The only Grand Slam tennis tournament held in the southern hemisphere is going on right this second, and the Australian Open has certainly provided the thrills and chills thus far. From watching Serena Williams play through her injury in order to keep her name in the hunt, to the amazing Roger Federer that seems unstoppable to most, this tournament is already proving to be more exciting than it has been in a long, long time.
1905 was when the Australian Open first appeared in the history books, and since 1972 Melbourne has been its home. From grass, which participants absolutely disliked, the tournament became a hard court event in 1988, but it`s still played in the dead-heat of the Australian summer. While others in America are looking at seventy-foot snow banks and wishing they could see the sun or at least hit the freezing mark, the Australian Open actually has to abide by an extreme-heat policy so that the players won`t end up passing out as they`re clearing that net.
This is also a place where history seems to repeat itself. In 2008 the Rebound Ace surface, which had been in place for the past twenty years at Melbourne Park, was replaced by a cushioned acrylic surface. Oddly enough, Federer and Serena Williams are the only players to take home the trophy from the Open on both court surfaces. But even in all the heat, the Australian Open is still one of the most highly-attended tournaments and even achieved the highest ever single-day attendance for any Grand Slam tournament ever played.
Williams and Federer are still the major headlines, even after all this time. For Serena, the 2012 Australian Open has meant pain. The whole last year has been an extremely difficult one for America`s favorite twelve-time Grand Slam champion: Unable to participate in last year`s Open because of a foot injury, and ending up not being able to find a win in the 2011 "big games.` The worst "hit` for Ms. Williams was the final of the 2011 U.S. Open, a match that will be remembered more for Serena`s anger and verbal abuse of the chair umpire than the actual play on the court. Thinking that she would at least enter the 2012 Australian Open healthy and ready to compete, yet another physical setback occurred two weeks previously at the Brisbane Open. Williams suffered a sprained ankle in her match against Daniela Hantuchova, and although she won that particular outing, the pain forced her to withdraw from the tournament in the semifinals. No matter how things look, however, watching Serena play is a true event. Whether in pain or not, the way this woman slices that ball across the net as fast - or, faster - than even iconic baseball pitchers could throw the ball, she brings excitement to her game every single time. If William`s has to drop out of this one, the Open will suffer.
The other big news is that man who simply seems like he can never be beat. Roger Federer is not one of these spring chickens who have come up through the ranks that no one has ever heard of before. When the stands are packed during his game, it`s because a literal classic is offering a peek at the skill that no one else seems to have. Of course, just knowing that this fantastic tennis player is going to be the one you`re about to meet makes each and every player hungry for that one moment in the sun where they could at least win a set from the mighty man.
One of the most exciting games occurred this past Monday, when Alexander Kudrvatsey faced the King of tennis and he tried with everything he had to bring down the unstoppable force. Yes, there are many who would think that Federer would simply go quietly into that goodnight, considering he has done it all. But, frankly, Federer has more stamina in his little finger than some of these much younger players have in their whole bodies. For a good part of a set, the Russian was beyond happy. He seemed to not place a foot or a racket in the wrong direction. He was proving with each serve that he could take out the giant, and the smile on his face was positively giddy. However, as always - like Harry Potter had appeared in the stands with his magic - Federer turned the tides in an instant and accelerated , 7-5 6-2 6-2. For the King it was a truly perfect start to collecting that Grand Slam trophy. However, for the Russian, he licked his wounds as many others will coming up, knowing that the King is the King for a very good reason. It`s not keeping an eye on the ball that`s the big deal with this man - it`s keeping an eye on Federer, himself.
Kudryavtsev has to get some sympathy on this one, however. This is a man who has been trying to get to the "big show` for over a decade. But to finally reach your spot and draw Federer right out of the gate had to have been some kick in the gut. Yes, Federer does have some issues, even though the sparkle shone in his eye during this match. He did hurt his back at the Qatar Open, but the workout he gave it for this first round was exceptional. Federer`s all-or-nothing approach perhaps should be used by other players, and the Russian did manage to surprise him at times, forcing his slightly older bones to reach for those groundstrokes, but the legendary status of Federer remained intact.
How did this man leap into the hemisphere of "icon`? For a little background, Roger Federer is a Swiss tennis player who held the Association of Tennis Professionals number one position for a record 237 weeks. Ranked World No. 3 by the ATP, Federer has won a (men`s) record sixteen Grand Slam singles titles, and is one of seven male players to achieve the career Grand Slam on three different surfaces. Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal were two who also proved their power on everything from clay to grass.
Federer can also add to his plate the fact that he is the only male player in tennis history to have reached the title match of each Grand Slam tournament at least five times, as well as the final at each of the nine ATP Masters 1000 Tournaments. A myriad of sports analysts, critics, and players consider Federer to be the greatest tennis player of all time, and he doesn`t seem to be slowing down yet.
To appear in over twenty Grand Slam tournament finals during a career is unheard of, but to appear in eighteen of nineteen finals that extend from the 2005 Wimbeldon through the 2010 Australian Open is beyond amazing for any player. As a result of all this amazing skill and a little luck, Federer was named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for a record four consecutive years from 2005 to 2008.
But, in the end, this Swiss Maestro is only looking at one very important thing in his near future - taking home yet another Australian Open trophy.
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