Born on Independence Day, Lives Actively & Family Focused

Australian Open 2015 – It’s Here.

January 19, 2015

From the conclusion of ESPN’s US Open coverage until the Australian Open, I enjoy my longest uninterrupted stretch with my three kids. Only Chrissie Evert’s milestone birthday weekend at a Southern CA spa kept me from my kids during that whole time. It was a busy few months for my kids and me. As is always the case, no matter the trip, it’s hard to leave my family, but I love my work and I love all the friends I have made through my tennis career….I think they call this feeling, conflicted.

Conflicted is a word that tennis players competing in the Australian Open cannot have. They must feel 100% committed to how they trained in the off-season, how they match-prepared, how they are being coached, and they must feel their condition is at its best even if a four day 100 degree plus heat wave moves into Melbourne like last year.

Of the big four in men’s tennis from the last decade, it seems like Roger Federer and Andy Murray might be the most prepared leading into the years’ first major. Federer won the big lead up event in Brisbane over Milos Raonic, thus winning his 1000th ATP match, joining only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl in the 1000 club.  Wow!

Murray changed major aspects of his training team in the second half of last year with Amelie Mauresmo coming in as coach taking Ivan Lendl’s place, replacing two other members of his training team and getting engaged to Kim Sears.  Murray seems refreshed and recommitted to being the fastest player on tour and seems to finally be at top condition a year after his back surgery.

Speaking of surgery, Rafael Nadal had his appendix removed in early November. I am sure with minimum invasion but still a surgery in his core section takes time to recover in many ways. Rafa is used to coming back from injuries and illnesses and when he hits top confidence and condition, he will be a force again but probably not in Melbourne. Also just days ago in Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic cancelled his onsite appearances with the media and practices because he is ill. Even for a multiple winner of the Australian Open, this is not how Djokovic wants to start another run for the title.

On the women’s side Maria Sharapova has been most impressive so far like Federer winning Brisbane. She won at Melbourne seven years ago playing some of her most consistent tennis over a two-week stretch. Seven years ago was in the middle of Justine Henin’s presences at the top of women’s tennis and Serena Williams, depending on injuries and her condition, was sometimes on top as well.

Here we are in 2015, sixteen years after Serena won her first of eighteen majors at the US Open in 1999, and Serena is at the top of the women’s draw and Sharapova at the bottom.  If they meet in the final, Serena has dominated the rivalry since their Wimbledon final of 2004, most would expect Serena to continue on top of a match up problem for Sharapova, but never ever count her out of winning anything, at anytime.

It’s great that Petra Kvitova now with two Wimbledon titles under her belt, seems to be more consistent. When her big lefty serve is working well plus her powerful ground strokes, she always has a chance to take home the trophy. Simona Halep perhaps has the best footwork in women’s tennis. Bolstered by surprising power for her stature and ever year she improves. If she improves this year she could finish ranked number one in the world. Like most of the top plays, Halep has a great team around her.

It is fascinating to note that Madison Keys and Agnieszka Radwanska have both hired Hall of Famers as coaches.  Last year, Melbourne saw an influx of male Hall of Famers coaching today’s top plays and it worked out very well. Someone needs to explain how Lindsay Davenport juggles being a wife, mother of FOUR, work for Tennis Channel and now coach of promising and powerful Madison Keys.  The Radwanska/Martina Navratilova coaching partnership intrigues me. I think it could be terrific.

Andy Murray needed someone in Lendl, who had won majors many times and been to the top. Also Lendl perhaps provided some tough love for Murray to compete with a tougher consistent match in match out attitude. Navratilova can help Radwanska with all this. I know first hand that my doubles partner and singles opponent has one of the greatest tennis minds ever as well as the greatest over all record.

Let the first major of the year, the Happy Slam begin. Where will tennis history take us during the next two weeks? I can’t wait to find out and then race home to my kids where I really belong.

Ready, set play….