Another year, another thrilling and exciting tennis season awaits
It’s yet another new year and just like hundreds of years before it, there won’t be a shortage of absolute electrifying tennis action. And as usual, the tennis tour is highlighted by the four major Grand Slams and capped off by the year-end Barclay’s ATP Tour Final and Sony-Ericsson WTA Tour Championship.
Last year, tennis fans everywhere bore witness to what could only be described as a master-class domination by the player who claimed, all individual sports taken into account, the title of ‘Grand Slam’ king, Rafael Nadal.
Of course, it wasn’t all about the Spaniard. There were many facets of the sport that made last season as one that surely captivated millions of fans.
But I am not here to talk about what happened last year, no matter how great it was. I am here to talk about what awaits tennis aficionados like myself this year as the season already and unofficially kicked start in Abu Dhabi for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
So what [else] can we look forward to this year? Let’s begin with the first Grand Slam of the season.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN: This year could arguably be its most highly-anticipated tournament since time immemorial. And perhaps this year could also mean the biggest profit for the organizers ever when fans will surely be flocking to Melbourne more than usual and those who can’t afford to fly there will not miss watching it on cable or the internet as history could be rewritten.
Although Roger Federer is the defending champion, all eyes would be transfixed on World No. 1 Rafael Nadal as he will attempt to make history yet again.
When the Mallorca native won his first ever US Open title last September, he became the youngest man in the Open era to complete a career Grand Slam and only the 2nd player to win 3 straight Grand Slams in one season.
This time, he will try to achieve what is now touted as the ‘Rafa Slam’ if he manages to win the Australian Open, making it 4 Slam victories in a row. This is something that hasn’t been done since the great Rod Laver claimed 4 straight Grand Slams twice, first as an amateur in 1962 and in 1969 as a professional.
Most certainly, Nadal will have special motivation to achieve this. Can great rival Federer stop the Spaniard? Can any one?
ROLAND GARROS: The red clay of France was the perfect stage where a fairytale materialized right before our very eyes last year. None of us could have predicted that a relatively unknown player who is already in her twilight years could pull off such a feat.
At age 30, the Italian Francesca Schiavone has proved that you are never too old to win your very first Slam. She lives proof that with a lot of hard work and determination and with the right skills and training, anything can be done and overcome.
Already playing for 13 years professionally, Schiavone has barely made a name for herself until this victory. Before her French Open victory, she has only managed to win 3 WTA titles.
Now she has successfully established herself as a great competitor despite her age. She has for the first time entered the Top 10 and is determined to stay there if not climb as high as she could in the coming season.
In other stories, Sweden’s Robin Soderling should be feeling very disappointed and must be thinking to himself how he allowed another opportunity of finally capturing his maiden Slam slipped from his hands as he failed to bring his best game when it mattered most.
For the past two straight years, the Swede has made it to the French Open finals and has unfortunately played second fiddle on both occasions.
This year though, he will have another chance to overcome his demons during big moments and even bigger stages and prove to the world that before his career is over, he wouldn’t only be remembered as just another “talented” and “potential” player who was always the best man to the groom. Right Andy Murray?
WIMBLEDON: If a player wants to firmly cement his/her place in history as one of the greatest players that have ever played the sport, try overtaking your idol, who at the same time is undoubtedly one of the best of all time, in terms of Grand Slam titles.
Serena Williams knows (oh does she ever) a thing or two on how to exactly do that. When she won the Australian Open last year, she succeeded in tying Billie Jean King’s tally of 12 Slams. Pretty impressive, eh? She can now retire and wait for her time to be inducted to the Tennis Hall of Fame.
But as we all know, Serena has never thought even for a second of stopping winning titles, most especially Grand Slams. As a matter of fact, she has officially overtaken her idol as she added another Slam, claiming her 4th Wimbledon crown last year and now a total of 13 Grand Slams.
To date, only 5 players have more Slams than her. How many more can Serena win? Can she actually be the greatest of all time? Only time will tell.
She won her first Slam back in 2005 but retired shortly after then came back again in early 2009 and successfully defended her title she did not get a chance to do back in 2006. And last year, she easily dispatched two-time, same-year Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva to claim it for the 3rd time.
And speaking of players who weren’t able to defend their US Open titles, Juan Martin del Potro has the heavy task of solidifying his place in the tennis circuit as he may need to win another Slam to shut the critics up that his 2009 US Open win was not a fluke.
As he was sidelined to play in New York last year, it would be fitting if this year he manages to win the crown again and, like Clijsters, successfully defends his title.
YEAR-END FINALS: If things could get any sweeter for a player, it would be when Rafael Nadal completes the ‘Rafa Slam’ and finally takes home the only major title missing from his trophy cabinet — the Tour Final crown.
He came so close to capturing it as he lost to rival Federer in the finals last year. But I am sure as hell that he is not thinking about it right now. He’s most likely prepping himself for his match against Federer in yet another final in Abu Dhabi later today before heading to Melbourne.
On the women’s side, perhaps World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki would like to prove her worthiness as the top-ranked female player if she intends to hang on atop by at least, for the love of God, winning the Tour Championship. I mean let us end this utter nonsense of having World No. 1s who haven’t won any Slam!
But she is still very young, a teenager, which means she’s got a lot of time to improve and assert her dominance. But I’m absolutely certain the Williams sisters have something to say about that.
So there you are. My insights on what we could be expecting in the forthcoming season. Practically, we should always expect the unexpected. I mean who could have ever imagined a tennis match can last 11 hours? But we are all in for any surprise, aren’t we?
I’m sure all of us can’t wait for what will unfold in the coming year. We need to brace ourselves for a gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, highly-charged, edge-of-your-seat season. It’s time once again to get glued to our TV screens, or computer screens, whatever the case maybe.
Let the games begin! And Happy New Year everyone, whoever you are reading this blog (well I’m hoping at least one soul is reading it!). Oh, and it’s also my birthday the day after tomorrow!