Nice asics video featuring Sam Stosur and Gael Monfils:

Roger Federer enjoyed his first hit of 2014 on the Rod Laver arena:

Extract from The Rivals by Johnette Howard:

“The first three majors of 1981 had been divided among Hana Mandlikova, Evert and Austin. Navratilova‘s Grand Slam title drought, meanwhile, had extended to twenty-eight months.

Yet as Navratilova and Evert walked out onto the court at Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne for the 1981 Australian Open final, Evert felt that “Martina had the momentum” – an odd remark considering that Evert hadn’t dropped a set. But Evert noticed that Navratilova had begun to display a fiercer edge, a more resilient confidence during her tournament run.

At times Evert felt sure she had struck unreachable shots – “Against anyone else they would’ve been winners” Evert said – only to see Martina somehow run down the ball or snare it at full stretch and crack back a volley winner.
“She would be on top of the net so quickly I would have to hit a perfect passing shot”, Evert said.
aEvert was magnificently up to the challenge. In the brillantly played first set, Evert and Navratilova were even at 5-5, then 6-6, then 4-all in the tiebreaker before Evert captured three set points to win it. Evert inched away to a 4-3 lead in the second set too. But Navratilova produced her best game of the match to hold at 4-all. Then Navratilova allowed only two points in the next two games, and the seesawing match was level at a set apiece.

Navratilova, seemingly exhilarated by her comeback, bolted off to a 5-1 lead in the final set, only to see something stir in Evert that was beyond fear and closer to self-loathing. It was that same stomach-turning thought that often drove Evert: the galling idea of having to make nice at the net with her overjoyed opponent after a loss. In that instant, the details faded and Evert quit thinking about how Navratilova’s net-smothering play had demanded almost impossible precision from her. Like Navratilova, Evert began playing on row emotion now.
“At that point you are so mad, you just find yourself going for your shots more subbornly”, Evert said. “My shots were hitting the lines. I was connecting with the ball as well as I could have.”

For the next six or seven games, she and Navratilova were like two fighters deep into a fifteen-round bout, weary but willing. Evert stormed back to 5-all. The tension was thick. Each rally had now become a test of nerve. Yet again, Evert didn’t feel safe. When Evert searched Navratilova’s body language or eyes right then for any familiar hint of tightness, none was there.

In this, their forty-fourth confrontation, Navratilova was suddenly an opponent Evert did not quite know. “Martina didn’t panic”, Evert said.
Evert was serving now at 5-5. With the score knotted at 30-all, Evert blasted a forehand long to give Navratilova a potentially decisive break point. Hoping to surprise Navratilova, Evert rushed the net first – only to end up in an eyeball-to-eyeball exhange of volleys that Navratilova won.

For the third time now, Navratilova began a new game serving for the match. Evert struck one last passing shot – long – and her shoulders sagged.

Navratilova had won the Australian Open 6-7 6-4 7-5. Her career total of major titles had finally ticked up to three.”

Novak Djokovic
Preview, recap and analysis:

Novak Djokovic first practice session
Roger Federer first practice session
Day 1 recap
Day 2 recap
Day 3 recap
Day 4 recap
Day 5 recap
Day 6 recap
Day 7 recap
Women’s semifinals highlights
Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova roads to the 2014 Australian Open final
Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka roads to the 2014 Australian Open final
Li Na defeats Dominika Cibulkova, wins first Australian Open title

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
1981: First Australian Open title for Martina Navratilova
1987-1988 Swedes spoil the party
January 11, 1988: first day of play at Flinders Park
1994: First Australian Open title for Pete Sampras
1996 Australian Open: Mark Philippoussis defeats Pete Sampras in the 3rd round
1997 Australian Open: Pete Sampras defeats Carlos Moya
2001 Australian Open: Pat’s last chance
2001 Australian Open final: Andre Agassi defeats Arnaud Clément
2003 Australian Open: last Grand Slam title for Agassi
2005 Australian Open: Heartbreak for Lleyton Hewitt
2009 Australian Open: Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer

Fashion and gear:

Andy Murray adidas outfit
Ana Ivanovic adidas dress
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga adidas outfit
Caroline Wozniacki dress by Stella McCartney
Rafael Nadal signature shoes: the Nike Lunar Ballistec
Roger Federer signature shoes: the Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5
Novak Djokovic Uniqlo outfit
Venus Williams dress by EleVen
Rafael Nadal Nike outfit
Roger Federer Nike outfit
Serena Williams Nike dress
Maria Sharapova Nike dress
Victoria Azarenka Nike outfit
Li Na Nike outfit
Juan Martin del Potro Nike outfit
Lleyton Hewitt C’mon outfit
Kei Nishikori Uniqlo outfit
Eugenie Bouchard Nike outfit
Flavia Pennetta outfit by Stella McCartney

Polls:

Who will be the 2014 Australian Open champion?

  • Rafael Nadal (33%, 92 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (28%, 80 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (27%, 76 Votes)
  • Juan Martin Del Potro (4%, 11 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (4%, 10 Votes)
  • Stanislas Wawrinka (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Other (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (0%, 1 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 283

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Australian Open 2014 champion?

  • Serena Williams (49%, 70 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (15%, 21 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (12%, 17 Votes)
  • Na Li (9%, 13 Votes)
  • Other (5%, 7 Votes)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Jelena Jankovic (3%, 4 Votes)
  • Agniezska Radwanska (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Sara Errani (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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Excerpt of Rafael Nadal‘s autobiography Rafa:

“Going into the Australian Open in 2009, I felt my chances of winning were as good as they had been at Wimbledon six months earlier. I had, in other words, a good chance. The ball bounces higher than it does at the US Open, so it doesn’t fly so fast and it takes my topspin well. What I hadn’t reckoned on was a semifinal like the one I had against my friend and fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. I won, in the end, but i had to battle so hard and was left so physically destroyed by the end of it. For most of the one and a half day of preparation I had for the final against Federer, I was convinced I had absolutely no chance of winning. The only time I’d felt like that before a Grand Slam final was at Wimbledon in 2006, but that was because I did not believe, in my heart of heats, that winning was an option.
Before the Australian Open final in 2009 it was my body that rebelled, begging me to call a halt. It didn’t cross my mind to pull out of the match but the result I anticipated, and for which I strove mentally to prepare myself, was a 6-1 6-2 6-2 defeat.

The semifinal I played against Verdasco was the longest match in Australian Open history. It was incredibly tight every step of the way, with him playing spectacularly, hitting an extraordinarily high percentage of winners. But I somehow held on, on the defense but making few erors, and after 5h14, I won 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-7 6-4. It was so hot on court that the two of us rushed to drape ice packs around our necks and shoulders in the breaks between games. In the very last game, just before the very last point, my eyes filled with tears. I wasn’t crying because I sensed defeat, or even victory, but as a response to the sheer excruciating tension of it all. I had lost the fourth set on a tie break, and that in a game so tense and in such conditions, would have devastating had I not been able to call on every last reserve of mental strength I’d accumulated over fifteen years of relentless competition. I was able to put that blow behind me and begin the fifth believing I still had it in me to win.

The chance finally arrived with me 5-4 and 0-40 up on Verdasco’s serve. That should have been it, with three match points, but it wasn’t quite. I lost both the first and second points. That was when it all got too much for me and I broke down; that was where the armor plating fell away and the warrior Rafa Nadal, who tennis fans think they know, revealed as the vulnerable, human Rafael.
The one person who didn’t see it was Verdasco. Either that or he was in even worse shape than I was. Because his nerves got the better of him too. In a moment of incredible good luck for me (and terrible luck for him), he double faulted, handing me victory without me having to hit a shot. Both of us fell flat on our backs, ready to expire of physical and nervous exhaustion, but it was me who made it up first, stumbling forward and stepping over the net to embrace Fernando and tell him it was a match neither of us had deserved to lose.
The match ended at one in the morning, and i did not go to sleep till after five. [...]

“No sooner had the match got under way than the the aches began to recede. So much so that I won the first game, breaking Federer’s serve. Then he broke me back, but as the games unfolded I found, to my great relief, that I wasn’t out of breath, and while my calves still felt heavy, there were no signs of the muscle cramps I had feared. And none materialized, despite the match going to five sets. In the end, as Titin says, pain is in the mind.

If you can control the mind, you can control the body

I lost the fourth set, as I had done against Verdasco, after going two sets to one up, but I came back, my determination bolstered and my spirit enhanced by the surprise and delight I felt at having made it as far as I had without falling apart. At 2-0 up in the fifth set I turned to where Toni, Carlos, Tuts and Titin were sitting and said, just loud enough so they could hear, in Mallorquin, ‘I’m going to win’. And I did. Toni had been right. Yes, I could. I won 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2 and I was Australian Open champion; to my astonishment I had come back to life, and there it was, my third of the four grand Slam titles, now my sixth overall.”

Excerpt of Pete Sampras autobiography A champion’s mind:

“I entered that event after having had less than a month of “off season” following the Grand Slam Cup (I pulled out of that with an ankle injury), and there was no way I was ready, much less eager to play.

I made the trip, though, and I played and ended up losing in the third round to an Aussie, Mark Philippoussis. The conditions were perfect for an upset: Mark had an adoring home crowd behind him and it was a night match, with some eighteen thousands fans jammed into the Rod Laver Arena, hungry for an upset. Mark just overpowered me – he was in the mythic zone, and when that happens to a player who has as big and versatile a game as Philippoussis, you’re in trouble.

Down deep, I didn’t feel too badly about the loss. I’d done my best. It might have been different if I’d been able to have six or eight weeks off to recharge my batteries and prepare for the new year. It also might have been different if it were any other major but the Australian. I never really liked playing in Melbourne, and my results over the years reflected it (I won just two titles there). This surprised many people, because on the surface the Australian Open might have looked like the perfect Grand Slam for me.

The Aussies have a great tennis tradition, yet even their icons tended to be regular, plainspoken, understated guys, somewhat like me. That was an immediate affinity I felt with Australia. The Australians also are a friendly, easygoing people, and the atmosphere at their major is laid-back; that also suited me. You could get gut-shot in the street there and if you crawled up to a guy for help he’d probably say, “No worries, mate!” and then do all he could to help.
The facilities at Melbourne Park, including Rod Laver Arena, are modern and first-class. You don’t have that feeling of chaos and crowding that characterizes the other majors; even the media presence is considerably smaller. So you have a little less of that intensity and crazy pressure.

In Melbourne you could always count on a few days when the temperature pushes the 100 degree mark, and even though it isn’t very humid, the heat can be draining. It was a special problem for me, because I secretly suffered from thalassemia, a mild disease common to men of Mediterranean descent. It’s basically a blood-iron deficiency that causes anemia, and those who have it are prone to wilting in intense heat.

Another unpredictable thing about the courts at Melbourne Park was the Rebound Ace surface (which was replaced by Plexicushion for 2008). Rebound Ace was a rubber compound that they painted over the typical hard-court base of asphalt. The surface provided a little cushioning and slowed the bounce, but it did strange things in the heat. It was so hot in Melbourne one year that a TV crew cracked an egg on court and, using time-lapse photography, recorded it frying. The heat made the Rebound Ace very sticky.

Yet the conditions in Oz can change in the blink of an eye. The difference between playing day and night matches there is huge (the Australian and US opens are the only two majors that have night tennis, and the retractable roof over the Laver Arena means you can have night indoor tennis). The surface reacted easily to ambient changes of any kind; it was simply a different court when the temperature was a comfortable 75 or 80 degrees – which was often the case during the night matches that followed scorching afternoons. To me, the Australian major was a crapshoot in the areas where I most preferred consistency – the surface, the balls, and the ambient conditions.”

Pete Sampras would end up winning 6 more Grand Slams. As for Philippoussis, despite 2 Grand Slam finals (1998 US Open and 2003 Wimbledon) he never fullfilled the expectations placed in him.