KARACHI: The previous year, Stan Wawrinka swept aside an injured Rafael Nadal to claim the Australian Open title, breaking almost a decade-long stranglehold of the Big Three in tennis’ first Grand Slam of the year. Twelve months later, Novak Djokovic has not only reestablished the tradition, but is also now the undisputed ruler of the Melbourne Park with five Australian Open titles to his name.
The world was awaiting the outcome of the 2015 final with bated breath. Had Andy Murray won, not only would it have been his first Australian Open title, but he would also have become the first British man to have lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup since Fred Perry in 1934.
On the other hand, a fifth Australian Open would have made Djokovic the leading veteran of the Melbourne Park major.
Fate chose to favour the latter, granting the Serb powerhouse his eighth Grand Slam title in the process. Tennis history added another first to its biography; Djokovic became the first man in the Open era to capture the Australian Open title a total of five times.
It was far from easy though. Murray had recovered his threatening form after his last forgettable season. The Scot had dropped just two games on his way to the final, a far cry from his last match of 2014 where he lost 6-0, 6-1 to Roger Federer.
The two-time Grand Slam winner pushed Djokovic to give his best in the first two sets of the Australian Open decider, losing the first one narrowly and winning the second one.
However, after winning the next two games, the 27-year-old suddenly seemed to lose steam as Djokovic rallied to take the upper hand in the match. Allowing Murray to take just one more game, the world number one grabbed the next nine consecutively to underline his dominance over the sixth seed.
Contrastingly, the women’s final was a one-sided affair from the word go. Although Serena Williams had a formidable 16-2 winning record against Maria Sharapova before the decider, a clash between the two is always a highly anticipated spectacle all over the world.
Given Serena’s health troubles throughout the tournament and Sharapova’s smoother passage to the final, the latter’s chances of finally upsetting her intimidating rival after a long time seemed brighter than usual.
A win for Serena would have pushed the top seed ahead of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on the Grand Slam count, while victory for Sharapova would have given the Russian her second Australian Open title since 2008.
But as had happened in their past 16 meetings, it was a determined Serena who brushed aside her illness to dominate the match from the outset, claiming the first set 6-3. The second set threatened to lead up to a third as it went to tie-break, but the American slotted home her 18th ace of the match at the crucial moment to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup for the sixth time in her career.
2014 had seen the encouraging rise of a younger generation in the elite club of the usual suspects, especially in men’s tennis. Two of them (Wawrinka and Marin Cilic) won two of the four Grand Slams, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori became the first male from an Asian country to reach the final of a Grand Slam (US Open) as well as the first man from Asia to qualify for the season-ending World Tour Finals.
However, the young pretenders still have a long way to break the Big Three’s domination of the game once and for all.
The 2015 Australian Open’s final has proven that point succinctly.
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