Friday, January 25, 2008

Change in the Cast of Champions

The cast of characters in the Championship pool of the first Grand Slam Tennis Tournament has changed dramatically. The 2008 Australian Open has closed another chapter in the reign of both Men and Women's divisions who have dominated the sport. What was being touted as a Venus Williiams versus sister Serena finals is way off the baseline; and an anticipated new episode in the storied rivalry of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Men's division is better suited for another tournament. None of these four athletes made it to the Aussie Open finals.

Maria Sharapova, the 20 year old Russian who was the youngest Wimbledon Champion in 2004 at 17, has just captured the 2008 Australian Open Women's Division title after routing Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-3 for her third grand slam title. Sharapova won the US Open in 2006. Venus Williams was taken out by Ivanovic in the quarterfinal match; while Serena Williams was defeated by Jelena Jancovic , also of Serbia, a day earlier.

Number 2 ranked Rafael Nadal bowed to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, an unseeded Frenchman and a Muhammad Ali lookalike, in their semifinal match 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. The Frenchman's feat comes off a series of injuries since 2004, causing him to play in only 8 tournaments each in 2005 and 2006. It has taken him only 5 majors to play in his first final.

Number 1 seeded Roger Federer lost his semifinal match to Novak Djokovic, another Serbian athlete, via a rout 7-5, 6-3, 7-6. The Men's Finals will be contested by Tsonga and Djokovic.

The exacting sport that it is, tennis usually retires its best players before reaching age 30. This actually began when power plays came to the fore in the era of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Since then, Tennis has always been for the young and the powerful. The 2008 Australian Open missed the booming serves of Venus, the powerful returns of Serena, the ground strokes of Nadal, and the once heralded invincibility of Federer. Younger and more talented players have taken over and the dominance of the Williams sisters, together with Nadal and Federer has come to a close. They will undoubtedly still win tournaments, but the mantle of "unbeatability" no longer threatens new players. The continuous arrival of new athletes who bring new elements into the game, on or off the court, improves the sport endlessly. This is one reason it remains a popular sport and a passport to fame and fortune.

Maria Sharapova's triumphant effort vindicates her trashing last year in the finals of this same tournament losing 6-1, 6-2 to unseeded and ranked 81 Serena Williams. The nightmare of that loss kept her going until this opportunity came. She has played and practiced with Ivanovic in the past but has never thought of playing against her in a finals match. It is possible that Ana Ivanovic is starting to recover and seek vindication for her final loss to Sharapova. That could materialize anywhere between now and next year's Australian Open. She could be hoping for a title in this same tournament or a demolishing of Sharapova, whichever comes first or sweetest.

This is the way it is in the evolution of Champions. The cycle continues...



angesbiz said...

I like that French man Tsonga, and he does have an uncanny resemblance to Muhammad Ali doesn't he. I am not sure whether I will get to watch the Final's match, however, it will be on in the background. All these new players coming to the fore and taking up this great challenge to win the Aussie Open is fantastic.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Angesbiz, I like him better than Nadal and Djokovic too. Muhammad Ali was and still is my Idol.

I've been following his career which was on and off for sometime. He also has a nice demeanor on and off the court. Tennis marches on with a new set of Champions.

You should watch the Men's finals. History may be made tomorrow! --Durano, done!