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The A to Z of Australian Open 2005

Sunday, 30 January, 2005

In our review of the Centenary Australian Open, F stands for Five-setters, L is for Legends, R is for Records and S ... well that was both Singles champions: Serena and Safin. So check out the (almost) definitive A to Z of Australian Open 2005.

A - Aviva Ballkids

The ballkids were again right on the money, with insurance group Aviva sponsoring them for the first time. There were 312 ballkids who helped the tournament run smoothly for the players, with 32 of them brought in from New Zealand, China, Thailand, India and Korea.

A - Aussies

It was a tournament to remember for the locals, with Lleyton Hewitt making it all the way to the final in men's singles, Alicia Molik reaching the women's singles quarter-finals and winning the women's doubles (with Svetlana Kuznetsova), Scott Draper and Samantha Stosur taking out the mixed doubles and David Hall the men's Classic 8s.

B - Barracking

Australian tennis fans are recognised as some of the fairest and most knowledgeable in the world - just ask the likes of Andre Agassi and Marat Safin who are almost always favoured by the crowd unless they are playing a local - while Swedish supporters come out in massive numbers as well in what is the closest they have to a home Grand Slam. Briton Greg Rusedski says at the Australian Open he'd rather play someone from anywhere but Australia or Sweden because of the support those players get.

C - Centenary Celebrations

What began as the Australasian Championship reached its century this year, in its 18th staging at Melbourne Park, and in the words of Tournament Director Paul McNamee it was a 'cracker' and 'one out of the box'. Fans turned out in record numbers, the television ratings figures were through the roof, and proved more popular than ever.

D - Designer outfits

Part-time fashion designers Serena and Venus Williams were at their creative best, particularly women's champion Serena, who sported outfits made up largely of white and lime green and completed the look with knee high gaitors - in the same colours - that she removed when her matches got underway. Rising Spanish star Rafael Nadal also caught the eye with calf-length pants, while Lleyton Hewitt showed off his bigger biceps in sleeveless shirts also favoured by Carlos Moya, Nadal, James Blake and co.

E - Entertainment

The on-court action - and there was plenty of that - wasn't the only thing to keep the fans happy at Melbourne Park, with interactive displays like FanFest and brilliant line-up of bands playing in Garden Square, including Killing Heidi on the final day and the likes of Evermore, Jebediah, Thirsty Merc and Eskimo Joe also taking to the stage throughout the tournament.

F - Five-setters

There were no fewer than 23 five-set matches in the men's singles draw, including 12 out of 64 on the first two days. Lleyton Hewitt played in two of them in the fourth-round and quarter-finals, beating Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian, who had both played in full-length matches earlier in the tournament. The first semi-final between Roger Federer and Marat Safin also went to five, while 2002 champion Thomas Johansson was the marathon man, playing in no fewer than three in the opening three rounds.

G - Garnier (making it Glam)

Garnier made its debut as a Associate Sponsor of the tournament and proved to be a big hit with players, fans and celebrities alike. Garnier staff worked throughout each day to help makeover the players and more than 20,000 members of the public.

H - Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt's deeds for Australia in the Davis Cup are legendary, including in Melbourne where he has led his country to some memorable wins, the most famous of which might be the recovery from two sets and a third-set break down in the semi-final against Swiss star Roger Federer in 2003 to secure the tie. But until 2005 Hewitt had strangely never been past the fourth-round at Melbourne Park in a tournament he has a burning desire to win more than any other outside of Davis Cup. That all changed with a memorable fortnight from the South Australian.

I - Icing (on Alicia's birthday cake)

There were several players who had birthdays while in Melbourne, including Alicia Molik and Marat Safin, who turned 24 and 25 respectively on January 27, and French youngster Tatiana Golovin, who turned 17 on January 25. Molik was treated to a birthday cake at Garnier World, but was unfortunately unable to give herself the perfect present when she bowed out of the singles the day before, while Safin was treated to a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' by the Rod Laver Arena crowd for the second year in succession.

J - Jim Courier

John McEnroe may not have made it Down Under this year to commentate for Channel Seven, but his fellow American Jim Courier, the 1992 and 1993 Australian Open champion, proved a more than handy replacement. Courier's commentary and post-match interviews with the players on Rod Laver Arena were extremely entertaining and, while he was prepared to ask tough questions, he also gave Marat Safin a hug after he had beaten Roger Federer.

K - Kia

Korean car manufacturer Kia was again the tournament's Major Sponsor, and the players and officials were no doubt very grateful for the fact that the sponsorship package included providing the vehicles that ferried them all over Melbourne.

L - Legends

As usual there were plenty of the stars of the past taking to the court in the legends doubles and legends mixed doubles competitions. Tony Roche, Ken Rosewall, Australia's last two singles champions Mark Edmondson (1976) and Christine O'Neil (1978), Fred Stolle, Roy Emerson, Dianne Balestrat, Pat Cash and Mats Wilander were among those who competed, with Wilander and Richard Fromberg getting the better of Cash and Kim Warwick in the men's legends doubles and Emerson and Nicole Bradtke downing Roche and Liz Smylie in the mixed competition.

M - 'Melbourne' written on the court

With another superb tournament being held this year, Melbourne turned on all its charms with some of the finest mid-to-late January weather in several years and very friendly event staff, and the locals grabbed maximum exposure as billions of people tuning in to television coverage around the world seeing the word 'Melbourne' painted on the court at one end of Rod Laver Arena.

N - Night Final

The Centenary Open celebrated history throughout, and made history at the end, with the first ever Grand Slam night final. Hewitt, with a finely tuned sense of history, made it even more significant for the locals.

O - The Ovas

The 'Ovas' have emerged as the new superpower of women's tennis. No fewer than 17 'Ovas', including six seeds, took part in the main women's singles draw at the Centenary Australian Open. Russia boasted five representatives, with Maria Sharapova (No.4 seed) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (No.5 seed) - both Grand Slam winners in 2004 - the highest-ranked 'Ova's', but it was the Czech Republic, with seven representatives, which had the most, while the Slovak Republic (three), Belarus and Israel were also Ova-represented.

P - Precocious youngsters

With victory over No.1 seed Sun-Yong Kim in the final of the boy's singles event, 15-year-old American Donald Young became the youngest ever junior Grand Slam winner and youngest junior world No.1 in the history of the game. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Czech (and Ova) Nicole Vaidisova reached the third-round of the main women's singles draw while just-turned-16 Michaella Krajicek of The Netherlands made the second-round.

Q - Qualifiers (just kept going)

Cypriot and 2003 Australian Open boy's singles champion Marcos Baghdatis stunned two seeds (Ivan Ljubicic and Tommy Robredo) and sent his ever-increasing band of fans into delirium on his way to a fourth-round appearance after coming through qualifying, while Frenchman Jean-Rene Lisnard and American Bobby Reynolds both made it to the final 32. Women's qualifier Elena Baltacha also did herself proud by advancing to the third-round, but maybe the biggest win from a qualifier came from Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who ousted compatriot and No.5 seed Carlos Moya in the first-round.

R - Records

Quite apart from the ever-increasing demand for hot chips (this year 31,700 buckets were sold), the Centenary Australian Open hosted a record single-day crowd for any tennis event when 60,669 flocked through the gates on the middle Saturday and a record tournament total of 543, 873 (30 more than attended in 2001). There were also records for: aces for a men's singles match (Joachim Johansson and Feliciano Lopez sent down 72 between them in the third-round), aces by one player (Johansson smashed 51 against Andre Agassi two nights later) and visitors to the official tournament website (2.8 million different tennis fans from 187 countries).

S - Singles champions Serena and Safin

Having recovered from serious injury and endured personal heartache in recent times, 2003 champion Serena Williams emphatically announced her return to the top of her game and extended her winning streak at Melbourne Park to 14 by claiming her second Australian Open women's singles title. Meanwhile the immensely talented Russian made his third appearance in the final at Melbourne Park after beating world No.1 Roger Federer in a semi and finally won his second Grand Slam title. On the way he thrilled the local fans with his big temperament, even bigger game and endearing personality.

T - Towels

The most popular item from the Australian Open retail shop was the towels, with over 2,000 Australian Open player towels and 2,500 gym towels being sold. On top of this the countless towels thrown into the crowd after jubilant players posted a victory made them the must-have item of the tournament.

U - Upsets

There weren't as many upsets as in previous years, with the biggest happening on Day 1, when Spanish qualifier Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated countryman Carlos Moya, the No.5 seed. Moya was one of seven seeds to go out in the first-round, but the only one in the top ten. No.13 seed Tommy Robredo and No.17 seed Andrei Pavel both lost in the second-round to qualifiers, as did women's No.31 seed Jelena Kostanic (to Vaidisova). In fact, qualifiers provided most of the surprises at the Centenary tournament.

V - Vocalisation

Despite the game getting faster and more physically demanding, some players still manage to find the required energy to let out a trademark noise every time they strike a tennis ball. For all those fans who have been at Melbourne Park over the past fortnight and who have watched on television, all the shrieking, squeaking, squealing, grunting, yelping and 'c'moning' has left an indelible mark on not only their memories but their eardrums.

W - Walloping balls into the crowd (after winning)

Launching a spare ball high into the stands after sealing a match appears to have become what leaping the net once was as the 'in' way of celebrating victory. Amongst the most prominent wallopers were Safin, Hewitt, Agassi and Molik.

X - Extreme Slo-Mo on Channel 7

The great television innovation of 2005, the Extreme Slo-Mo camera, shoots one thousand frames per second - compared to the conventional 25 - to allow viewers to see the movement of the players in unprecedented detail. Watching what normally takes a split second stretched instead over several seconds brought the grace of the sport into sharper focus and made the supreme tennis athletes look even more balletic.

Y - 'Yes' said Optus

In November of last year Optus said 'yes' to increasing its already substantial involvement in Australian tennis, which dates back to 2001. Optus has become an Official partner of Australian Open and the Official Telecommunications Provider to the Australian Open and Tennis Australia, and 2005 saw the introduction of Optus 'yes' Day at Melbourne Park.

Z - Zeds (or lack of them)

14,225 people flocked to Rod Laver Arena for the night session on Day 8, and those who stuck it out had to wait until after 2am local time to see David Nalbandian finally defeat Guillermo Coria. Two evenings later Nalbandian went down to Hewitt in a five-set thriller which finished after midnight, with the mixed doubles match that followed technically taking place on Day 11. The Roger Federer-Marat Safin semi-final went so late that the mixed doubles match scheduled to follow was postponed until that afternoon. So little sleep, so many great reasons to stay awake!
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