Saturday, January 31, 2009

2009 Australian Open: Hoping The Men's Final Isn't Like The Women's

So, I stayed up last night to watch the 2009 Australian Open Women's Final, hoping for inspiring, dramatic tennis from Serena Williams and Dinara Safina. After watching a reply of the Nadal-Verdasco match for the second time, I guess I was thinking--make that 'hoping'--that the same high-quality tennis would repeat itself on the women's side.

Boy was I wrong.

I expected Serena to be her normal self. All tournament long, she looked mentally focused and definitely played with the confidence that comes with having "been there, done that"--a state of mind you obtain after having already played in twelve Grand Slam finals. With a 9-3 record in the finals, she definitely had every reason to be confident coming into the match with Safina.

The only way for the women's championship to compare with the Nadal-Verdasco semi-final in quality of play and drama would be dependent on Safina. She would need to step up on the big stage and play attacking tennis (much like her brother did in his heyday) with strong mental toughness (unlike her brother his heyday, who was famous for his hot temper).

Alas, Safina did neither.

Safina looked unsure of herself from the get go, struggling with her serve and not hitting as aggressively with her long, flowing groundstrokes. Before she realized it, she was down 4-0 in the first. Unlike the Nadal-Verdasco match (when I was glued to my seat for each point), my attention started to wander to other things, like my phone (hmm... I wonder if anyone updated their Facebook/Twitter status), like wondering what I would eat for dinner tonight (marinate some salmon), like...well, you get the jist. Safina didn't win her first game until the second set, and Serena just kept the pressure on with solid (but not great) tennis. Serena continued on to collect a 6-0, 6-3 straight-set victory for her 10th Grand Slam singles title, and fourth Australian Open title.

On the men's side, one of the best rivalries in tennis history will continue, as Rafael Nadal goes up against Roger Federer...their first matchup in an Australian Open final. General opinion suggests that Federer has the edge against Nadal, thinking that Nadal's marathon match with Verdasco (did I mention how great that match was?) will leave him just a tad less energetic for the finals. I'm not buying it, and fully expect Nadal to put forth yet another tremendous defensive effort against the always smooth and deadly-accurate Federer.

Nadal has recently played in arguably two of the greatest tennis matches ever (the already-mentioned Verdasco match and the 2008 Wimbledon final against Federer--easily the greatest tennis match in history). Federer and Nadal seem to bring out the best in each other--just like great rivalries should.

I'm hoping that their match tonight will be just as endowed with gripping, tense, high-quality tennis as last year's Wimbledon final, if for no other reason than to make up for the dud that the women's final ended up being.

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