Novak Djokovic after capturing the year's first Major
Dubbed the "Happy Slam" by many top players, including Roger Federer, the Australian Open has always been a very unique event.
When the court surface changed from fast-green to slow-blue in 2008, the quality in game play did not skip a beat.
There has always been a prestigious undertone about this Major, and since it starts off the year, it sets the themes for the following three (though only Roland Garros can be considered a slow-court Major).
In 2012 we got to witness four spectacular championships with four different winners, which was nearly unheard of in the men's field.
Each of the Majors brought spectacular matches into our field of vision, but only one felt above the rest (and Wimbledon would be the second greatest in my rankings).
The Australian Open was the best Major of the year for two reasons: the amazing runs some players journeyed on and the back-to-back-to-back closing matches of the tournament. I have shown the top highlights (which are very lengthy) to bring us all back to the best tournament of 2012.
One of the most consistent performers at the Australian Open in recent years has been Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He didn't have the worst performance there this year (the fourth round is a pretty decent mark), but he received quite the upset from Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori became the first Japanese man in the Open Era to reach the quarterfinals of a Major.
The most enjoyable run from most people's perspectives would have to be the one that belonged to Bernard Tomic.
The young Australian dug his way out of three straight matches, wherein he dropped at least the first set to each better-ranked opponent.
He came back from two-sets-to-love down for the second time in his career against Fernando Verdasco, which brought him only into the second round of his native tournament.
After defeating Sam Querrey, he played Alexandr Dolgopolov in what will forever stick in my mind as the Slice 'n Dice Classic.
I have posted the highlights of that epic five-setter here (and these highlights were put up just a couple of weeks ago for the first time).
It was only to the fourth round for Tomic before he encountered a loss to Roger Federer, but he was able to prove that his 2011 Wimbledon run was no fluke.
Though this semifinal lasted longer and went to 7-5 in the fifth, I enjoyed the Nadal-Federer showdown more.
Murray showed that he had massively improved in just a few months with new coach, Ivan Lendl.
This particular match would include a rematch on the other hard-court Slam, and the outcome would be a reversed five-setter with the Scot being the victor.
The most impressive stat about this match was that Murray lost 11 out of 14 games during the fourth and fifth set, yet he still kept his head in it and came back to tie the epic match at five games apiece.
Djokovic celebrated as if he won the whole title, and in two slides, you can compare his relief and excitement.
There were nearly no lapses in quality in this encounter (with the one exception being when play ceased due to the fireworks celebration and Federer was left looking clumsy) and it was a very special occasion.
The two long-time rivals matched each other shot for shot and continued to come up with the goods during so many critical moments.
This match should have gone five sets or at least to a fourth set tiebreak (watch the point at 19:17 to see what I mean) but the match-up was just as exciting as any other Fedal affair.
And who could have known that the final would be even lengthier and more arduous than the two semis?
The efforts exerted in this battle were unprecedented in a Major final.
In fact, the only actual match in a Slam that I can remember being this taxing on the mind and body would be the Isner-Mahut spectacle, but that was 100 percent serve-and-ground strokes, which weren't too much a factor here.
Rafa was looking fresh from the start but Novak seemingly stole the throne within minutes during the latter stages of the second set.
He went on cruise control and was ready to wrap up the championship in three straight sets after dropping the opener, but Rafa hung around and jacked the tiebreak from the defending champion.
The Spaniard went up a break in the final set but it was to no avail and Djokovic won this six-hour marathon in striking fashion.
When this match ended many were happy to see a winner but I, personally, was only going to miss the event in Melbourne that much more.
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