Monday, February 2, 2015

What We Learned from the Australian Open-the Semifinalists Edition

Novak Djokovic: Djokovic had a lot riding on this Australian Open, and he has clearly separated himself from the rest of the field.  Had he failed to take home the title, he would have let both the US Open and Australian Open slip away despite clearly being the best hard court player in the world.  Djokovic is now on track to have a huge 2015, as he should have a great opportunity to pick up another major or two during the season.  The Grand Slam is in play, and while Nadal will still likely be the favorite at the French, Djokovic appears to be closing the gap on clay.  Djokovic at his best is almost never going to lose, and perhaps more importantly, he has become the best in the world at finding ways to win when he's having an off day.  Djokovic now has to be included in the conversation when talking about the best players of all time, and while he is still a tier below Federer, Sampras, Laver and Nadal, he may not end up very far behind.

Andy Murray:  Murray ran out of steam against Djokovic, but he took a significant step forward with his run to the finals.  After his poor 2014, there were questions whether Murray still belonged as a member of the Big Four.  He has made clear he's currently a top four player (if not higher), and should be a threat to win several big tournaments throughout the year.  Djokovic has always been a tough matchup for Murray, as Djokovic does nearly everything just as well if not better.  However, Murray should believe he's the favorite against nearly everyone else he plays on hard courts throughout the rest of the year.  Murray announced he's back amongst the elite, and with the right draw should be capable of adding a third major at some point this year.

Stan Wawrinka:  It was surprising to hear Wawrinka admit to being physically and mentally drained after his semifinal loss to Djokovic, but it wasn't a bad tournament by any means for the Swiss.  He looked great taking out Nishikori in the quarters, and is back to playing at a top 5 level.  Wawrinka shouldn't be criticized for a semifinal performance, and with a little time off should be able to regroup in time for Indian Wells and Miami.  Wawrinka may well turn out to be a one slam wonder, but it's clear he's going to be an extremely tough out for anyone at the grand slams for the next couple of years.

Tomas Berdych:  Berdych will likely have mixed feelings following his semifinal run in Australia.  He finally broke the streak against Nadal, but it was clear Nadal hadn't yet returned to peak form.  He has a solid career record against Murray, and was certainly capable of topping Murray to reach the finals.  Beating Murray and Djokovic back to back may have been asking a bit much, but such a feat will likely be necessary if Berdych is ever going to break through and win a slam.  Berdych appears well on his way to another year in the top 10, and still seems as dangerous as any of the younger Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov trifecta.  It looks like Berdych remains capable of beating one top player per tournament, but navigating through two or three elite players on his way to a major title is beyond his abilities.

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