The two words that best sum up the shocking result of the men’s final: PETE SAMPRAS. Yes, Pete Sampras, the tennis world’s own J.D. Salinger, was actually persuaded to leave his home in Brentwood long enough to fly across the international date line and present the Championship trophy to the men in Melbourne on Sunday. Because, you know, a certain someone was maybe, just maybe, going to tie his count of fourteen Major titles.
Surprise! I bet Pete never thought he’d give up a weekend of golf for Stan Wawrinka.
Stanislas Wawrinka, Australian Open Champion. It’s not so much that he did it, but how he did it. Most of us appreciated his powerful game and knew that he could pull off an upset over, say, Novak Djokovic, because he’d been close before. But to back up that seismic surprise over Nole by winning his maiden slam against none other than world number one Rafael Nadal, a feat that’s never been done before at a major? Well, no wonder Stan told the crowd afterwards that he felt like he was dreaming.
I think we all felt that way, whether we were rooting for Rafa or Stan. Did that really happen? Did Stan really come out and hit Rafa off the court for the first two sets? Did Rafa really get booed by the crowd for taking that medical time out? How did Rafa win the third set, then? And how did Stan regroup and serve out the fourth, even though he must have been quaking in his boots with nerves? It’s like Stan was (mostly) in the zone, Rafa was drugged and the rest of us were hypnotized by what we were seeing. (I’ll give Fritters some credit - he predicted this result and was not surprised in the least that Stan won the match.)
Shocking as it is, I think most of us in Tennislandia are pleased by the novelty of it. As much as we’d love Our Guy (whether Nole, Rafa, Roger, etc.) to have added another major to his trophy case, it’s good for the game to let throw the odd underdog a gilded bone every now and then. And Stan, like Del Potro in 2009, is a deserving and delightful
puppy champion. So, let’s all just enjoy the moment, and not rush to wake up!
While the men’s event saved its big surprise for the end, the women were full of surprises these past weeks in Melbourne, with young stars and underdogs upsetting the likes of Serena, Maria and Vika. The final was not the Serena vs. Vika showdown we expected, with Dominika Cibulkova crashing the party and Li Na playing with the pressure of expectation. Well, I’m glad Li Na showed that she was up for the task. She’s a fun player to watch when her game is dialed in and, as her remarks during the trophy ceremony confirmed, a charming and outspoken star. I hope this second major title gives her the confidence and freedom to keep competing for the big titles, especially against the Big Names. It most certainly will make her very, very rich.
The men’s competition had a few surprises, with the fourteenth seeded team of Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt taking out the unseeded pairing of Eric Butorac and Raven Klassan. Runners up Butorac and Klassan not only took out the novelty pairing of Hewitt/Rafter in the first round, but also beat the Bryan brothers in the third round.
On the ladies side, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci underlined their number one ranking by taking out NO. 3 seeds Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova for the ladies doubles trophy.