Monday, June 16, 2014

A look back at the 2012 Australian Open

After Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated Stan Wawrinka in the first round of Roland Garros, both Andy Murray and Roger Federer clinched top 4 seeds at Wimbledon, meaning the Big Four would be reunited. When the 2014 Wimbledon gentlemen's singles draw is released Wednesday, Novak Djokovic will be the top seed, followed by Rafael Nadal at No. 2, Murray at No. 3, and Federer at No. 4.

It has been two years since all four members of the Big Four made up the top four seeds at a grand slam, which got me thinking about how great tennis was when all four were at their peaks at the same time.

The last time that all four reached the semifinals of the same major was the 2012 Australian Open, which produced one of the best final weekends of a slam in tennis history. Off the top of my head, the only final weekend of a slam that compares was the 1980 US Open.

The Australian Open is typically where the top players produce their best tennis, because it is the first big event after a short off-season, meaning nobody is bringing any sort of injuries into the tournament. On top of that, each member of the Big Four had a fairly easy path to the semifinals, with just three sets dropped in total from the four combined.

The semifinal match-ups couldn't have been any better. On the top half, there was a rematch of the previous year's final, featuring the No. 1 seed and defending champion against one of the greatest players in tennis history that had yet to win a slam. Then on the bottom half was the 27th meeting in the greatest rivalry of all time, featuring two players who had met in eight slam finals and hadn't met before a final in almost seven years.

Both semifinals surpassed expectations. Nadal came back from down a set against Federer to win 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4. Djokovic, the defending champion, came just one set away from elimination in his semifinal, but the Serb eventually defeated Murray in an epic fifth set 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 7-5.

Those semifinals, however, were overshadowed by the final they set up, which is considered by some to be the greatest grand slam final of all time. In 5:53, through all the twists and turns, Djokovic defeated Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 to capture his fifth career grand slam title.

Now compare that to the three scores from the final weekend of the 1980 US Open.
Semifinal: Bjorn Borg d. Johan Kriek 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1
Semifinal: John McEnroe d. Jimmy Connors 6-4, 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6
Final: John McEnroe d. Bjorn Borg 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4

What the tennis world had in 2012 was right up there as the greatest tennis in the history of the sport. With the return of the Big Four at Wimbledon 2014, could we see a final weekend like the 1980 US Open or 2012 Australian Open? One thing is for sure, unlike Roland Garros a couple weeks ago, Wimbledon is wide open.

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