The magic of the Australian Open

behind the baseline

You only get four grand slams a year for a reason – because they’re where the standout moments occur. The highs, lows, drama, upsets and, above all, the unbelievable.

I’m a Brit, so it goes without saying that I love a fairytale plot, an underdog or anything where good prevails over evil.

They’ve got that in spades down under this year.

Step forward Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Whatever happens from now on, she’s had an extraordinary run in Melbourne against the odds.

Lucic-Baroni won her first grand slam title in 1998 at just 15, made a name for herself as a rising star and then disappeared from the tour a year or so later. The media is full of terrible stories as to why: an abusive father, financial hardship, injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, legal wrangles with her management… However you look at it, Lucic-Baroni has not had an easy ride.

Yet here she is, 18 years on from her first Australian Open, showing that same talent, taking a semi-final berth and defeating 3rd seed Aga Radwanska and 5th seed Karolina Pliskova on the way.

Lucic-Baroni’s due to take on the mighty Serena Williams for a place in the final, and you just can’t help but hope she rises to the occasion.

But if Serena’s game is just too strong, there’s another fairytale on the cards…

An all Williams final.

We’ve seen it before, but damn, there’s something magical about the sisters facing off.

The two women are enduring giants of the game. Venus, returning from numerous health battles and still finding great form; Serena, consistently the one to beat.

When they met in the quarterfinals of the 2015 US Open, you felt like Venus desperately wanted her sister to score the Serena Slam and yet she still took the match all he way to three sets. No half-arsed efforts to help her sibling out, Venus Williams loves the game too much.

This year, she’s is talking about how she feels like she was put on the earth purely to play tennis. Venus has found her game again. Meanwhile little sister Serena is riding on the crest of a wave; newly-engaged, under less pressure as the #2 seed, slinking her way through the draw.

Her biggest challenge in the schedule so far came in the form of fellow Brit Johanna Konta (also on bloody great form), but in true Serena style, Williams bought her best game to the table. A straight sets victory followed.

Much like the Federer-Nadal final is a realistic prospect, so is Williams-Williams in the women’s draw.

This weekend could see the 2008 Wimbledon finals played out on the blue courts of the Australian Open…and that’s where the real magic will happen.


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