British Tennis Success Down Under

Andy Murray. Novak Djokovic. Melbourne. A familiar scene with an all­ too familiar ending for the Scot, now winless in five Australian Open finals and forced to watch his rival hoist his sixth Australian trophy to make it eleven career Grand Slams with a 6­1, 7­5, 7­6 straight sets victory. Djokovic is now at a level where he simply has to be discussed as one of the greatest ever. His defensive play is masterful, his ground­strokes are so consistently deep that his opponents have no room to breath, and physically he can outlast anyone over five sets. Murray needs to find something extra if he’s going to regularly threaten Djokovic ­ since Murray’s triumph at Wimbledon in 2013 the rivalry has been ridiculously one­sided, with the Serbian winning 11 of the last 12 meetings.

Outside of the usual suspects Milos Raonic was the the most impressive performer. The powerful server has long been spoken about as the next guy to challenge at the top of the men’s game, but at 25 he can’t afford to wait for Murray and Djokovic to go away. With the title at the Brisbane International already under his belt in 2016, the Canadian has started the year well and must continue his development, and it is imperative he avoids injuries that have troubled his career so far. Other young talents such as Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios both fell in the third round, while Nadal continued his troubles in Gran Slams with a first round exit.

In the women’s side Angelique Kerber triumphed over Serena Williams 6­4, 3­6, 6­4 to claim her first career Grand Slam. Williams, as ever, was a heavy favourite but served poorly and hit 46 unforced errors to Kerber’s 13. Kerber used her great defensive skills to prolong rallies and passed Williams regularly when the American came into the net and clearly deserves immense credit for her win. Williams is one the best of all time and boasted a scarcely believable 21­4 Grand Slam finals record coming into this one, so beating her is a fantastic achievement. That said, this should be viewed as one that got away from Williams. Victory would have levelled her with Stefi Graff on 22 career Grand Slams, but she did not play as we have become so accustomed to seeing in major finals.

From a British perspective Johanna Konta’s impressive march to the semi­finals was a delight to watch. She is now ranked in the top 30 for the first time and showed that she has the potential to challenge for slams. Her combination of agility and intelligent shot selection means that she can always pose a threat when playing well. There was also a men’s doubles victory for Jamie Murray and his partner Bruno Soares, and Scot Gordon Reid won in the men’s wheelchair singles as well as reaching the final of the doubles. Reid delivered an exceptional tournament and has set his sights on Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics.

Ryan Kirkman 

Featured image: Irish Mirror 


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