Bruno Soares and ElenaVesnina, Australian Open 2016

Elena Vesnina and Bruno Soares, playing their first tournament together defeated Coco Vandeweghe and Horia Tecau 6-4 4-6 10-5 to capture the mixed doubles crown in Melbourne.

On Saturday, Soares won the doubles title pairing Jamie Murray. They beat veterans Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek (80 years combined) 2-6 6-4 7-5 in the final.

Andy Murray was in the stands to watch his brother’s victory:

Photo credit: Darren Nunis

Amélie Mauresmo and Justine Henin, Australian Open 2006

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:

Yesterday Amélie Mauresmo was the biggest fan of her protege, Andy Murray, but ten years ago she captured her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne. Flashback.

Q: Do yo remember exactly your route to victory here in 2006?

Ouch! (Thinking…) I start with the Chinese Sun. Right? Then Emilie (Loit), and Krajicek who retires. And in the fourth round, who was it? That’s right, Vaidisova! And then I defeat Patty (Schnyder) in the quarterfinals, Kim (Clijsters) in semis and Justine (Henin) in the final.

Q: Do you remember the score of the shortened final?

6-1 2-0 30-0.

Q: After the final, everybody critizices Henin’s attitude. Mats Wilander says “Even crawling she should have finished the match”. But you don’t say anything.

I only do realize that the next day. And suddenly I feel bad. And I say to myself: “But wait, she did that! She only had 3 or 4 more games to play. And she stopped.” Yet she was not dying. You can not do that.

Q: Have you forgiven her?

It took time. When I was still playing, not really. She stole me a moment. And moments like that are rare.

Q: Did she apologize?

No.

Q: Your coach Loic Courteau was annoyed because all the emotion could not get out. And you?

Yes, of course, but I was so sure this tournament was for me. Withdrawal or not, in my opinion I was better.

Q: Did you have the same feeling, six months later in Wimbledon, that the tournament was for you?

Not at all. I was not playing as well at Wimbledon. The final was not good. In Melbourne, before the final, I had no doubt, no stress. Unlike the Wimbledon final, where I hardly slept the night before.

Q: From when did you feel that superiority in Melbourne?

Not immediately. But after my win against Vaidisova and my big match against Patty. Against her, even I won often, it was always tough. But that time, I did dominate her physically and tactically.

Q: Would you have won the tournament if you had not win the Masters in 2015?

It’s related. The Masters are a real trigger. I experienced these Masters a bit like my first Grand Slam. I surfed on that confidence. The winter that following, during preparation, I played like crazy. The practice sessions (lots of them with Alexandre Sidorenko who won the boys’ title the same day as Mauresmo) were amazing.

Q: Yet a few weeks before the Masters, you had reached a low point.

The match agasint Mary Pierce at the US Open had killed me (a 6-4 6-1 loss in the quarterfinals). After the match, I thought “I can’t do it against hard-hitting players. I don’t return as well as these players. I can’t do it.” Mary, Davenport, Venus, Serena, it was going too fast for me. Even Justine who could do more things chose that playing style. Was there some place for me? For change of pace, variation? I asked myself a lot of questions. We thought about it with Lolo (Courteau) and we decided to go to the net even more. But I play two disastrous tournaments, Moscow and Zurich. I win one or two games a set (she loses 6-1 6-1 to Schiavone in Moscow and 6-2 6-0 to Srebotnik in Zurich). I keep questioning myself: I’m 26 and except Novotna, there is no female player winning a first Grand Slam title at that age.

Q: You do not have always known you were a champion

That’s right. I fought against a lot of things related to our sporting culture in France, to our approach to winning or rather our non-approach.

Q: Also fight the “She has a nice game” cliché

Technically, my forehand was not really good, but people said: “She has a nice backhand, she varies her shots, she volleyes”. Efficiency is not a priority in France. I can feel the difference with Andy (Murray) and even before when I worked with Azarenka.

Q: By winning in Melbourne you also get rid of another weight, that of being labeled as the world number one who had not won a Grand Slam. Was it important?

I was eager to put an end to this discussion. But it was not a suffering.

Q: At the 2006 Australian Open, three players retire against you, but you also had big problems..

The morning of my match against Vaidisova, I wake up and I’m panicked. My neck is blocked, I’m upset. I call Michel (Franco, her physiotherapist), he massages me, he does what he can. I play suffering, serving at 130 km/h, but Vaidisova commits lots of unforced errors. That year it is very hot. In the semi finals, with Kim, we play a big match, very physical. We play indoor because it is 40 °C. She twists her ankle because she is tired; back to the hotel, I fainted. The next day I did not come to hit at the stadium.

Q: In 1999, you had also reached the final in Melbourne..

Yes, but in the game, I do not really know why. My game was very instinctive. I do not even know how I was playing back then. In 2006 my game was in place.

Q: You keep good memories of the Château d’Yquem 1937 you drank to celebrate your victory

In fact we drunk it during the summer of 2007. It was excellent.

Serena Williams, Australian Open 2016

Even though there has been a lot of talks prior the Australian Open about Serena’s form, her presence in the final is all but a surprise. On the other hand, Angelique Kerber’s run to the final is quite unexpected.

Serena Williams’ road to the final

Serena‘s toughest match to advance to the final was her first round victory over the unpredictable Italian Camila Giorgi: she lost 9 games, the same number of games she lost to Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska, combined! She’ll be the heavy favorite against first time Grand Slam finalist Angelique Kerber.

Round Opponent Score
R1 Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5
R2 Su-Wei Hsieh 6-1 6-2
R3 Daria Kasatkina 6-1 6-1
R4 Margarita Gasparyan 6-2 6-1
QF Maria Sharapova [5] 6-4 6-1
SF Agnieszka Radwanska [4] 6-0 6-4
Angelique Kerber’s road to the final

Angelique Kerber, Australian Open 2016

Angelique Kerber saved a match point to get past Misaki Doi in the first round and then never looked back. She beat only one seed en route to the final: Victoria Azarenka that many saw as Serena’s main rival in Melbourne.

Round Opponent Score
R1 Misaki Doi 6-7 7-6 6-3
R2 Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2 6-4
R3 Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3
R4 Annika Beck 6-4 6-0
QF Victoria Azarenka [14] 6-3 7-5
SF Johanna Konta 7-5 6-2
Serena Williams – Angelique Kerber head to head: 5-1

Serena and Angelique met six times, each time on hard court:

Year Tournament Surface Winner Score
2007 US Open R1 Hard Serena Williams 6-3 7-5
2012 Cincinnati QF Hard Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-4
2012 WTA Championships R1 Hard Serena Williams 6-4 6-1
2013 WTA Championships R1 Hard Serena Williams 6-3 6-1
2014 Miami QF Hard Serena Williams 6-2 6-2
2014 Stanford F Hard Serena Williams 7-6 6-3

Only three players have beaten in a Grand Slam final so far: her sister Venus (2001 US Open and Wimbledon 2008), Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004 and Sam Stosur at the 2011 US Open. Will Angelique Kerber be the fourth?

Who will be the 2016 Australian Open champion?

  • Serena Williams (38%, 41 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (22%, 24 Votes)
  • Other (14%, 15 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (9%, 10 Votes)
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (7%, 8 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Karolina Pliskova (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 107

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Photo credit: Margarette Reyes, Emma McPherson

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, Australian Open 2016

And that makes it three Grand Slams in a row for Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza. Their 7-6 6-3 victory over Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka extend their unbeaten run to 36 matches.

It is Martina Hingis’ 21th Grand Slam title: 5 in singles, 4 in mixed doubles and now 12 in women doubles.

Sania Mirza & Martina Hingis at the Australian Open 2016

Martina Hingis at the Australian Open 2016
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Milos Raonic, Australian Open 2016

Lucas Pouille’s coach Emmanuel Planque talks about the Canadian’s improved game.

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.” I told you that just after the match against Lucas (Pouille). I was a bit stunned after the match. I re-watched the match several times and the impression remained. OK, I wasn’t excited by the way Lucas started each set… but Milos gave us nothing. That guy doesn’t even give you the time of day. Right now, I find him fit. We’ve been talking about him as a future Grand Slam winner for two years now. Like Dimitrov? Yes and no. I’m sure Dimitrov will come back. But he’s less impressive and not prepared as well as Raonic. He has less weapons.

He’s really confident with his serve. In Brisbane and Melbourne, he was hitting second serves at 220, 224 and even 226 km/h. At some point you don’t know how to return them: if you step back, he hits a kick serve that bounces really high; if you move forward to cut the trajectory, he hits a 220km/h bullet. The average first serve speed is often mentioned as a way to judge a server, but don’t forget the second serve. He put power in it but it doesn’t mean that many more double faults. That’s tied to his current confidence and the fact that he hasn’t played the top two best returners yet, Murray and Djoko, who can bother him. The idea is to make him run so he’ll serve between 160 and 180 km/h. Because if he serves at 130, he’ll be more accurate, more coordinated, more relaxed. But it’s hard to make him run much when he’ll try and shorten the point quickly.

He has improved his game considerably. Mainly because he doesn’t have any physical problems. Last year, he had to undergo surgery to repair pinched nerve in his foot. Good health means more intensity at practice. You can tell he has worked on his returns. He’s much more consistent. Before he could miss a few second serve returns in a row. Today, he puts you continuously under pressure without taking any risks. He returns hard in the middle, that allows him to take a lot of second shots with his forehand. And then it’s difficult to escape. Facing him, you get tense and you lose 10 to 15 km/h on your serve. I think Milos has assimilated the fact that the best players in the world aren’t the best servers. His goal is to get a ratio of quality of serve/quality of return that is much better than the others’.

He’s part of a very strong project. To me, he’s not a Canadian at all. He’s a Yugo (born in Podgorica, Raonic lived in Montenegro until he was eight). He reminds me of Djoko with his ambition and application. Raonic is straightforward, intelligent, a worker. The guy could easily have been an engineer. Now he’s a tennis player, that’s his job. He’s not emotional, he’s rational. He works on his mechanics. Ljubicic (now Federer’s coach) helped with his serve and second shot. Ljubicic leaves and Raonic takes Moya, who’ll help him with his returns and bring him the deep parts of the game. And above all he has Piatti (former coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet) who is a great coach and who is doing a hell of a job with him.

Would it hurt tennis if Raonic became number one? I don’t agree with that kind of pessimism. I hear some people say Raonic is bland, isn’t sexy, he’s boring … No! Sure, tennis of tomorrow will be guys 1.95m tall moving like guys 1.75 tall and who can return too. Can these critics affect Raonic? I feel he’s there to win. The rest …