TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 – The day after. There is a feeling of emptiness in the air. The press room has been emptied and inside Melbourne Park there isn’t a piece of paper or a can lying around. It’s time to look at a few numbers from the 2015 Australian Open. From Melbourne, Robbie Cappuccio
The day after. There is a feeling of emptiness in the air, as if we were waiting for something that cannot arrive. The free trams have disappeared and so have the free shuttle service from the City to the Rod Laver Arena. The press room has been emptied and inside Melbourne Park there isn’t a piece of paper or a can lying around. We Aussies might be a bit rough around the edges, but generally we follow the rules and we have a health respect for our civic duties.
There is no mention of the men’s final on the morning papers as the match finished too late as the papers were already printing, but there re many pictures of Serena, queen for the sixth time in Melbourne. By the way, her speech during the prize giving ceremony (“I went on court with a ball, a racket and hope…”) and Maria’s (“I really love playing against her as she is the best and you want to play against the best…”) were hundreds of times more touching, genuine and interesting than those uttered by Djokovic and Murray (who denounced Djoker’s “simulation” of an injury).
It was an extravagant Slam for the colour of the tennis attire with excesses like Stabilo Boss or Peppa Pig (guess who) plus Mattek-Sands’ usual eccentricity that is in a league of it’s own.
The most significant phrase of the tournament was spoken by Vitas Gerulaitis in 1980, “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row” (referred to Gerulaitis’ encounters with Jimmy Connors), which was adapted for the Berdych-Nadal rivalry, “Nobody, not even Nadal, beats Berdych 18 times in a row”. It was also adapted for the women’s final, “Nobody, but Serena Williams, beats Masha 16 times in a row”.
Newcombe used to say that “you are only as good as your second serve”. If this is true then Murray has to worry as in the final his second serve was travelling at an average speed of 134km/h compared to Djokovic’s 158km/h. What is of bigger concern for the Scot is that both Serena (153km/h) and Masha (150km/h) were serving their second ball faster than him.
Nick Kyrgios’ nickname is “wild thing” and it isn’t just a random pick for him. Proof that he is a “wild thing” came in this tournament as he topped the list for fines. It shouldn’t be condoned, but for someone like me who grew up watching John McEnroe, these indiscretions can be forgiven. By the way the Aussie was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back and will have to take a month off from tennis.
Let’s look at some of the numbers of this record breaking tournament:
- 49 Nations were represented by the 256 players of the single’s tournaments. In the men’s draw there were 41 different nationalities with 12 of them coming from Spain. In the women’s draw there were 34 nationalities and 16 players came from the USA. 11 Australians reached the second round.
- 704 participants took part in the Australian Open 2015 considering every tournament that was played, from the men’s singles to the wheel chair events.
- The fastest serve was recorded by… Marius Copil (ROM) at 242km/h. Milos Raonic made the highest number of aces, 114.
- In the women’s draw the fastest serve was recorded by, surprise surprise, by Serena Williams at 204km/h. She even recorded the highest number of aces, 88.
- 703,899 spectators came to Melbourne Park to watch the Australian Open, 18 more than the previous record attendance registered in 2012.
- The day with the biggest attendance was the middle Saturday with 81,031 fans.
- There were 650 journalists and photographers. 296 of them from outside Australia representing 44 nations.
- The Wilson technicians restrung 4763 racquets using more than 57km of string. 71 racquets were restrung quickly during matches. Serena has also the record for the most racquets restrung, 86.
- 360 umpires and line judges, plus Hawk-Eye, were used in the tournament from 34 different countries.
- 380 ball-kids were at Melbourne Park for the fortnight. 327 came from the state of Victoria, 25 from the rest of Australia, 20 from Korea, 6 from China and 2 from Singapore.
- 8412 members of staff, both contracted and voluntary, worked behind the scenes
The Australian Open is a family event. On the last day of the qualifying tournament, Saturday 17th of January, there was Kids Tennis Day with 14500 kids and parents (among them myself with wife and daughter) were treated to a clash between team Dora and team Spongebob. The two teams were formed by the likes of Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka, Eugenie Bouchard and the Aussie duo of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. But that wasn’t it, more than 7000 kids, with their parents, visited the Disney area during the last three days of the event.
The Hisense Arena was quickly transformed in a small Disneyland where the kids could see characters from Cars, or go to the Frozen inspired world with a pile of snow and a karaoke. What to do to attract the young ones to tennis? Set up a Disney zone and give a free racquet to kids when they walk in and ask for information (just ask, they didn’t have to sign up to anything!) about the Hot Shots program. If you increase the numbers of kids playing it is easier to find the Kyrgios’ and Kokkinakis’ (by the way watch out for Violet Apisah and Destanee Aiava who are both 14 years old, but are competing and beating 17 year olds).
And finally some “digital” numbers. Before the men’s final the ausopen.com site received 13.5 million separate users.
The most clicked player profiles were Madison Keys (212,748), Eugenie Bouchard (198,381), Serena Williams (195,585), Maria Sharapova (176,404) and Ekaterina Makarova (129,614).
Amongst the men Nick Kyrgios was the most clicked (208,863), followed by Novak Djokovic (180,102), Rafael Nadal (159,683), Roger Federer (153,255) and Andy Murray (128,000), that is the Fab Four and… Jimmy Hendrix?
With one big event finished the preparation for another is getting underway. Next to my house work has started for the F1 Grand Prix, so I am off to take my Ferrari flag out of the cupboard.
Petra Kvitova Powers Past Dodin At Roland Garros
Petra Kvitova sealed her place in the second round with a strong win over Oceane Dodin.
Petra Kvitova sealed her place at the second round of Roland Garros by powering past Oceane Dodin 6-3 7-5.
The Czech Republican took advantage of the indoor conditions as she hit 29 winners in the match.
Despite Dodin’s impressive level in the second set, Kvitova raised her game to seal victory.
Round two will see Kvitova take on Aliona Bolsova or Jasmine Paolini.
The two-time grand slam champion approached Roland Garros, with limited expectations after admitting that clay isn’t her most comfortable surface.
An agonising fourth round defeat to Shelby Rogers at the US Open would also put into perspective how tough it is to win a grand slam.
However her first round match against Oceane Dodin couldn’t have started any better as in the first set, she was irresistible on serve.
Only losing two points on her serve and none on her first serve was the ideal start as the indoor conditions on Chatrier suited her game.
Hitting aces and winners for fun signalled positive signs for the Czech Republican as she looked to make a statement early in the tournament.
However her French opponent took the match to Kvitová in the opening stages on serve as she showed moments of power especially with the backhand.
Constructing the points well, Dodin found comfort on her serve but was unable to produce any of these qualities in her return game.
As Kvitová continued to target the Dodin forehand, more unforced errors were produced as the 7th seed eventually found the crucial break in the eighth game.
A comfortable service hold sealed an impressive set for Kvitová, 6-3 in 30 minutes.
The second set saw both players trade breaks to start the set as Dodin started to raise her level.
More power and more accuracy with her shots saw the Frenchwoman find rhythm with her play as she took more risks.
Although Kvitová was inconsistent, Dodin continued to trouble the big-serving Czech as an entertaining match was evolving.
In order to stop the momentum, Kvitová shortened the points by going to the net and varying up her tactics.
Eventually Kvitová managed to pile on the pressure when it mattered most as a crucial break in the eleventh game was greeted with a huge roar.
An entertaining match met its climax as a powerful Kvitová forehand volley sealed victory in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
A good opening round performance from Kvitová in what was a tricky second set against Dodin who raised her level.
In round two, Kvitová will meet Aliona Bolsova or Jasmine Paolini.
Is Andy Murray’s French Open Crushing A Blip Or A Sign Of Things To Come?
Murray was nowhere near his best but how much should be read into his latest defeat?
When the draw for the French Open men’s tournament took place there was one first round match that caught everybody’s attention.
Andy Murray was pitched to play against Stan Wawrinka in what would be their 21st clash on the Tour and a repeat of the 2017 semi-finals. Some went as far as billing it as the match to see on the opening day of the 2020 Championships but in reality it turned out to be a let down. Leaving Murray facing some uncomfortable questions.
The showdown of the Grand Slam winners concluded with Wawrinka comprehensively winning 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, in exactly 100 minutes. Although amazingly almost a quarter (23 minutes) of that match took place over the first three games. Murray was nowhere to be seen, lacked his fiery passion and seemed to almost admit defeat before it had even happened.
“I need to have a long, hard think. It’s not for me the sort of match I would just brush aside and not give any thought to,” Murray said after.
“There are obviously reasons behind a performance like that. I think that’s probably in terms of scoreline, I might be wrong, but I think that’s maybe the worst of my career in a Grand Slam.’
“I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it. I don’t feel like that’s a valid reason, maybe to not enjoy the matches as much when it’s like that, but not in terms of it shouldn’t affect your performance in any way.”
Amid the concern it is important to put Murray’s latest match into some context. His clash with Wawrinka on clay was the first time he has played a competitive match on the surface since 2017 at the same event. Coincidentally it was also against Wawrinka but in the semi-final stage. Since then he has undergone two hip surgeries and at one stage contemplated walking away from the sport for good.
The Brit is known and respected for his fighting spirit on the Tour but in reality is the curtain starting to slowly come down on his illustrious career?
“There have been matches that I have played since I came back where I hit the ball well. I know it wasn’t the best match at times, but (Alexander) Zverev was a couple of points away from winning the US Open, and I won against him the week beforehand,” an upbeat Murray reflected.
“It’s going to be difficult for me to play the same level as I did before. I mean, I’m 33 now and I was ranked No. 1 in the world, so it’s difficult with all the issues that I have had.”
Undoubtedly Murray still has the tools to threaten others on the ATP Tour but when it comes to best-of-five matches there is more uncertainty. Since 2018 he has only been able to play singles in four Grand Slam events due to injury setbacks and hasn’t won back-to-back matches at any of those. Leaving the question of where does he go from here?
Potentially he could try to change his game in some way or even consider playing just doubles at Grand Slams which he did at Wimbledon last year. Although Murray is stubborn and rarely gives in when he is facing adversity. For him, the plan is to make the most out of what he has and hope for the best.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for me to change at this stage in my career, even though it’s something I have considered and looked at,” he said.
“When I play my best tennis of being an offensive baseliner that’s what I need to make sure I am doing.
“I need to play better to allow me to play the right way.”
It remains to be seen what will happen to Murray in the coming months. Although he can seek solace in the continued support from his peers which Wawrinka emphasised during his press conference.
“Andy won everything that you can win in tennis. He was No.1. He had an amazing career. He’s been back now after having hip surgery. Nobody expected him to come back on the tour. He’s getting back, he’s an amazing champion and it’s always going to be special to play against him,” the Swiss player concluded.
Unfortunately the chances of Murray expanding his Grand Slam trophy collection are slim at present. He could prove critics wrong like he has done with his hip recovery but it could be argued that this would be an even greater achievement.
Murray is down, but not quite out just yet.
‘Be Prepared For The Worst’ – Blustery French Open Draws Concern From Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sakkari
The women’s seeds kicked-off their Roland Garros bid with straight-sets wins but voiced their concerns about the conditions in Paris shortly afterwards.
Victoria Azarenka made a dream start to her French Open campaign on Sunday despite mounting concerns over the conditions at this year’s tournament.
The 10th seed eased to a 6-1, 6-2, win over Montenegro’s Danka Kovinić but the talking point of that match was mother nature. Three games in Azarenka and her rival walked off the court after expressing unhappiness about the rain. Tournament official, Claire Wood, asked the former world No.1 to remain on the court until a decision was made by the referee’s office but she proceeded to walk off anyway.
“I think my opponent slipped a bit in the third game so she was also feeling a bit uncomfortable. I just asked are we still going to continue to play. Then Claire told me if I am willing to wait a little bit longer until the drizzle stops. I said absolutely not because I don’t see the point in sitting on the court when it’s eight degrees,” Azarenka told reporters after.
“I know, the conditions are the same for everybody.
“It’s very tricky at the moment with the conditions and I am not going to sit here and complain but sometimes I think there are smarter ways to handle the situation.“
Despite the mini break it did little to disrupt the momentum of the US Open semi-finalist who won nine out of 11 games played when she returned to action. Overall Azarenka won 79% of her first service points and didn’t face a single break point throughout.
This year’s French Open is taking place later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore the climate is much cooler. On top of that officials at the tournament have decided to change the ball to Wilson in a move that some players say is heavier to hit and slower.
“When you play at eight degrees it’s tough. There are adjustments you have to do. We can only predict if it is going to happen. Does it increase the risk of players getting injured? Absolutely,” Azarenka commented.
“Right now, I try to focus on what to do on the court and not what is not good.”
Azarenka is not alone in expressing her reservations. 20th seed Maria Sakkari said she hadn’t played in such conditions ‘for a long time’ following her 6-0, 7-5, win over Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović. The Greek number one overcame a patchy run of form during the second set by winning four games in a row from 3-5 down to move into the next round.
“It’s something that we are not used to. Personally, I haven’t played in these conditions for a long time. Not even practising. I think it is tough for everyone,” she said.
“It’s not nice to play in these conditions but we are professionals and are lucky to be playing here.
We have to just get used to them.”
The cold weather does elevate the risk of potential injuries occurring to players at Roland Garros which many are wary about. Although Sakarri is taking it all in her stride before admitting that she is prepared for the worst case scenario just in case.
“Warm up well and take good care of your body. It’s not the best conditions you can play but you just have to be mentally prepared for the worst,” she stated.
It was always inevitable that such situations were going to happen given the time of year the tournament is taking place. But some are wondering if Roland Garros should have go on at all this year?
“I wouldn’t particularly say so because I do believe that I want to play. We all want to compete and we want to play,” Azarenka weighed in on the debate.
“I think that there should have been better adjustments,maybe a little bit more consulting and heads up and conversation. I think that’s where we can improve, for sure.”
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