Australian Open 2008 – The Future of the Tennis

The remarkable level of tennis on display at the 2008 Australian Open demonstrated that the game has gone to the next level. Novak Djokovic made it clear that the “big 2″ is now the “big 3″; while Jo Wilfred Tsonga sustained his fitness and thrilled the crowd with his athleticism.

This new level is based on the top modern players being able to attack and defend with equal proficiency. In the past one or the other would suffice. Hewitt defended his way to two grand slams, two Davis Cups and was twice year end #1; while champions Agassi and Sampras relied on dictating the play from the baseline and serve and volley. To compete for the major titles in the modern game players must be complete all court players.

A result of this shift is a super athlete – one powerful enough to generate big serves and forehands; but quick and agile enough to counter their opponents best shots. Tsonga looked like an “All Black Back rower” – but moved excellently. Djokovic, while not as muscular is a large and powerful presence on court and covers the baseline superbly.

During the US hard court season comparisons were made between Djokovic and Andre Agassi. Both men step in on forehands and backhands, refusing to concede court position by running around forehands all day. At the Australian Open Djokovic was a super charged Agassi – serving big on important points and moving and defending in a way Agassi never could. The Serbian can only dream of achieving Andre’s record and standing in the game, but at the 2008 Australian Open he played some scary tennis. How close he is to the “Great Swiss” cannot be determined until the end of a gruelling season. He is certainly a better twenty year old than Roger was.

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga thrilled the crowd in much the same way his country man Gael Monfils did one year previously. The key difference was of course Tsonga kept his level for two weeks (not two matches). The great tradition of French flair so predominant in great players Noah and Leconte is alive and well. The quality of the tennis in Tsonga’s semi against Nadal was as good as Federer can produce. The atmosphere he created at the end of the 1st set of the final has never been experienced in the Rod Laver Arena before. Tennis lovers can only hope he can keep fit, injuries have plagued his career, and become a consistent big time performer.

The 3rd example of the trend in modern tennis was witnessed during the Boys Final. Yang [pictured right] is sixteen and measures in at under 6 foot. Yet his serves averaged 210km/h for three sets (his % dropped away in the 3rd set). The crowd was gasping as he took the 1st set against the impressive Australian junior Bernard Tomic. This super athlete / tennis player is the future and the implications for tennis federations the world over is simple. They must seek the most talented athletes and not let other sports, particularly the various football codes, attract such a high percentage of the best available juniors if they wish to foster the next champion.

In a tournament full of highlights some of the other notable events included:- Bagdahtis vs Safin – Although an early round match, this battle between two of the crowd favourites was worthy of a semi final. The power both players maintained from the baseline for five sets was awesome; and the emotion of the match was thrilling. Bagdahtis vs Hewitt – Another emotional roller-coaster for Marcos that finished after 4am in the morning. This match was memorable just for the finishing time, but the five sets of drama that unfolded kept the crowd enthralled well past everyone’s bed time. Maria Sharapova – The Russian / US beauty was close to being written off as another one dimensional academy “ball basher”. The quality and variety of her game at the 2008 Australian Open took her beyond this description and an exciting future looms. The 6 – 4 6 – 0 thrashing she handed Henin in the quarter finals was played at the highest level. For Sharapova the most impressive aspect was how often she finished the point close to the net and her massive serving on the big points.

The amount of attention and glamour stirred by the players of the Australian Open makes it a wonderful event. These tennis players are truly amongst sports biggest stars on the world stage.

By Rufus Keown
Club Professional Coach
BBus (Mgt), Grad Dip Sport Mgmt

Article Source: