Australian Open 2012: A 100th birthday to remember

Marianne Bevis takes a look back at the highlights of the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne

novak djokovic victoria azarenka
Australian Open champions Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic PA Photos

novak djokovic victoria azarenka

This was a big year for the Australian Open: its 100th year, its 25th at Melbourne Park—the 25th since switching from grass to hard courts—and 50 years since the man whose name graces this tournament’s centre court, Rod Laver, won the calendar Grand Slam.

No-one except Laver himself has managed the feat since—the only man to do so in both the pre- and post-Open eras. He was a near-Royal presence at many of the key matches this year, including what may turn out to be the first steps of the man who could repeat his Grand Slam feat this year.

Champions top the rankings

The week ended in a climax worthy of such celebratory event, with world No1 Novak Djokovic retaining the men’s title in the longest men’s Grand Slam final on record, a dramatic 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 victory over Rafael Nadal in five hours and 53 minutes.

It was Djokovic’s third Australian title and his third straight Major. He will now, with some confidence, target his first French Open title to bag a non-calendar Slam, but there are many who believe he could also emulate the great Laver’s achievement of a 2012 clean sweep.

The women’s champion, Victoria Azarenka, heralded what may be a significant transition from the old school—especially with the imminent retirement of Kim Clijsters—to a new generation of exciting, strong young women. She took apart former champion Maria Sharapova, 6-3, 6-0, to win her first Major, and with it came the No1 ranking.

Right behind her at No2 is the equally formidable Petra Kvitova, winner of Wimbledon and the WTA championships in the last six months. The two look certain to spearhead the women’s tour in 2012.

Not forgetting…

The remarkable Esther Vergeer extended her unbroken run of wins in the women’s wheelchair event to 444, to take her fifth Australian title.

Leander Paes celebrated his 49th doubles title and his first career Grand Slam when he joined forces with Radek Stepanek to win the men’s title. He reached the mixed finals with Elena Vesnina, too.

Brits Andrew Lapthorne and Peter Norfolk won the quad wheelchair doubles title, and Norfolk also won the quad singles.

More British junior success followed Oliver Golding’s US Open singles win last September: Liam Broady and Joshua Ward-Hibbert won Australia’s boys doubles.

Quotes of the championships

Lleyton Hewitt, on reaching a fourth-round match against Djokovic: “I was hoping my body would hold up for one match. I didn’t look past Andy (Roddick), I didn’t look past Milos (Raonic). Now I’ve got Novak.”

Bernard Tomic on playing his tennis hero, Roger Federer: “The harder I hit it, the ball comes back and ends up always being a winner…It’s good to watch, even for me, playing, I enjoy watching it.”

Sharapova on Agnieszka Radwanska’s comment about her opponent’s grunting: “Isn’t she back in Poland already?”

Federer on reaching his 1000th match: “Well, 1000 matches, not 1000 wins. Big difference…Either I have been around a long time or I’m extremely fit: You decide.”

Bob Bryan, finalist in the men’s doubles, about wife Michelle’s imminent delivery of a baby: “It’s crunch time, yeah. She turned [the TV] off in the third set because she was starting to feel a couple small contractions. I’ve been telling her: ‘Don’t watch the matches…you might spit that baby out’.”

Andy Murray, about himself, after his five-hour, five-set semi-final loss to Djokovic: “A different player, a different attitude to this time last year. Yeah, I’m proud of the way I fought.”

Djokovic, on Nadal’s comment that he enjoyed the suffering of extreme contests: “You’re going through so much suffering your toes are bleeding. Everything is just outrageous, you know, but you’re still enjoying that pain.”

Rankings

Juan Martin del Potro re-entered the top 10 for the first time since September 2010, the year he underwent wrist surgery.

Caroline Wozniacki slipped to No4 after ending the last two years as No1 despite failing to win a Grand Slam title.

Feliciano Lopez reached a new career high of No15, one of three 30-year-olds and four Spaniards in top 15.

Radwanska climbed two places to a career-high No6, after falling in the Melbourne quarters in three sets to eventual champion Azarenka.

Kei Nishikori broke into the top 20, moving up six places to No20, after reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open, the first Japanese man to do so in the Open era.

Marion Bartoli rose to a career-high No7 after exactly 12 years on the pro tour.

And finally…

The Australian Open ran a Social Leaderboard throughout the tournament to measure the most popular players via tweets and Facebook likes. And the winners are:

1. Rafael Nadal
2. Roger Federer
3. Novak Djokovic
4. Andy Murray
5. Maria Sharapova

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