Tennis Elbow: Same song and dance

January 28, 2013 · Print This Article

Welcome to the second season of Tennis Elbow. Once again in 2013, the column will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first Grand Slam of the 2013 season.

Novak Djokovic danced.

After three hours and 40 minutes of play, after having secured another title, he danced. Yep. He shook Andy Murray’s hand and then the chair umpire’s, next threw his racquet on the court, headed toward his player’s box and then did a few dance steps.

Because—why not?

This 2013 Australian Open men’s final had the makings of a classic. In large part, this was because history would be made one way or another. If Andy Murray won, he would become the first man in the Open era to capture a second Grand Slam title on the very next tournament following his first one. But instead, Djokovic won, making him the very first in history to win three Australian Open titles in a row. The two matches between the two in Grand Slam tournaments during the 2012 season (i.e. a semifinal in Melbourne a year ago, and the US Open final) were a reminder that just about anything is possible when they play each other.

But in the end, the classic never fully materialized. Djokovic won 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3 and 6-2 for his sixth Grand Slam title overall, and fourth in Australia. But this men’s final wasn’t quite a classic and that’s okay, because not every match can be one. This time, it’s probably because Murray and Novak are so similar to one another. Both were born within a week of each other in 1987 and have competed against one another since the age of 11. Both have great defense, groundstrokes, serves and counterattacks. If Murray is a little bit more powerful, Djokovic’s belief never fails him.

Their matches aren’t a clash of styles, really, as much as they are lessons in self-reinvention. If an opponent plays a similar game as yours, then the key becomes to add new wrinkles to your own. Djokovic took this to heart and played at the net more than he usually does. He was successful, too, winning 35 of 41 points.

Following his win against Roger Federer in the final, Murray had said that he hoped the final would be a very painful one physically–that would mean that it was a great match. He was right in saying that this was a great match, regardless of his apparent injuries (i.e. blisters, hamstring). But for a set, the Djokovic fan that I am thought that it was pretty painful to watch. Djokovic was erratic, and couldn’t capitalize on opportunities (i.e. 0 for 5 on break points) during the 68-minute first set, which Murray won. “Damn. Of course, Murray won. Of course. Watch it unfold just as the US Open,” I told myself.

(Except that, well, it didn’t, and that I’m quite happy about it.)

It was painful to watch regardless of fandom–this goes for the entire tournament. Watching the Australian Open is learning the hard way that 4 a.m. is a time when a person should be asleep. Though the final wasn’t a classic, what has become a classic is watching the tournament live in North America. It’s painful because it’s so tiring, but it’s also great because it’s so tiring. It doesn’t have to make sense, right?

With the final tied at one set apiece, Darren Cahill mentioned that he felt like both players were preserving energy by trying to play the score–that is, they were more inclined to let a game go if they got down 30-0 or 40-15. They had played over two hours by then, and they understood that they would need more energy if the match reached a fifth set.

It never did, and maybe that’s why Djokovic danced after this match–because he had preserved some energy. Or maybe he danced because he knows he’s the King of Australia.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG

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One Response to “Tennis Elbow: Same song and dance”

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