Australian Open 2010: The Five Reasons It Has Me Watching Tennis Again
Sometimes an event can trigger a lifetime of love.
Perhaps this event will start one between tennis and I.
For years I have watched tennis sporadically, mainly the Grand Slams.
It was a case of fleeting in and out of it. Watching Pete Sampras win another title or Steffi Graf for the women.
Bemoaning the lack of Irish force in the game.
However, for the first time I actually sat down and watched every match available from beginning to the end and oh how I enjoyed it.
The shock defeats, the injuries, the good humour, the bad calls, the emergence of new contenders, the return of some old ones.
For some reason the real enjoyment related to tennis has escaped me - until now.
Here are the top five reasons why.
Louk Sorensen Creates Some History
It was a game that barely registered on the international radar.
In the opening round of the Open, Louk Sorensen became the first Irishman EVER to win a Grand Slam match in the Open Era.
He emerged victorious over Chinese player Lu Yen-hsun 6–4, 3–6, 6–2, 6–1.
Ireland suddenly had someone to cheer on the international stage, sadly it only lasted 24 hours as he was defeated in the next round by John Isner in three sets.
But it didn't really matter, it was still a little bit of history even if no-one outside Ireland really cared.
The Emergence of Li Na and Zheng Jie
Sorensen's win is just a dot on the radar but everyone has to start somewhere, just ask China.
When the Beijing Olympics was beamed around the world, the proud Chinese realized their tennis could be better so they brought in some help from seasoned coaches. Now they are reaping the benefits.
For the first time they had two players in a Grand Slam semi-final simultaneously.
Zheng Jie lost out in straight sets in under an hour to Justine Henin but it was Li Na who got the headlines.
While the world waited for an all-Williams semi-final, Li Na had other ideas.
A set down and 3-5 down in the second to Venus Williams, Li Na came back to win the second set on a tie-breaker before doing the same in the third to defeat the former World Number One.
Just in case facing one Williams Sister wasn't enough, Na had to take on current number one Serena in the semi-final.
It was a step too far for the player from China as she went down in two sets but not before one hell of a fight.
On both occasions she took Williams to a tie break and the World's Number One went into her second consecutive Australian Open Final knowing she had been in one hell of a battle.
Li Na's hard work was rewarded as she becomes the first Chinese player to crack the top ten in the WTA's single rankings.
China must be proud.
The Return of Justine Henin
It may not have been the winner's prize but Justine Henin won a valuable moral victory.
After 20 months out of tennis, the Belgian made the final of a Grand Slam in only her second tournament outing.
She was unable to replicate the feat of Kim Clijsters who won the US Open in 2009 but Henin came mighty close.
Along the way and in the final itself, she played some wonderful tennis. According to Henin, she still has a lot more left in the tank. The tennis world can only hope so.
The Fed-Express Continues
I'll not claim to know a lot about tennis and it's nuances but this guy has one awesome back hand.
The World Number One reinstated why he is so in this tournament with a display of outstanding tennis.
Even on the odd occasions that he looked like he may be in a spot of trouble, the Swiss kept his cool and had that something extra to pull out of the bag.
He has now won 16 Grand Slams, four of which have come at Melbourne Park.
In the Final, Andy Murray threw everything including the kitchen sink at Federer and yet he still emerged a winner in straight sets.
Some say Roger Federer is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tennis players of all time. Surely he is much more than that?
Just as Jordan transcended basketball and Bolt transcends athletics so too does Federer transcend tennis.
A top player who is a joy to watch and by all accounts is a top bloke as well.
Serena Williams' Never Say Die Attitude
Okay, okay so most will say Roger Federer should be number one but for me Serena Williams was the top reason for igniting a passion for tennis.
From what I have read around the internet and in various magazines, at times you'd swear she was the devil incarnate.
Maybe I'm blind but I can't see it.
Yes, she went OTT in her abuse at the US Open but we've all made mistakes and she has apologized.
I remember watching the Williams Sister when they first came on the scene and to me Serena is still the same fighter she was back then.
She cruised through to the quarter-final where she met Victoria Azarenka.
A set down and 0-4 down in the second I thought the tournament was over for Williams.
Foolishly I had forgotten her never say die attitude. She battled back to take the next two sets and go through to the semis.
There she overcame a determined Li Na before having too much in the tank for Justine Henin in the final. In doing so she collected her 12th Grand Slam title.
Added to that she also won another doubles title with her sister Venus. In doing so she played an astonishing 13 games along the way.
Her power is brilliant. Her ability to pull an ace out of nowhere is unbelievable. Her mental strength and belief is surreal.
The world seems full of begrudgers: Serena Williams is this and that.
To me she is just the ultimate female athlete.
Lets hope she will be around for many more years because she is the number one reason I'll be tuning in and trying to learn more about the wonderful game of tennis.