Who would have thought we would see these two immense champions face each other in a Grand Slam final again?
Rafael Nadal’s road to the final
I never dreamed to be back in the final of the Australian Open. It’s a very special thing for both of us to be playing again in a major final. Neither of us probably thought we would be here again.
|R1||Florian Mayer||6-3 6-4 6-4|
|R2||Marcos Baghdatis||6-3 6-1 6-3|
|R3||Alexander Zverev (24)||4-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-2|
|R4||Gaël Monfils (6)||6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4|
|QF||Milos Raonic (3)||6-4 7-6 6-4|
|SF||Grigor Dimitrov (15)||6-3 5-7 7-6 6-7 6-4|
Roger Federer’s road to the final
I’ll leave it all out here in Australia and if I can’t walk for another five months, that’s OK.
|R1||Jürgen Melzer||7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2|
|R2||Noah Rubin||7-5 6-3 7-6|
|R3||Tomas Berdych (10)||6-2 6-4 6-4|
|R4||Kei Nishikori (5)||7-6 4-6 1-6|
|QF||Mischa Zverev||6-1 7-5 6-2|
|SF||Stan Wawrinka (4)||7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3|
Day 1 – first round
– Defending champion Angelique Kerber struggles but gets past Lesia Tsurenko in three sets.
– Number 4 seed Simona Halep is ousted by world number 52 Shelby Rogers 6-3 6-1.
– Playing in his first Grand Slam match since he became world number one, Andy Murray defeats Illya Marchenko in straight sets.
– Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic survive five-set scare against respectively Martin Klizan and Jerzy Janowicz
– In his return to competition, Federer loses a set, but wins his first match since Wimbledon last year.
– Aussie teen Alex De Minaur, making is Grand Slam debut, fought back from a match point down to beat Gerald Melzer in a five-set marathon.
Day 2 – first round
– World number 2 Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are safely through to second round despite challenging first round matches -on paper. 6-4 6-3 for Serena over Belinda Bencic, 6-1 7-6 6-2 for Djokovic over Fernando Verdasco.
– No trouble for Rafael Nadal who cruises past Florian Mayer 6-3 6-4 6-4. He next faces 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis.
– Big troubles on the contrary for David Goffin who needs five sets to defeat young American Reilly Opelka.
– Playing in his 60th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, number 28 seed Feliciano Lopez lost to Fabio Fognini in straight sets.
– 37-year-old Ivo Karlovic fired 75 aces! to overcome Horacio Zeballos in a five-set marathon 6-7 3-6 7-5 6-2 22-20.
Day 3 – second round
– Another hard-fought win for world number one Angelique Kerber who defeats fellow German Carine Witthoeft 6-2 6-7 6-2. She’s turning 29 today.
– Garbine Muguruza booked her place in the third round with a clean 7-5 6-4 win over Samantha Crawford.
– Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka cruise into the third round with straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Steve Johnson.
– Andreas Seppi rallies from 2 sets down, saves a match point and downs Kyrgios 1-6 6-7 6-4 6-2 10-8.
– Like Seppi, Mischa Zverev came back from the dead to defeat John Isner 6-7 6-7 6-4 7-6 9-7.
– Sydney runner-up Dan Evans registers the biggest win of his career so far with a four-set victor over Marin Cilic.
– Matches to follow on day 4:
Naomi Osaka – Johanna Konta
Lucie Safarova – Serena Williams
Marcos Baghdatis – Rafael Nadal
Radek Stepanek -David Goffin
Benoît Paire – Fabio Fognini
Interview by El Espanol, translation by Tennis Buzz
Within a year, you took Milos Raonic to his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, in addition to helping him climb from world number 14 to number 3. Why split?
One of the reasons is that I traveled too many weeks with Raonic in 2016, way more than I thought. I did about 18 weeks, many, many. In addition, I played several Champions Tour tournaments (the retired players’ circuit) and the IPTL (International Premier Tennis League). And it was a bit complicated for me. I traveled too much considering my family situation, being married with three children.
How did the opportunity to train Nadal appear?
Toni Nadal called me when I was playing IPTL. He knew that I was no longer with Raonic and asked me if I wanted to be part of the team and also of the academy. I said that in principle yes, but I needed to talk to Rafa. I wanted to know his level of involvement first. I could imagine it, but I needed to hear it from his own voice. I needed to know if he was willing to do everything to win back Grand Slam tournaments, to become world number one again … And yes, he did have a lot of predisposition, hunger and hope. For me, that was fundamental.
Did you really think you would not end up sitting in his box? I do not believe it…
No, it’s the absolute truth. It was always clear to me that he would end his career with Toni and Francis Roig, I never thought I would take the plunge. In any case, I am a person who comes from outside, but I am the least external that Nadal could have found. I think that has been something decisive. Rafa does not like changes, either in his life or in his environment. That’s why he accepts someone who knows that environment even before he works with him. Toni, Joan Forcades (physical trainer), Benito (head of press) …
Although I am still an outsider who sees different things, someone who he has trusted in the past as a friend. And I think the year I’ve done with Milos helps that, to take the plunge. Previously, Rafa could think that I did not want to travel. I think, but I don’t for sure, to see that I have traveled with Milos and that he has done well, it reassured him.
You have been a close friend of Nadal for a long time. Have you ever coach him without being his coach?
Never. Obviously we have talked about tennis, but I never stepped on that ground. It was a way for me to respect his team. If he had asked me something I may have said it, but I have not called Rafa to tell him to play a rival in a way or to train something in particular. That was not my place. I did not do it during the years I was alone, nor when I was with Raonic, logically. But of course we were in contact. He is my friend. I have a lot of affection and I want the best for him.
You come from helping to grow a player who has a huge margin of improvement. And now?
The focus is different, it has nothing to do. Raonic has not reached his limit, he has not reached his full potential. And Nadal is the other way around. He has come fully, but he wants to get closer to that higher level. One has not won anything big and the other has 14 Grand Slam tournaments. One has two years in the elite and the other more than 15. It has nothing to do, although the requirement will be the same.
If you miss Grand Slam finals you will see that you are still struggling for those titles. If during the next big eight does not pass eighth … because logically is not going to be good, will not enjoy. Sincerely, I see Nadal to fight for the maximum.
Won’t you have problems with all the travels?
I will do between 12 and 15 weeks this season. Rafa knows my family situation and respects it. And he wants me to be in his day to day and that I am part of the academy, which is a very important project for him. In the end, one of the keys is that I am in Mallorca and that will make it easier for us to be together.
Why has Nadal stopped winning?
2015 and 2016 are very different. In 2015, Rafa recognized that it was a mental problem, of pressure, of anxiety. In 2016, those problems were overcome and when he was at his best he was injured. After the injury he hurried up to play the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but when I asked him about it he told me he would do the same because he won the gold medal.
He came back with pains, doubts, matches he had to win and he lost them … all that took his confidence away. He finished the year a little burned out because he could not have continuity due to those injuries. They are two different cases, although I prefer 2016. What happened last season is different and very surmountable, as long as he is not injured.
During this time, has he lost more edge in his forehand or his backhand?
The backhand can keep you in the game, but what will make you win a Grand Slam is to do the difference with the forehand. He has to recover the pace that he had, with which he suffocated the opponent.
And the physic condition?
He is not failing physically. Those who are playing the best tennis on the tour are older. Murray is being number one for the first time at age 29.
But he runs less than before, much less.
On the one hand, you’re less explosive when you get older, but if you’re 18, you’re number one and if you’re still playing at 30, you evolve. The rivals know you and they adapt. What you lose physically you gain with the knowledge of how the game in particular and tennis in general works.
It is also true that when you are older you lose audacity, perhaps because of the unconsciousness of youth, that you go crazy and things come to you. At 30 you think things over. You lose one thing and win in others, it is what is called experience.
Your coaching job officially starts in a few days, despite the fact that it started last week in Manacor. What does it mean to train Nadal?
Training Nadal is the greatest challenge I will ever have, the biggest challenge in my entire coaching career. First, for what Rafa means. Second, because I will never be able to train someone as big as him. And thirdly, for what we have lived together, what we have lived on the court and out of it. No challenge will be able to match this one. And I’m prepared for it, I’m going to impact on many things that can improve on the court, but also out of it.
Photo credit: Tennis Buzz
Only two days to go to the first Slam of the season! Who do you think will win? Check out her Australian Open 2017 preview:
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are once again the big favorites for the title.
5-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, who begins his campaign on Monday against 93-ranked Ilya Marchenko, has a quite easy route to the quarterfinals where he could meet Kei Nishikori or Roger Federer.
Novak Djokovic will launch his bid for a record seventh Australian Open title with a challenging first round match against Fernando Verdasco, who missed 5 match points against the Serb in Doha last week. Grigor Dimitrov could wait in the fourth round, before a clash against Dominic Thiem in the quarters.
The only two other players who could, in my opinion, capture the title this year are Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic. Unpredictable on the ATP tour, Wawrinka is always consistent come Grand Slam time; while Raonic has improved a lot in the last year and is not a one-weapon only player anymore.
Players to watch:
Rafael Nadal struggled to get back to form since his injury, but had a decent start of the season with a win at the Abu Dhabi exhibition and a quarterfinal in Brisbane. He could face Alexander Zverev in the third round, Gaël Monfils in the fourth round and Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals.
Roger Federer will play for the first time since last year’s Wimbledon. Seeded 17, he has not won a Slam title since Wimbledon 2012. He could face Tomas Berdych in the third round, and then Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray.
Andy Murray  – Kei Nishikori 
Stan Wawrinka  – Marin Cilic 
Gaël Monfils  – Milos Raonic 
Dominic Thiem  – Novak Djokovic 
First round matches to watch:
Nicolas Almagro – Jérémy Chardy
Jerzy Janowicz – Marin Cilic 
Dustin Brown – Milos Raonic 
Tommy Haas – Benoît Paire
Fabio Fognini – Feliciano Lopez 
Fernando Verdasco – Novak Djokovic 
Unlike the men’s draw, there is no clear favorite in the women’s draw, and it seems anything could happen.
Angelique Kerber had a dream season last year, with two Grand Slam titles and the world number one spot. She opens up her title defence with a match-up against Lesia Tsurenko and could play reigning Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals.
Serena Williams, who suffered a shock defeat to Madison Brengle in Auckland last week, will be chasing Grand Slam title number 23. Like Novak Djokovic, she will face a tough test in the first round: former world number 7 Belinda Becic.
The ever consitent Agnieszka Radwanska could finally win her maiden Slam title, while Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza will be looking to confirm their stand-out 2016 season.
Players to watch:
Finalist here in 2014, Dominika Cibulkova claimed her biggest title last October: the WTA Finals. She will look to pick up where she left off last year.
A surprising semifinalist last year, Johanna Konta reached the top ten since then, and won Sydney title, dismantling Radwanska in the final. She could do some damage in the draw.
Like Cibulkova, Svetlana Kuznetsova finished 2016 in great form. On a good day, she can beat anyone.
First round matches to watch:
Louisa Chiricio – Eugenie Bouchard
Mona Barthel – Destanee Aiava
Laura Siegemund  – Jelena Jankovic
Ana Konjuh – Kristina Mladenovic
Heather Watson – Sam Stosur 
Tsvetana Pironkova – Agnieszka Radwanska 
Kirsten Flipkens – Johanna Konta 
Yanina Wickmayer – Lucie Safarova
Belinda Bencic – Serena Williams 
Angelique Kerber  – Garbine Muguruza 
Simona Halep  – Svetlana Kuznetsova 
Karolina Pliskova  – Agnieszka Radwanska 
Dominika Cibulkova  – Serena Williams 
Photo credit: Australian Open instagram
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
Recap and preview:
Fashion and gear:
Already 10 years since my trip to the US Open. Time flies…
It was my first time ever in the States (and it remains the only time to this day), but strangely enough everything seemed so familiar (I guess it is related to watching to many american TV shows…) and everything seemed so big: the buildings, the food portion sizes and of course the Arthur Ashe Stadium: