Things to Keep in Mind After the Australian Open

Sam Stryker@sbstrykerContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2013

Things to Keep in Mind After the Australian Open

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    Novak Djokovic’s four-set victory over Andy Murray in Sunday’s Australian Open Men’s Final may not seem like anything out of the ordinary. After all, along with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, these men have dominated the men’s tennis circuit for the past few years.

    But not so fast. There is more than meets the eye when it comes to not only the men’s final but the tournament as a whole. The heated action Down Under revealed a lot about the rest of the 2013 season.

    Here are five things to keep in mind after the Australian Open.

Djokovic Makes History

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    Much has been made of the fact that Novak Djokovic is the 15th man to win consecutive Australian Open titles but the first to win three straight, and for good reason.

    This is a pretty big deal, as Djokovic is in the company of such tennis luminaries as Andre Agassi (who presented Djokovic with the trophy Sunday), Jim Courier, and Federer.

    Djokovic has already won six Grand Slam singles titles and has reached the finals of all four major tournaments.

    The next logical step in his career—and the next big way to etch his name in the history books—would be to win the French Open, the only Grand Slam he has yet to win.

    He reached the finals in Paris for the first time last year, and there is no reason he can’t take the title in 2013.

The Big Four Cannot Be Stopped

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    Aside from Juan Martin del Potro’s U.S. Open win in 2010, you would have to look back to the 2005 Australian Open for the last man to win a Grand Slam not named Federer, Murray, Djokovic or Nadal.

    That’s a very, very long time.

    While Murray has just established himself as a member of this elite company with his first major victory at last year’s U.S. Open, he also won Olympic gold in London. Between them, the four men have 35—yes, you read that right—major titles, and they will be adding more soon.

    Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic named the four as the top flight of men’s tennis, with a second flight of del Potro, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the rest of the players on a third flight, according to Reuters.

    “We all know who’s going to be in the semis and finals,” he said. “I would like to see one of those guys … Tsonga, Berdych or del Potro maybe stepping in and doing some damage, but it’s too hard.”

    Indeed, the problem with breaking the Big Four’s stranglehold on the Grand Slams is you usually have to take out two of them on your way to the title, often in back-to-back matches.

    One day, someone else other than Roger, Rafa, Novak or Andy will rule the courts. Just don’t expect that day to come any time soon.

Nadal Will Be Back—Soon

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    Noticeably absent from the action in Melbourne was Nadal, who was out with a stomach virus. That hasn’t been the only health issue the Spaniard has faced recently—Nadal hasn’t played competitive tennis since June due to tendinitis in his left knee.

    But much to tennis fans’ delight and his opponent’s chagrin, Nadal is expected to make his return to action Feb. 4 at the Chile Open, according to the AP.

    The 11-time Grand Slam winner should be in contention at the French Open in May, a tournament he has won a record seven times and the last three years running.

    Nadal is nearly unstoppable on clay, and Paris could be the perfect way to alert the rest of the tennis world that he is back and means business.

Murray Is Hungry for More

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    Yes, Murray dropped three consecutive sets after winning the first set against Djokovic.

    At first glance, it would seem the bloom is off the rose a bit for Murray after winning gold in the Men’s Singles at the London Olympics last summer and winning the U.S. Open.

    While Murray’s loss brings him back down to earth, don’t discount his effort against Djokovic too much. While the Serb breezed through his semifinal match in less than an hour-and-a-half, the Scotsman spent five sets in dispatching Federer in his match.

    In fact, the AP reports Murray still had blisters on his feet from his match Friday when he played in the final.

    While Murray’s loss is disappointing, last summer he proved that he can play with the big boys. Look for him to gear up for the remaining three Slams this year.

Federer Is Not Done Yet

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    After winning Wimbledon last summer, Federer has missed out on the last two Grand Slam finals.

    At the age of 31, the native of Switzerland and 17-time Grand Slam winner is the oldest member of the Big Four by a long shot—Nadal is 26, while Murray and Djokovic are 25.

    Opponents and fans are waiting for Federer’s play to drop off, but if the Australian Open was any indication, they will be waiting a while. 

    Despite a taxing five-set quarterfinal match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer gave Murray a run for his money in the semifinals.

    Until he proves otherwise, Federer is still a force to be reckoned with and should always be considered a major contender at any Grand Slam, and he proved that Down Under. 

    Look for Federer to be well-prepared for the remainder of the season, especially at his best tournament, Wimbledon, where he as reached the finals a record eight times.