Novak Djokovic is Rafa Nadal’s daddy. Like the Yankees to Pedro Martinez, the Serb simply will not fall to this foe. Sunday’s Aussie Open final, possibly the best Grand Slam final of all time, is just the most recent evidence.
We’re all familiar with the match. Nearly six hours. Five sets. Sublime tennis. Unspeakable suspense. Massive…guts. There’s no need to get into the intricacies and minute details. What is important to note, though, is the fact that Djokovic could be primed for a Federer-esque run.
Djoker has now won the last three Slams and four of the last five, and he’s taken down Nadal in an astonishing seven straight finals. Can anyone stop this man? Nadal proved this week, with his four set triumph over Federer in the semis, that he is the sport’s true number two. If he can’t stop Novak, who can? The French Open is still Rafa’s Slam of choice, but Djokovic defeated him on clay in two 2011 finals. Could this be the year of the Djoker Slam? With the way he’s playing and the poise he’s showing, it would be difficult to imagine Djokovic not winning at least three Slams for the next three years. If he does that, and I do believe it’s likely, he’ll have Federer’s record in the crosshairs.
The epic final was the match of the tournament, and probably the match of the decade (although Isner/Mahut still tops my list). But there were other happenings Down Under during week two. Here goes:
- The women continue to play musical chairs with the number one spot. Victoria Azarenka’s dominant win over Maria Sharapova in the women’s final yielded the Belarusian Banshee (you like that one?) not only her first Slam title, but also the world’s number one ranking. She takes the top spot from Caroline Wozniacki, who seems destined for a career of Grand Slam semi-final losses. Here’s to hoping that Azarenka can develop some sort of foothold on the top spot, as none of her recent predecessors have been able to do. Parity does add a bit of intrigue to the women’s game, but it’s disturbing when one player can’t muster the guts to claim and hang on to the top spot. Given Azarenka’s steady rise, I think she might be here to stay.
- Leander Paes gets the last laugh. Leander who? The tennis novice might not be familiar with Paes, one of the best doubles players of all time and a 13-time Slam champ in doubles and mixed, but this was one hell of a fortnight for him. Paes is famous for his partnership with fellow Indian Mahesh Bhupathi. Together they won three Slam titles, but an ugly breakup (after a prior breakup and reconciliation) at the end of 2011 marred what was once a strong partnership (though some would argue they never liked each other). Long story short: after the pair decided to split, Bhupathi stole Paes’ new partner Rohan Bopanna, who Paes had hoped to team with at the 2012 Olympics (Bopanna will now play with Bhupathi in London). That left Paes in the lurch before the year’s first Slam, and he eventually settled on Radek Stepanek, the oddball from the Czech Republic. Bhupathi and Bopanna bowed out in the third round in Melbourne. Paes and Stepanek? They won it all, defeating the Bryan Brothers in the final and denying the American pair their twelfth Slam title. Paes also reached the mixed doubles finals, losing in three sets. The soap opera continues.
- Like Wozniacki, Murray is destined for mediocrity. By no means is Murray a “mediocre” tennis player. After all, he is number four in the world, and he took Djokovic to the limit last week, but he will never make that next step. It’s a shame, because he has turned into one of the tour’s best fighters and most ferocious competitors. But how will he make his way into the “Big 3” and win a Slam? It just doesn’t seem possible. He’ll continue to reach Slam semis, and maybe a couple more finals, but I’d be willing to bet against a triumph in the finals. Djoker, Nadal, and even Federer, are still too much to handle.
Next up is the French Open, traditionally the most unpredictable of all the Slams. Can’t wait for the snooty Parisian fans, catcalls for the Americans, and police sirens that sound like a mashup of Azarenka’s moans. Can’t we just skip to Wimbledon?