by Tara Hebbar and Shreyan Gorantala
The Australian Open is a tennis tournament held in Melbourne, Australia during the last fortnight of January every year. In the 2020 Australian Open, the first semi-final had two rivals up against each other, Roger Federer, 20-time grand slam winner and Novak Djokovic, current world number 1 in tennis. Both eyeing a spot in the final. They had tough competition with the head to head 28 to 25 leading Federer’s way.
Meanwhile, the other semi-finals were Domin Thiem, the Austrian, playing against German, Alexander Zverev. Nadal (the former number 1) got knocked out from the Australian Open in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 loss to Thiem. In the first semi-finals Novak didn’t want to start the match the way he did look to start. The match took a serious turn at first and ended Federer’s way with a 5-1, 40 – 0 to the Swiss. Everyone was in shock, but Novak flipped the match upside down winning the set 7-6(1). During the break, Federer made his way to the help centre and his calf was hurting again after it got pulled in the Pre- Quarters.
It was troublesome for Roger as the game against John Millman, he pulled his calf during the 1st set. He immediately called for a time out and went to the help centre to get it checked. This also affected his other games. He strained his calf during these tight matches. The age also affected the gameplay. Roger found it difficult and rested the day before the match. In the match, although there was slight pain but it worsened. In the other two sets, Roger there was no sign of pain which was a plus sign, but the spectators saw a glimpse of Roger’s game not up to his usual standards. The rest of the game was in Novak’s hand.
What was more dramatic were the words that came out of Djokovic after the victory in the post match talk . He said “Credit for Roger to come here and play his heart out though he was hurt. With this he wasn’t at his best. Thankfully as otherwise the game would have ended up differently. Nadal and Federer have and always will be my biggest rivals. They push me to become a better player to compete against them. I was surprised with the journey Roger came till with the dramatic comeback even with his injury. He proves that age has nothing to do with a game. Roger has been an inspiration to many people, old and young. I will always have respect for Roger and Rafa ( pet name for Nadal) for what they did for the sport.” He added
“I was nervous in the beginning. At first it wasn’t the right mindset but I tried to use his disadvantage to my advantage, instead of focusing on my shots. I gradually started making my shots empower his movement. Otherwise, he would have beaten me.” The press asked about this comment over and over again but Novak’s words were the same. Once after lifting the trophy the press asked: “Who do you have the most respect for in the tennis industry?” The reporter asked this question because he had huge respect for Thiem and his game. Novak replied “Rafa and Roger will always be on top. The act Nadal did with the ball girl was kind. These acts from these two players who have not only achieved in tennis but much more. I feel Dom has the potential to become a great player but will never be a greater person than these two.” These comments shocked the fans and realised the respect and praise Novak has for Rafa and Roger. They praised Novak for his attitude.
This match was more of what was on the court but the words these fellow mates exchanged to each other, is what the fans will remember forever. Roger Federer considers playing with Djokovic a treat to play with. After losing the semifinal to Djokovic, Federer said, “He (Djokovic) is a great, player. We know that. He makes you hit balls. He serves well, he returns well, he moves well. He’s mentally very tough. His agility is exceptional and when in the rhythm nobody can stop him. Well known for no unforced errors. There’s so many things that can cover a problem, if there were one.”
These are the parts of the game that showcase the true spirit of the game and sportsmanship, where there are enemies on the court but nothing less than friends outside. It is heartwarming to see players appreciate each other.
On the other hand, watching Thiem play was fascinating, he made a huge breakthrough after beating world no. 1(Now no. 2), Rafa Nadal. With his excellent skill and technique. He continued to impress viewers by winning the semi-finals against Zverev. The Austrian added the pressure on Novak after beating him in their earlier two fixtures, one in the Wimbledon and the other in the U.S Open. He certainly gave Djokovic a run for his money in the finals. Several times during the final, Djokovic was surprised by the fight, skill and determination of his opponent. It was an extremely close final that could have been anyone’s game.In some moments the Austrian was ruling the court with his classical down the line shots and drop shots. Though after losing the first set
This season of the Australian Open was definitely one filled with excitement and surprises. With many heartfelt words, genuine happiness and disappointment. Those courts have seen everything.