn't panicking, even though I maybe would have lost the second set had I lost another point there at that stage. "But I just relaxed and thought, you know, maybe if the sun goes and his level drops just a little bit, the whole thing might change for the better.  "It did. I couldn't believe the way it changed, but I'm happy the way I was able to go on an incredible run and get the cushion with the extra break at the beginning of the fourth."

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Henin and Serena meet in Australian Open final

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The tenacious Henin is playing her first Grand Slam since coming out of an 18-month retirement and kept her historic run going with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of unseeded Chinese Zheng Jie.

Williams also had to negotiate Chinese opposition and was made to work hard by 16th seed Li Na before grinding her down 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1) under a hot sun on the Rod Laver Arena to set up an enticing decider on Saturday.

Ever since she announced her return to tennis the talk has been about whether Henin could emulate Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, who won last year's US Open on her own comeback. And the former world number one has lived up to expectations after being handed a wildcard by organizers. She destroyed Zheng as she stayed on track to add to her seven Grand Slam titles, including the 2004 Australian Open.

"The dream continues. I am going to play the number one and defending champion," said the 27-year-old, who became the first wildcard to reach the final here. "I wasn't sure about what I would feel on the court and how things would go. I have just enjoyed my tennis and taken it step by step. I can't wait for the final now, it is an amazing feeling."

Asked if she seriously expected to get this far, she revealed she was quietly confident, having booked a flight out for next Sunday before the start of the tournament. "I was curious about how things would go and I'm very happy to come back like this," she said.

Henin has negotiated some tough opposition to get this far, including fifth seed Elena Dementieva, 19th seed Nadia Petrova and talented Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.But the biggest test of her comeback will come in the form of Williams, who is angling for a 12th Grand Slam title to put her alongside Billie Jean King. 

She saw off Li in just over two hours, with the rising Chinese star saving four match points before a delighted Williams clinched the win with an ace. "I am happy I was able to pull it out, it was really close," said Williams. "I wasn't at my best today, but I'm still here which is shocking and I'm just going to do whatever I can to stay."

The world number one, who came back from the brink of defeat in a gruelling quarter-final against Victoria Azarenka, is also hoping to become the first player to successfully defend her title since American Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

But Williams was made to fight hard against a determined Li, who was not overawed playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final. She pushed Williams all the way and learned a lot from playing such a high-profile game.

"I lost the match and I was a little bit sad to be stopped in the semi-final, but I played good tennis today," said Li. "I think that I have to practice much, much more, particularly my serve."

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Federer, Serena moved on to Australian Open semi-finals

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MELBOURNE — Roger Federer and Serena Williams showed championship form to battle back from a set down and storm into their semi-finals at the Australian Open on Wednesday. Li Na also made the last four with an upset victory over Venus Williams, giving China two players in a Grand Slam semi for the first time. Her reward is a clash with top seed Serena.

But the tournament ended for ailing third seed Novak Djokovic who was knocked out in a thrilling late night five-setter by 10th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the man he beat in the 2008 final. The Frenchman will now meet Federer, who was given a scare by sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko when the Russian ace led 6-2, 3-1 before the Swiss star clicked into gear.

He won 13 straight games to take the next two sets before a titantic struggle in the fourth with the 15-time Grand Slam champion eventually coming home 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 to end Davydenko's 13-match winning streak. It puts Federer into his 23rd consecutive Grand Slam semi-final, having never missed out since his third round defeat to Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten at Roland Garros in 2004.

"I've played him many times and I know he goes through phases for half an hour, an hour," Federer said of Davydenko. "You've just got to stick with him and if you don't he's going to crush you." All of a sudden I went on a run like I did and that was a bit surprising, but I needed that cushion at the end of the fourth when he played well." Asked if he was concerned that he might lose, he said: "I was a touch worried, let's put it that way."

Tsonga prevailed 7-6 (10/8), 6-7 (5/7), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in a near four-hour marathon against Djokovic, who was struggling with illness and at one point took a medical timeout for an upset stomach. It was sweet revenge for the Frenchman after his 2008 disappointment. "It was just amazing the level we played at. I'm so happy I won," said Tsonga, who added he would be ready for Federer on Friday despite being taken to five sets in his past two matches -- the only five-setters of his career. "I will be ready," he said. "It's going to be tough though, he's the best player ever."

Fifth seeded Andy Murray faces 14th seeded Croat Marin Cilic in the other semi-final on Thursday, with the Scot seeking to win Britain's first Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936.

Like Federer, Serena was also on the ropes before staging a comeback to stay on track for her fifth Australian title. She was down 4-6, 0-4 to seventh seed Victoria Azarenka before fighting back and winning a tense tiebreaker to level the match.

Azarenka was rattled and Serena rammed home her advantage to win 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and set up a clash with Li, who came from behind to shock Venus 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5. Justine Henin and unseeded Chinese Zheng Jie contest Thursday's other semi. "I am surprised and I am just happy to still be here," said Serena. "I didn't expect to win when I was down 0-4."

Venus should have made it a sister act in the semis, but she threw it away against Li in a scrappy match where they made a incredible combined 110 unforced errors. She was a set and 4-2 up in the second when Li made her move, playing with greater freedom as Venus tightened up, with her forehand going to pieces. Venus, who has won seven Grand Slams but never in Melbourne, admitted Li was the better player.

"I think I was playing good tennis -- I don't think it has anything to do with whether I was playing good," she said. "I have to give her a lot of credit for playing well and picking her game up." Making the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time was a dream come true for the Chinese 16th seed. "It's the best day of my whole life," an exuberant Li said.

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