I would like to start by reintroducing myself. Why? Well, I have noticed over the past year or so that the readership of this blog has grown (probably no thanks to me and my rants!) and I have been, at best, a passive reader during my absence.
Where do I start? For those who know me, I've been away from posting largely due to my mother being ill in hospital. She had a long history of heart and chest related problems. Judging by my use of the past tense, you'd be right in assuming that she is no longer with us. She sadly passed away a few months ago after quite a long stint in hospital. It's weird, but the rollercoaster that this whole episode was seems like it was ages ago, when it wasn't. At times, it has been hard trying to get (and remain!) focussed. I am OK though. The term moving on for me is more like a helical spring-shaped path as opposed to a simple straight line. Losing a loved one, well, feelings come and go as time goes by. Time does heal a great deal and I am thankful for what and whom I do have.
So, in a way, tennis does help to keep me (somewhat) sane – all the more thanks to you guys.
Now, for those who may be thinking: "Who the hell is this guy?!" and/or "Where the heck did he come from?!", I am an old friend and sometimes tennis partner of our beloved friend Topspin. We have been talking about tennis like quasi-pundits for around 10-12 years, back when we were in our early 20s (Woops! Have I just given away our ages?! HAHA!!). Top gave me the honour of being a guest poster on this fine blog and you will find that I am far more shamelessly opinionated and certain things (like the [crap] state of British tennis) wind me up something chronic. However, I like to think I am a malleable sort of chap who can be persuaded to see and sometimes take on different perspectives to issues around The Beautiful Game – no, not the one where 20-22 people are running around trying to kick an overglorified pig's bladder through a metal rectangle!
(Though I am a football fan as well, just nowhere near as much)
This Aussie Open…I paid more attention to the 'business end', i.e. the second week and it seemed to be lacking a certain something. Yes, it had the crazy epic duels early on in the first week, the odd upset (Delpo's early exit), dark horses (Cilic) and yes, Federer played a very good tournament and all that. However, I can't help but feel that tennis has come full circle since 2007, when Federer dominated like something crazy. I'm sure he is older and wiser, especially being a dad now – his life must have a lot more perspective now and he seems to be playing much more freely. He got the GOAT, as well, although not against Nadal at any point along the way but through no fault of his own. Anyway, he has nothing to prove and I think most people would be inclined to agree. I do think that had he won last year in that 5-set epic with Nadal, it may have been more fulfilling, probably because it would have silenced a lot of critics. I must add that his volleying has lost quite a lot of its edge, especially in the final. I think Tsonga may be the best volleyer around today, as he more willingly comes to the net.
I am also saddened by Nadal's status quo at the mo. All I can say is that I hope he gets back to full fitness soon and we get to see him flourish and achieve even more. He's too nice a guy to not wish him well. Though I am sure he's learnt his lesson and not enter 500 clay court tournaments in any given year!
Djokovic has matured in terms of his attitude off court as well as his game. Just take a look at how awkward he felt when asked to do an impression of Nadal (in front of him as well!) at a presentation ceremony (was it at Rome?). He seems just as lethal off both wings and, oh yeah, he has changed attire from Adidas to Sergio Tacchini (Are they back now? What about Ellesse?).
Murray really looked as though he was ready for his maiden Slam. His game has come on leaps and bounds, although he needs to improve his 1st serve percentage. His second serve is better now than it was at the last Wimby, it has to be said. Like Roger said, his time will surely come soon. And he's also switched clothing from Fred Perry to Adidas…
I still think there is another Slam or so left in A-Rod…though I will not commit to anything by saying when and where it might come.
I reckon Delpo will bounce back from this early setback. Being tall, he can slap any loopy forehands Nadal can throw at him, as he did in Flushing Meadow. He has also exorcised the demon posed by Fed.
Nando Verdasco…I just want to slap him for losing against Davydenko! Not so much for losing against him because Kolya has improved, it's more the manner in which he lost. I still think Davy lacks the flair it takes to win a Slam, maybe he'll prove me wrong. We'll not talk about that set he took of Fed because even I probably could have taken that set off him!
So yeah, things have changed, but maybe we've just been given a brief flashback of how things used to be. You know, Federer just finishing matches at will, even in Slams. In the grand scheme of things, the field has opened up, with at least 4-5 realistic Grand Slam contenders. The next few months will definitely be very interesting…