Novak Djokovic – 2012 Australian Open Champion

Djokovic over Nadal: 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5.

There are all kinds of adjectives one can use to describe the 2012 Australian Open Final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic: Unrelenting, slug-fest, dramatic, grueling, compelling, dynamic, record-breaking…

Those descriptions all apply; however to truly define the 5-hour and 53-minute match, the description must be more simple and blunt. In reality, the best way to describe the match in my mind: PUNISHING.

Physically punishing for the players and their endurance, with each player punishing each ground stroke from the first toss – taking chances, extending rallies, striking amazing line-skipping winners all over the court…punishing each other ’til the last man standing (actually…’til the winner collapsed to the court, physically and emotionally exhausted).

Rafa and Nole were so beat-up at the conclusion of the match, it appeared that dual, post-match, upchuck-fest was inevitable during the trophy presentation. Rafa eventually leaned back on the net, Djokovic stretched and tried to keep his composure while Kia’s talking-head professed the company’s proud sponsorship of the event. Eventually, the crew was kind enough to get the athletes some chairs and a couple bottles of water while they waited to hoist their trophies in front of adoring fans at 1:40 in the morning, Melbourne time.

This match demonstrated the sheer power and conditioning it takes to be at the top of the game today. After years of Federer’s Grand Slam ‘clinics,’ where he wiped the court clean of all comers with sheer genetic skill and grace – it was obvious the only way to beat the champ, was by training to match his skill with power and accuracy; and to maintain that level of play for as long as at took. Rafael Nadal put the work in and owns Roger in head-to-head play…Novak Djokovic has done the same with his conditioning…and it appears Andy Murray is on his way.

Both semifinals and the Australian Open final revealed just how ‘further-along’ the top-4 Men’s players appear to be, as compared to the rest of the field. And now, with more resources to help train and condition – they could continue to distance themselves even further.

That said…now that this is the style of play expected from the Men’s Game, one can’t help but predict more injury, shorter careers, and very wealthy physio-cardio trainers who no doubt, will probably earn more than the player’s coaches themselves.

What a match today! Both Nole and Rafa are to be admired for their fight, tenacity and bold play; but mostly, they should be admired for their PREPARATION through conditioning. Today, it wasn’t the play ON the court that won the match, it was all the time spent working OFF the court that gave tennis fans an Australian Open Final to remember.

I also need to mention here that American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Romania Horia Tecau are Grand Slam Champions. They won the Mixed Doubles Title over Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina 6-3, 5-7, 10-3. That’s Bethanie’s first Grand Slam Title, so no doubt – she’ll be sporting a new tattoo before the French Open gets underway in May.

ATP Events are back underway starting tomorrow, with two indoor events in Croatia and France, and a clay-court event in Chile. The ladies have next week off to prepare-for and participate-in Fed Cup Play. Team USA featuring Venus, Serena, Christina McHale and Liezel Huber will be playing in Worcester vs. Victoria Azarenka and Team Belarus. The Tie is this Saturday and Sunday, and I look forward to seeing you at the DCU Center for two great days of tennis…

…and then a Patriots win in the Super Bowl!