Complete list of Champions
Serbia Novak Djokovic
United States Serena Williams
Italy Simone Bolelli / Italy Fabio Fognini
United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Czech Republic Lucie Šafářová
Switzerland Martina Hingis / India Leander Paes
Russia Roman Safiullin
Slovakia Tereza Mihalíková
Australia Jake Delaney / Australia Marc Polmans
Czech Republic Miriam Kolodziejová / Czech Republic Markéta Vondroušová
Wheelchair Men's Singles
Japan Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Singles
Netherlands Jiske Griffioen
Wheelchair Quad Singles
Australia Dylan Alcott
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
France Stéphane Houdet / Japan Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Japan Yui Kamiji / United Kingdom Jordanne Whiley
Wheelchair Quad Doubles
United Kingdom Andrew Lapthorne / United States David Wagner
The first of the year major was ser up to be a showcase of New Guard vs the Old Guard with a couple of big exeptions. You had Madison Keys living up to the potential I for one thought she had despite and maybe because of the lack of hype around her.On the men's side there were those who thought Grigor Dimitrov would show the potential that's been ascribed to him by many who follow tennis. Instead he showed exactly why he's not quite ready to snatch the mantle of superstardom from the now reconsituted Big Four of men's tennis. The much hyped Eugenie Bouchard showed that she may be able to beat up on lower ranked players with her stunningly ugly brand of tennis but when faced with one of the top players she's got nothing and can barely think her way through a point let alone a game. Surprisingly Simona Halep crumbled as well. Maybe she needs to look beyond her country and hire a coach who has been where she wants to go. The same can be said of Bouchard's countryman Milos Raonic. With little to no game outside of his serve and basically unable to move while many think he's leading the charge for the future right now he's nothing more than a servebot.
As my friend and fellow blogger @Bridgepea pointed out on Twitter the Grand Slam channel for the US ESPN chose an interesting way to promote the women's singles final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Before discussing their Final let's look back at the road both women took to get there, starting with the fact that Serena was sick the entire two weeks. At times it sounded as if she were going to hack up a lung. I thought it sounded like a pneumonia cough but I read it's bronchitis. As the top seed Serena anchored the top of the draw. She faced a veritable Murderer's row of players in her part of the draw. Yes Vera Zvonareva was just coming back and Serena should've run over her but like most players Vera elevated her game against Serena and played a spirited first set before Serena figured out what she was doing and romped in the second set.
After Vera came Elina Svitolina one of the up and comers who won the first set over Serena before Serena once again saw what she was doing and won the next two sets easily. Then came Garbiñe Muguruza who boasted a win over Serena and not much else coming into Melbourne. Once again the World Number One dropped a set and looked down and out but she came back and won. Notice the pattern so far?
Many expected Dominika Cibulkova to give Serena a hard time but Serena won in straight sets playing aggressively despite still showing signs of illness.
The big match for Serena would be against Madison Keys who won out over a reinvigorated Venus Williams in three hard fought sets. In hindsight this match was the true women's final. There was the amazing first set that Serena won in a tiebreak to five and the second set where Serena ran up a 5-1 lead and saw Madison fight off nine or ten match points before Serena won the set and match 6-2. The final would be fought between Serena and Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova faced Petra Martic (unseeded), Alexandra Panova, also unseeded but who came very close to eliminating Sharapova from the tournament before she blinked and lost the third set 5-7. Next came the number 31 seed Zarina Diyas who had nothing to bother her with, followed by the number 21 seed Peng Shuai, again nothing to bother Sharapova with, and then the match the WTA and US commentators felt would be the match of the tournament where Eugenie Bouchard would face Maria Sharapova. The only player who had a softer draw than Sharapova was Bouchard who romped through a group of players including Irina-Camellia Begu who had created a bit of buzz on her way to facing Bouchard and who seemed to forget how the game is played. She did take a set off of the WTA Golden Girl but otherwise went away meekly.
So THE FUTURE faced THE PAST and it was supposed to be a battle royal between two equally matched players. You have to wonder what Bouchard the comms were watching because frankly it was never in doubt that Sharapova was not going to lose because in the end Bouchard doesn't have the game or experience to defeat her. The match was a very routine straight set win.
After Bouchard came Ekaterina Makarova, newly arrived in the top ten who sent Simona Halep home with a surprisingly easy win over her. The same Makarova who played relentless tennis up to the semi final seemed confused on court, which is the most charitable way to describe how she played, or rather did not play.
By this time the press had worked itself into a lather predicting that Sharapova would finally win a match against Serena. It was obvious that Serena was still ill but even pale and coughing violently Serena was not going to lose to Sharapova. When it became obvious, even in the second set where Sharapova fought back to force a tiebreak, that that woman with the toughest will was surnamed Williams and that once again she would defeat the woman some want to see as her arch rival despite their head to head. That the ESPN promo featured "four time GS winner Maria Sharapova" vs Serena Williams (who didn't get her GS total mentioned at all) says where the media was for this match. Serena has fulfilled the prophecy of her father who said that between his two daughters his youngest would be The One.
The men's tournament also saw an unbalanced draw. The top seed got a cakewalk to the Final and I don't think anyone can dispute that. The bottom half of the draw was where all the drama and competition was.
I have to say that all the snide remarks by members of the British press and former players who don't have a Grand Slam to their name against Andy Murray need to sit down. Murray, under coach Amélie Mauresmo, is once again one of the Big Four. If you saw any of his match vs Grigor Dimitrov you saw how well he can play and the subtle changes Mauresmo has made in his game. Murray next faced Tomas Berdych who badly wanted to add the scalp of another top player to his belt. Instead in another long match Murray fought off the physical and psychological pressure (thug tactics) Berdych was using. At one point I thought the two would come to blows.
Oh yeah I forgot that Murray played Australian Nick Kyrgios, another future great according to the hype machine defeating him in three sets including one tiebreak set.
So meanwhile his opponent in the Final romped even defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
I will admit that I didn't watch the match so I can only talk about what I read afterwards. The first reports I read made it seem as if Murray just wasn't up to the task of defeating the current World Number One. It was much later in the day that reports began to surface about how Novak Djokovic went back to his faking ways stumbling around and actually falling to the ground during the third set. As the cries of "Fakervic" began to swell in his post match pressure Djokovic said when asked about cramping said he never said he was cramping. What was he doing falling down and stumbling around then? The answer made no sense.
Murray is known for grabbing various body parts when matches get tense and Djokovic's defenders cite this as proof that their man did nothing more than Murray does during a tight match. That this went over like a lead balloon is proved by Djokovic talking about wanting a chance to sit down and talk with Murray about any "issues" between them in the wake of the Men's Final. The article posted on " Tennis.com got very little play in tennis media outlets.
If you notice Djokovic does not practice his acting against two players and two players only. He desperately wants their respect and recognition I guess and Murray is simply one of the "others". Before the start of the Open John McEnroe was asking why Djokovic is not loved like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. He has only to look at this match to understand why.
End Notes - Australian Open Edition
Overall I thought that the rise of the the New Jacks is still a ways off. The hype machines for various players worked overtime to make sure their particular player was part of the second week conversation and the draw somewhat aided them in that wish. In the end though tennis stars are made on the court and looking at it that way the New Jacks are still not ready for Prime Time. The technical skills the established players have, the mental fortitude, the willingness to play to the point of fatigue and then play some more is just not there in the younger generation. When Dimitrov threw his racquet in his match against Murray he announced that the match was over, that he had no more ideas, nothing more to offer. He had left his all on the court and the match wasn't even done yet. Bouchard's inability to even do the gracioius thing at the net after her loss to Sharapova is yet another example of not being ready. During Serena's on court speech after winning the Final Sharapova was at least able to look in her direction even though you know she was raging inside. A professional knows how to deal with victory as well as defeat. We've been fortunate to be tennis fans during the last few years. After 2016 I don't know what we'll be subjected to. Hype does not make for great tennis.
Serena Returns to Indian Wells
This is big news. In a first person narrative in Time Magazine Serena explains her decision.
When I arrived at Indian Wells in 2001, I was looking to take another title. I was ready. But however ready I was, nothing could have prepared me for what happened in the final. As I walked out onto the court, the crowd immediately started jeering and booing. In my last match, the semifinals, I was set to play my sister, but Venus had tendinitis and had to pull out. Apparently that angered many fans. Throughout my whole career, integrity has been everything to me. It is also everything and more to Venus. The false allegations that our matches were fixed hurt, cut and ripped into us deeply. The undercurrent of racism was painful, confusing and unfair. In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid.
For all their practice, preparation and confidence, even the best competitors in every sport have a voice of doubt inside them that says they are not good enough. I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.
Congratulations to Larry Ellison who made it clear that one of his goals was to bring the Williams family back to Indian Wells when he bought the tournament. It almost happened last year but this year it looks as if it will really happen. There are some Serena fans who will be disappointed at her decision and I understand where they're coming from. The boycott has served its purpose and maybe it is time for this chapter of tennis history, a very painful one, to be closed. The pressure is now on the people of that part of California. Let's hope they handle themselves better than they did fourteen years ago.