Aussie Open: In With the New?

We could potentially subtitle this as "Serbia takes on the world of tennis" in the grand scheme of things. For those who don't follow tennis, let me sum things up for you in a quick nutshell. The Australian Open is currently going on in Melbourne. It's the first of the Grand Slam tournaments of the year given their southern latitudes. This weekend will be the final matches.

Going into the tournament, Justine Henin and Roger Federer have completely dominated singles play, both easily establishing and maintaining their position at #1 in the world in their respective leagues (WTA for Henin, ATP for Federer). Both were expected to do well in the tournament, as were two American sisters, Venus Williams and Serena Williams. In the end, none of them made the finals, and Serbian players are the reason.

In the last year or so, several excellent Serbian players have burst onto the scene. For the women, Jelena Jankovich and Ana Ivanovic have been quite impressive. For the men, Novak Djokovic has been making his mark. Also for the men, Janko Tipsarevic made an impressive showing in the Australian Open this week by taking Federer to a tough 5th set.

To make a long story short, Jankovic beat Serena Williams and Ivanovic beat Venus Williams, both in the quarterfinals. Jankovic then lost to Maria Sharapova, who's making a strong comeback after spending most of last year injured. Ivanovic struggled in the semis, but ended up winning to make the finals. Both Sharapova and Ivanovic are only 20 years old and seem to represent the new guard of talent as it hits the mainstream.

As for the guys, well... I don't think anybody would have predicted the pairing that has resulted... as mentioned above, Federer almost lost in a middle round to Tipsarevic, taking the match to 5 sets. Even more interesting is that Federer lost to Djokovic in the semis last night, making it the first time in something like 13 grand slams that Federer will not make the finals.

On the other side of the draw, Rafael (Rafa) Nadal was expected to make a good showing, and he indeed played extremely well. Unfortunately, he ran into a brick wall in the Frenchman Jo-Willfried Tsonga. Tsonga is also coming back from a few years of major injuries, playing extremely well. We saw him play at the US Open and thought he was pretty decent. Well, now he's on fire and into the finals. Federer had nice things to say about Djokovic here.

So, my question is this: All these relatively new/young faces are making the finals and being extremely competitive. Is this a changing of the guard? An "in with the new, out with the old" period of time? It's crazy to think that at 25 (Henin) or 26 (Federer, S. Williams) or 27 (V. Williams) a player might be past the peak of their career. Nonetheless, younger players are having increasing success. And I haven't even touched on some of the even younger players, like Agnieszka Radwanska, who at 18 became the first Polish woman to make the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.

All I know is this: Hanna would be very happy, on behalf of the great Pete Sampras, if Federer didn't win any more Grand Slam matches, preserving Pete's record for most Men's slams won. :)

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