It all seemed to be business as usual for the world number ones; both Djokovic and Serena Williams were rarely troubled in their journey to the final. But Serena failed to read what was assumed to be a rather predictable script, and lost to a phenomenally disciplined display by Angelique Kerber, who committed only 13 unforced errors throughout the match. Consequently, much to my surprise, I can’t copy and paste last year’s review of the Australian Open.
Serena Williams has dominated women’s tennis since Justine Henin-Hardenne retired in 2011. And her power and brutal serving had been too much for her opponents in the first major of 2016. After a ‘slow’ start (she lost nine games in the first round), Williams appeared to recapture the form that has made her number one spot seem untouchable. She dispatched Sharapova with a typical nonchalance, and denied Agnieszka Radwanska the opportunity to mount any meaningful challenge to her title in the semi-final. Kerber’s victory, therefore, is all the more impressive. The German nullified Williams’ power and dominated bassline exchanges with a relentless desire to force Serena to play one more shot, hitting the ball with a depth that made it difficult for her opponent to attack. The pressure this built on Serena resulted in her making 46 errors. Kerber remained composed throughout to take her first Grand Slam title in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, was boringly predictable. Whilst Andy’s mind might have been on the imminent birth of his first child, he was thoroughly outplayed by a man who seems to have created an aura of invincibility reminiscent of that that hangs around Serena. This is the fourth time in five years that Murray has lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, and once again, Djokovic was simply better than him. Thrilling bassline rallies mostly went the way of Djokovic, as he dictated the tempo of the play and took advantage of Murray’s overly defensive play. The Serb’s consistency and brilliance were just too much for Murray, who can have no complaints about the manner of his defeat. A magnificent passing shot to break serve in the third set, sliding full stretch on his backhand side and then calmly rolling the ball onto the edge of the line as Murray looked on helplessly, perhaps marks the gap in class that separates Djokovic from the rest of the field. It was just one of a handful of winners that proved to be the difference between the world number 1 and 2. Taking the championship match in three sets, and pocketing a mere £1.7 million pounds, it was a perfect day for Novak Djokovic. As frustrated as Murray will be in the comprehensiveness of his defeat, the birth of his son will distract him from what now seems like the impossible task of beating his main rival.