The Big 2…?
The Big 2?
There comes a time in life when an individual’s ability is doubted, correctly maybe, if the entity cannot perform to a level that is expected, but incorrectly so doubters can make headlines. However, there further comes a time when this very individual offers to display his master class and remind the world of his existence…
Melbourne is hosting the biggest tennis event of the year in Asia. The AusOpen generates the largest crowds in any tennis event, the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific, like the country is very large-hearted. A host of in-stadium events through the days will entertain old and young. But that’s not what the crowds gather for is it?
The Australian Open is definitely the most grueling tennis event for top athletes. Wimbledon has the rain, New York has the swirling winds and Roland Garros has that meat pit of top spin giants, but this is different. When temperatures hit over 45C, it gets hard to breathe, re-hydrate and walk, forget performing with such extreme levels of power and intensity.
Remember last year’s final? Almost 6 hours I think. Ask yourself, how many times you’ve played an active part in sport for 6 hours in a day, for some that figure is hard to achieve even in a week. I think I’ll put my neck out there and call Novak and Rafa superheroes.
The men’s draw last year had the most ideal scenario in the semi-finals. After a long time in Grand Slam history were the top 4 men’s seed in the final 4. Surely this had to be the best possible finals week, and yes it was. Nadal vs Federer, a mouth-watering battle between two legends, and Nole and Murray, the friends; one who achieved the most magical previous year, climbing the steps to historical status, and another, talented but one to crumble from expectation of his own head, and maybe that Pom country.
This year, tables have somewhat changed. Here is my question – is there just a Big 2?
Nole is defending champion and currently, has the cleanest game in world tennis. Athletic, strong, solid in defense and effective in attack. His return of serve has matched and maybe even surpassed the great Agassi’s ability, and his recovery speed and anticipation one to be admired. So, for many the obvious punt on another Slam.
Andy Murray, endeared himself to most crowds last year. A gut wrenching defeat at Wimbledon changed his fortunes. The British media, if I may, stopped hating on him, and with support from the Ice-man Lendl has managed to overcome his own fears. The Olympic champion ended the year with his first Grand Slam in Flushing Meadows. A favourite on hard courts again? If he can keep his cool, Murray is one of the fastest on court, and with his slice has discovered a way to change the tempo of points.
Surprisingly, the papers in most countries have chalked out their favourites already. Murray and Djokovic, different sides of the draw are poised to face each other yet again. There’s just one problem. A certain, Roger Federer. The man who makes tennis seem ethereal, ballet-like. A disciple of Rod Laver, the greatest ever will always have a part to play, is it fair to write him off this early?
John McEnroe has stated FedEx will wither in the heat this time around. It’s hard to accept a statement of such nature purely because, he’s been there and most certainly done that. Fed is one of the very few athletes to manage his body in a respectable manner and avoided any major injuries. That itself is testament to his greatness as it hasn’t led to any compromise in technique. Curiously, Federer has felt the need to reiterate his presence at this Slam. Is there a need? Or is there a fear of if I may say failure..
The absence of the Spanish warrior has raised certain questions. Nadals injury record has been well documented. His ability to continue as a pro-athlete was doubted at the age of 19. Warned by doctors, and given a time of a year, the Mallorcan has won over 10 Slams and his rivalry with Federer first and now Djokovic produces arguably the best tennis seen in years. However, a new theory of silent ban being imposed for doping has floated. Not proved, but his return to action was delayed further by illness. One can only hope for his swift return
Does Nadals absence and Federers anxiety make the field the Big 2?
My bet would probably leave at the Big 4 still. Nadals return during clay season will probably shake up the pile a bit further, no one likes facing the Spaniard in full flow. The Greatest Ever, is called that for a reason. The media in their build up has chosen to ignore that he dominated SW19 last year.
While Nole and Murray might be pre tournament favourites, ask yourself truly whether there is no place for the others…
The Australian Open will certainly set the tone for the New Year, but to coin the Big 2 this early, is probably against the sports best interest and the stupidity of a reader.
The age-old saying always applies, form is temporary, class is permanent.
Have a viewpoint different than mine? Would love to hear it.
Bijon Keswani can be found on Twitter @Bijon_Keswani