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By Sandra Harwitt
No one — that is, no one – should underestimate Novak Djokovic, particularly at the Australian Open where he’s now won his fifth title and eighth career Grand Slam trophy. I must admit I thought his semifinal against Stan Wawrinka was a looking glass into the final and gave Andy Murray the edge. But in the end order prevailed, leaving Djokovic at 5-0 in Australian Open finals and Murray at a distressful 0-4 in Australian Open finals.
Even when Djokovic got into trouble in the second and the third sets – and appeared physically stressed – he found a way and that’s a true mark of champions. In contrast, Murray’s going back to being somewhat petulant on the court, a behavior he’s reverted to since Ivan Lendl departed his camp as chief advisor. It’s not that I think Amelie Mauresmo is a bad coach for Murray – I think she brings top notch qualities to the team – but she hasn’t been able to keep Andy focused on the task at hand. Murray didn’t whine when Lendl was staring at him from his box, who would?
Djokovic’s message to the rest of the field is I’m No. 1 and my plans for the year is that you’re going to be staring at my back in catchup mode all season long. It used to be when a guy became a dad his game started to slump, but Federer altered that perception and Djokovic is carrying on the theme that fatherhood and tennis are a workable mix. Owning eight Grand Slam titles is a plus, and worth noting he’s only eight away from joining Rafael Nadal at 14 – we won’t discuss Federer’s 17 as that is probably more of a dream. Yes, I’ll eat my hat if I’m wrong.
Murray is going to have to learn to keep his cool. Falling back to old habits is not serving him well – it’s really a no-no to show an opponent that you’re frustrated – it’s letting the other guy know he has the advantage and what competitor wants to do that, for pity sake. Murray knows this as it’s one of the first coaching tools offered to new students when they start playing competitive matches. Will Andy win another Grand Slam title – it’s hard not to imagine so. But it won’t come easy if he keeps fighting himself while on court. On the plus side, and like Maria Sharapova, his women’s counterpart, Murray was exceptionally gracious in defeat, which couldn’t have been easy after losing in the Oz Open final for a fourth time in his career.
Let’s talk those other two guys in the top four – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. To fans around the world they were a letdown at this Australian Open, going home way to early. Federer came into the Aussie having won Brisbane and looking like a shoo-in for the final stages of the tournament. But Andreas Seppi had other things on his mind and actually made the Fed look rather ordinary in defeat. Nadal still can placate himself with the knowledge he considered not even playing the Australian Open because he knew coming off an injury-and-illness plagued 2014 season he didn’t have enough match play to perform. His focus is on the French Open, so we’ll have to wait-and-see before offering judgment.
As for those guys waiting in the wings – Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori – sorry fellas, but you’re still not ready for center stage. They realized their seedings, but then had no further push. Your days will hopefully come, but for now those older guys still have seniority.
In the newest name to watch category keep an eye out for Nick Kyrgios. The Australian certainly delighted the hometowm fans with his run to a second Grand Slam quarterfinal. What Kyrgios needs to do is to start performing at the regular tournaments – he’s only won one ATP tour-level match to date. Things should come in progression and Kyrgios has been skipping ahead of himself at the Slams.