The rallies and strokes played at the Australian Open final raised tennis to a sublime plane
“We made history today,” exulted Novak Djokovic after he won the epic Australian Open final beating Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam final ever.
It was indeed history in the modern annals of tennis. The match, which lasted five hours and 53 minutes, overshadowed the previous longest Grand Slam title contest between Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl in the 1988 US Open by over an hour. It is not the duration that mattered, but the quality of the game, which kept spectators in The Rod Laver Arena, including the great Laver himself, spellbound.
So consistent were the rallies and the stroke play that they raised tennis to a sublime plane.
One never knew which would be the last point, until Djokovic unleashed a winning forehand. It was a pity that such a riveting contest ended with just one winner.
With a guts-and-glory performance, the superb Serb seemed to have ushered in a new era in men's tennis, making him the undisputed World No.1.
It won't be easy for him to reign supreme all along as Nadal is the Spanish king of clay, and Djokovic still has the unconquered frontier called the French Open, while Roger Federer still has the mastery to beat him. Andy Murray too can run him close. But these four elite players are indeed miles ahead of the rest of the pack.
When Nadal saluted Djokovic's victory, he made a special mention about Team Djokovic, who made the triumph possible.
Besides the individual skills, dogged determination and tough-as-nails mental strength, there is another important factor that is behind gladiatorial contestants such as Djokovic and Nadal.
They have the best back-up teams, which include a sports psychologist, a physical trainer, a hitting partner, a dietician and a travelling coach, who work with the player.
Though the six-hour showdown looked more like a walk in the park, it really wasn't easy , as Djokovic was left with a bleeding toe. He savoured the victory, as he said later, “It was all the more worth it.”
That kind of back-up brigade is absolutely necessary for turning a player into a super-player. Indian players lack such professional and committed teams to guide them. Somdev Devvarman is regarded as the fittest, the most technically sound and the best Indian prospect in singles.
A physical regime that is akin to any of the top 10 professionals should see him make rapid strides.
Another important factor is the need for a professional system, which is in place in countries like Spain where players of high quality emerge.
Unless India has a proper system in place — a grassroots mass-based training methodology common to all and a strong State and National association support, and also good coaches — it will be difficult to envisage a Grand Slam singles champion emerging out of the Indian tennis stable. Till then, our Slam successes will remain confined to doubles.
Keywords: Australian Open