Switzerland’s Roger Federer (R) is congratulated by Spain’s Rafael Nadal after winning their men’s singles final match on day 14 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 29, 2017.
PAUL CROCK / AFP
The final matches for the men’s and women’s titles had two common denominators: age and friendship. At the outset, there was the great possibility of a change of guards in the game. After a fortnight in Melbourne, however, we had the assertion of the old brigade.
The Williams’ sisters played their Grand Slam final that could turn out a farewell cantata. Nadal and Federer played their ninth Grand Slam final with the Swiss prevailing in a match described as one of the best since the Australian Open Centenary in 2005.
In both draws, the older generation clearly seemed to say to the upcoming players, “Don’t count us out yet.”In the first week, the shock upsets of defending champion, Angelique Kerber, by Coco Vandeweghe and Garbine Muguruza by Simona Halep generated the possibility of a Williams’ final.
In the men’s Draw, the two top seeds fell in the first week; Djokovic to bespectacled Istomin and Murray to Sascha Zverev. That also set up the possibility of Nadal/Federer.
The two sisters played their way through the draw. Baby Serena did not drop a set. Venus defied the “lucky” 13 spot and ploughed her way; facing a threat only against Coco Vandeweghe in the semifinals.
For both final matches, there were some stroking similarities in addition to the age bracket. From the beginning, it was open secret that they did not like playing against each other. Rod Laver said it way back then “No rest for the wicked person across the net trying to beat me.”
Although the pugilism of tennis is to the ball, some resentment trickles in. The Williams sisters are best of friends and could not have that negative potion arise. Federer and Nadal are such good friends. Before reaching the finals, both of them spoke of being at Nadal’s Academy in Mallorca when both of them were unfit to play the exhibition.
Serena denied her sister the 2003 Australian Open and five other Grand Slams, including three in 2002. Venus deprived Serena of only two. Nadal denied Federer seven Grand Slams, while Federer did only twice, both at Wimbledon.
After winning the title, Serena said that Venus was always her inspiration. “But for you, I wouldn’t have been playing tennis and winning Grand Slams.” Also, after winning the title, Federer said: “I like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. I don’t think either of us believed we’d be in the final of this tournament when we were at (Nadal’s) Academy four or five months ago. Tennis is a tough sport – there are no draws. But if there was one, I would have been happy to accept a draw with Rafa tonight, really.”
Who would succeed Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Warwinka? The next set consists of Marin Cilic (2014 US Open), Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov.
Following them is the generation with Sascha Zverev, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Alexander Zverev; and they made impressive strides in Melbourne Park.
Certainly, for the women’s game, the 36-year old Venus and 35-year old Serena are on the way out. Are the contenders: Coco Vandeweghe, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Belinda Becic, ready to rise up and take over?
Roll call of Champions at the 2017 Australian Open Tennis Championships
Men’s Singles: Roger Federer (Switzerland)
Ladies Singles: Serena Williams (USA)
Men’s Doubles: Henri Kontinen (Finland) and John Peers (Australia)
Women’s Doubles: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) and Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic)
Mixed Doubles: Juan Sebastian Cabal (Colombia) and Abigail Spears (USA)
Junior Boys’ Singles: Zsombor Piros (Hungary)
Junior Girls’ Singles: Marta Kostyuk (Ukraine)
Junior Boys’ Doubles: Yu Hsiou Hsu (Taipei) and Lingxi Zhao (China)
Junior Girls’ Doubles: Carson Brenstine (USA) and Bianca Banessa Andreescu (Canada)
Men’s Wheelchair Singles: Gustavo Fernandez (Argentina)
Women’s Wheelchair Singles: Yui Kamji (Japan)
Men’s Wheelchair Doubles: Joachim Gerard (Belgium) and Gordon Redi ( UK)
Women’s Wheelchair Doubles: Jiske Griffioen (Nederland) and Aniek Van Koot (Nederland)
Quadrangular Wheelchair Singles: Dylan Alcott (Australia)