We discuss our fondest memories from the Australian Open in this week’s Changeover Chat, a quick back-and-forth exchange between the writing staff at The Changeover.
Amy: The Australian Open is probably my favorite Slam. It’s the start of a new season, and even though it requires me to do crazy things with my sleep schedule, it’s always fun. What’s your favorite or most entertaining Australian Open memory?
Juan José: Here’s a nugget to get us started: 11 years ago, when Roger Federer was 20 years old, he was beaten in straight sets in the Round of 16 of the Australian Open by eventual finalist (!!!) Arnaud Clement.
Lindsay: That’s an amazing piece of trivia.
Juan José: I don’t remember that match at all (I’m not sure I knew who Federer was until 2003), but it’s amusing.
Lindsay: I’ll be honest, my Australian Open memories are all fairly recent. For years I only followed Wimbledon and the US Open because, you know, I wasn’t an insane person.
Amy: The 2009 Australian Open is one of the most entertaining to remember. Andy Roddick was beating Djokovic, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 2-1 in the quarterfinals, when Djokovic retired because of heat illness. Federer threw some major shade on Djokovic after the match.
Juan José: And then we wonder why the relations between Federer and Djokovic fans are strained!
Lindsay: I loved that Roddick/Djokovic match. It was the debut of the Stefanki years. I was so mad at Djokovic for not finishing, because Roddick was playing so well.
Amy: Well, apparently Fed was mad too!
Juan José: I actually think the Australian Open is the Slam I’ve had the longest “relationship” with out of the four. Which is rather strange, given that I’ve always lived in places where watching it involves being up at insane hours. My theory is that since Lapentti had his miraculous run to the semis in 1999, that tournament stuck with me, since that was a huge deal in Ecuador. Also, as an Agassi fan, that was a key one to follow in the early 2000s.
I remember thinking during the Lapentti-Enqvist semifinal match that my compatriot had no chance to make the final. I also remember Enqvist being annoyed at Lapentti for allegedly moving sideways during his service motion. (Enqvist was right – Lapentti was dancing around like a soccer goalie ahead of a PK at times.)
And now about the Djokovic fiasco. The 2009 Australian Open was a dark spot for him, really. Particularly because 2008 ended on such a high note – winning the World Tour Finals – and given that he had won the Australian Open the year before. But then Djokovic showed up in Australia with a Head racquet instead of his usual Wilson. He signed up for Brisbane, and lost in the first round to Ernests Gulbis (!!!) in straight sets. He then asked his way into Sydney, where he had a chance to reach the No. 2 ranking (a career high for him at the time) if he made the final. In the semis he faced Jarkko Nieminen, The Lone Knight of the Apocalypse. Not the most difficult opponent when trying to achieve a significant milestone, no? Well, he was, because Nieminen won. In straight sets. Then in Australia, that Roddick match happened.
In related news, I feel sick just by remembering all of that.
However, the 2009 AO will forever be dear to me because of the Nadal-Verdasco semifinal. Actually, thinking about that match and the Djokovic-Roddick fiasco seems like remembering two different events.
I’ve already gone on the record saying the Nadal-Verdasco match is the greatest one I’ve ever seen, so why not do it again? Naturally, the event where such a match happened ends up sticking in your memory afterwards.
Lindsay: I often wonder what the tennis world would look like if Verdasco had pulled out that match.
Juan José: Federer would have another Slam. And Nadal wouldn’t have a Career Slam. What I found fascinating about that particular match is that Nadal had to reach an insane level of tennis to finally defeat a trend that had sort of been established on his hard court Slam career: Nadal somehow always found himself getting ousted by the token random person who got hot for those events. In Australia that year, he was just mad as hell, and wouldn’t take it anymore.
Lindsay: But would winning the match have changed Verdasco any? Could he at least be a Tsonga? Or would he just be another Baghdatis?
Juan José: I pick the latter.
Amy: Yeah, it’s hard to imagine Verdasco as anything other than what he is now.
Juan José: The Australian Open tends to have random finalists, all the way down to the early 2000s: Schuettler, Clement, Thomas Johansson (who won), Baghdatis, Gonzo, Tsonga (At the time, that seemed like it could be the first of many Slam finals. Now, not so much.).
Lindsay: Yeah, it was always fun to see who the random Australian Open finalist would be. The Big Four have killed that dream, though.
Juan José: I love the Australian Open men’s semis. I’m convinced crazy stuff happens at that stage of that specific tournament, every single year. Like this, for example. I try to never miss them. About random finalists, there might be one this year! Grigor “Baby Gasquet” Dimitrov or BernieGOAT Tomic! Seriously, though, I actually have a gut feeling that we’ll see just one Big Four guy in the final.
Lindsay: I loved the 2008 Australian Open when Sharapova was in god mode. She had such a hyped match with Davenport – who was playing really well at the time – in the second round and Sharapova absolutely destroyed her. Then she didn’t stop. She killed Henin too.
Amy: The 2010 Aussie Open was fun because it started with the Hit for Haiti event. I still laugh at clips of that on YouTube.
Amy: Last year, watching Victoria Azarenka demolish everyone in her path was quite the experience. While everyone was waiting for Petra Kvitova to do that, Vika stepped in and filled that role. Azarenka’s early run made her No. 1 ranking possible in a year where Serena was pretty exceptional.
Juan José: Yes. I was particularly pleased at Azarenka’s run, because it was at the 2009 Australian Open where I pronounced my “famous” prediction that Azarenka would dominate the WTA one day, when I saw her dismantle Serena for a set and change, until the heat and some virus ended what could’ve been a huge upset.
It should be said that I then in later years I called that Azarenka “prediction” one of the dumbest things I’d ever said.
Lindsay: Last year was fun, Amy. And the WTA semis were great – somewhat disastrous, but really entertaining. All four semis were fun at last year’s AO – seems like that never happens.
Amy: The Clijsters-Azarenka semi was Azarenka’s only truly competitive match in the tournament. Similarly, Azarenka was kind of the Djokovic of 2011. Of course, Djokovic was even more impressive later in the year, but like Azarenka, his big winning streak started there. He was demolishing everyone. Djokovic has always played his best tennis in Melbourne.
Lindsay: Yes, and it was not expected for Djokovic in 2011.
Juan José: He only lost one set, and it was to Dodig.
Lindsay: Dodig, who you can see at Kooyong this week because everyone else withdrew!
Amy: Sweet! I’ll jump on a plane!
Juan José: Djokovic was back to sort of contender status after the 2010 US Open, but nobody thought he was the clear favorite for the 2011 Australian Open.
Here’s a funny thing about Djokovic and the Australian Open: every single time he’s won it, all he’s played in the lead-up were exos. In fact, Djokovic has won four of his five Slams after using exos as his only tune-ups.
Amy: That makes sense, since the Australian Open has more established warm-up exos than most of the other Slams. Wimbledon has a few, but there’s nothing of note before the French Open or US Open. Hopman Cup and Kooyong are mainstays. I think exos can be a great way for any player to get match practice, but not burn themselves out before the big event.
Juan José: I agree – too bad there aren’t any before the US Open or the French Open. Although the French Open sort of had an exo, with that weird World Team Cup that finally died this year. I think Djokovic benefits from not having much of a spotlight beforehand, kind of like Agassi years ago.
Lindsay: I love exos, but you can’t support a tour with them. But Australia is the perfect time for them since there aren’t any big point events before that. So you can have other options for the men. I think the women do a better job spreading out their big events.
Juan José: It’s just a unique situation before a Slam, and Djokovic certainly has benefitted from it.
Lindsay: In 2007, I remember when Serena literally played herself into shape during the tournament. That was incredible. Never seen anything like it. You could see that she was physically fitter at the end of the fortnight – her body looked different!
Juan José: All that talk about how Serena was out of shape, etc. Then she ends up killing everybody and hoisting the trophy. That was Shaq-esque.
Lindsay: Yup. It shows how narrow our views are.
Amy: Generally, call Serena out of shape at your own peril!
Lindsay: Jelena Dokic’s run in 2010 was amazing. I had chills.
Juan José: Yes! I remember that in that event, the ratings for her matches absolutely trampled the ratings for the men.
Amy: You know who had a nice Australian Open run? Tomic last year. He made the fourth round. And then had an awful rest of the year. It was disappointing. But maybe Tomic is finally an Aussie who will play well there. He really does seem to handle the hometown pressure well (in the limited time he’s played).
Juan José: Hey, Hewitt made the final one year!
Amy: Yes, Hewitt made the final one time, but he’s actually never made it past the fourth round other than that year, which is crazy. If you look at his career Slam history, Hewitt is an underachiever at the Aussie Open. It’s his worst win-loss record of all the Slams.
Lindsay: Still not over the fact that Hewitt had chickenpox and lost to a nobody in the first round the year that ToJo won it.
Juan José: Speaking of strange things, isn’t it kind of weird that Roddick never made the final of the Australian Open? He played some epic matches there and made the semis a couple of times. Why do you think that was, Lindsay?
Lindsay: He made the semis in ‘03, ‘05, ‘07, and ‘09. 2005 is the only one that feels like a missed opportunity. He lost to Hewitt and then Safin took out Federer on the other side. But in ‘07 and ‘09 he just ran into an on-fire Federer. Both were demolitions. After the 2007 loss was when he had that famous presser.
Lindsay: That was his first slam semi, he was barely top 10 then, and he was just coming off of the marathon match, so that wasn’t a bad loss at the time. But there were also some terrible losses. Recent years have hurt with his losses to Cilic and Wawrinka when I felt he could advance. And then last year when he got injured in the Hewitt match and had to retire, that was a gut-check. He had been playing well. But the absolute worst was his loss to Kohlschreiber in ‘08. I still have nightmares.
Lindsay: Of course he did. Speaking of 2008, that was when Tipsy almost beat Fed in the third round!
Juan José: Yes – that was an awesome match. It might be the best match Tipsarevic has ever played.
Lindsay: It was an insane match. But then Tipsy was Tipsy.
Juan José: Does Rod Laver Arena have the best crowd of all the Slams? They seem fair, and they go nuts if something cool is happening. Plus, you get the whole multicultural aspect there, with random guys (like Baghdatis) getting huge “local” crowd support.
Amy: Agreed, the Rod Laver Arena crowd is great.
So, the Australian Open comes with crazy sleep schedules. Like, insane stuff for those of us in the states. I remember one year I was on vacation and I just ended up entirely on Aussie time.
Lindsay: It’s crazy, Amy. But I think it makes the great matches stick out more, because they actually wake me up. The routine matches I usually watch in a daze.
Amy: This year, the plan is to squeeze in two naps between tennis and work, from around 5:00 am until 8:30 am, and at 5:00pm for a couple of hours. It’s truly the hardcore Slam for me. Sometimes I doubt my sanity.
You either make it work, or you fall asleep, like I did during last year’s six hour ball bounce-a-thon men’s final! It’s sink or swim.
Lindsay: It’s always crazy when there’s a night match that goes super late, like always, and suddenly the pre-work nap window is gone.
Amy: Yeah, that’s the best/worst.
Lindsay: I fall asleep a lot during the AO. I always have great intentions. I usually miss a lot though.
Juan José: I’m a night creature by nature, so it’s only been during 2009-2011 that I’ve struggled with the schedule, since I had a 9-to-5 job. The DVR helped in those cases, but you better believe I was up for those semis.
Amy: I love Twitter, because it takes care of the whole, “Am I insane for being awake at 4am watching a second round match in Australia?” thing.
Lindsay: We’re all in this together. Sometimes I think it’s comforting, other times I think we all just might be enabling each other. Oh man I’m looking back at all of Roddick’s Australian Opens and remembering so much middle-of-the-night heartbreak. But there are also so many great memories, like the Roddick/El-Aynaoui match (which I have watched on replay since.)
Amy: Such a great match. I was watching that recently on ESPN Classic.
Lindsay: He was such a kid!
Amy: Yes he was.
Lindsay: Delpo/Blake in 2010 was a great match. I woke up for the end of it and was in awe at the hitting.
Amy: Yup, they played in the second round. Delpo won in five sets. Delpo was basically destroying his wrist at that point, unfortunately.
Lindsay: You could pretty much see it breaking during the match. Blake’s hard hitting did not help. But still, incredible shot-making.
Amy: One of the best WTA matches I’ve ever seen.
Amy: Final thoughts?
Juan José: Remembering all these things has gotten me all pumped up for the Australian Open. I have such great memories from late night craziness.
Lindsay: Yup. I guess I feel like Australian Open is the most unexpected Slam. It’s the beginning of the season and even the old rivalries feel fresh. I’m excited to get things going and have some new dream-like memories.
Amy: Yeah, everything seems fresh. It’s the one event where you never hear anyone complaining that everyone’s burnt out and beat up. Everyone (except maybe Ferrer and Radwanska) is well-rested and ready to start the season. I can’t wait!
Prepping the DVR for the next two weeks already. Big reason why I enjoy the AO, is the middle weekend I can enjoy hours upon hours of coverage on the DVR that is otherwise hard to keep up on when live tennis is going on–then follow that up with two all-nighters watching coverage live. Plus with it being winter here, you are not shamed as badly for spending an entire 36 hours inside on the couch.
Complete agree, TJC. The DVR is awesome for the AO. Actually, it’s awesome for anything. I hate that cable companies charge more and more for them – because they know they can. Once you have a DVR…you can’t go back to not having one.
“You either make it work, or you fall asleep, like I did during last year’s six hour ball bounce-a-thon men’s final!” – Amy almost as good at throwing shade as her RF.
Aussie is my favourite slam! As a kid, I loved Seles’ victories over Graf in ’93 & her only comeback slam in ’96. And it’s also Nole’s most successful slam! I do want to forget AO 2009, but then I remember Cryderer happened that year and I take it back.
Topboy, the term “Cryderer” has just become my new favorite word. Thank you.
As a relative newcomer to tennis, I unfortunately do not have any personal memories of the Australian Open although I have watched parts of the earlier ones via Internet magic, and firsthand accounts of them have convinced me that something special does seem to happen at every AO.
My goal is to find a way to work AO viewing into my college schedule and to somehow persuade my roommate to lend me her TV for two weeks. Wish me luck.
I hope you got that TV, Ophelia! I’m hoping to get cable tomorrow. Until then I will be holding my breath.
Hey Ophelia…I am also somewhat new to tennis fandom. One great place to check out AO matches is AOTV.com. If you haven’t been there yet, they have a ton of full matches. I spend way to much time on that site… Or not enough depending on how you look at it!
Enjoy and good luck with the tv.
Obviously I’m here just to try and eclipse all of you because you keep giving me the opportunity to go down memory lane and express all those long held tennis feelings.
Obviously my sentimental favorites are 1994, 1997, 2005 and 2009. I’ll add any more titles from Rafa here. And possibly in the future, all of Bernie’s wins (with me Amy?)
1994 was clinical to say the least. When Pete is on, he’ll just blow everyone aside and end up in the finals. I doubt he played a 5 setter that year. He had the rush from his first Wimbledon title which was his real dream of course and second USO title to propel. Ranked #1 that year and seeded #1 as well. Some of his victims were Lendl and Courier. He faced Todd Martin in the final. Clean kill in straight sets. The entire match is on YT if anyone wants. I re-watched many matches because in 94 I had one agenda. Support Pete. Laugh if he wins and cry if he loses (I was 8). Not up for a full match? Sneak peek. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knY7cxk7HFM
In 1995 he made finals and lost to Andre. It has the emotional match in QF vs Courier that Pete won with tears. His coach had terminal brain cancer and I think it was public knowledge by then. He was down 2 sets and staged a comeback. He couldn’t stop crying. He faced Chang in the semis. I think people have only seen him cry twice. Over his coach and after his first Wimbledon win.
1997 is special to both me and Rafa LOL. Pete won and Moya made finals (Moya was 20). Pete got pushed twice. Hrbaty in R4 and Costa in QF. But that year saw some crazy temperatures on court and everything was a bit slower. Hence Costa and Moya were successful. But Moya didn’t stand a chance in the final. He was pummeled fast.
I am going to draw your attention to a match that I’ve annoyed Juan often enough to write about. 2000 SF between Andre and Pete. I should state that they met at AO twice and Andre won both times. I mention this match because, Pete may have lost, but that is one of the highest quality matches I’ve ever seen. I’ll just post to the link to one of the TBs in that match. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIkQu9KGRt4. Though Pete was king at the USO hard courts, he never could replicate the success at AO.
I’m confident someone will write about 2005 AO because it’s a memorable one. So I’ll refrain.
I don’t have much to say about 2009 AO because Rafa has said everything there is to be said, in his book. But I will say this. I hate that SF so much because I couldn’t tell who was going to win until the end.
My best AO memory of course is 2004 R3. I discovered Rafa. 17 years old. Really high quality match. Too bad I can’t find it again. These highlights will do till then. ROFL at Lleyton’s interview after the match. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyYoLY1f0wE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE3Z_mWI6Ik
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXxj2O10g8c I also discovered Andy at AO. 2007, R4 match vs Rafa. Even though he lost, I liked him. He doesn’t play like that anymore though.
Monica Seles won Australian Open 3 years in a row from 91-93. I only got to see 93. And 96. I remember nothing from the 93 win because I paid more attention to the men’s tour that year. But I rewatched her final a couple of years ago because I was doing a Seles re-runs week for myself. I wish I had paid attention because she played Sabatini and Graf back to back. The 93 Final is also on YT for those who wish to see it.
The 1996 AO is an emotional victory because that was the only slam she won after her stabbing. Made a few finals here and there but that would be her only win. In 1999, she did beat Graf again in the QF and that was some match too. Here are some highlights for those interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhj5v_xjW20
Then Hingis did her AO trio from 97-99. And Serena completed her Serena slam in AO too in 2003. Oh and Amelie Mauresmo stopped the slamless #1 talks at AO in 2006?7? Aussie Kim finally won it in 2011.
Venus never did well at AO. She was more of a grass girl with 2 USO titles.
2012 Australian Open of course was very special to me because I called an Azarenka win during Sydney SF vs Radwanska. And you know how brilliant it feels to be right.. right? Although the fact that Kim Clistjers made SF even though she rolled her ankle in her 4th round is just bizzare. and Li wasted a gazillion set points. The Final score line did not reflect how close the match really was. Lots of deuce games.
Yea.. now that I think about it, other than Monica’s run (which I missed) and Vika’s 1st, AO is really not good to my favorites. But its the best managed and best run slam. So it is my favorite as a tennis fan.
Mithi you get a standing ovation for this comment. I have bookmarked it so I can go back when I am procrastinating and watch all of these videos. You are the best. I am so jealous that you were living and dying by tennis at the age of 8. We are the same age and you are so far ahead of me.
Aww.. It was a family thing Linds. Dad was a huge tennis fan. So he never missed slams. That’s how it happened. Ask me about Masters tournaments from my early years and I wouldn’t know a thing. Glad you liked the post. I should thank you guys for giving me the opportunity to be able to express all these long held in tennis feelings 🙂
Mithi, you rock. That was an awesome comment. And you know you have carte blanche to go on about anything you like here!
Agreed with the rest – great comment!
Pete was also my first favourite male player and he had some tough times at AO. ’95 when his coach was diagnosed with cancer. And I remember that 2000 SF! Although he didn’t win, the match was a classic. I remember being so livid that he lost it.
And Safin vs. Fed ’05 SF was amazing as well. I was so glad I woke up to watch that live.
“Plus, you get the whole multicultural aspect there, with random guys (like Baghdatis) getting huge “local” crowd support.”
I like the liveliness of the crowd but sometimes that flares into trouble, and that’s not so good.
I find all the “Sleep is for the weak” stuff to be a bit silly. Staying up all night, or broken sleep, simply isn’t an option for a lot of people, and it doesn’t make them weak or less of a tennis fan.
Best memories – 2009, all of it, everything. One memory from that tourney that’s not mentioned here is Kleybanova’s run. She fell to Dokic eventually but I still vividly remember both her odd, nodding service motion and her purple and yellow dress. Still hope to see her back on tour.
Also loved last year’s men’s final – it put me on a high for days, it was so good. And my favourite didn’t even win.
Agreed on the crowd, Jewell. There have been some nasty incidents, but it has gotten a lot better in recent years. I just love how Rod Laver Arena explodes for a big match. It’s unlike any other Slam, really.
About not sleeping – I agree with you! In the past three years I had to choose my battles (mainly, only watch the SFs live). It was just not possible to not sleep and then head to the office for a full day of work.
Kleybanova…that was fun. We’re all rooting for her to have another run like that, I think.
Last year’s final was an incredible experience as a fan. I really felt like the guys were in danger of hurting themselves badly. It just kept going on, and on, and the battle kept getting more and more intense and brutal. It was a once in a lifetime thing, I think.
AO is my favorite slam. New year, new hopes, and I love knowing that while my world sleeps and it’s the dead of the night, there are like-minded people in my half of the world staying up, watching tennis. It’s like a little e-family for me. Gives me a warm glow to know I’m not the only ‘crazy’ one up watching the telly. I miss the green courts though, I love that green glow in my living room… blue is not the same. Memorable matches – ’03 quarter Andy R. vs Younes, a great match. Any of Agassi’s wins. And of course, the best for me was the ’09 Rafa win. That unbelievable semi, and then to win the final too – amazing. I didn’t think he would bounce back from that incredibly physical semi. Safin’s match vs Fed in ’05 was fantastic too. Tsonga’s crazy run. And I love that crowd, AO truly is the Happy Slam. Going to be hard watching without Rafa this year. I can’t see myself paying much attention, unfortunately. Sigh.
the good thing about the AO : i have motivation to wake up early ! and when i don’t i can have the replay after the night session 😛 this year i’m not sure what i will get since they change the broadcast channel !
the most crazy match baggy/hewitt starting at midnight local time ready for my lunch time 🙂
it’s one of the hardest slams dto catch for me, the schedule starts at 1am CET so i’ve been going essentially with the night session… at 9am CET for me, at i keep extra days to get off during the AO 🙂 it’s all planned !
i remember that delpo blake and the lot of insane fh, bh and other stuff and i could catch all of it because justine was playing dementieva on her comaback ! worst dilema !
the tsonga rafa match was all the way ” i just can’t believe he could hit that shot” from Jowilly… he made just fantastic volleys out of nowhere, great stuff despite rafa losing of course…
btw, i have on my dvr both rafa verdasco and fed rafa, i’m planning a replay of those ones if what comes along this year makes me either nostalgic of that year or just to replace some crapy match live !
glad you al brought back all that stuff 😉 in case you forgot they launched the AO vault with plenty of good matches here : http://vault.australianopentv.com/
enjoy ! catch you later
I have never commented here before, but I follow most of you on twitter and greatly enjoyed this conversation.
I just have to add my two cents 🙂 AO2009 will always hold a special place in my heart as it is the reason why I am a tennis fan. I had the flu that last semester of college and was quarantined to my tiny dorm room for a week straight. The semis were on and I figured what the heck it’s not like I’ve got anything else to do, so I woke up at 3am to watch the Fed-Roddick semi. Having never watched a match before I thought it was fun and a decent showing. I was still sick enough to have my 3hrs of middle-of-the-night-awakeness keep me from waking up for the start of Nando-Rafa. I remember waking up around 5am and being like “hey let’s see what the final score was”. To my surprise and resulting fandom, they were stuck in the middle of the third set and I watched to that epic conclusion and then woke up to watch the final live. My only real interaction with tennis before those matches was the knowledge that my dad liked Fed which left me exceedingly divided during the final. I have always matched my cheering interests with those of my father, but I was fascinated by the crazy Majorcan and kept finding myself pulling for him over Fed. In the end I became a Rafa and Nando fan, surprisingly even more of a Nando fan than a Rafa fan, and have loved tennis ever since, even getting to go to Indian Wells one year. Looking back I still can’t believe Nando double faulted on match point (ok I can totally believe it but it still hurts). Thanks for the fun memories.
Jazz, I always felt that Nando hit that double fault from a positive POV, by that I mean he was going for it, not choking. He just barely missed. Ballsy ballsy move, imho. That whole match he was just in that super-aggressive zone. Scary to watch, being a Rafa fan, cos I felt once again Rafa would be thwarted in his quest for and AO title by the ‘hot’ guy of the year. Seen it before, right? I still remember Rafa tearing up two points from the end of that match – the stress, the emotion he was going through, playing his countryman… awesome.
My favorite memory from last year was the crowd booing Tomas Berdych after he refused to shake Nicolas Almagro’s hand. I’m not usually pro-booing, but Berdych deserved it and then made it worse by his post-match interview.
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