Federer, Williams hold serve in Melbourne


The first major tennis tournament of the 2010 season, the Australian Open in Melbourne, had typical finishes, but with a more interesting course. With title wins by Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the tournament looked like most of those in recent history with the exception that the results of earlier matches mixed things up a bit.

In men’s singles top seeds, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro all made it through the first three rounds. However, in the fourth round, fourth-seed Juan Martin del Potro was upset by a 21-year-old Croatian, Marin Cilic, the 14th seed. Cilic went on to defeat seventh-seed Roddick in the quarterfinals, while defending champion Nadal, seeded second, was forced to retire because of knee problems in the third set of a match in which he was two games to love down to fifth-seed Murray. The third seed, Novak Djokovic, was also upset by 1oth-seed Jo-Wilfied Tsonga in the quarterfinals. However, Tsonga’s and Cilic’s Cinderella stories came to an end in the semifinals. Federer proved to be too much for Tsonga to handle as he bested the Frenchman in straight sets and Murray ousted Cilic in four. The 2010 final was boring compared to last year’s classic battle between tennis titans Federer and Nadal, in which Nadal won his first hard court title, outlasting the number-one player in the world in five sets. This year Federer got his vengence: albeit not against Nadal: sweeping Murray in straight sets.

On the women’s side, the Australian Open marked the first major tournament back for Belgian Justine Henin,who returned after 20 months of retirement. Henin’s countrywoman Kim Clijsters who also recently pulled a Brett Farve and returned from retirement, also qualified for the tournament. Nonetheless Clijsters exited unceremoniously early, losing in straight sets to Nadia Petrova in the third round. Former world number one, Henin proved she still belongs in the upper echelons of the sport, playing her way into the finals.  However, her run at a second career Australian open title fell just short as she lost to Serena Williams in three sets. Russian Maria Sharapova continued to struggle with her game in the wake of 2009 shoulder surgery as she was upset in the first round by her former doubles partner, Maria Kirilenko. The 2010 Australian Open marked an historic achievement for Chinese tennis as Li Na and Zheng Jie became the first two Chinese women to advance to the semifinals of a Grand Slam event.

The 2010 Australian Open was characterized by comebacks and injuries. Nadal had to retire from his game against Murray because of a right knee injury: no, not the same injury he had last season, but the same knee: and Del Potro suffered foot and back injuries during the course of the tournament. Injuries were not limited to the men’s side: Serena Williams walked into the final against Henin heavily taped. The emergence of Na and Jie and impressive play by the top men and women suggest that this year could be an interesting and exciting one for tennis fans.