The most memorable matches in Australian Open historyJanuary 09, 2017
The 2017 Australian Open, which will be held on January 16-29, will be more interesting, if not intriguing, than the previous editions. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are likely to be seeded ninth and sixteenth respectively, which means there's a possibility that both players will meet Andy Murray and/or Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. Milos Raonic will be the third seed of a Grand Slam event for the first time, and this season might make or break for him. The spectators at Melbourne Park may witness his breakthrough. And hometown fans will wonder which side of Nick Kyrgios will show up.
On the women's side, Angelique Kerber will begin her defense of her title. There will be a lot of pressure on her, as the women's field is stacked with many contenders. Serena Williams might win her 23rd major singles title. Dominika Cibulková may follow up her victory in Singapore with her first Grand Slam singles title. Samantha Stosur can be around during the second week. Madison Keys, a semifinalist two years ago, will sit this one. (Her wrist injury is not fully healed.) Two-time winner Victoria Azarenka will be on maternity leave while Petra Kvitová can't play with her left hand (after house invasion and robbery in her place).
The summer heat can take a toll on players, so fans will understand them if some matches won't make a distance. (Some will retire during the match, which happens anytime of the year.) Nonetheless, the history of the Australian Open had drama and what-might-have-been scenarios. For instance, the women's singles final of the 1993 Australian Open featured Monica Seles and Steffi Graf. This was more intense than their meeting in Roland Garros the previous year, where the third set ended with 10-8 (in Seles's favor). The final score (4-6, 6-3, 6-2) may have belied the competitive nature, but the tragic incident in Hamburg a few months later propelled this match into the record books. There may be another Aussie Open finals between Graf and Seles, and the latter would continue her domination of the women's tour at a very young age. Let's not forget the men's final in 2009, where Federer broke down during the trophy presentation. Nadal turned out to be a gracious winner.
Here are five matches to relive:
Rod Laver vs. Tony Roche (1969). It was the year when professionals were allowed to play in the sport, and Rod Laver made another attempt of holding all four major singles titles in a calendar year. There were no tiebreakers back then, and the second set ended with 22-20 (in Laver's favor). The third set was a little less tight than the previous one. (It ended 11-9 in Roche's favor.) There won't be any videos or recording equipment back then, but Laver recalled the temperature reaching 105 degree Celsius during that day. There won't be any retractable roof, and the match lasted four hours. Laver put cabbage leaves inside his fat (to keep a cool head), but there might be more to it. Both players don't recall the other details due to the heat. What a bummer, but Laver won the match (and the title).
Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert (1981). This edition featured the big names on the women's tour, but everyone expected another clash between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. It was their fourth encounter in a Grand Slam finals, and it went the distance. Grass may be Navratilova's favorite surface, but Evert's groundstrokes would be dangerous on the slick surface. It was a taut match, with Navratilova getting the needed break during the final set. It was her first Australian Open title.
Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras (2000). The best server of the game met the best service returner ever. It was an interesting study of the contrasting style of play, and Sampras managed to serve 37 aces. It wasn't good enough to pull a win, as the other aspects of Agassi's game would bring him to the finals. (The Las Vegas native beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov for his third title.)
Jennifer Capriati vs. Martina Hingis (2002). Jennifer Capriati's teenage struggles taught her to persevere through tough times. She might not have staged a comeback (and defended her title successfully) if she didn't have this experience.
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal (2012). The match ended at 1:37 AM, ten minutes shy of six hours. This was the longest finals in Grand Slam history, where Djokovic and Nadal gave their all. It was a spellbinding spectacle, with the Spaniard falling to his knees after winning the fourth set tiebreak. He had a break in the final set, but Djokovic rallied to win the fifth (and third title) at 7-5. The Serb fell flat after losing a 32-shot rally (in the ninth game), but he matched Nadal's power and speed. Djokovic was a spring chicken compared to Nadal, which gave the former an advantage.
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