The Australian Open was awesome and it is an exciting sign of what is to come for the rest of the year. Many of the matches were epic, especially in the Men's draw. The Women's draw also had its share of thrills and precursors to excitement for the rest of the year.
Here are three exciting things we have to look forward to in 2012 that were on display at the Aussie Open:
The Emergence of Women's Elite Four
Victoria Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title and took over the world's No. 1 ranking. Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki has still never reached a Grand Slam final and she fell from her top spot all the way to fourth after losing in the quarterfinals.
Petra Kvitova was also leapfrogged by Azarenka in the world rankings and she will stay at No. 2 after losing in the semifinals to Maria Sharapova, who is now third.
The top-four women tennis players in the world are all 24 and under and within 1,500 points of each other in the rankings. To put that into perspective, a Grand Slam win is worth 2,000 points.
It's feasible to say that whomever wins the French Open in May will be the No. 1 player in the world, barring a collapse by any of the four in the tournaments preceding.
2012 is set up to be a year-long battle between four young and outstanding players as they made up three of the Aussie Open's final four.
Rafa vs. the Joker
Their career series is almost dead even at 16-14, but Djokovic certainly has ruled the rivalry lately. Nadal is healthy, as is Djokovic and with Roger Federer fading, the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry will be the center of the tennis world.
Their five set classic in the finals was just part one of what will be an awesome and competitive year between the two. Djokovic is only 24 and Nadal is 26, so the ages are close and there is no advantage due to wear and tear.
Both play a similar and exciting base-lining style that makes for thrilling matches. The Aussie Open five-setter was preceded by a four set victory for Djokovic at the US Open in 2011. The matches between them will only get better for the remainder of the year.
Final Year of Respectability for Two All-Time Greats
The end is near for both Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Both have dominated the tennis landscape for a decade, but now the 30-somethings must give way to younger players.
Federer is no match for Nadal now. Frankly, he never has had good luck against him. Before the loss in the Aussie Open semifinals, Nadal owned a 17-9 edge over Fed.
He plays Djokovic better, but he still lost four out of five times to him in 2011. Nadal and Djokovic figure to be in every Grand Slam final this year and if Federer is to stay competitive, he will have to beat them. I don't believe he is capable of that anymore.
He is still better than almost everyone else on tour, but for a player of Federer's stature, that simply isn't enough. The days of dominance are done.
The same is the case for Williams. She could possibly still compete if she were 100 percent dedicated to the game. She has so many other interests like her clothing line and entertainment, I don't think she will focus on the game the way she needs to to stay competitive at 30 years old.
She will still show up for the Grand Slams and still be the strongest American presence, but the wins are becoming fewer and farther between. 2011 was the first year she didn't win a Grand Slam since 2006 and the Australian Open started the year with a thud. Williams lost in the fourth round to the 42-ranked Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets, which was a sign of things to come.
Clearly, things are looking down for Williams.
Enjoy these two legends while you can, because this will likely be the last year they compete on an elite level.
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