2017 Australian Open coverage

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A trip down memory lane:

Australian Open trivia
The tragedy of Daphne Akhurst
The Norman Brookes Challenge Cup
1960 Australian Open: Neale Feaser, a costly volley
1960: first Grand Slam title for Rod Laver
1960-63 Australian Open: Jan Lehane four time runner-up
1974 Australian Open: Jimmy Connors first Grand Slam title
1975: John Newcombe defeats Jimmy Connors
1981: First Australian Open title for Martina Navratilova
1983: Mats Wilander defeats Ivan Lendl
1984: Mats Wilander defeats Kevin Curren
1985: Edberg wins in Australia and Sweden changes look
1987-1988 Swedes spoil the party
1987: Stefan Edberg defeats Pat Cash
January 11, 1988: first day of play at Flinders Park
1988: Mats Wilander defeats Pat Cash
1990: John McEnroe disqualified!
1990: Ivan Lendl’s last Grand Slam title
1991: Monica Seles first Australian Open title
1994: First Australian Open title for Pete Sampras
1995: Mary Pierce defeats Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1995 QF: Pete Sampras emotional comeback win over Jim Courier
Centre Court floods at the 1995 Australian Open
1995: Andre Agassi defeats Pete Sampras, wins first Australian Open title
1996 Australian Open: Mark Philippoussis defeats Pete Sampras in the 3rd round
Impressions from the 1996 Australian Open: Monica Seles and Boris Becker last Grand Slam titles, Stefan Edberg last appearance in Australia
1997 Australian Open: Pete Sampras defeats Carlos Moya
2001 Australian Open: Pat’s last chance
2001 Australian Open final: Andre Agassi defeats Arnaud Clément
2002: Capriati scripts a stunning sequel in Australia
2003 Australian Open: last Grand Slam title for Agassi
2009 Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer

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Andy Murray at practice, 2016 US Open

Enjoy a few pictures from Andy Murray‘s practice session ahead of his third round match against Paolo Lorenzi.

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Andy Murray wins the 2012 US Open

From Andy Murray‘s autobiography Seventy-Seven:

[…] Before the match was the worst I’ve ever felt by far. After I finished practising, I ate in the locker room. The guys went up to get some food and I found myself alone for 20 minutes, feeling sick with nerves and worry. A lot of people said that winning the olympics would mean the pressure was off, but they had no idea. I was sitting there and feeling really ill. I got up and moved around and tried to think about other stuff, which is why it’s useful to have people around me. They might be talking aout something else and though I’m still going to be thinking about the match, at least there’s a distraction. The more I started thinking about how big the match was for me, the more nervous I became.

Novak doesn’t usually stay in the locker room and seems to go elsewhere, although I don’t know where. There as no one else there apart from a couple of the attendants, and the physiotherapy room was closed because there was nobody left to treat. There were no doubles players in there, no mixed teams and the only sound was coming from the TV. The guy on there was saying that no one had ever lost their first five Grand Slam finals. I knew that, of course, but to hear it in those circumstances just added to my nerves.

I had spoken to Ivan about nerves before and he said that he found it especially hard before the US Open final, because you have the whole day to kill beforehand. He would go in, warm up, leave, play a round of golf, come back, warm up a little again and then play. He did say that he felt nervous before each of his finals, which I suppose is reassuring. Some people say that pressure is a privilege and you ought to enjoy it, but when you haven’t won one of those events it doesn’t necessarily feel that way. Ultimately, you have to believe that it’ll be fine win or lose, but because of the way that Wimbledon finished, a loss in this final could have been very tough?

When Novak and I finally walked out onto court, the wind was blowing strongly into our faces. The Bedych match had been ridiculous because the wind was going every which way, but at least this time it was coming consistently from one direction. It’s nomally good to play with the wind, but that day it was so strong. The balls are pretty light and from the President’s Box it was hard to keep the ball in court.

It felt like no time until we were involved in a first set tiebreak. Maybe it was one of those classics from the sidelines, but to actually play in it was a lot more trying, especially because both of us found that it was so much harder to execute the shots we wanted to. Novak had the odd chance, but it would have been tough to lose after having so many set points. I needed to win to have a realistic shot at winning the match. In the end, I took the tie-break 12-10. We’d already been playing for more than an hour.

At two sets to love up, I was elated but I couldn’t let myself relax. By the beginning of the third set, the wind had settled completely, ut when the wind calmed, I had the sense that it calmed him too. By that stage, I was just one set away from victory and feeling that with the conditions the way they were, they’d been a big help. He had been getting frustated, so when the wind died and the air stilled, he started to hit out on his shots with more confidence. He was more comfortable and moving better and that made me nervous.

Those nerves and Novak’s confidence changed the way I had to play the match. He won two sets, and I recall shouting out that my legs felt like jelly because they wouldn’t move where I wanted them to. Once I got that out of my system, I was OK again.
At the end of the fourth set, I decided to take a toilet break. There’s a toilet right there at the side of the court and I knew that by taking a break, all the people would be thinking: ‘He’s blown this one.’
When I was walking off, I was pretty down. We had been playing for four hours but what matters most is how much you’ve run, because you’re not moving for the entirety of the time. The temperature had dropped and even though there were long points, I was making him do most of the running. At the end of the fourth, I think he was struggling physically more than I was.

In the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror and said: ‘I’m not going to lose this’ (well, something along those lines – I can’t remember the exact words). For me, it was about going back out ot gine 100 per cent and leave nothing behind. No regrets.
I came out and looked over at Ivan in the box. That fired me up because I wanted to win so badly, maybe more than him, if only because I’d never won before. I wasn’t going to let myself lose that match from that position, the way Wimbledon had gone.

I secured a break in the first game, when Novak missed a forehand after a net cord at 30-40. Then I made it a double break to put myself 3-0 up. He then got a break back. I haven’t watched much of the match on DVD, but I do remember that I had a great service game to love to lead 4-2 and then backed that up with a break to lead 5-2.

I had build it up so much in my head that it would be a big thing to serve for a Grand Slam, but when it came to it I didn’t feel that nervous. I had two breaks and when I looked up I could see the spectators were going nuts. I was feeding off all that energy. I was actually speaking to people in the crowd – I don’t know if it made much sense, it was probably just something to get me fired up. Even though I’d never been in that position before, even though I’d spent quite a bit of time wondering how it might feel, I felt oddly calm.

The score got to 40-love and I was about to win. I’ve been in that position loads of times and, 99 times out of 100, I hold serve. With the wind in my favour, I went to the wrong side to serve because I was concentrating so hard and I didn’t realize quite where I was. On the first Championship point, he threw up a lob, I got the rim of the racket to it and he hit a winner. On the next point, he smacked his return and I knew 100 per cent that it was out, but thought he’d challenge. I heard the call, saw the ball and my reaction was pure disbelief.

It took a while to understand what it meant to win the US Open. Maybe, after everything, it wasn’t as big as I had built it up to be, but I was so relieved to have finally done it, that I felt a mix of pure elation and disbelief. The one thing I would have liked to have done afterwards, in front of the TV cameras, was to thank everyone who has supported and worked with me, but time was too short. It was in the locker room that our celebrations began. There were hugs and kisses and I just remember there being lots of banter. Ivan was smiling more than I’d ever seen him smile and he told how poud he was of what I had done. He also said that I had shown great fighting spirit and played an excellent match, which, coming from him, as exactly what I wanted to hear. He didn’t want to join the rest of the team for dinner that night, but seemed to go home very happy.

We had a great night. I slept for about an hour, having read as many stories about the match as I could online before I finally drifted off, only to be woken by an early alarm call ready for a round of media appearances.
That night, I treated myself to an upgrade on the flight home. Everyone else my asleep and I just couldn’t make myself drop off. I had a glass of champagne, which I never do, and that became four. I actually mistook the soap in the bathroom for toothpaste because I was a bit giddy. If there were any bumps on the flight home, I certainly didn’t feel them.

Andy Murray, London Olympics

From Andy Murray’s autobiography, Seventy-Seven

Beijing was one of the best experiences I’d ever had as an athlete. To be involved and part of the team, to go to the opening ceremony, and to speak to many gifted, wonderful sports people – I absolutely loved it. But then I lost in the first round to Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan.

When I weighed myself the night after my loss, I discovered I’d lost five kilos since leaving Cincinnati a week before. I was completely dehydrated. I had not been a professional in my approach because I was so excited at being part of the Olympics. I knew that when London came around my attitude had to be different. I was never going to make the Beijing mistake again. I had forgotten I was there to win matches for the country, because I was enjoying the experience so much.

I didn’t think that going to the opening ceremony in Beijing would affect me. It was only in hindsight that I realised I had used tremendous amounts of energy, speaking to loads of people and enjoying the whole occasion. For some participants that is what the Olympics should be about, but I know how disappointed I was to lose so early because I had a chance to do well for the country and I blew it.

I would have loved to have gone to the London 2012 opening ceremony – it turned out to be the most spectacular event – but it was the wrong thing to do from a professional perspective. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
However, I was among the fortunate people nominated to carry the flame on its journey across the nation. That was a tremendous privilege. OK, I was only able to carry it inside the confines of the All England Club, but there were memebers and players in attendance – I remember Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych cutting short their practice sessions to come and watch me receive the flame.

My first match against Stanislas Wawrinka was a really tough one. I had been practicing with him so often beforehand .. and killing him actually! In those ten days, I think I had won every practice set and I had just felt great generally.[…]

I watched as many of the other sports as I could when I wasn’t playing, and I wanted to try to be a part of that success. When I lose at the Wimbledon Championships, there isn’t usually anyone else left for British fans to support; if I’d have lost at the Olympics, there was still Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Chris Hoy. If I had lost, I doubt whether people would have spent much time talking about it, because there were so many other exciting things going on elsewhere to concentrate on.

The night before playing in the final, I watched Ennis, Farah and Greg Rutherford all win gold in Olympic Stadium. The atmosphere was outrageous, it was crackling. The country was alive with optimism, there was momentum and everyone was so positive, from the spectators to the media.
In advance of the Games, the stories had all been about the prospect of terrible traffic problems, potential security problems and ticketing issues. People thought the opening ceremony would not be as good as in Beijing, but it proved to be an incredible spectacle.
Then a few days, it was all: ‘We haven’t won a gold yet’. Everything was negative again. But once the first gold arrived, then another, then a couple more, it all changed. There was nothing to complain about anymore and the whole nation was carried along on a wave of excitement. The athletes performed better than anyone was expecting – career-best performances, golds, silvers, glorious achievements – and I put a lot of that down to the positive momentum all around. As an individual sportsman, I’d certainly never experienced anything like it.

I managed to make good progress through my first four rounds, only losing one set to Marcos Baghdatis, who challenged me really hard again. Then, after I defeated Nicolas Almagro on No.1 Court, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge amongst the spectators, I was into the semi-finals to play Novak again. I spoke to Ivan the evening before and his lessage was the same as usual: to impose my game on the match, play the game on my terms and not to lose running around with my arse against the back fence.
I managed to execute the game plan, turning in one of my most complete performances of the year. In windy conditions I thought I struck the ball really well. In the first set there were some tremendous rallies, but the second set, by comparison, wasn’t quite as good. Novak had a lot of break points, but I served really well and hung tough in those moments and just managed to get the break myself in the end.
The atmosphere was unbelievable, different to anything I’d experienced before. I’d always said that the mnight matches at the US Open had the best atmosphere, but they weren’t even close to what it was like against Novak.
I celebrated victory in the normal way until I sat down in the chair. Suddenly, I leapt up again, as if electricity was surging through my body. I’d realised I had guaranteed myself an Olympic medal.

The final would be a rematch against Roger for Olympic gold.

Andy Muray climbs into the stands, Wimbledon 2013

Like strawberries and cream, the Queue and all-white outfits, the champion’s climb to the players’ box to celebrate his victory with his closed ones has become a tradition at Wimbledon. It all started with Pat Cash back in 1987:

“Champions of the past had celebrated their wins in time honoured fashion. Most used to jump the net and run up to commiserate with the person they had just beaten; this was the style of the Australians such as Laver, Emerson, Hoad and Fraser. But I wasn’t prepared to do that with Ivan Lendl; I didn’t like the guy at all and I wasn’t about to sympathise with him.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a great lover of Wimbledon’s traditions and everything they stand for, but I wanted to go where no champion had ever gone before. Suddenly I made up my mind, and nothing or nobody was going to stop me. I had looked up to the players box, and so many of the people who meant so much to me were there: my coach Ian Barclay, my girlfriend Anne-Britt, my dad, my sister Renee, my uncle Brian, and the woman who had helped me become one of the fittest players ever to walk on a tennis court, Ann Quinn. I had to be up there with them, and I was going to show my gratitude by climbing up to them.

Why did I do it? Growing up I’d always seen myself as just a normal Aussie kid who liked rock and roll music, football and girls, but I suppose I was just a little bit left of centre. I was kind of crazy, and always tried to be a bit different. My family upbringing had never involved a lot of hugging, but I had it in my head that if I ever won Wimbledon I would show the world how much I actually felt for those people. I wanted to be with them for these most memorable minutes of my life, and the most public way of showing my thanks was to do it in this greatest arena in tennis. So off I went.” [1]

Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Since then, 14 players have scaled terraces to the players’ box to embrace their family and coaches.
The most unexpected – and out of character – climb was probably Sampras‘ when he beat Pat Rafter in 2000 and broke Roy Emerson’s Grand Slam record:

“I finally won it, 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-2. It was dusk by then, and flashbulbs went off like a thousand lightning strikes. I looked over at Paul [Annacone] in the players’ box. He gestured up toward the area where we knew my folks were sitting. I was disoriented, but I knew what to do next – I climbed into the stands to find and hug my folks. And those flashbulbs just kept exploding. The scene was surreal.
Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have climbed into the stands. Thinking about it in advance, I would have said “None of us likes to make a really big scene, and my parents would find it embarrassing, I don’t think I’ll do that.” But when Paul signaled me, I knew immediately it was the right thing to do. Much like when I had to speak at Tim Gullikson’s funeral, my first reaction was to avoid drama and attention. But when the moment arrived in both those cases, I knew enough to do the right thing. As Paul said later, when I asked him why he had thought to signal me, “How often to you break the Grand Slam record, at a place that’s been so good to you, in front of people who have been so good to you?” [2]

The most spectacular was Nadal‘s one after his thrilling marathon win over Federer in 2008.

“I collapsed flat on my back on the Wimbledon grass, arms outstretched, fists clenched, roaring with triumph. The silence of the Centre Court gave way to pandemonium, an I succumbed, at long last, to the crowd’s euphoria, letting it wash over me, liberating myself from the mental prison I had inhabited from start to finish of the match, all day, the night before, the full two weeks of the greatest tennis tournament on earth. […] the tears came, and there was nothing I could do to stop them, and there was one more thing I had to do before the ceremony, one emotional release I needed before I could behave with some semblance of the restraint that Wimbledon tradition required.
I ran toward the corner where my father and mother and Toni, Titin, Carlos Costa, Tuts and Dr Cotorro had been sitting, and were now standing, and I clambered up the seats and scaled a wall to reach them. I was crying, and my father, the first to greet me, was crying too, and we hugged, and I hugged my mother, and I hugged Toni and the three of us all held one another in one great, tight family embrace.” [3]

After Rafa celebrated with his family, he made a U-turn towards the Royal Box to greet the Spanish Crown Prince and his wife.

Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2008

And the one the British crowd had been expected for so many years, is of course Andy Murray‘s celebratory climb in 2013:

“A few fraught minutes (and deuces) later, the title was mine. In the celerations after Novak’s decisive netted backhand, I was aware that people had started to come onto the court. When I finally sat down, I saw Andrew Jarrett coming over.
“Have I got enough time to go to my family and friends?” I asked.
“You need to be quick.”
I climbed up to the players’ box and went to Ivan first. He was sitting next to Novak’s team. It wasn’t a conscious decision to seek him out, but it was fitting that he was the first person I saw.
I’ve no idea if Ivan said anything to me or not. Two things I recall: my uncle, Neil, was sitting a few rows back and he was so desperate to high-five me that he reached forward and stuck his armpit right in Sir Chris Hoy’s face. Then, of course, I hadn’t seen my mum and someone shouted “Your mum, your mum”, so I went back and gave her a hug.” [4]

Sources:
[1] Uncovered by Pat Cash
[2] A champion’s mind by Pete Sampras and Peter Bodo
[3] Rafa by John Carlin
[4] Seventy-seven my road to Wimbledon glory by Andy Murray

Tim Henman, Wimbledon 2001

This article is part of a new series: what if? … rewriting tennis history. Enjoy the read and feel free to leave a comment below.

If you used to watch tennis in the late 90’s you surely remember Henmania taking over Wimbledon each summer:

“Henman made his name on Centre Court in 1996, when he defeated reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and expectation has snowballed ever since. Fans wave, or paint Union Jacks on their face, and shout, ‘Come on, Tim!’ like he is one-man football team. Outside Centre Court hundreds more pile in front of a big screen on the side of Court One that has come to be known as Henman Hill.
Most fans don’t care how their hero performs the other fifty weeks of the year so long as he is up for it during Wimbledon fortnight. They believe the first six months of the season are spent leading up to it and the next six are spent recovering from it.
During those two weeks in the summer when Henmania sweeps through Britain, he gets more attention than David Beckham or the royal family, and most of them are in the Royal Box watching him. He becomes the focus of national hero worship as he progresses through the early rounds. Then he is beaten and derided as a serial loser, a choker, and becomes the butt of countless needless jokes.” [1]

Tim Henman reached Wimbledon semifinals 4 times (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002) and had his best chance to reach the final in 2001 when he faced Goran Ivanisevic in the semifinals. Henman had come back from a set down to take the lead by 2 sets to 1 before rain stopped play. Henman ended up losing this match played over 3 days.

After Henman’s split with long time coach David Felgate in 2001, David Lloyd suggested Henman should copy Davis Cup teammate Greg Rusedski by working with a former player for specific tournaments only (Rusedski worked briefly with 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash). Former Davis Cup captain Lloyd is known to say really stupid things at times ( just before the Davis Cup final last year, he claimed Andy Murray doesn’t give enough back to British tennis), but his advice to Henman totally made sense back then:

“I always thought that someone like Edberg should have been brought in long ago to help the team for the big tournaments. He had a similar style to Tim and the same kind of problems, like his serve suddenly going and losing his forehand. But he learned how to control it.” [2]

“Edberg had such a similar game to Tim’s. Tim’s serve still tends to go on a big point, and he tends to hit his forehand too hard. Edberg was like that. He could have helped Tim, because, when you’re playing someone like Agassi or Hewitt who plays their ground shots so well, you’ve got to get a big percentage of your first serves in.” [2]

As a coach, Edberg would have helped Henman improve technically, but he would also have helped him handle the pressure he faced every year at Wimbledon.

Lleyton Hewitt: “British tennis is waiting for a Grand Slam champion – and Tim is the best chance going. In the locker room, everyone knows the pressure and expectations that Tim has to deal with at this time of the year. And everyone respects how well he deals with it. The way he handles the pressue and comes back and plays extremely well at Wimbledon year after year is a credit to him. He’d fully deserve it if he comes away with the Wimbledon crown one day. Even if he never wins Wimbledon, it’s pretty amazing what Tim has done there.” [1]

Despite his pairs’s praise, Henman was considered too soft, and his nerve and fighting spirit were forever being questioned. Early in his career, Stefan was also accused of lacking a burning desire to win. Long-time coach Tony Pickard did transform him into a player who had “fire in his belly”. He showed nerves of steel when he was down 3-1 to Becker in the fifth set of their ’90 Wimbledon final, and proved all his critics wrong during his epic ’92 US Open run (each time down a break in the fifth set he beat Richard Krajicek, Ivan Lendl and Michael Chang).
As a player Pickard did not have quite enough talent to match his self-assurance. He soon discovered that it was the other way round for Edberg.

“The biggest problem, was to get him to believe in himself. It took nearly three years.” [3]

In 2012, Andy Murray hired Ivan Lendl as a coach, and their partnership has been successful, to say the least: two Grand Slam titles (US Open 2012, Wimbledon 2013) and an Olympic gold medal, among other titles.

“Without a doubt, to have Ivan Lendl by my side was a real bonus”

acknowledged Andy Murray after his first Grand Slam victory at the US Open in 2012, nine months after the beginning of his collaboration with the 8-time Grand Slam champion. [4]

The Murray-Lendl collaboration started a new trend of former Grand Slam champions working with today’s top champions (Becker-Djokovic, Federer-Edberg, Chang-Nishikori…):

“Even champions of the caliber of Federer or Djokovic can still improve and change things in their game, said Sam Sumyk. This is the advantage of high level, this is not just the technique of a forehand or backhand, there are lots of parameters that come into play. The help Edberg can bring to Federer or Becker to Djokovic is on details. It can be in all areas: technique, way of thinking, or state of mind.” [4]

“I think I can really bring a little something. And maybe that little something can bring back Roger to where he was some time ago.”[4] said Edberg.

And indeed Edberg’s influence was the biggest reason behind Federer‘s regain of form in 2014 and 2015, encouraging him to shorten rallies, and take control of the net.

“Federer is a different, better player than he was at the start of this year, and a lot of the credit for that goes to that iconic exponent of the serve-and-volley game, Edberg.” [5]

So what do you think, would Edberg have brought that little something to Henman’s game to help him reach new heights and win Wimbledon?

What if Stefan Edberg had coached Tim Henman?

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Sources:
[1] From Tim Henman, England’s finest by Simon Felstein – published in 2006
[2] Lloyd: Henman should be converting ability into titles, BBC Sport, 10 April, 2001
[3] From Love Thirty, three decades of champions by Rex Bellamy – published in 1990. Read more here.
[4] From Tennis Magazine, April 2014. Read more here.
[5] The man behind Roger Federer’s success by Peter Bodo for ESPN. Read the article here.