Monday, February 01, 2010

Australian Open 2010 Awards

by Craig Hickman

The Uluru/Ayers Rock Award
For the player who emerged almost out of nowhere and glowed red at sunset

File:Uluru (Helicopter view)-crop.jpg

Nicolas Almagro for his late-match, red-hot surge against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round.

The Red Kangaroo Award
For the player who made the biggest leap

Marin Cilic finally jumped over Juan Martín del Potro at a Slam and landed in his first major semifinal. Too bad all his five-setters caught up with him after winning the first set against Andy Murray.

The Twelve Apostles Award
For the player who rose up to produce the most rock solid game amidst the imminent threat of being washed away

Serena Williams for yet another ledge-end-ary comeback Down Under against Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals.

The Koala Award
For the player you just wanted to pick up and hug

Zheng Jie after being stampeded by her idol in the semifinals.

The Great Barrier Reef Award
For the player who created the largest tectonic uplift in the draw

Nadia Petrova for severely eroding Kim Clijsters in the third round.

The Aboriginal Award
For the veteran player who achieved the most success with his native talents

Roger Federer's movement throughout this fortnight was surprisingly efficient. Wasn't that long ago I thought he'd lost a step. If his training regimen doesn't include some combination of ballet, tango/mambo, waltz, tap or Tai Chi, I'd be shocked.

The Tasmanian Devil Award
For the player who delivered the best nocturnal performance

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Tommy Haas in the third round.

The Outback Award
For the wildest match of the fortnight

Li Na def. Venus Williams 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5, Quarterfinals

Venus opened as though she'd run through the match like a river. But the last set and a half was one exhausting expanse of barren terrain. How many times did you think it might never end? Arguably the ugliest televised match of the fortnight, it becomes an early frontrunner for worst match of the year.

The Three Dingoes Award
For the players who fell prey to their own hunting

Igor Andreev and Nikolay Davydenko for their gigantic chokes against Roger Federer in the first round and quarterfinals, respectively, and Alisa Kleybanova for her total collapse against Justine Henin.

And for a few of our more traditional awards:

Best Dressed
Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur, Australia

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25:  Lleyton Hewitt of Australia plays a forehand in his fourth round match against Roger Federer of Switzerland during day eight of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 25, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt returns a shot against Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 23, 2010.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23:  Samantha Stosur of Australia plays a forehand in her third round match against Alberta Brianti of Italy during day six of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23:  Samantha Stosur of Australia celebrates winning a point in her third round match against Alberta Brianti of Italy during day six of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.

Best WTA Match
Serena Williams def. Justine Henin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, Final

Serena Williams of the U.S. shakes hands with Belgium's Justine Henin (L) after winning their women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 30, 2010.

I didn't realize how riveting was this tug of war between two of the tour's most decorated champions till watching it a second time.

Best ATP Match (Tie)
Juan Martín del Potro def. James Blake 6-4, 6-7(3), 5-7 6-3 10-8, Second Round

Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro and James Blake of the U.S. shake hands at the conclusion of their five-set match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 20, 2010.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Nicolas Almagro, 6-3 6-4 4-6 6-7(6) 9-7, Round of 16

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France (R) and Spain's Nicolas Almagro shakes hands at the conclusion of their match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 25, 2010.

Both featured one tiebreak and went into overtime in the fifth set. Both featured surprisingly exquisite performances from the losing warriors. Both could have continued for another hour. The electrifying tennis sticks in my memory like good preaching.

Speaking of preaching.
I need a day of rest.
At least.

See you when I see you.


Helen W said...

I just LOVE this posting!

Bravo, Craig!

Beth said...

I do too! Fantastic! Love the Koala and Tasmanian Devil ones....very creative. Love, love, love it!!!!!

pompelmo said...


Karen said...

Fantastic write up Craig. Man, I am already going through tennis withdrawals. This morning I woke up so early and then I realised oh that is right, no tennis so I went straight back to bed. Man, those 2 weeks were really exciting. Nice way to start the tennis season. Sure sign that I had had enough tennis, saw a stream this morning for Zagreb and watched it for about 5 minutes and realised oh hell no, I am not going to sit up and watch this, plus the stands were empty, not virtually empty, completely empty

Mad Professah said...

LOL---Zagreb, really?

The Best ATP Match I would have to give to the Cilic v Del Potro because those two were both simply CRUSHING the ball.

I actually only saw the fisrt two and last sets of Blake-Del Potro but what I saw was simply worth a shrug.

Tsonga v. Almagro was pretty special as was the first two sets of Murray v Nadal.

Craig said...

Cilic/del Potro I only remember as being long and nervy but not very compelling.

windy city girl said...

This is a cool post! I can't believe I didn't know about your tennis blog before. I'm bookmarking it right away.

oddman said...

Great writing once again. Loved the Australian flavors - what a beautiful country.

Agree with all your choices.

And so ends the Australian Open for another year... no more late nights and restless sleep for me. I had a ball sharing thoughts with other posters.

(flashin' the 'nads.... ooh-yeah)


bambam said...

What a great beginning to a new season. Whoo Hoo!

Karen said...

Yes Mad, Zagreb - LOL. There was no one in the stands while poor Melzer and some other dude kept trading breaks of serve. I was like hell no.

edma1022 said...

I was surprised the GBR was a product of tectonic movement. I always thought it was volcanic. Good info. I'm learning new things in my young (sic) adult life.

You outdid yourself as usual, CH.

Michael Wilhelmsen said...

Great start to the season, and I'm hoping for a Grand Slam for Roger, that would have been out of the world! :)

Michael Wilhelmsen said...

Jason said...

This was a great column, I very much enjoyed the Australian flavor. I had almost forgotten about the del Potro Blake match-up.

It'll be interesting to see what happens this year in the Slams. Federer has changed somewhat to become a guy who may no longer dominate the tour as he used to, but still peaks at the majors. And his rivals who seemed to pose major threats to him have somewhat fallen by the wayside.

Nadal seems to be developing more injuries, so we won't be seeing him at 100% for a while.

Djokovic I feel is capable of winning Slams as far as ability is concerned, but seems to lack the durability and mental fortitude necessary to win 7 in a row. His win 2 years ago is now a distant memory.

Murray, in my opinion, has enough tools to win a Slam. But I feel that his natural instinct to just let the match happen and react accordingly is not good enough to win the big matches. Over the last year, when he was "expected" to win his first major, he lost 4 times to players who played good matches and who took it to him. Like Nadal used to do to Fed, Murray needs to take away his majors, and not wait for something to happen. He's good enough where he'll win most of his matches, but as we know, "good enough" is not good enough.

Roddick, as we all know, (sigh) is continuing down his path of more or less being a lock for the quarters and not much else... I know Wimbledon was heartbreaking.. but hopefully he's got a couple more runs in him.

Davydenko... he seemed like he had finally made that next step when he beat both Fed and Nadal multiple times over the last 3ish months.. until he laid an egg in the quarters. I agree with Craig, so much for his wins against Fed before.

I guess Del Potro is the only one left.. huh? He's a curious player, as recently as the Australian of last year, he was totally one of those "future" players. Suddenly he's developed into a great player. It's odd, because I could swear that during his matches he often looks a bit uninterested. But he somehow just holds on anyway... and then he squeaks out the match. It happened with Blake, and almost happened with Cilic. And against Fed last year. It seems like he plays the big points well and the other points just well enough.

Cilic, iono.. he's good, but still strikes me as a little too fresh. I may be proven wrong, but he seems like a young player who hasn't quite figured it out yet.

Tsonga.. boy he's a joy to watch when he's up for it. I guess I don't know what to say about him right now, I'm kinda tapped out.

Women's.. I don't have a whole lot to say other than I just sorta expect Serena to win everything nowadays.. I still couldn't even see her losing when she was down 4-0 in the second to Azarenka.. it's almost like someone suggested, it's like she does it on purpose to just toy with people, haha. It's nice to see Henin and Clijsters back, at least they make the slams a bit more open ended...

Hah, that was a long blurb, I guess I just felt like rambling for a bit. Thanks for letting me do that here! And Craig, thanks for the blog!

Tom Loughrey said...

I agree with your choice of Nicholas Almagro as the Uluru/Ayers Rock Award. I think his performance in that 5th set was unreal. Both players were serving hard and around 80% and they were crushing groundstrokes. I didn't know that Almagro was so cool under pressure and I thought he deserved to win even though I'm a huge Tsonga fan.

Also, I agree with your best men's matches. Those are the two matches I'm going to remember. Anyone that thinks the Blake and del Potro match was sloppy should watch the 5th set and see how cleanly Blake was hitting off both sides. His returns were unbelievable!

I'm surprised you didn't give an honorable mention to the Henin and Dementieva match on the women's side. If that went three sets it could have been well over 4 hours long for only three sets. Talk about evenly matched!

Matt said...

Such a cute post Craig! As an Aussie I can assert that you complemented your beautiful writing with beautiful images...

One comment though - Zheng Jie had that semi final hammering coming. Your comment regarding her idolising Henin prior to the match meant that she was beaten before she stepped onto the court. I completely agree.

Jason said...

I just had an interesting thought.. of Federer's 16 major titles, which was the most dominant performance? 2007 AO seems to be the popular choice. I don't really remember it being particularly dominating (as far as his 16 wins goes)...

a couple that come to mind..

2003 Wimbledon - didn't quite follow tennis at that time, so i don't really know..

2005 Wimbledon - i just remember feeling like he would win from the onset of the tournament..

2006 AO - i actually felt like this was dominating at the time, because fed wasn't playing anywhere near his best and yet he still won, or at least that's what i remember. for me, it just kinda showed that fed can play not-near his best and still beat everyone. but then again his opponents overall weren't particularly scary..

2006 Wim - i felt this was pretty dominating (except the final, i guess, though i never felt he was in danger of losing that particular final), i felt the caliber of opponents in this one was def tricky.

2007 USO - dont really remember this one, i was on vacation for most of it

maybe 2010 AO too?

i've always felt 05-06 was the peak of his dominance, but i guess the question is more for the specific majors and his performances at that time.

What does Craig think? I'd much rather talk about a Roddick dominance.. but alas we cannot... (sigh)

Michael Wilhelmsen said...

I chuckled

Karen said...

Hmm, been trying to post this article but not having much luck. Have I been banned from posting.

Karen said...

OK so now it goes through - LOL
Anyway, beth and helenW I know one of you ladies is a huge Baghs fan and we were wondering as to why he was no longer with Adidas and I think the article in the NYT answers the questions