Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Aussie Open Lessons

Milos Raonic is officially back:  Raonic made his move into the top ten a couple of years ago, and appeared to be ready to rise even higher.  A foot injury in early 2015 ruined his momentum, and he never really got back on track the rest of the year.  He fell outside the top 10, and it looked like his career was suddenly heading in the wrong direction.  Now it appears his decline in 2015 was just a minor blip, and that he's serious about making a run toward the top 5.  Raonic was impressive on his way to the Australian Open semis, and who knows what would have happened if he didn't hurt his leg during his 5 set loss to Murray.  Raonic may not be the smoothest player around and has limited movement, but he's got serious weapons and seems committed to improving his all-around game.  If he can stay healthy, don't be surprised if Raonic finishes 2016 around 5 in the world.

Ferrer isn't ready to go down quietly:  Every year it seems like Ferrer is going to take a step back.  His game is largely based on his incredible endurance, speed and footwork, and that gets harder and harder to sustain as a player gets into his thirties.  Ferrer was struggling heading into Australia, with losses in tune ups to Sock and Marchenko.  However, he was impressive in taking down Americans Steve Johnson and John Isner, before putting up a good fight against Murray in the quarters.  Ferrer's ranking will probably fall off a bit in 2016, but it looks like he's going to continue to give it everything he's got in the coming year.

There's not much separating the winners from the losers: Angelique Kerber had the tournament of her life.  She beat pre-tournament favorites Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, won her first grand slam title and rose to number 2 in the world.  Not a bad couple of weeks for the German.  But it could have been a completely different story for Kerber if a net cord or shank went against her when she was down match point to Misaki Doi of Japan in her first round match.  While the announcers did give this some attention during the finals, it really is remarkable.  She was one point away from being a first round loser, having to face continued questions about her record in majors, etc, and then she goes out and wins the whole tournament.  Regardless of where Kerber goes from here, she'll always have the label tennis pros want more than anything next to their name: grand slam champion.

American men weren't ready to take the next step:  American men were confident heading into Australia, but left without much to show for it.  Isner and Johnson were mowed down by Ferrer, and neither put up much of a fight.  Meanwhile, Sock lost to Lukas Rosol in the second round.  Sock was sick heading into the tournament, but has to make some changes if he truly wants to become a top singles player who can challenge for grand slam titles.  In hindsight, maybe Sock shouldn't have played a tournament the week before the Australian Open.  (He probably should have played Brisbane and gotten some real matches under his belt two weeks in advance as opposed to the Hopman Cup exhibition).  His decision to continue to play doubles in grand slams also has to be questioned, as for the second straight grand slam he lost a match in which fatigue and/or illness was an issue.  His future is still extremely bright, but he may have to make some hard decisions going forward if he wants to improve his results in the biggest events.

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