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Murray could push revitalised Federer to final

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Jonathan Overend | 08:51 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

Torrential rain here in Melbourne has made for a chaotic build-up to the first major of the tennis season with people everywhere in the player zone, stalls and stands half-constructed and the qualifying tournament behind schedule.

For most of Thursday, with no play possible, hundreds of players, coaches, family and friends were crammed into the tight player lounge and paranoia quickly set in. Players were afraid to stand up and do anything at the risk of losing their seats!

I saw one minor altercation, illustrating the cabin fever. One false move towards the pasta and the chair's a gonner. It's every man for himself at a major tournament.

Only the chosen few got to practice under the roof of Rod Laver Arena, a steady stream of superstars sampling what appeared to be slow conditions on the Melbourne centre court.

Everyone else sat around doing crosswords and watching DVDs. The luckiest people were those asked by the greats to be hitting partners. Suffice to say there were plenty of volunteers - it was the only way to get any court time.

Thankfully, at about 1.30pm on Friday, the rain which had soaked the city for days relented and the skies started to brighten.

Before long, people were back on the streets, rowers out on the Yarra River, players out on the courts. It felt like Melbourne again, summer in the city, the Australian Open kicking off the Grand Slam tennis year.

The draw has thrown up some interesting match-ups. Lleyton Hewitt v David Nalbandian is a repeat of the 2002 Wimbledon final and has already got the Aussies foaming with excitement. Kim Clijsters plays former world number one Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki has a tricky test against Gisela Dulko.

Wozniacki, the top seed from Denmark, has a nasty cut on her right leg, I noticed the other day. It probably won't be her only wound after Dulko has finished with her. The Argentine has a history of big scalps early in majors and I'm going for a first round upset in this one.

All eyes in the men's singles will be on Rafael Nadal to see whether he can win a fourth consecutive major and complete the "Rafa Slam".

In an era when his main rival is arguably the greatest of all time, it would be a phenomenal achievement if he could become the first man to win four in a row since Rod Laver in 1969.

Andy Murray practices in the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne

Murray looks in good spirits in Melbourne. Photo: AP

His last defeat in a major was here 12 months ago, when he retired from his quarter-final with Andy Murray. He was getting a beating on the court and his knees were creaking. We feared for him. We didn't think he was finished, but we feared for him.

Uncle Toni Nadal, his coach, revealed in a startling 5 Live interview two months ago that he also worried that Rafa would not return to the very top after that latest in a line of setbacks.

And that is the key context we should always remember as Nadal goes for this incredible piece of sporting history. His knees seemed shot just one year ago and yet now he is playing for four successive majors. It almost sounds too ridiculous to print.

It's worth noting at this point - however phenomenal four in a row would be - that Laver's was the true "Grand Slam" of all four majors in a calendar year. Surely that is beyond the even the immense capabilities of the man from Majorca.

If anyone can stop Nadal, Roger Federer would like to believe he can. Looking even trimmer than usual, the Swiss comes into this having won four of his last five ATP tournaments.

He has a burning desire to defend his title here, to recapture others in Paris, London and New York, and to regain the world number one position. His hiring of Paul Annacone as coach last autumn, and his subsequent almost unbeaten run, emphasised how much he wants it.

That is why I'm going for Federer to beat Robin Soderling or Andy Murray in the final.

Murray looks in good spirits and hopefully will recall good memories from his run to the Championship match here last year. For six matches, he was focussed, intense, ruthless. British fans would like more of the same, please, with the added fizz displayed in the World Tour Finals at the O2 in November, particularly in his swashbuckling semi-final with Nadal.

Can Murray win here? Same question as usual, same answer - of course he can! Bring it home with the Ashes!

This is my favourite overseas major of the year, so close to the river and the city, friendly staff, fun-loving punters, lots to do on the grounds.

And how nice it has been to march into the place head held high after the cricket. "Congratulations" said the bloke at airport immigration. "Congratulations" said the bloke who sets up our technical rig at the tennis. Unprompted, both, they just knew they had to get it out of the way early.

Great people here, they can take it, but I'll only feel sorry for them after the Brits have given them a hiding in the cricket one-dayers, won their tennis event and pinched the prime steaks from whichever BBQ we rock up to on finals weekend.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Your 'about this blog' is absolutely repulsive. Why do you feel the need to boast about your job in a tennis blog?

  • Comment number 2.

    this is my favourite slam as it is for us anyway in the miserable winter ,dark early days ,the fans and the whole summer thing going on it is like a mirage.but the scheduling is dodgy to say the least,we will more likey see aussie nobodies than superstars

    johathan i wanted to ask do you think feds days of beating rafa at the slams are over ,as im hearing fed vwill beat him because of the result against him in london,rafa being battered by murray for 3 hours ,all those lose to rafa must of destroyed him metally ,in other words if it got to 2 sts all ,federer v nadal in the finasl who would you have youre money on ,mine will be on rafa

  • Comment number 3.

    packersftw, what is your problem? Sounds like you're just jealous.

    Jonathan, entertaining blog as always!

  • Comment number 4.

    Should be an interesting slam as a lot of upsets are due to who's prepared well in the short season break. I think anyone of the top 5 can take it and Soderling looks in fine form, so a good call there. Personally, I hope we'll be graced with another Rafa vs Fed final. Nothing against the other guys... just love the rivalry.

  • Comment number 5.

    I hope fed can do it i would love to see another Federer v Nadal final as we havent had one for a few years and they are always the best matches

  • Comment number 6.

    Let's hope it's going to be third time lucky for Murray! This is usually the most open slam of the year so should be interesting. Federer has been in the final the last 2 years and he appears on good form and think Djokovic could be in with a good shout. Delpo possible 4th round opponent for Murray...could be interesting

  • Comment number 7.

    Think it's Rafa's to lose to be honest. Just can't see anyone matching his pace and power on these courts, which are pretty quick if the reports are to be believed.

    His game is now complete and he has every shot in the book. I actually think to beat him you have to keep it on his back-hand as his forehand is just way too aggressive to cope with. And you must get to the net quickly. Slug it out with him on the base-line and as we've seen so often he gets an angle off a forehand which will cripple you, pull you out of position to scramble a return, and leave a relatively easy shot for him to win the point.

    Vamos!


  • Comment number 8.

    Cannot see for one second how Rafa potentially winning the AO and thus completing the four in a row would be any less impressive than Laver's accomplishment. Not sure how Laver's efforts can be referred to as the 'true grand slam' and Rafa's potential 4 in a row not. Considering that he is playing in the same era as the so called GOAT and his off season consisted of about 5 days this year, not to mention that in Laver's day there were only 2 surfaces. There is absoluely no way (if Rafa were to pull it off) that his Grand Slam could be discredited. It would be the greatest achievement in tennis history. The tennis year never stops, no matter how it's done, winning four slams in a row in a ridiculous acievement.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's not jealousy, I go to every Slam of the year amongst other tournaments. I just think it's an incredibly pompous 'About Me' written by a dire journalist.

  • Comment number 10.

    @ALIDws, We all know that the true Grand Slam is winning the four grand slams in a season. This is what Laver was trying to point out. This is very difficult to do as you must win the Australian open all through to the US open. Failure to do this means you have to wait for another season. If nadal wins the australian open, he would have achieved the RAFA SLAM albeit 2 seasons - 2010 to 2011. If he does not win, he would have to wait till 2012 to achieve the true grand slam. This is what Rod Laver achieved twice. The only player that came so close was Federer at his best 2006-2007 only to lose to Nadal in the French Open on both occasions. It is pretty difficult to win the 4 grand slams in A SEASON.
    @Stephen,
    I do not see how the Australian open is Rafa's to lose. He has won just once here and we have a Federer with 4 wins and the defending champion too. A federer that has made the finals twice in a row and has gotten to the semi finals 04,05,06,07,08,09,10. Defeated top 8 players at the age of 29 to win his 5th Masters cup. Federer's worst result in a hard court slam since 2004 is a semi-final. Federer has only lost to 4 men in a hard court slam since 2004. Djokovic(twice- once{mono} {once in 5 sets}), Nadal(Once in 5 sets), DelPotro(Once in 5 sets), Safin(Once in 5 sets)What does this point to? To take out Federer, you must be at your best and he will surely take you the distance because he is the best there was, the best there is, the best............ until someone takes over.

  • Comment number 11.

    Rafa Slam!? Shouldn't that be the 'Budge Slam'? 1937-8?

  • Comment number 12.

    packersftw makes a quite ridiculous point!!

    If I was the tennis correspondent for the bbc I'd be shouting from the rafters about how good it is to follow tennis around the world. I think that enricorego has it exactly right when he says that it sounds like the guy is just jealous!
    Oh, but he does manage to see all the slams, well in that case, he should make a rival blog and keep his opinions to that board instead!

    With regards to the tennis, I dearly hope Federer comes good and continues his march to 20 slams! I can see Roger winning here, at Wimbledon and also New York. As for Paris, well I think that Rafa's untouchable....

  • Comment number 13.

    Rafa in my book. His quarter seems pretty free of banana-skins, and the way he cranks it up at the business end of the Slam, hard to look beyond him. Federer is the safe call from the other side, but I can see Djokovic doing a job especially if the weather stays on the cool side.

  • Comment number 14.

    Uchloveu,i am not denying that technically 'the Grand Slam' is traditionally meant to be done in the same calendar year, starting at the AO and finishing at the USO. However, the point i was trying to make was that Overend's article appeared to try and discredit Rafa's potential achievement by differentiating between the 'Rafa slam' and the 'true grand slam'. I just wanted to underline that the concept of a 'true grand slam' is an extinct and obsolete one owing to the never-ending nature of the tennis schedule. For any player to win 4 in a row is just as impressive as if they were to do it in the same year. By the way, Federer has never been in a position to win all the slams in the same year. He was in line to win 4 in row in 06 and 07 when he lost to Nadal at the FO. Had he won one of those matches he would have held all 4 at once but in 2 different seasons.Nonetheless, it would have been an amazing accomplishment, equal to a calendar year slam. It is just as difficult to win 4 in a row as to win 4 in the same year.

    In terms of who is favourite, obviously Federer's statistics are better than Rafa's and it's because he is 5 years older. From a short term perspective Rafa is without doubt the favourite and considering his 5-2 head to head record against Fed in grand slam finals he is definitely the man to beat.

  • Comment number 15.

    AliDws,
    Let the truth be told, which of these is easier? win 4 slams in the same year or win 4 in a row? I tell you, it is winning 4 in same year. you have just one chance to do it. for 4 slams in a row, you have 4 chances to do same.
    '06, Federer won AO, Wimby and US
    '07, Federer won AO, Wimby and US
    That would have been 4 in a row twice if he had won the French Open in '06 and '07 and a true grand slam too.
    As for who is favourite, I would still stick with federer as he is the one in form and the defending champion. Aside from clay, Nadal only beats Federer in 5 sets in grand slams. this may not occur always.
    I put my bet on Federer to retain his crown.

  • Comment number 16.

    packersftw wrote:

    Your 'about this blog' is absolutely repulsive. Why do you feel the need to boast about your job in a tennis blog?

    and

    It's not jealousy, ... I just think it's an incredibly pompous 'About Me' written by a dire journalist.

    ---

    I have to agree.

  • Comment number 17.

    This GS nit-picking is getting on my nerves.
    Why don't people look it up in the rule book?

    According to the ITF regulations completing a GRAND SLAM consists of 'holding all four majors AT THE SAME TIME', which Nadal will do if he wins the AO. The fact that 'calendar' is used to qualify it means that a 'Calendar Grand Slam' is a particular type of GS. What is not correctly defined is the so-called 'Career Grand Slam', which should merely be recorded as the player 'having won all 4 majors' at some time in his career.

  • Comment number 18.

    With apologies to Murray, I have to hope for another Rafa/Fed dream final.

    Two giants of the game who bring the best out of each other and epitomise the perfect sportsmen - athletic, controlled, skillful yet ruthless. Unlike many other sportsmen they have well developed social consiences and use their positions to help others.

    Federer is getting back into the winning habit and I would love to see him gain another slam but good luck to Rafa it he gets his GS. I just know I will be glued to the TV at every opportunity,

  • Comment number 19.

    "His knees seemed shot just one year ago and yet now he is playing for four successive majors. It almost sounds too ridiculous to print".

    It is too ridiculous.

    It seems when he(Nadal) starts losing, he over emphasize on injury of sort and just retracts from the scene. Only when he s 100% fit he plays. For me it is something like busniness, not sports.

    Is it really true that he suffers from a serious injury or just pretending?

    I do not think.

    Federrer is the true champion. He has won and lost many times. But never resorts to cheap gimmicks for his losses. And never cries out any hyped up injury as excuses to take a break.




  • Comment number 20.

    Your comment

    "His knees seemed shot just one year ago and yet now he is playing for four successive majors. It almost sounds too ridiculous to print".

    It is really too ridiclous.

    When he(Nadal) starts losing, he rersorts to cheap gimmicks and hyped up injury story.

    Was his injury so serious as projected?

    I do not think.

    Federrer is the true champion. He will never cite and injury to take long breaks.

    Nadal plays only when he is 100% fit. Seems to be sort of business rather than sports.

  • Comment number 21.

    packersftw your comment was in my opinion completely undeserved with regards to the subject matter, how can you go on such a personal attack on someone just because he has declared his love for his vocation?

    I can only think the reason is that you must hate your own job, subsequently you find it hard to imagine someone who likes theirs. Pathetic

    For the record i think that Jonathan Overend is an excellent journalist. Oh and another thing C'mon Andy! :D

  • Comment number 22.

    The key match of the season so far was the exho Fed and Nadal played in Abu Dhabi because it showed up the reason why Nadal has the edge over Federer in big matches.

    Federer stuck with Nadal for the whole first set but when it came to the tiebreak he got edgy, the forehand went a bit wayward and Nadal capitalised. It might have only been an exhibition but they both wanted to win that breaker. Nadal believed, Fed didnt.

    Now hearing the courts are very slow in Melbourne it just plays into Rafa's hands even more. Provided he remains physically OK in Melbourne i cant see any other outcome than a Nadal victory. His old weaknesses against big hitters on a hard court are simply a thing of the past.

    Federer is hungrier than ever and i thought against Davydenko in Doha he played some of the best tennis ive ever seen him play but the until he wins another major then there is a still a slight question mark over whether he has the bottle at the business end of the slams. The 3 losses last year to Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic all had an element of nervousness about them at the key moments. He will be desperate to at least make the final here and i fear if he doesnt then it could signal that he wont win another major. With the kind of form Federer has going in then theres really nobody who he should lose to apart from Rafa.



  • Comment number 23.

    You're very middle England Mr Overend, but I'll forgive you. Interesting you've decided to snub Nadal. Murray's draw pretty tough if you ask me. He may have to go through JMDP, Soderling, Nadal, then Fed. Except for Djokovic (sub for Fed if you wish) those are 4 of the best 5 other players on the planet. If it happened he'd deserve it more than 99% of grand slams ever won. I'd be amazed if it did though.

    There will a couple of shocks here I think, there always is, that's way it's one of the most entertaining events of the year.

  • Comment number 24.

    Firstly, packersftu, you're a prize numpty of the highest order. If you have nothing good to say, say nothing.

    As far as the Australian Open is concerned, I would love for Murray to finally triumph at a slam. He has a strong desire and a love for this sport. I had the privilege of spending short time with him not too long ago whilst travelling and he came across as a true lover of tennis and a pretty nice guy to boot.

    I think if Federer doesn't get to the final, Murray has a good chance. He needs to face someone other than Federer over the net in a Grand Slam final. For the preceding rounds, Murray can beat anyone on his day.

    I don't think Nadal will do it. He seems not to start off the new year well, eighths exception of his one Australian Open win.

    Outside of those three, I don't see too many others threatening.

  • Comment number 25.

    "Murray could push revitalised Federer to final"
    For "Murray" read "Annacone"? Otherwise how can this make sense?

  • Comment number 26.

    "All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal..." you say. Wrong - my eyes will be on Andy Murray, maybe Robin Soderling and Caroline Wozniacki....

  • Comment number 27.

    As a simple peon, just a fanatic fan of the game of tennis, I agree that were Nadal to win AO, it would not be a Grand Slam; that by definition has to be in one calendar year.

    However, I, as do many of the greats of the sport of tennis, feel that it would be the biggest achievement in the Open Era game. Laver's first slam was in the Amateur Era; his 2nd slam, on two surfaces, in a "transition" time of the game from Amateur to "open."

    Today's game is a far different,more difficult and rugged proposition. Not only with technology, player fitness, athleticism needed, but with the constant and overwhelming media coverage of the game - it's just a far tougher achievment should he do it, than was Laver's slam of either '62 or '69. Doesn't in anyway denigrate Laver's achievement, which, and rightly so, is at the highest level of achievement of the sport, as it was played then, in his Era.

    It will be interesting to see if Nadal does do it, what are the opinions of not only commentators and historians of the game, but also his peers and recent generations, a little more removed from Laver's day.

    Best of luck to him, I, for one, would be overjoyed to see him do it!

  • Comment number 28.

    So again, the BBC have the rights to the Australian Open and do they do? Oh yeah, slap it on the red button again.
    You kjnow what, a highlights pregramme isnt good enough and since Grandstand disappeared, Tennis has been a bit rubbish on the BBC, they only seem bothered with Wimbledon and the ATP Tour Final.
    BBC One and Two can be cleared, most of the time BBC News is on, why?
    Cant the BBC just put the Australian Open where the News will be on? I think 95% of the population can go to the BBC News Channel and watch it, why does there need to be a simulcast, no critism of yourself Mr Overend, just the Bosses at BBC Sport not bothered with the rights to a Tournament that THEY OWN!

    Overall, I hope Murray ends his quest for a Major Title, so the pressure can be lifted.

  • Comment number 29.

    at #28:

    I couldn't agree more.

  • Comment number 30.

    FoxesofNuneaton wrote "So again, the BBC have the rights to the Australian Open and do they do? Oh yeah, slap it on the red button again".
    Well I had hoped so, the EPG states Autralian Open on the Red Button for Freeview, but when I got home and switched on to watch all there was to see was an endless repeat of a Sports News Loop mostly about football!
    Come ON BBC please get a grip and show us some of this world class Tennis!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    Murray's preparation for this tournament has been a bit up and down hasn't it , not sure how far he will go, especially with his lower seed ranking

  • Comment number 32.

    Can Murray win here? Same question as usual, same answer - of course he can!


    It will be the same result as well. The Scottish Tim Henman wont win because he is not good enough. Still as one of thousands of BBC tennis correspondences I wouldn't expect a realistic viewpoint. After all, Turkeys wouldn't vote for Christmas!


  • Comment number 33.

    9. At 2:33pm on 14 Jan 2011, packersftw wrote:
    It's not jealousy, I go to every Slam of the year amongst other tournaments. I just think it's an incredibly pompous 'About Me' written by a dire journalist.
    ---------

    Now be fair. The blogger even mentions in his blurb that he expected to become redundant, until another (Over hyped, bottler, limited talent) British great white hope came along! Now he can comfortably travel the world in luxury whilst fooling (Most but not all) Tennis fans that Murray actually has a change of winning a major!

  • Comment number 34.

    "It's worth noting at this point - however phenomenal four in a row would be - that Laver's was the true "Grand Slam" of all four majors in a calendar year. Surely that is beyond the even the immense capabilities of the man from Majorca."

    I don't see how 4 in a row or 4 in a calender year are any different. The fact remains that one man will hold all 4 grand slams, and that is the achievement, not the fact that the achievement is bookended with the start and the end of a calender year.

  • Comment number 35.

    19)

    Federrer is the true champion. He has won and lost many times. But never resorts to cheap gimmicks for his losses. And never cries out any hyped up injury as excuses to take a break.

    --------------

    what was it that Fed did after losing Wimb this year? Ah thats right, mention an injury which until that point was not apparent.

    Your true champion does cry, think back to when Rafa beat him in Australia, and what was his reason? Because he didn't win yet another slam, ah didums. The weak era is over, your true champ has his work cut out now

  • Comment number 36.

    oh and Laver has some nerve, winning his grand slams against ameteurs when 3 of the slams were on grass. Fed would have had a few of those in the bag by now, as would Rafa probably, and definitely if 3 were clay.

  • Comment number 37.

    The "Grand Slam" is the winning of all four Major tournaments in a single year.A singles player or doubles team that wins all four Major tournaments consecutively is said to have achieved the "Grand Slam". If the player or team wins all four consecutively, but not in the same calendar year, it is called a "Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam".

    In 1982 the International Tennis Federation (ITF) redefined the Grand Slam as four consecutive victories that could span two calendar years.[10] After Martina Navratilova won her fourth consecutive Grand Slam singles title at the 1984 French Open, she was awarded the $1 million bonus in recognition of her achievement. (Navratilova then won the next two Grand Slam singles titles, for a total of six consecutive, but did not complete the calendar-year Grand Slam.)

    According to ITF in 2010: "The Grand Slam titles are the championships of Australia, France, the United States of America and Wimbledon. Players who hold all four of these titles at the same time achieve the Grand Slam".This definition differs from the traditional definition of the Grand Slam as restricted to a single calendar year, and its acceptance is controversial in the tennis world.

    Truth be told, It is far difficult to win all four in a single calendar year than winning all four over 2 calendar years. This is because, once you lose at the australian Open, You can not achieve the True Grand slam.
    You have to wait for another season. Whereas, in a non-calendar year Grand Slam, you can start winning from any of the majors i.e French, Wimby or US Open.



  • Comment number 38.

    The "Grand Slam" isn't really defined well at all by the ITF. I'm not even sure THEY know what they want a Grand Slam to be. Originally, a Grand Slam meant a Calendar Year Grand Slam, then it was extended to a Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam, and now (look at the Australian Open website) a Grand Slam can simply mean a major.

    If Nadal wins the AO, he will achieve the "Rafa Slam"; a great achievement, but not a true Grand Slam.

  • Comment number 39.

    However you define the notion of a Grand Slam, there is a trivial sense in which a Calendar-year Grand Slam is harder than holding all four titles at the same time. And that sense is this: the former is always an example of the latter, but the latter is not always an example of the former.

    On the other hand, if you hold all four slams, it's not clear why it's any better if the first one happens to be the Australian Open. For instance, suppose I define a tax-year Grand Slam to be what you get if you win all four slams between April 1st and March 31st the following year. Why is a tax-year Grand Slam any less of an achievement than a calendar-year Grand Slam?

  • Comment number 40.


    Nice blog Jonathan. Andy Murray is close to proving you right. Will he do it this time ? Good luck to him and to his fans.




    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

 

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