The 2011 Australian Open

I really enjoy the Australian Open. The late night matches are great; hard court tennis is fun to watch; the glimpse of summer in late January is always nice. Every tennis major is wonderful, but the Australian Open is my favorite.

This year I had to carefully limit how much tennis I watched because of my schedule. That was difficult. I missed many matches that I really wanted to see. I did get up around 3am yesterday and today to watch the women’s and men’s singles finals (it was totally worth it).

Here are a few thoughts on the tournament:

Congratulations to the Winners

It was a good year to be a 3 seed, both the men’s and women’s champion were seeded third. Novak Djokovic played amazing tennis all tournament long. He is poised to make a run at the #1 ranking this season. I like Novak, he’s got a great game and a great personality to go with it. Kim Clijsters had some close calls in the tournament, yet she managed to overcome everything her opponents threw at her. In the championship of the Sydney tournament before the Austrian Open Clijsters lost to Li Na. The Australian Open saw them meet again, but this time Kim prevailed. It is nearly impossible to root against Clijsters, she is a great competitor. Her defense is always good; she uses her amazing court coverage to compensate for an offense game that goes hot and cold. Like Djokovic, I think she has a shot at the #1 ranking this season. One of the biggest factors for her will be whether or not she plays in enough tournaments. 

Responding to Losing

I’m always intrigued by how commentators and fans respond to losing. Every year there can be only one champion in each tournament. The odds are not good for each individual. Expectations remain high, though. I find it disconcerting when a player is ripped when they face an opponent who plays at the top of their game. An example of this is Stan Warwrinka’s loss to Roger Federer. Wawrinka came into the match playing very well, better than Federer up to that point in fact. But Fed showed up in a big way and reminded us all that he is the greatest tennis-playing human to ever walk the earth. And Warwrinka was roundly criticized for not playing better against Federer. The truth is that Warwrinka played very well. Fed was just that much better.

Andy Murray losing in the final is another example. To make matters worse he has now lost three major finals without winning a single set. But if you’re evaluating Murray’s 2011 Australian Open performance you can’t look past how well he played on the road to the final. Even in the final he started strong enough, things just spiraled out of control when Djokovic raised his game to a new level.   

As a fan I prefer to enjoy the quality of tennis being played, not demanding that players raise their game to another level. Sure I want them to be the best they can be–and being discontent with their current game is part of that–but it’s exhausting to look at a match and see only failure. With each match one player wins and one player loses. I choose to focus on the positive. Sometimes a player needs to be called out for a poor effort, but most of the time players lose giving everything they have.

In the final Andy Murray did not give away the match. Novak Djokovic went out on the court and won the match by playing tennis at a level most people can only dream about.

Now It Is Over

In a way I’m glad the tournament is over. Now I won’t have to exercise constant self control to avoid watching tennis. And getting up at 3am for the late round matches was a bit draining too. Now I just need to fight the acute tennis withdrawal I got from watching the tournament. The courts in Happy Valley are all under snow.

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