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Australian Open 2014: Ranking Most Disappointing Stars from Year's 1st Major

Serena Williams of the U.S. speaks during a press conference after her fourth round loss to Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
Shuji Kajiyama/Associated Press
Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2014

Raise your hand if you picked Li Na and Stanislas Wawrinka to win the 2014 Australian Open. 

I did.

Actually, I'm lying about picking them, and chances are, if your hand is raised, you are too. 

It's not like the pair came completely out of nowhere. Wawrinka and Na are far from struggling players on the professional circuit. Wawrinka entered this tournament ranked eighth in the ATP rankings and Na an even loftier third. This is Na's second major title and Wawrinka's first. 

Both of these veterans put on fine displays of tennis and were worthy champions.

Still, we've grown accustomed to a small list of major champions. Although Na is working her way on to that list, Wawrinka still has a ways to go.

As for the players on that list? There were some disappointing performances from players we've grown more accustomed to seeing win major titles. 

Here are my three most disappointing stars from the year's first major: 

 

Novak Djokovic

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Entering this event as the three-time defending champion, anything less than a fourth straight title was going to be disappointing for Novak Djokovic. Certainly, no one expected him to lose in the quarterfinals. But it was in that round that Djokovic found an uncharacteristically early exit, bounced by the eventual champ, Wawrinka. 

It was a great match, and now that it's all said and done, it stands out as the match of the tournament. Wawrinka triumphed, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7. 

It was the kind of marathon performance that we've come to expect Djokovic to steal. His conditioning and determination typically have him improving as the match goes on. But not this time. With Wawrinka staying patient and smart, Djokovic couldn't find a dominant stretch to swing this match in his favor. 

He has been in excellent form this year, so it would be foolish to overreact to this loss, but there is no doubt that Djokovic missed a golden opportunity to add another major to his resume. 

 

Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19:  Serena Williams of the United States reacts to a point in her fourth round match against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia during day seven of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 19, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Serena Williams has won the Australian Open five times, and there were certainly plenty of reasons to think she was on her way to a sixth. She looked good heading into this event, and she looked fantastic in the early stages of the tournament. 

Through the first three rounds, Williams lost just 12 games and looked like her dominant self. In the scorching heat, she used her power to end matches quickly. As other top seeds fell, it looked like Williams was going to coast to the title.

Serbia's Ana Ivanovic had other ideas, however. Ivanovic played amazing tennis while beating Williams, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6. Serena didn't look her best in the match, and we found out that she was struggling with back issues.

Injury or not, though, she was outplayed in defeat: 

Williams was in prime position to collect her 18th major, and instead she bowed out in the fourth round. 

 

Rafael Nadal 

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

For most, advancing to the finals of a major is not something to be overly disappointed in. For Rafael Nadal, at this tournament, it was hugely depressing. 

Nadal has owned the tennis landscape since he returned from a knee injury less than a year ago. The only man who'd shown he could handle Nadal since the Spaniard returned was Djokovic. Nole has found success against Rafa since the end of last Grand Slam season, and he looked like the only real competition for Nadal in this tournament.

Once Djokovic was eliminated, Nadal appeared to be a near lock. I was ready to hand the Spaniard the title after he whooped a resurgent Roger Federer in the semifinals. I wasn't the only one: 

But Nadal didn't look good against Wawrinka from the get go. A back injury in the second set didn't help, but it also didn't appear like he had the game to handle Wawrinka prior to that point.  

Although I agree with Nadal on this point, I don't know that it will apply to him personally:  

Nadal is in the prime of his career. He has been playing better than ever on hard court, and he entered the final with his biggest rivals already dispatched. However, I imagine he will never get over the missed opportunity in the 2014 Australian Open final. 

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