Australian Open 2012: 10 Reasons Week 1 Was Unforgettable

Delores Smith-JohnsonCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2012

Australian Open 2012: 10 Reasons Week 1 Was Unforgettable

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    The 2012 Australian Open got off to a great start.

    The anticipation of this year's tournament was quite evident as crowd attendance set record after record.

    Here are three new records:

    • The Day 2 night session set a record for the first Tuesday night session. The attendance was 19,031.
    • The Day 4 day session set a record for the first Thursday. The attendance was 47,471.
    • The Day 6 day session set a record for the first Saturday. The attendance was 52,272.

    With quality of play continually being taken to a new level with each new round, the attendance will surely remain steady and possibly continue to break records.

    There were some surprising upsets, breakout stars and a lot of adrenaline.

    Marcos Baghdatis (pictured here) was an excellent example of adrenaline causing an emotional roller coaster (more on his scenario later in the slideshow).

    Here's a look at just what made Week 1 of the Aussie Open one to remember.

    Don't forget to jump into the discussion with your favorite moments in the comment section.

    Enjoy.

Long-Lasting John Isner

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    John Isner continues to make a name for himself as the player with the endurance and comeback ability like no other.

    It started with his marathon match with Nicolas Mahut, but continues to this day.

    The 2012 Australian Open was no different.

    Back-to-back, Isner saw himself face a comeback challenge and a five-setter against David Nalbandian and Feliciano Lopez respectively in this year's second and third rounds.

    Even with what appeared to be a severe toe injury rendering pain, Isner gave it his all, battling back after it appeared it may not be able to keep playing.

    Though he pulled out the victory against Nalbandian, Lopez had just a little more in the tank and handed "Big John" a defeat.

    What an athlete John Isner is.  His stamina and his strong will to battle past obstacles (physically and mentally) is commendable.

    There's no doubt that we'll see more of the "Marathon Man's" longetivity and more wins.

Old Timers, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt Face off

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    They had previously met 13 times in their careers.

    Andy Roddick: age 29 and on tour for 13 years

    Lleyton Hewitt: age 30 and tour for 15 years

    In a sport where the numbers define them as "old timers" coupled with their history, this was sure to be a grueling match to the end.

    Unfortunately, Aussie Open attendees and television viewers would not be able to see that vision become a reality.

    Following an exciting first set, early on in the second, Roddick made an awkward movement, resulting in what the medical team determined to be a hamstring injury.

    Though his desire was to continue playing and he indeed left everything on the court, he could not go on and had to retire. He was down two sets, winning the first and losing the second and third.

    It was one of those matches that left you saying "What if?"

Where Are the American Men?

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    Slowly, each American man was eliminated from play.

    Mardy Fish (pictured above) was America's greatest hope, however, he was upset by Alejandro Falla in the second round, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (6).

    But still, there was possibility with Andy Roddick and John Isner.

    Due to injury, Roddick ended up having to retire his match against long-time competitor, Aussie Lleyton Hewitt (for more on Roddick, please see his slide).

    But, surely, John Isner would be able to hang in there?

    Unfortunately, Isner was eliminated in the third round by Feliciano Lopez after a grueling battling of skills and will in a five-setter (for more information on Isner, please see his slide).

    The 2012 Australian Open is the first time in history that no American man has moved on to the fourth round of this Grand Slam.

    It's an unfortunate situation, and it also shows the state of things for American men's tennis.

    Will the American landscape ever return to a time like the era of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras where it was unheard of to not have an American man or men go deep within tournaments all year long.

Emotions Were High

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    The first week of the 2012 Australian Open saw a lot of tempers running hot for different reasons.

    Let's review the most memorable ones:

    • Victoria Azarenka throws a ball at a lineswoman during her third-round match against Mona Barthel—and she won the match. Imagine if she had lost?
    • David Nalbandian throws a cup of water at a tournament official after a controversial call during his five-set second-round loss to John Isner. He was fined $8,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
    • For anyone who missed Marcos Baghdatis punishing his rackets to say the least for his second-round performance against Stanislas Wawrinka, check out this ESPN video clip. 
    • Following what he deemed to be an intentional hit in their fourth-round matchup, Tomas Berdych refused to shake the hand of Nicolas Almagro. Much to the dismay of the Australian crowd, obvious as they booed him during his postmatch interview, Berdych stood by his comments.  However, he has since admitted that the actions taken were improper.

Aussie Rising Star Bernard Tomic Staking His Claim in the Tennis Landscape

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    He's only 19 years old, but his tennis skill and court wisdom far exceeds his age.

    Bernard Tomic has provided proof during his Week 1 performance that with time and continual training, he is going to be a serious contender in men's tennis.

    Here are match highlights:

    • He takes out American Sam Querry in four sets in the second round.
    • Despite a controversial umpire call, Tomic pulled out another five-set tournament match against Alexandr Dolgopolov in the third round.
    • Though he lost, he had the experience of playing one of the greatest players in history, Roger Federer in the fourth round. Talk about a tennis lesson. He lost in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

     

    Bernard Tomic is a player to watch in coming years.

US Open Champion and Native Aussie Samantha Stosur Upset in the First Round

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    There was much anticipation surrounding Samantha Stosur coming into the Australian Open this year.

    Though she's a native daughter of the land down under, she has only reached the Aussie Open final once in singles back in 2006 (she won the doubles back in 2005). 

    But, this year surely looked very optimistic as she had overwhelmingly defeated Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open.

    But, it was not to be.

    Stosur faced an abrupt exit at the hands of unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea, 7-6, 6-3.

    Stosur is hoping for a pleasant rebound as it was announced that she will be leading the Australian team in the Fed Cup.

Serena Williams Blazes a Trail in the Tournament and the History Book

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    Serena Williams...

    Her name is synonymous with tennis, and during the first week, she continued to clarify and confirm that connection.

    Through three rounds, Serena has not broke a sweat.

    She's won every match in straight sets, and her last match against Hungarian Greta Arn only took 59 minutes.

    Along the way, she's also touched the history books in that she won her 500th career win when she defeated Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová of the Czech Republic.

    She becomes only the fourth active player to achieve this monumental accomplishment. She joins sister Venus, Kim Clijsters and Tamarine Tanasugarn.

    Additionally, with her win over Arn, she now has 17 straight wins at the Australian Open.

    Serena is a heavy favorite to win this tournament, despite coming in as the 12th seed and ranked No. 12.

    If she does win, she will only be the second woman over the age of 30 in the Open Era to have won the Australian Open.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal Giving Lessons on Winning

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    2011 was tough year for both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Their joint concern was primarily Novak Djokovic.

    Two of the greatest tennis players in history found themselves in the shadows for the first time in many years.

    Many questioned if it was the beginning of the end for them.

    Well, for those who doubted these two athletes, they have answered the question of their abilities in grand fashion during Week 1 of the 2012 Australian Open.

    Federer has beaten all of his opponents in straight sets (he had a walkover in the second round as German Andreas Beck was unable to play). And like Serena, Federer also has had a record-setting first week.

    By reaching the semifinals, Federer will be playing his 1,000th career match. What an accomplishment.

    Rafael Nadal has also beaten all of his opponents in straight sets as well and provided onlookers with the exciting tennis he's known for.

    It's seems as if indeed, these two players still have a little something left in their tanks.

2011 Winner Kim Clijsters in Championship Form Making Memorable Moments

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    Kim Clijsters' ability to play in the 2012 Australian Open had been in question as a result of the hip injury she experienced in Brisbane shortly before the tournament began. That injury was so severe that it caused her to have to retire.

    Would Clijsters be able to defend her 2011 singles title and would she be able to get that one last experience at the Aussie Open as she has decided to retire at the end of the season?

    Well, all questions seemed to have been erased as a result of her first week performances.

    Clijsters has been in true championship form. She has defeated each of her opponents in straight sets.

    There's one match, however, that stands shoulders above the rest—her faceoff against Li Na.

    This match was basically a rematch of the 2011 women's singles final.

    Li Na seemed to easily get the win in the first set, but the second set was the test for and brought out the best in Clijsters.

    First, while returning, Clijsters rolled her ankle. Obviously, by the expression on her face, how gingerly she walked off the court and the nervousness in her voice, she was in pain.

    She ended up needing a medical timeout. The medical team treated and wrapped the ankle to give it stability and strength, and Clijsters headed back to the court.

    It seemed as if that was the beginning of the end for Clijsters as she eventually found herself facing a possible elimination, but she battled and Li Na battled and ended dead even at 6-6.

    It was tiebreaker time. Once again, it seemed as if it was the beginning of the end. But this was Kim Clijsters.

    Facing four matchpoints in the tiebreaker, Clijsters saved them all, eventually winning, 7-6.

    Third set. There was another shift, and it seemed for sure that the momentum Clijsters had built up was lost again, but counting Clijsters out was not a smart move.

    Out of nowhere, it seemed she regrouped. She lost one matchpoint, but on the second one, she got her win and took her ticket to the fourth round.

    Looking at Clijsters' performance, it seemed as if she packed away the pain and memory of the ankle roll and went straight for the finish line.

    Clijsters, though not seeded high in the tournament, like five-time champion Serena Williams, is also a heavy favorite to take the singles title.

Novak Djokovic Cruises Through the Week, Eyeing the Big Prize

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    Novak Djokovic's Week 1 at the 2012 Australian Open is giving all indications that he's seeking and quite capable of equaling, if not exceeding his 2011 performance.

    He has breezed past every opponent in straight sets.

    His third-round match against Nicholas Mahut lasted 74 minutes. Granted, Mahut was dealing with an injury. But, in reality, would he have really been a threat at 100 percent?

    Mahut is a good player, but Djokovic is an even better player.

    Is there anyone in the men's field that will be able to challenge him?

    Just as Djokovic is looking to repeat, will Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rebound and be able to counter the Djokovic surge?

    If there are any candidates, Federer and Nadal, based on past performances and their Week 1 performances, they're leading candidates.