Gloom descended on the rafters at Melbourne Park.
The courts will be bathed in bright sunlight Thursday morning, but there will be a weary leadenness in the hearts of tennis players, officials and fans.
The World No.1, Rafael Nadal, bade a somber farewell to his quest for a Rafa Slam. It was not to be.
To become the only tennis player since Serena Williams to hold all four majors at the same time may not quite be the Holy Grail but it was not far behind. Nitpickers can sneer and say that it’s not a Grand Slam, but even the die-hard traditionalists have to admit that this was not a record sought to be emulated but a record to set.
Unfortunately, it did not happen. Rafael Nadal—named for an angel—proved to be human, after all.
An injury to his left hamstring dashed any hopes of making this tournament his second Australian Open title.
Small consolation that he lost to a fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer.
The glum look on the 24-year-old’s countenance could hardly convey his shattered aspirations.
The reverberations of the fall from grace had barely died down when tennis fans received another body-blow.
Justine Henin announced her retirement from the sport. This time, it’s final.
The spunky Belgian scripted a fairy tale return to the courts last summer when she reached the Australian Open final. Had she won, she would have emulated her compatriot and rival, Kim Clijsters, who annexed only her second major at the 2009 US Open on her comeback.
Henna has been bedeviled with injuries and had not played since Wimbledon last year.
Her 2011 Australian Open ended in a straight sets loss to another veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round.
The seven time Grand Slam winner bid farewell to her fans in an emotional missive on her web-site:
“I address my letter to you because this is currently the best way to express meself, I now experience very difficult times. I have unfortunately not good news. I spent the last days undergoing various medical tests and they have confirmed that my elbow has been damaged by my adventure in Australia.
“I’m in shock, of course, even whith the work of these past seven months I had to understand that there might be a reason for all this. After having well considered and following the advice of doctors, it is now clear and I accept that my career here…finally ends. Even though it’s hard, very hard, while I came back with a tremendous fighting spirit.
"I’m sorry…I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending. I will need time to process all this, but I remain convinced that even with little progress, my level with my return did not meet my expectations, despite everything I’ve learned a lot over the past 15 months.”
The five foot 5.5 inch Belgian was termed the “female Federer” by Martina Narvaitalova for her phenomenal serve-and-volley abilities. Ironically, the only Grand Slam that eluded her was Wimbledon. She is also the 2004 Olympics gold medalist.
Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA said:
“Justine Henin will go down as one of the greatest female athletes of her era. She has been an incredible ambassador for women’s tennis on and off the court, and her fighting spirit, tremendous courage and ultimate success has captured the minds and hearts of millions of fans around the world."
Farewell, Henna, see you soon, anywhere.
Andy Murray’s twitters are strange indeed.
His tweeted message—“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those 2 imposters just the same.” —screamed out to be heard on the Australian Open website just after Nadal’s unexpected three-set loss.
Was Murray spurring on his Mallorcan rival?
The communication was apparently sent out to a person more close to home—his brother Jamie Murray, who lost in the men’s doubles second round to Bjorn Phau and Janko Tipsarevic. His partner-in-arms was Xavier Malisse.
Rafael Nadal can seek some solace from the same. The sentiments expressed are universal. It would have been a splendid gesture from the Scot.
I am desperately trying to figure out why Kamikaze pilots wore helmets.