Sportswriter and broadcaster David Fearnhead, Women’s Tennis Blog’s long-time contributor, shares his Top 5 talking points from the Australian Open 2016.
Well, the first Grand Slam of the year has delivered. Seeds tumbles in shock upsets, standards were raised and a new champion has emerged. 2016 looks set to be a great year in women’s tennis.
Regular readers on the site will know how long I’ve been tipping Angelique Kerber to win a big one and she’s finally done it. After almost exiting in round 1, she found her game, found her form, and crucially found an inner calm to finally transcend her nerves. Few were backing her from the start of the tournament, but she came past an in-form Victoria Azarenka and beat the great Serena Williams to claim the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy – otherwise known as the Australian Open title. It was my match of the tournament. The question now is — Can she follow it up? I very much think she can. With her game you’ve got to look at Wimbledon as the target for her second major.
Special K II
Melbourne’s been all about the K’s. Johanna Konta, Kerber’s semifinal opponent has shown a remarkable rise over recent months. She started last year as 146th in the world and is now in the Top 30. Like many players, Konta always had the ability, but too often was let down by the mental side of her game. In came Juan Coto, a business guru who specialises in mental training. Konta spends two hours a week mentally training with Coto, a large part of which is learning how to deal with pressure situations. The role of the mental coach has grown in other sports such as cycling and golf. Tennis seems to be the next sport to benefit.
Speaking of the mental side of things, I’ve seen a few people pointing the finger at Serena Williams and saying she chocked against Kerber. Whilst I would say Serena is no longer playing just against her on-court opponent, but against tennis history, I think on this occasion she was just beaten on the day by a better player. As Serena pointed out in her post-match press conference, she’s not a robot. She can’t just show up and win whenever she feels like it, “I do the best that I can. I try to win every point, but realistically I can’t. Maybe someone else can.”
It is great to see Vika back to close to her best. She claimed the Brisbane title and looked in killer form in Melbourne. Many were tipping her for the crown as the only player who could defeat Serena. Her “shock” defeat to Kerber looked less shocking after the German dismantled Serena’s game in the final. With Halep succumbing to yet another illness/injury, both Wozniacki and Muguruza out of sorts – a resurgent Azarenka is just what the game needs.
There is an old english saying that you can’t have your cake and eat it, and it’s one sports writers should remember. I’ve heard plenty of criticism on the women’s game, usually from the ill-informed. Those who watch the Slams and prefer the men’s game. They complain that there is no great rivalry in women’s tennis, that it’s always Serena. Well, she’s not won the last two Grand Slam titles, but why should that stop them complaining. Women’s tennis provides far more shocks than the men’s game. There are always the early seed exits, always the shock second-weekers who appear from nowhere in blistering form. The WTA is doing a fine job in my opinion and I can’t wait to see how this season plays out.