On Saturday evening in Melbourne, Na Li defeated Dominika Cibulkova to win her second Grand Slam title, 7-6(3) 6-0. It was a good final to bring the curtain down on a first Grand Slam of the year for the women that featured plenty of surprises. Here is what I will take away from the 2014 women’s Australian Open.
The Final: Li d. Cibulkova, 7-6(3) 6-0
All in all, I thought this was an enjoyable women’s final. The first half of the first set was incredibly scratchy, full of errors and both players unsurprisingly struggling to find their rhythm. I thought the second half though was both entertaining and engaging. Cibulkova maintained her composure superbly well considering this was her first Grand Slam final. Li was unable to serve out the set at 6-5, but held her nerve to bag the first set on the tiebreak. The second set was just terrific tennis from Li. Her backhand was really on the money today and she managed to cut out the forehand errors in the second set. Cibulkova fought admirably well; I would have liked to see her not hit as many balls down the centre and have gotten Li on the run more. Her second serve remains a weakness that she needs to work on if she is going to crack the top ten.
Cibulkova had a tremendous week and deserved to reach the final. I hope she can maintain this form for the rest of the year although I remain on the fence. She has always been capable of beating the best players; it has been maintaining her consistency throughout a year that has always evaded her. Li will now be just 11 points behind Azarenka in the rankings and has started the season with a huge confidence boost. I am looking forward to seeing if she can work out the one thing that still eludes her on tour… Serena. A huge shout out to both players for great speeches in what has to be one of the best trophy ceremonies ever. I was in hysterics at Li’s speech, which was just classic.
The exits of Serena, Azarenka and Sharapova:
The big three all fell before the semi-finals in results akin to the armageddon of seeds at last year’s Wimbledon. First to go was Serena Williams, who went crashing out to Ana Ivanovic in the 4th round, 4-6 6-3 6-3. It was clear there were injury issues for Serena despite how well Ana played and I don’t think anyone was worried by Serena’s loss in terms of her moving forward for the rest of the year. Sharapova had endured several ropey performances including a second round thriller with Karin Knapp, which lasted three hours and 28 minutes in blistering heat. Her defeat to Dominika Cibulkova in the 4th round wasn’t that surprising. Considering the amount of tennis she has played since Wimbledon, I thought she did reasonably well. Victoria Azarenka reached the quarter-finals, but was taken out by some wizardy from Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter-finals. It was a surprising loss for Vika, particularly the nature of it as she lost 6-1 5-7 6-0. She played a poor match with her normally solid forehand spraying errors all over the place. Azarenka remains a superb competitor on tour, but she hasn’t played her best tennis for many months now.
Eugenie Bouchard was a real revelation at this Australian Open. She did have an extremely favourable draw, but showed why she is held in such regard with some gritty performances to come from sets down to beat Casey Dellacqua in the 4th round and Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals. I actually thought Bouchard didn’t play her best tennis throughout this tournament, but she dug in so well and produced some clutch tennis at times. Just have a look below at some of the points she played to tough out a second round win over against Virginie Razzano. It is also worth mentioning that this was her FIRST appearance in the Australian Open main draw and she reached the semis! I think she is going to be a huge draw for the WTA tour and she received fantastic support throughout the tournament from the GenieArmy, who cheered her on valiantly, giving her a new soft toy after every match.
Equally impressive was Garbine Muguruza, who reached the last 16 with victories over Kaia Kanepi and Caroline Wozniacki. The young Spaniard has put her name on the map and will now be rightly regarded in the same light as the likes of Bouchard, Keys, Robson and Puig. She is defending no points during the second half of the year after undergoing ankle surgery in 2013. It was a very wise move to do it so early in her career and Muguruza is now reaping the benefits. Her game has the potential to be the most complete of all the up-and-comers.
First round shocks:
It feels about 9 years ago now since Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani were both stunned in the first round of this year’s Australian Open. Kvitova fell at the hands of the young Thai player, Luksika Kunkhum, meanwhile Errani was overpowered by Julia Goerges in a straight sets loss. Both players are back in action next week in the Paris indoors event. I won’t give up on Petra just yet! Despite the poor loss, conditions didn’t favour her in Melbourne. I still think she can be a legitimate contender in at least one Grand Slam tournament this year. Errani and Roberta Vinci won the doubles title in a dramatic three set finale, but I do worry for both them in singles this year.
Best Matches of the Tournament:
To be honest, I am not the most qualified for this one since I missed a lot of the matches, but here you go anyway!
- Makarova d. V.Williams, 2-6 6-4 6-4 (R1)
When I look back on all the matches I personally watched, the best tennis I saw was within the first few hours of the tournament as Makarova edged past Venus in three sets. There were some stirring rallies and if you are a Venus fan, the first set was an absolute clinic of superb, attacking tennis. Venus wavered in the second and third sets, but it remained a throughly engaging contest throughout.
Highlights by TheMsharapova2
- Sharapova d. Knapp, 6-3 4-6 10-8 (R2)
The longest match of the women’s tournament deserves a mention for the heroic efforts from both women in horrendous conditions. Knapp played a tremendous match, but it was Sharapova who toughed out the win, 10-8 in the deciding set.
Highlights by TennisLoveHD
- Pennetta d. Kerber, 6-1 4-6 7-5, (R4)
This was a terrific contest, which was rather overshadowed by Ivanovic’s win over Serena on the same day. Pennetta played a near perfect first set, but Kerber mounted much sterner resistance in the second and third sets before Pennetta prevailed to record back-to-back quarter-final appearances at the Grand Slams.
Highlights by ATimTamTV
Also worth a mention:
- Radwanska d. Azarenka, 6-1 5-7 6-0 (QF)
- Muguruza d. Wozniacki, 4-6 7-5 6-3 (R3)
- Bouchard d. Razzano, 6-2 7-6(10) (R2)
- Ivanovic d. Serena, 4-6 6-3 6-3 (R4)
- Ivanovic d. Stosur, 6-7(8) 6-4 6-2 (R3)
Shock of the tournament:
Serena v Ivanovic was the obvious one, but I was most shocked by the nature of Radwanska’s quarter-final win over Azarenka. A breadstick and a bagel against a player she hadn’t beaten since 2011 is still blowing my mind.
Photo of the tournament:
This was really sweet 🙂
Moo’s Original Predictions:
Terrible… just terrible. The only positive was that I correctly predicted Bouchard to make the quarter-finals and in my daily previews, I had her to beat Ivanovic. Otherwise, from the 4th round, I got most things wrong with all the upsets. I correctly predicted 3 out of the 8 quarter-finalists and overall, had 57% correct picks.
I enjoyed the Australian Open much more than the last Grand Slam in New York. I personally like all the surprises because you get to see some new faces in the latter stages and Cibulkova really shone in the spotlight. I am excited about the bundles of talent coming though and they really started to make a name for themselves on the big stage with Muguruza, Halep and Bouchard all having career best performances at a Grand Slam. The closing stages of the tournaments did miss a big match-up though and neither semi-finals or final were high quality matches. I really do like the Australian Open, but the time difference is a bitch…