Women’s fi­nal does ten­nis proud

Kapi-Mana News - - CLASSIFIEDS - JOSEPH RO­MANOS Sports talk

What a shot in the arm the Aus­tralian Open women’s fi­nal gave ten­nis last week­end. Ger­man An­gelique Kerber won her first Grand Slam ti­tle, beat­ing the in­domitable Serena Wil­liams in a won­der­ful three-set match.

The qual­ity of the ten­nis, and the play­ers’ sports­man­ship, was timely.

Ten­nis has been go­ing through grim times, with the spectre of match-fix­ing set­tling over the sport. Many big-name play­ers are sus­pected of match-fix­ing and the in­tegrity of some matches, in­clud­ing at the pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments in Auck­land, is be­ing ques­tioned.

There is more to come on that saga.

So ten­nis needed a lift and the Kerber-Wil­liams match pro­vided it.

The lead­ing male play­ers in re­cent years – Roger Fed­erer, Rafael Nadal, No­vak Djokovic and Andy Mur­ray – are to­tally re­spect­ful of each other and seem to be in­ter­est­ing, de­cent peo­ple.

For ex­am­ple, Mur­ray sat through the women’s fi­nal in Mel­bourne so he could watch his brother, Jamie, play the men’s dou­bles fi­nal, even though that match didn’t fin­ish till af­ter mid­night and he had his own men’s fi­nal with Djokovic loom­ing the next day.

And Djokovic? He watched the women’s fi­nal on tele­vi­sion and then tweeted (at 12.41am!) his con­grat­u­la­tions to both women for their play and their sports­man­ship.

Com­pare that to the early 1980s, when John McEn­roe, Jimmy Con­nors and Ivan Lendl were the big three. They couldn’t stand each other.

At press con­fer­ences they were re­luc­tant to even men­tion each other’s names, and were of­ten snide. It was ugly.

At that time Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert were the best women’s play­ers. They had a long and fierce ri­valry – they met 80 times in tour­na­ments – but be­came good off-court friends, even go­ing on ski­ing hol­i­days to­gether.

To­day some of the lead­ing women are prima don­nas – spoilt, child­ish and en­tirely self-cen­tred.

That’s what made the Wil­liams-Kerber match so re­fresh­ing.

They ap­plauded each other’s good shots, even while striv­ing might­ily to win.

When Kerber fi­nally pre­vailed, Wil­liams went around the net and hugged her, telling her how well she had played and that she de­served her vic­tory.

They were equally com­pli­men­tary of each other af­ter­wards at the vic­tory cer­e­mony and the me­dia con­fer­ences.

Wil­liams said Kerber had an at­ti­tude a lot of peo­ple could learn from. ‘‘She stays pos­i­tive and never gives up. If I couldn’t win the tour­na­ment, I’m glad she did,’’ she said.

Kerber de­scribed Wil­liams as a cham­pion and a great per­son who had in­spired a gen­er­a­tion of play­ers.

The de­feat does noth­ing to di­min­ish Wil­liams’ stand­ing. She has won 21 Grand Slam sin­gles crowns, stretch­ing back to the US Open in 1999.

To still be com­pet­ing so well at 34 af­ter all she has faced, in­clud­ing a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness that took her out of the game for a year, is mind-bog­gling.

But what a story Kerber is. The 28-year-old left-han­der was play­ing in her 37th Grand Slam event.

In the fi­nal, by far the big­gest match of her ca­reer, she served bet­ter than Wil­liams – a shock – re­trieved mag­nif­i­cently and never fal­tered.

Their 130-minute match was a cracker, played in the sort of spirit that women’s ten­nis des­per­ately needed.

PHOTO: REUTERS

An­gelique Kerber, left, and Serena Wil­liams hug af­ter their epic women’s fi­nal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.