By: Jane Voigt
The Happy Slam gave fans hundreds of hours of tennis wizardry, whether they watched from a stadium at Melbourne Park or from afar. It’s popularity expanded at home with total a attendance of 703,899, according to Tennis Australia. Cooler weather probably edged up the turnstile count, which is a record.
So what will we remember?
Here are a few of those favorite moments and memories.
Maria Sharapova can thank all her lucky Sugarpova flavors for pulling out her second-round win over Russian qualifier, Alexandra Panova. The No. 2 seed saved two match points, going for broke and hitting the lines. A gutsy full-bore assault by Maria, in her fiercest mode.
In the final against arch-nemesis Serena Williams, Sharapova saved two championship points, as well. However, Williams pressed for the win and her sixth Australian Open title.
Andreas Seppi walked on court relaxed for his third round match with another No. 2 seed, Roger Federer. The Italian had nothing to lose. His head-to-head record against the Swiss was 10-0; he’d only won one set throughout those matches.
And yet, Federer was nervous.
He mentioned a premonition the night before – another during practice – that things weren’t going to go so well. They didn’t. Federer had appeared in the semifinals or better for ten years, prior to his loss to Seppi.
No one match, in its entirety, stood out. Many had highlight-reel-worthy moments, but none showed consistently good tennis from the first ball struck to the last. However, the second set between Serena Williams’ and Maria Sharapova’s final was a ball-blistering demonstration of guts, glory, and athleticism.
These two women — the best in the game — pushed each other to the outer limits of their abilities.
The most anticipated match of the fortnight had to have been the semifinal between four-time champion Novak Djokovic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka. It would be their third encounter Down Under, the last two striking battles of skill that left people, and players, breathless.
By contrast, this edition was a huge letdown. Neither man seemed to settle in nor rally with any confidence, for any length of time. There were fits and starts, but nothing high-level. Djokovic had the stamina, ending the fiasco 6-0 in the fifth.
Most Athletic Encounter
Without a doubt this distinction goes to No. 6 seed Andy Murray and No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov. Lengthy rallies covered every corner of the court. One was pulled to the net, the other scrambled, was lobbed, he’d run back, turn on a dime and boom hit a winner.
In the end, the Bulgarian rising star couldn’t sustain the effort as Murray applied pressure. By the time Murray closed the match, 7-5, they each covered about 4,000 meters during the match.
Best Doubles Team
Both men’s and women’s doubles champions were unseeded. Women’s champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova had never played played doubles together. They didn’t even practice doubles before (or during) the tournament. But boy did they have fun throughout.
Whether they ever hookup again is unknown, but the two knew for a fact the win should propel their seasons upward.
Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli won their first Grand Slam doubles title. Predominantly singles players, the Italians had honed their team work in Davis Cup. What a surprise to see Fabio Fognini in a Grand Slam final of any kind, given his propensity for on-court antics and drama.
The final had its scenes, but Bolelli seemed to temper his theatrical partner.
Best Return to the Spotlight
Martina Hingis was inducted into The International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013. But she wasn’t done with tennis, though her last Grand Slam title was in mixed doubles alongside Mahesh Bhupathi in 2006. Nine years on, Leander Paes helped Hingis win a second.
They defeated defending champions Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-3. The win for Hingis brought her total slam count to 16 (singles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles). For the 42-year-old Paes, the trophy marked his first mixed doubles hardware at Melbourne Park since winning in 2010 with Cara Black.
Most Respected Player
At 34, Venus Williams deserves every ounce of respect from fans and the industry. Her career has stretched over two decades, and only continues to grow. She knows the game better than anyone: its nuances, its stumbling blocks, and its joys. Her run to the quarterfinals, where she was finally defeated by young American Madison Keys, marked the first time she’d battled her way to that stage since 2010.
Keys idolized Venus. Seeing her on TV was the spark that set Madison on her career course. Madison was born three months after Venus turned pro.
Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic proved their worth every step of their way to their respective trophies. Williams took her record sixth Australian Open and 19th overall slam and is a testament to sport.
She is simply too good.
Novak Djokovic is 5-0 in semifinals and finals Down Under. It would appear Rod Laver Arena is to Novak as Centre Court is to Roger Federer: home. Djokovic scored his fifth Australian Open and his eighth overall, bringing him even with Andrea Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Ken Rosewall, and Jimmy Connors.
Big 4 Report
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray topped the ATP Ranking chart this morning. Though many have tried, these four remain entrenched. Next shot at an upset: Roland Garros.
What did you think of the first major of the season? Sound off in the comments!