There’s a popular breakfast cereal known to advertise the mouthwatering “snap, crackle and pop” sound it makes when you pour the milk over it. The Australian Open can certainly advertise this year’s tournament as the “snap, crackle and pop” event, boasting a roster filled with memorable moments.
Here are just 10 of the many intriguing highlights from Melbourne Park over this Australian summer of tennis.
1. Hewitt The Lion Hunter – You can’t keep an athlete with a lion hunter’s heart down as Australia’s own Lleyton Hewitt proved during his impressive run to the Australian Open fourth round. Not the hip surgeries from the past, nor the most recent left foot surgery last March, have registered the word retirement with Hewitt. He created some crowd-pleasing moments even when losing to top seed Novak Djokovic by playing – and winning – a third set to remember. Hewitt might soon turn 31 and his body has had its breakdown moments, but as a two-time Grand Slam champion we should delight in every day he chooses to stay the course and continue to play.
2. The Heir Very Apparent – The torch always gets passed to a new generation and that was the case at this year’s Australian Open. While Hewitt the Lion Hunter is still hunting, a teenaged Bernard Tomic solidified his claim to taking up the Australian men’s cause on the circuit. Tomic delighted fans with some of the most intriguing matches seen on court this fortnight, from his first round victory over 22nd seed Fernando Verdasco, second-round win over Sam Querrey, third-round thriller with 13th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, before falling to Roger Federer in the fourth round. The five-setters over Verdasco and Dolgopolov were telling about Tomic’s special ability to compete.
3. The Understudy – While Bernard Tomic nailed down his heir apparent status, junior Luke Saville delivered the message that he’s also waiting in the wings as the future of Australian men’s tennis. Saville, who reached the Australian junior boys’ final in 2011, lived up to his top ranking this year to claim the title with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 final victory over Filip Peliwo, of Canada. Saville was no stranger to Grand Slam junior success – he scored the 2011 Wimbledon boys’ trophy last July. Following his victory, Saville likened his stature in the junior game to Novak Djokovic’s stature in the men’s game. “Well, I’m No.1 in the world now of the juniors, it’s like, everyone is trying to shoot Novak down in the men’s. He’s the top seed and best player in the world at the moment. I guess I’m the best junior in the world at the moment on rankings. Everyone is striving to beat me. I don’t mind the expectations and the pressure, and I’ve handled it well this week.”
4. Tot Ziens Aussie Kim – That’s how to say goodbye in Flemish to Kim Clijsters, an Australian fan favourite since she first played the Australian Open in 2000. The public adopted Clijsters as their own – dubbing her Aussie Kim – when she was dating Lleyton Hewitt. Their fondness for Clijsters didn’t end when the relationship broke up and both went on to marry others. When Clijsters arrived in Oz this year, she let it be known that this in all likelihood would be her final Australian Open as after the Olympics she planned to retire again and spend more time with hubby, Brian, and daughter, Jada. Fans watched every step of the way as Clijsters overcame an ankle injury to journey into the semifinals where she fell to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. Her performance during this final Australian curtain-call, and the fans’ reaction to her every time she stepped on court, made it clear she would be missed.
5. Topping the Charts – From the moment this year’s Australian Open commenced it was known there was a heated race going on for the top ranking in the women’s game. Caroline Wozniacki came in as the top star, but was being seriously threatened for the top spot by three colleagues – No.2 Petra Kvitova, No.3 Victoria Azarenka and No.4 Maria Sharapova. Wozniacki was the first to leave the race when she was ousted by Clijsters in the quarterfinals. Kvitova was the second to go out of contention when she departed in the semifinals. That left the two finalists to duke it out to determine the new No.1 player in the world. The honour belonged to Azarenka, who grabbed her first Grand Slam title along with the top ranking.
6. Baghdatis the Bad Boy – Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis let it be known to all the bad boy racquet-bashers before and/or after him that there’s some serious competition afoot. Angered by his losing performance against Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round, Baghdatis took to taking out his frustration on his racquets. He mangled the first one to a destroyed state few had seen before and didn’t stop there. He went on to do in three more racquets – one racquet he didn’t even bother to remove from the plastic covering. Needless to say, “Baghdatis the Basher” made international headlines and became a popular YouTube viewing video.
7. Girls Can Grunt – Some might call it a grunt, others will say the women sound more like they’re screeching, but whatever you want to call the sound emanating from the players when they hit the ball, it became a hot topic at this year’s Australian Open. It seems like everyday people were talking about the unladylike, high decibel screeches – players who haven’t acquired that habit complain it is off-putting to opponents. Fans started to laugh or mimic the sound and the conversation went all the way to the finals where the two premiere grunters in the game faced each other – Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sharapova. When Sharapova was told that fellow player Agnieszka Radwanska pointed out her grunt as annoying, Sharapova replied: “Isn’t she back in Poland already?” WTA officials promised they would look into the decibel disturbance to determine whether they needed to consider curbing the habit with tour sanctions.
8. Doubles Bromance – There was only one Grand Slam doubles trophy 38-year-old Leander Paes had never won in his career and that was the Australian Open. The good news: the Australian Open doubles title is no longer missing in action for Paes. He partnered Radek Stepanek to upend top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6(1), 6-2 on Saturday night after the women’s final. There was a lot of love happening on the court after the victory as Paes did a running leap into the arms of Stepanek and the two hugged repeatedly. Later on, Paes had tears running down his cheeks during the emotional moment. As for the Bryan brothers, they took us through a bit of a journey this Australian Open too. Throughout the fortnight Bob Bryan had the entire Australian Open on baby watch – his wife, Michelle, back in Miami, Florida, had a due date of Monday, 30 January, but there was no guarantee Bob’s future daughter was prepared to wait until he came home to arrive. To the best of our knowledge Bob and uncle Mike were on the plane jetting home and Baby Girl Bryan had not joined the world yet.
9. The Andy and Ivan Show – Andy Murray, a 2010 and 2011 Australian Open finalist, arrived at Melbourne Park with a brand new and illustrious coach in tow. Joining the Murray Express was former two-time Australian Open champion – eight-time overall Grand Slam champion – Ivan Lendl. Although Lendl barely had a chance to say hello to Murray everyone was wondering what difference the great Lendl would make to Murray’s game. It’s too early to tell in the big picture, but Murray certainly looked more focused on court and his forehand figured as more of a weapon. And while he lost a titanic five-set semifinal decision to Novak Djokovic, the match was a stunner instead of a stutterer reminiscent of their previous year’s Australian Open final.
10. Fabulous Fans – The Australian public loves their tennis and they show that love by showing up at Melbourne Park. They showed up in record numbers on the middle Saturday, 21 January. The day session had 52,272 comers, while the night session 28,377 for a total of 80,649 fans going through the turnstiles that day. The night session was a first Saturday night record attendance for the Australian Open, beating the previous record of 27,648 spectators in 2010. But even bigger than that record, the overall 80,649 fans turned out to be a record first Saturday night attendance for any day at a Grand Slam tournament. The previous record was also earned here at the Australian Open with 77,121, set in 2011. Overall, 686,006 fans attended Australian Open 2012, smashing the previous record attendance of 653,860 set in 2010.
So now that we’ve looked at some memorable moments from the 2012 Australian Open there’s only one thing to do. Wait excitedly for all the memorable moments bound to take place when we all reconvene at Melbourne Park in 2013.