Originally Published: February 14, 2005 7 a.m.
Even though Lleyton Hewitt fell a bit short in his bid to win the first major of the year during the celebration of its 100 years of existence, the tournament was a rousing success in great matches, attendance, entertainment, legendary players, and much, much more.
Who would have guessed that Marat Safin would beat Roger Federer 9-7 in the fifth set in the semis and then go on to win the finals against Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in four? That's not to say he (Safin) hasn't had the capability to do so in many tournaments. But up until now it's seemed he didn't really believe in himself. Maybe there's something to be said about having a good coach.
Serena Williams came back from three match points (against her) to rally past Maria Sharapova in the semis, and then got clobbered in the first set of the finals with Lindsay Davenport to then turn the second set in her favor and the last set around to a 6-0 victory.
It was hard not to root for Australian Alicia Molik while playing American Lindsay Davenport in their quarterfinals match, but great to know that she pulled off the women's doubles title playing with Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova which was against Davenport and Corina Morariu 6-3, 6-4.
Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett took down the Bryon brothers (Bob and Mike) to win the men's doubles championships 6-4, 6-4.
And another Aussie team won the mixed doubles final, Scott Draper and Samantha Stosur, in three sets over Kevin Ullyett and Liezel Huber 6-2, 2-6, 7-6.
There were 23 five-set matches in the men's singles draw alone. Thomas Johansson played in three of them and in his first three rounds. Another Johansson, Joachim, played Andre Agassi in the fourth round and hit 51 aces in one match, with a total of 93 winners ... and still lost. And did you know that there were no fewer than 17 "Ovas' in the women's draw at the Australian? Time for a name change if you want to make it in professional tennis.
The first "majors" night time final was held, which was great for most of the world, but here in Arizona that means it started at 1:30 a.m. A bit tough if you wanted to see it as it truly unfolded and not have someone tell you about it before you saw the replay. But television ratings went through the roof!
The Aussies have the best stadium and set up their tournament. With a retractable roof for the Rod Laver Arena, there's always a prime match to be televised. This year a crowd of 60,669 tennis fans flocked through the gates on the middle Saturday which is a record number for any single-day tennis event ever.
None of the other majors have a stadium that can be covered when bad weather occurs. But watch for this to be remedied in the next few years, as well as the chair umpire with a TV monitor that will help with over-rules on close and questionable line calls.
The United States did have another champion who will be heard about more in the near future. Fifteen-year-old Donald Young became the youngest ever junior Grand Slam winner and youngest junior world No. 1 in the history of the game. He defeated Sun-Yong Kim in the final of the boy's singles event.
Tennis is back in bloom now for 2005. No doubt the great Aussie coach Harry Hopman is looking down proudly at what happened in Melbourne. The people (Laver, Rosewall, Hoad, Roche, Newcombe, Court, Goolagong, Stolle, Emerson, Cash, Rafter, Edmondson, O'Neil, tournament director-Paul McNamee and others) who came before have certainly helped shape what used to be a tournament that many professional players wouldn't even attend, into one of the best venues tennis has to offer.
Are any of you a bit tired from staying up later than usual? I am.
•Due to the snowy weather we had this past weekend, the Prescott Area Tennis Association's January meeting has been postponed to this next Saturday (Feb. 5th), and will be at noon at the Prescott Racquet Club. All tennis enthusiasts are encouraged and welcome to attend. New board members will be voted in and preliminary planning will be conducted for this year.
•Two of the four Armory tennis courts will be resurfaced as soon as the weather warrants the conditions necessary to have it done. So, with the weather we've been having – count on May or June.
•Is it my imagination or does it seem like everyone who has had Brad Gilbert as a coach replaces him with another that at the least could be his brother in looks???
>O?(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)