MELBOURNE – The championship match wasn’t always of the highest standard, but the fifth set was absolutely unforgettable. Roger managed to implement the right game plan, while Rafa didn’t. Federer’s backhand proved to be the key shot that decided the match.
Federer’s fans must be on cloud nine today, while Nadal’s supporters can’t be too disappointed. At the end of the day, the wonderful sport of tennis was the true winner at this year’s Australian Open. The main concern before this final between the two greatest champions of the last decade was that the match wouldn’t have lived up to its expectations. We were afraid that the final could have been decided in straight sets or one of the contestants could have retired from the match due to injury. We were dreaming about an emotional five set match and at the end we were gifted one for the ages. Federer’s incredible win marks his first Grand Slam title in four and a half years, precisely 1666 days after prevailing over Andy Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon final. It is also Roger’s first win in a major final over his nemesis Rafael Nadal since the 2007 Wimbledon championship, almost 10 years ago.
Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka still remain three of the main contenders for the rest of the season, while Nadal will probably be the man to beat at Roland Garros. With this Australian Open title though, Roger is back in the mix and could eventually clinch Grand Slam title No. 19 at Wimbledon – a tournament that the Swiss star has already won an astonishing seven times. Federer also has five Australian Opens, one French Open and five US Opens in his extraordinary trophy cabinet. It will be interesting to see how Nadal will bounce back from this unexpected defeat against his longtime rival, but you can almost rest assured that the Mallorca native will do some damage on his beloved clay – from Monte-Carlo to Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and eventually Paris. Despite flying under the radar with very little expectation early in the tournament, Nadal took major strides and slowly became one of the favorites as the Australian Open progressed. Many depicted him as the favorite in the final against Federer, especially in a long five set match.
Despite the fact that the quality of play wasn’t always the greatest, the championship match gave us so many emotions that it will definitely go down in history as a classic. It was a see-saw match with the first set decided by only one break, while all of the other sets were full of ups and downs from both players. Nadal went up 4-0 in the second set and clinched it 6-3, then Federer convincingly conquered the third 6-1. In the fourth Nadal broke early and defended his lead until he wrapped up the set 6-3. The Spaniard looked on his way to his 15th Grand Slam title when he went up 3-1 in the fifth and decisive set. At that point nobody could predict that Rafa would lose five games in a row, instead the Swiss maestro refused to throw in the towel and staged a spectacular comeback with a sequence of extraordinary shots and breathtaking rallies that drove the crowd into a frenzy and kept everybody on the edge of their seats.
At 35 years of age, Federer has now become the oldest Grand Slam winner since Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open when he was 37 years-old. Roger is also the fourth player in the Open Era to have beaten four of the first ten seeds en route to victory; last time that it happened was in 1982 when 17-year-old Mats Wilander won at Roland Garros.
Roger tactically played a superb match, especially with his backhand. He decided not to slice too many backhands and opted for a flatter shot that produced an enormous amount of winners and often caught Rafa off guard. On the other hand, Rafa made the mistake of setting up the rallies with fast counterpunching shots and rarely forced Federer to hit any backhands above his shoulders. Nadal was trying to hit too flat instead of using his nasty top spin that had caused Roger so many problems in the past. In that regard, the quick hard-court definitely played to Federer’s advantage. Nadal’s return position was also too far back behind the baseline allowing Roger to produce a remarkable 20 aces, most of which came on crucial break points. Rafa was standing so far back that he often found it difficult to cut the angle in the service box whenever Roger was hitting his serve out wide.
Hopefully this is not the last major final that these two extraordinary champions have contested in their careers. This year’s Australian Open championship match was definitely the best advertisement that the sport of tennis could hope for.
(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com)
Does WTA Need A Top Rivalry To Drive The Sport?
Iga Swiatek is the WTA’s dominant world number one but does she need a rival in order to drive the sport to new heights.
The WTA has a dominant world number one and a variety of talented players on the tour but the one thing it’s lacking at the moment is a top rivalry.
First of all it was supposed to be Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, then Ash Barty and Osaka and also Barty and Iga Swiatek.
However none of these match-ups created a top rivalry over a long period to generate an overwhelming amount of interest.
After Barty’s shock retirement, many people were left disappointed at the fact that her and current dominant world number one Iga Swiatek could not compete for the sport’s biggest titles in a fierce rivalry.
Now Swiatek sits at the top of the WTA rankings with almost a 4,000 point lead at the top. The rest of the field are very talented and that in itself is an intriguing aspect of the WTA’s appeal.
But the one thing the women’s game lacks is a top rivalry to generate a hype that the ATP clearly has right now.
As Mark Petchey said it’s an issue that needs solving soon as every sport has one, “Rivalries drive the sport. What they do is make sure that it manifests itself in a big polarisation of a large fan base, against another one,” Petchey was quoted as saying by Tennis365.
“You look across the board, over F1, look at the tribal nature of AFL, of Premier League football here. It’s a huge part of what you need to have a successful sport. That is the one thing that is missing from the women’s tour at the moment, is a superb rivalry, with a little bit of edge.
“That’s why I say I’m sad that Ash pulled up stumps, because I think that rivalry could’ve developed with Iga in that way. Would it have been quite as intense as the Rafa-Novak and Roger-Novak rivalries? Probably not. But it would have been there. Going into every major saying that you’re not looking forward to a specific clash potentially when the draw comes out, does hurt the tour a little bit.
“You can’t keep saying ‘oh, anyone can win it’. Because you’re just not tagging anybody… you’re not setting the scene for something amazing that’s going to happen, a nice little volcanic eruption right at the back-end of a major. They need some people to be a bit more consistent and getting through, because that’s what will be a massive driver for the WTA.”
It’s hard to argue with those points of view from Petchey as rivalries are what are talked about for decades after players have retired.
It will be interesting to see whether Swiatek will continue to dominate the rest of the field or whether someone can build a rivalry with the Pole heading into the remainder of the season.
The next big WTA event of the year will take place at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on the week of the eighth of August.
Why Celebrating LGBT+ Pride Month In Tennis Matters
Besides the fancy rainbow-coloured clothing that is worn, there is a far more important reason.
June is when players switch their focus from the clay to grass in order to tune up their preparations ahead of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. But for some linked to the sport this month is also significant for another reason.
It is LGBT pride month which is an initiative that was originally created as a way to mark the Stonewall Riots which began on June 28th 1969 in New York. A series of protests took place in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn which was the catalyst in the fight for equal rights among the LGBT community. In the UK the first pride March was held in 1972 and today there are more than 100 events in the country annually.
Today Pride is about promoting equality in the world with various organizations taking part, including tennis. The British Lawn Tennis Association has gotten more involved this year by hosting a series of Pride Days at their ATP and WTA events. They have taken place on the Friday of tournaments in Nottingham, Birmingham and Queen’s. The final one is taking place this Friday in Eastbourne.
“We still live in a time when people don’t always feel like they can be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, so the more we can do to show support and let them know everything is ok the better,’ British player Liam Broady recently said.
Some may wonder as to if Pride events such as these are necessary in tennis considering it is 2022 and lives for LGBT people have improved considerably over the years. However, there is still work to be done. One study called OUTSPORT found that 90% of LGBT+ respondents believe that homophobia and transphobia is a problem in sport and 33% remain closeted in their own sporting context. Another study conducted in recent years is Out On The Fields which found almost eight out of 10 respondents felt that an openly gay person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event. Obviously, these findings vary depending on the sport and the country, but it still illustrates the seriousness of the subject.
In tennis, the WTA Tour has seen various LGBT role models triumph at the very top. Both Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova were some of the very first professional athletes to come out publicly during the 1980s which was a decade when misinformation about the Aids crises lead to the stigmation of the gay community. King said she lost all of her endorsements within 24 hours after being outed in 1981 and that was before the Aids crisis erupted. Navratilova also experienced similar misfortunes.
“The WTA was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity, along with positivity and progress, and wholeheartedly supports and encourages players, tournaments, partners and fans’ commitment to LGBT+ initiatives,” the WTA told UbiTennis last week.
“The WTA supports LGBT+ projects across the tennis family, such as amplifying our athletes’ voices on this topic through the Tour’s global platforms, increasing awareness by incorporating the LGBT+ spirit into our wider corporate identity, among many other initiatives.”
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) tells UbiTennis the sport has a ‘proud history of advocating social change.’ The organization oversees the running of all junior events, Davis Cup, Billie Jean King Club and the Olympic tennis events.
“Inclusion is one of the ITF’s core values and a pillar of the ITF 2024 strategy. Tennis as a sport has a proud history of advocating social justice and instigating change. Within the tennis community, we embrace the LGBTQ community and full support any initiative, such as the celebration of Pride Month, that continues the conversation and furthers progress in ensuring sport and society are free from bias and discrimination in any form. There is always more that can be done, and we will continue to make every effort to ensure that all our participants, our employees and fans feel welcome, included, and respected day in, day out.” The ITF said in a statement.
Whilst the women’s Tour has had plenty of LGBT role models, it is different on the men’s circuit. At present there is no openly gay player in men’s tennis where around 2000 people have an ATP ranking. In recent months the governing body has looked into making the Tour more inclusive. Last year they reached out to Lou Englefield, the director of Pride Sports, a UK organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+phobia in sport and aims to improve access to sport for all LGBTQ+ people. Through their connection, they contacted Eric Denison, a behavioural science researcher at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences. Monash University supplied the ATP with a series of scientifically validated questions, which they used to ‘look under the hood’ at the factors which supports a culture where gay or bisexual players feel they are not welcome.
It has been over nine months since news of the survey taking place emerged but the findings are still to be published. In an email to Ubitennis, the ATP confirmed that they are ‘finalizing their next steps’ and will be making an announcement shortly. They acknowledge that the survey process has taken longer than expected but it is unclear as to why.
As for those who may be experiencing difficulty in their personal lives regarding their sexuality, Brian Vahaly has his own advice which he shared with Ubitennis last year. Vahaly is a former top 100 player who came out as gay after retiring from the sport.
“Find somebody to talk to, somebody you trust. Know that people like us are there if you have questions. It’s just nice to have somebody to talk to who can help you learn about yourself,” he said.
“What I try to do is in terms of putting my family forward is that we live a pretty ‘normal life.’ I have two kids, I have a house and I walked my kids to preschool this morning. It doesn’t have to be such a defining characteristic of who you are. In the sports world, it feels that it is magnified, but what I want to show is that you can have a great athletic career, meet somebody and have a family no matter your sexuality.”
Pride is as much about making sports such as tennis an open environment for everyone as it is about marking a series of historic protests which took place in America more than 40 years ago.
It’s Unfair, Rafa Is Too Good In Roland Garros Final
James Beck reflects on Nadal’s latest triumph at Roland Garros.
This one was almost unfair.
It was like Rafa Nadal giving lessons to one of his former students at the Nadal academy back home in Mallorca.
When this French Open men’s singles final was over in less than two hours and a half, Rafa celebrated, of course. But he didn’t even execute his usual championship ritual on Court Philippe Chatrier of falling on his back on the red clay all sprawled out.
This one was that easy for the 36-year-old Spanish left-hander. He yielded only six games.
It certainly didn’t have the characteristics of his many battles at Roland Garros with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
It must have been a bit shocking to the packed house of mostly Rafa fans.
RAFA DIDN’T MISS ‘HIS SHOT’ OFTEN
Nadal didn’t miss many of his patented shots such as his famed reverse cross-court forehand. He was awesome at times. Young 23-year-old Casper Ruud must have realized that by the middle of the second set when Rafa started on his amazing 11-game winning streak to finish off a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory.
Ruud is good. The Norway native will win his share of ATP titles, but probably not many Grand Slam titles. If any, at least until Rafa goes away to a retirement, certainly on his island of Mallorca.
Rafa already has his own statue on the grounds of Roland Garros. Perhaps, Mallorca should be renamed Rafa Island.
RUUD COULDN’T HANDLE RAFA’S PRESSURE
Ruud displayed a great forehand at times to an open court. But when Rafa applied his usual pressure to the corners Ruud’s forehand often went haywire.
Rafa’s domination started to show in the third set as Ruud stopped chasing Nadal’s wicked reverse cross-court forehands.
Ruud simply surrendered the last three games while Nadal yielded only three points. Nadal finished it off with a sizzling backhand down the line. In the end, nice guy, good sport and former student Ruud could only congratulate Rafa.
JOHNNY MAC: RAFA ‘INSANELY GOOD’
The great John McEnroe even called Nadal’s overall perfection “insanely good.”
If Iga Swiatek’s 6-1, 6-3 win in Saturday’s women’s final over young Coco Gauff was a mismatch, Iga’s tennis idol staged a complete domination of Ruud a day later.
It appears that the only thing that can slow Rafa down is his nearly always sore left foot, not his age. He won his first French Open final 17 years ago.
For Nadal to win a 22nd Grand Slam title to take a 22-20-20 lead over his friends and rivals Djokovic and Federer is mind-boggling, but not as virtually unbelievable as winning a 14th French Open title.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
‘Super Confident’ Nick Kyrgios Admits Admiration for Medvedev Ahead Of Clash
Bianca Andreescu survives thrilling match against Kasatkina in Toronto return
Denis Shapovalov ousted by Alex De Minaur in Montreal
Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios
Serena Williams Set To Retire From Tennis
Greatest Of All Time Honor Between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, Says Robredo
Inspired By Andy Murray, Citi Open Chief Pledges To Donate Funds To Ukrainian Appeal
Match fixing: according to ZDF Karatsev and Basilashvili are involved
How Two Top 50 Players Accused Of Match-Fixing Have Responded To The Allegations
Andy Murray Targets US Open Seeding After Early Exit From Washington
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Elena Rybakina’s Wimbledon Win Was Good But The Level Wasn’t Great
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE): Novak Djokovic Battles Past Norrie, Faces Kyrgios In The Final
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Care How Much Pain He’s In, He Gets The Job Done
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) The Wimbledon Clash Between Djokovic And Sinner Could Have Been Better
Hot Topics3 days ago
(VIDEO) Roger Federer’s Promise On His 41st Birthday
Latest news2 days ago
Emma Raducanu Unfazed By Possibility Of Big Rankings Drop At US Open
Hot Topics3 days ago
‘I Have Reinvented Myself’ – Nick Kyrgios Does The Double At The Citi Open
Focus3 days ago
Resilient Daria Kasatkina Shuts Out The Critics To Win Silicon Valley Classic
Hot Topics2 days ago
Serena Williams Admits Retirement Is Nearing After National Bank Open Win
ATP2 days ago
Canada Daily Preview: Andreescu, Osaka, Raducanu Face Formidable Opposition
Hot Topics2 days ago
Neutral Status Changes Nothing For World No.1 Daniil Medvedev
ATP2 days ago
6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?