CAUSING A COMMOTION
CAUSING A COMMOTION
Tuesday, 7 January, 2003
by Ashley Browne
There are a million tales to be told at any Grand Slam but there are four particularly compelling story lines surrounding the 2003 Australian Open which surely will keep the 500,000 fans who attend the championship, 497 million TV viewers and 1.1 million visitors to this website, enthralled and intrigued.
1. The Serena Slam: Can Serena Williams do it? Already the reigning champion at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow, Serena has landed in Melbourne with victory in her sights and determined to become the first player to win four Slams on the trot since Steffi Graf in 1988.
And the 21 year old has already made her intentions clear by partnering James Blake to an emphatic 3-0 win by the United States over Australia in the Hopman Cup final last Saturday in Perth. A week of fine-tuning at Melbourne Park with her sister Venus (and biggest likely threat for the title) should leave her primed and ready for her march into history.
2. A three-peat for Jennifer: Serena will be eyeing Venus carefully, as she will the comeback kid, Lindsay Davenport. But what of Jennifer Capriati, who has not dropped a match at Melbourne Park since a semi-final defeat at the hands of Lindsay Davenport in 2000?
The 25 year old simply relishes the heat, the work and the hard courts at Melbourne Park. Who could forget the war of attrition that was the 2002 final, when Capriati prevailed over Hingis in three exhausting sets under extremely hot conditions?
If there is a player who has the nerve, the experience and the conditioning to upset the Williams applecart, it surely is Capriati.
3. The return of Andre the Giant: Andre Agassi shocked the tennis world with his last-minute withdrawal from the Open in 2002. A wrist injury sparked the decision not to play, with the three-time Australian champion leaving it until the morning of the first day of the championship to announce his withdrawal.
No player has claimed a fourth Australian title since Roy Emerson claimed the fourth of his six titles in 1965. Save for Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, every big name in the game has claimed at least one Australian Open in that time. But no player since Emerson has won four titles and after the heartbreak that followed last year's withdrawal the prize, and the place in history that will come with it, is etched indelibly in Agassi's mind.
4. C'mon Lleyton: Of course, for all his popularity in Australia, there is no doubt as to which player will carry the hopes and expectations of a frenzied home crowd. It is Lleyton Hewitt and an entire nation has its fingers crossed that this new Aussie tennis icon will shortly update Mark Edmondson's place in the record books.
It is now 27 years since 'Eddo' upset John Newcombe at Kooyong. Edmondson remains the last Australian male to win the national title and it is generally considered by all that 27 years is long enough.
Hewitt is a fighter with a heart as big as his beloved South Australia. He is a dual world no.1 and owner of both a Wimbledon and US Open title. But does he have what it takes to win the Australian Open on home soil? It is a quest that will captivate all of us between now and 26 January.