Sunday, January 27, 2008

Djokovic Wins Australian Open

Novak Djokovic defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2) to win his first major title. At 20, he becomes the youngest men's singles champion Down Under and only the 50th man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam singles title.


Frank said...

I think Tsonga had the chance to win while Djokovic felt uncomfortable about his left leg; however, he made too many unforced errors.

Anyway, I think Djokovic is so respectbale. When he felt sick, he changed his strategy to defeat Tsonga. Tsonga must learn the lesson. I like both Djokovic and Tsonga and will notice their behavior in the future.

oddman said...

I only saw snippets (too late for me, I should be 'oldman', not oddman) but I didn't see the same intensity and shotmaking from the Frenchman as I did in his semi against Rafa. Whether that was due to Djoko's play or not, I figured if Tsonga wasn't playing with the same skill he wasn't going to win.

So the Serb has his first slam title - congrats to Nole. And big congrats to Tsonga for a great run, I hope things go well for this very fun-to-watch competitor.

Dan Scarlett said...

Hi Craig,
I know you were rooting for Tsonga, and disappointed he dsidn't make history (he will!), but I'm enjoying the smile on your face because
a) Fed's nemesis, Djoko, won(we can imagine the look on Fed's face!)
b) Tsonga played well, and his attitude makes him a winner in any case!

tangerine said...

Djokovic becomes the youngest male AO champion (Jim Courier was 22 when he won AO) and the first Serbian slam title winner. Novak will be a hero in his country so if you think he's unbearable now, just wait.

I believe this is also the first slam where the semifinalists (men and women) were all European. Tennis is officially globalized.

More bad news for American tennis: this was the first time in the Open era where no American man or women (singles or doubles) made it past the QFs of a slam. Maybe we should stick to team competitions, we seem to perform better there.

Tsonga becomes the first black French slam finalist since Yannick Noah in 1983.

Watching this final with no Roger and no Rafa was like watching tennis for the first time, it was so fresh and "new". The final wasn't a classic but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The good news for Tsonga fans is that he didn't choke under pressure, his legs just finally gave out on him. I hope he now backs up this incredible run with decent results elsewhere. I'd hate to see him become another Baghdatis/Gonzalez shooting star.

Also, does anybody else find Tsonga's casual oncourt presence to be very Safinesque? I've noticed that Tsonga has completely reinvented his game. When I first saw him in 2004 he had a powerful serve/volley game that was reminiscient of Taylor Dent. But now he's a creative all court power hitter similar to Safin.

Craig Hickman said...

tangy said: "The good news for Tsonga fans is that he didn't choke under pressure, his legs just finally gave out on him."

Not necessarilly mutually exclusive. But he's contesting his first event final, in a Slam no less, so he gets a pass this time.

But he seemed to become erratic shortly after Djoke's family called security to tone down the French fans behind their box who were cheering for Tsonga. Cause and effect? Mere coincidence?

You decide.

This Slam also represents the first time in history two Black men contested the quarterfinals at the same Slam.

dan scarlett, I'm glad men's tennis is competitive again. I still would rather someone else had won this title. But the best player over the fortnight won, and that's that.

MMT said...

I haven't seen the statistics, but I would venture to guess that Tsonga approached the net fare less frequently against Djokervic than against Nadal. Similar to Federer, his tactical complacency (willing to duke it out from the back) played directly into Djokovic's hands.

It also put more pressure on him to produce winners and end the points from the back, which caused a higher number of unforced errors than he had against Nadal. Even Djokervic approached the net more often once he realized that the momentum was even.

Djokervic's famil is unbearable, but they don't swing the racquet. At the end of the day, the better player won. But if anyone is looking for a weakness in Djokervic's game, it's incessant pressure. Anytime you approach the net you have a risk of getting passed, but generally if you can hit a decent volley, unless you're playing Bjorn Borg, you're going to win more of those points than lose.

Michael said...

mmt, I was having some of the same thoughts, that Tsonga should try to get to net more. But as I watched, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how he could get to net. Plus, when he did, Djokovic had plenty of weapons (including an amazing lob).

I didn't see the other matches, but I think Tsonga's inside-out forehand drifted on him this match. Not sure why, but he went to that a lot, it seemed to me, and they were just floating wide a bit.

Did the chair umpire call a time-warning on Djokovic on break point, with him serving in the 4th? I was in a bar, with no sound, but it seemed like that happened (amazing) and Djoke got mad and fired the ball too good. I heard that happened before to him, with the same result.

Good match. Nice to see new folks in the final.

paula said...

I think Tsonga made a lot more errors in the final than he did against Rafa--balls floating wide, etc.. even putting htem in the net--and was feeling the pressure. But he didn't totally choke. He played some good tennis.

Am I the only one who felt sorry for the Serb because the crowd was so against him - cheering his missed first serves, his errors, etc..? I am amazed he managed to win in such a hostile environment.I understand why Tsonga was such a crowd fave- hew as my fave,too - butI still felt horrible about Nole having to deal with people being so vocally against him.

I love the Tsonga Safin comparison, and not just his tennis game. He has that sexy charisma thing going on. I love it. I hope to see more of him, I hope he keeps up this amazing level of play.

Craig Hickman said...

I didn't feel sorry for Djoke, Paula. Right or wrong, he makes his own bed and then he has to lie in it. But I didn't find the crowd hostile at all. I found it overwhelmingly in Tsonga's corner until Djoke's family called security out to tone down the French fans sitting behind their box.

Quiet as it's kept, Djoke draws energy from a "hostile" crowd. He did at the US Open, and he'll certainly have to if Serbia is to have any chance of winning Davis Cup in the future.

Micheal, Djoke wasn't warned for taking too much time on his serve, despite Tsonga's repeated appeals to the chair ump to give such a warning. The passage you refer to was probably when Djoke was bouncing that ball 30 times and a fan yelled "Stop!" Djoke told the chair ump to tell the crowd to be quiet. Carlos Ramos did just that and then Djoke fired the service winner.

You may not have noticed, but Tsonga didn't shake the chair ump's hand after the match. Nor do I blame him the way Ramos catered to Djoke throughout the match.

And Djoke's postmatch remarks reveal that he knew exactly what was going on with the crowd and he tried to win them over by saying he loved them anyway. Serpents are nothing if not smart.

peytonallen said it earlier: we officially have another Bad Boy in tennis.

oddman said...

paula, I agree with your first point, it looked to me like Tsonga wasn't hitting the lines every time like he'd done against Rafa. More errors, more drifting shots - it made the difference in the final.
And I don't feel one bit sorry for Nole having to deal with the crowd, he has a long history of bad or questionable behavior. Those Aussie fans are very knowledgeable about their tennis and gave him just what he asked for, IMO. You hear alot of talk on the boards about how he just 'needs to grow up', etc, etc, but I don't see much change since he was pulling stuff as a junior. He's one of those players you either love or despise.
Anyway, it was a must-win situation for him and he came through, so there it is.
I'm actually looking forward to someone putting a beatdown on Nole, soon, lol.

paula said...

I don't hate or love Nole. I don't have terribly strong feelings about him. I do know that people used to say his breathing problems were a sham- but the guy got surgery on his deviated septum after that. The only people I have strong feelings for are Nalbandian and the Spanishh players (I've spent a lot of time in Spain and Argentina...)

I can't agree with you, Craig, that it was OK of Tsonga to not shake the ump's hand. It was a Grand Slam final and he should have done the right thing, regardless of his feelings for the chair. One should always do the right thing and never blames ones' own behavior on someone else. I actually worry that it is something he will be ashamed of in the future, and that's too bad, because he had such a fabulous moment not just for him, but for French tennis and black people everywhere.

I am a big believer that these guys are young and therefore not always going to do the right thing. Basically, the situation is bigger than they can handle, but they manage as best as they can.

Craig, I know you are a big Serena fan - do you remember an interview years ago where she was asked, Do you prefer having the crowd cheer you or silencing a crowd? And she said, Silencing a crowd. Maybe Nole has that in him too- but I think in the long run (unless you are Jimmy Connors or JMac), it always works in your favor to win the crowd over. And I think that Nole did his best- appauding Tsonga's winners and such, but Tsonga has so much charisma and is so lovaeble and SOO the underdog, that Nole really stood no chance.

I do hope this is just the start for Tsonga and that he has a great year and a great career. He's adorable and his play during the match against Nadal was STUNNING.

Overall, I think the year's first Open was very exciting especially on the Mens' side. (Even if my guy Nalbandian didn'd do so well, boohoo.)

Craig Hickman said...

Paula, I think the right thing to do is to show integrity. If you feel that the umpire has disfavored you in some why, why lie about it and shake his/her hand? Tsonga's frustration with the umpire was evident in the first set and it continued throughout the match. As Savannah said, Ramos was the same umpire who fined Sharapova for coaching and gave Rafa a warning on serve for delay of game.

Djoke was taking too long between points. And he was never warned.

I think Tsonga did do the right thing. Carlos Ramos now understands that Tsonga won't respect him if he can't officiate a match impartially. Won't necessarily change how Ramos officiates, but Tsonga revealed he was unable to shrug it off and do what's "expected" of him, and, true to himself, he refrained from etiquette.

Michael said...

Thanks for filling me in what was happening in time taken, Craig. I'm at least glad that the chair ump didn't wait until break point in the 4th set to call a warning.

Let's suppose that Tsonga was frustrated with Djokovic for delay, not the chair umpire for failing to warn him. In that event (which is probably also true), would Tsonga be justified in refusing to shake Djokivic's hand?

I think not. And I'd apply the same logic to the chair umpire. Not that I blame Tsonga for refusing to, or you Craig, for backing him up on it.

Craig Hickman said...

Michael, I see apples and oranges in your scenario.

The chair umpire officiates the match. It is up to the chair umpire to be impartial. If a player doesn't feel as though they received impartiality from the officiating, I see no reason to come down on them if they choose not to shake the umpire's hand. Said player could rise above it and do the etiquette thing after the match, as Venus and Serena did after their doubles match in which the chair umpire was insipid. But rising above it ought not be required.

Djoke does what he does on the service line. As does Rafa and Sharapova. If Ramos can warn them, why couldn't he warn Djoke?

Tsonga had never been in a tour-level final, much less a Slam final. He gets a pass for not shaking the umpire's hand. And he did more than shake Djoke's hand. He crossed over to his side of the court to hug him and offer congratulations.

Mad Professah said...

I also noticed a bit of Safin in Tsonga's game. He moves so well for a big guy (not as big as Safin, but pretty sizeable) and serves and volleys well and hits VERY big on both sides.

PeytonAllen said...

Coming into the event I wondered if Djokovic was still mentally and physically whipped from the end of the season. Credit to Novak for coming out of the gates strong and winning his first major title.

The guy draws a strong reaction from people and that’s a good thing. Tennis needs characters. And he’s shown, as Rafa and David have, you can indeed get into the GOAT’s head. I thought the announcers continued support of “Fed was sick and lacking match play coming in” excuse was sickening. Fed is in as good of shape as anyone on tour. And the entire tour had lack of matchplay. Get over it. The man lost.

I think Novak is talented enough to beat Fed on a good day, and to supplant the man as #1, but Federer turned in a B effort. Still, when Roger raised his game in the 3rd set, Novak held ground and won in the tiebreaker. In Roger’s run, how many times has he saved set points, even match points to go on to win? People never beat him on a bad day. I remember that being one of Craig’s reoccurring themes. Rafa and now Novak are going to make him play his A game to have an even money shot of winning.

The loss wasn’t that surprising. He should’ve lost the US Open final. I don’t think we realize just how close Fed was to only winning 1 slam a year ago. If Nadal doesn’t come up gimpy in the 4th…or Novak handles the pressure better on big points, Fed would have lost his #1 ranking by now.

So much for him winning the GS. He’s still the favorite for any tournament he enters, but the year should be fun now with two rivals capable of beating him.

I didn’t see the Rafa/Jo Willy match, only caught highlights. I doubt Tsonga will ever be that good at net again. Like Bags a few years ago he could do no wrong. Rafa still has to find some way to get more free points off that serve, and hit flatter balls on a hard court.

Tsonga’s game is impressive. We’ll see how good he can be. The Aussie Open is a magnet for surprise runs that don’t cash in later. He’s got game that’s for sure.

Novak’s family don’t bother me. I can’t blame them for being upset by the crowd. It was a pro-willy crowd, and from what they were saying, French fans had no business being seated right behind Novak’s parents. Still, if you’re going to bash his parents, why not get on Jo Willy’s dad for the end of the first set hook shots? Or the endless hype by the end of the two weeks. Some of you hate the Novak hype. But he’s not being called the Ali of tennis.

You had the French fans, the Aussie’s adopting Jo Willie…it was a Davis Cup crowd nearly. I can’t fault Novak for playing to that. But let’s remember, before we conclude that every crowd hates the man he did pretty well in the US, and even won the Open crowd over.
I wish Gasquet would show the emotion and fight Tsonga displayed.
As to the time Novak takes with the ball bouncing. You don’t address that in a Major final. And I actually hated to see Jo-Willy make a case of it in A) their first career meeting and B) HIS FIRST FINAL---EVER. Keep your mouth shut and earn the right to bitch about the other player. Seriously.

But if you’re the umpire you don’t give warnings in a major final. If the tour wants to stop it, you address it on regular tour level events. The Aussie crowd getting on Novak, reminded me of when they turned on Serena when she was playing Kim. I forgot what the instance was, but I remember some idiots speaking out during the match.

Seeing two new faces in the Final was refreshing. I hope Fed fans don’t react too strongly against that. Be interesting to see how he rebounds the rest of the year. Keeping the #1 ranking is very close to the vest for him. I’m not saying he’s slipped much, but the days of Fed winning 3 slams and losing 4 matches are over.

Can he win in RG?

Craig Hickman said...

Novak is still a punk, peytonallen.

As for Tsonga, he was that good at net in every match preceding the semifinal. There's absolutely no reason whatsover to think his net play was a fluke.

Of course we don't know if he has the chutzpah to be a champion. But it's convenient to compare him to Baghdatis and Gonzalez simply because he's a surprise finalist in Melbourne.

I just don't see a streaky player (Gonzalez) who's going to be only partially committed to tennis (Baghdatis) because of his Oz Open run.

Neither Gonzo or Boobdaddy had to deal with injuries that threatened to end a career before the age of 22, nor did they have to play in the shadow of an anointed one from their respective countries.

And to compare Didier Tsonga, who's never attended a professional match of his son, to Mommie Djokovic, who would eat your children, spit them out and step on them, is so, well...

MMT said...

The Djokovic's and the Tsonga's are completely different. Djokovic's parents have no right to expect anyone but them to cheer for Novak. Vox populi vox dei, and if they don't like that nobody cheered for their little boy, there's a couple of really big oceans they could jump in.

People can't stand the Djokovic's because they are doing interviews, mouthing off about Novak and have the nerve to think that because they're Novak's parent's they have the right to their own private cheering section.

If they don't want to deal with an anti-Novak crowd, they can watch the matches from the hotel. They have no divine right to attend the matches, I would guess that the parents of most players do not.

But I blame television - specifically Dick Enberg and Bud Collins - for the Djokovic's and "Papa" Yuri's of the world. Since their unfortunate stints at Wimbledon all those year, they've fixed the camera on parents, inserted melodrama incessantly, and rolling out these (violin accompanied) sob stories about parental "sacrifice" and "support" through "adversity". As if everyone else has had it easy, or living vicariously through your children is anything to be proud of.

They've made these people think they are as much of a story as the players.

MMT said...

Oh, and by the way, I still think Tsonga should have shaken the umpire's hand.