Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na are the 2014 Australian Open champions and I am happy for both of these players because they have been continuously improving their game in the recent past. Overall it was a tremendous tournament and I thoroughly enjoyed watching a lot of the matches.
Here are my thoughts on some of the players and developments at the tournament:
The Men's Game
The men's game keeps getting more and more interesting. Several players are continuously improving and that's what makes it so much fun to watch in my opinion.
#1: Stanislas Wawrinka
Wawrinka played phenomenal Tennis and deservedly won the title. Stanimal as they call him these days has gotten a lot tougher mentally and physically most likely due to the help of his coach Magnus Norman.
Norman himself was one of the toughest and fittest competitors the game has ever seen and is apparently passing on that work ethic to his student.
Being extremely fit simply gives you incredible confidence on the tennis court and it shows in Wawrinka's game!
In the finals match, Wawrinka showed an aggressiveness against Nadal in the first set that very few players have ever been able to play with against Nadal. Right from the start I had the feeling that Wawrinka had tremendous belief in his ability to win the finals match against Rafael Nadal.
Stan did struggle quite a bit later in the match when Nadal was obviously struggling with an injury and in that moment it showed that Stan has not always been one of the mentally toughest competitors on the tour.
Becoming mentally tougher is a process like anything else and under extreme pressure it is only normal that some of the old mental habits still show up but I am certain this will continue to improve with Magnus Norman on his side.
I think great things are still to come for Stanislas Wawrinka and am excited to see how his career continues.
#2: Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal played a phenomenal semi-finals match against an in-form Roger Federer and overall played a great tournament.
In the semi-finals Nadal once again played super aggressive, dictating points from a position relatively close to the baseline, which is what he needs to do to play his best Tennis.
He also stayed away from slicing his backhand and instead hit aggressive topspin backhands, which is another big component for him to play his best Tennis.
Nadal was obviously struggling in the finals match even though it would have been tough anyways to win against Wawrinka the way Stan played before Nadal's injury.
Nadal deserves to be the number 1 player in the world right now and I believe he is likely to win quite a few more major titles and may end his career as the greatest player of all-time!
#3: Roger Federer
Federer hired Stefan Edberg as his new coach and even though I was skeptical in the beginning, I now believe that this was a great move and I think Federer may have a very good year ahead of him.
Overall reaching the semi-finals was certainly a success for Federer but more importantly we saw some nice developments in his game throughout this tournament.
Roger hit almost exclusively topspin backhands against Nadal and did not use the slice much at all. I have been saying for a long time that this is what Roger needs to do if he wants to have a chance against Nadal and Federer's level was certainly high enough for a victory against Rafa.
Roger displaying improved form against Andy Murray
However, Roger basically choked towards the end of the first set and it was apparent that even though his game was good enough, the belief that he can beat Rafa just was not there.
Federer also came to the net quite a bit against Rafa in the beginning of the match with mixed success. Roger's backhand volley is relatively weak and also his movement at the net is not great in my opinion.
However, his partnership with Edberg just started and I believe Edberg will make significant improvements to Federer's net game and it will be exciting to see how Roger plays later on in the year, especially at Wimbledon!
After this tournament I believe that good things lie ahead for Roger in 2014. Stefan Edberg is a highly intelligent individual and quickly realized what adjustments need to be made to Roger's game. Now they simply need more time to work on these adjustements.
#4: Novak Djokovic
Djokovic lost a tough match against Wawrinka. I don't think there is much to worry about here for Novak. Stan played incredible Tennis throughout this tournament and close matches like that are decided by just a few pionts here and there.
It will be interesting to see what the influence of Boris Becker on Djokovic's game will be. I was not able to see a lot of differences in Novak's game but it is early in their relationship.
I am certain Novak will have another good year in 2014.
The Women's Game
On the women's side we saw a lot of upsets and I am sure nobody expected Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova in the finals.
#1: Li Na
Li Na is another great continuous improvement story. She hired Justine Henin's former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, in 2012 and they have been making a lot of adjustments to her game.
The forehand is Li Na's weakness and even though they have not been able to fix this shot from a technical perspective, they have been able to do the next best thing and that is to have her hit with more arc and spin. The added spin changes the dynamics of the baseline rallies and allows her to use her backhand, which is her primary weapon, more effectively.
Li Na playing great Tennis agains Eugenie Bouchard
Na has also developed confidence in her net game and comes forward on a regular basis to finish off points.
I am sure Rodriguez is not done with the adjustments to her game and I expect her to do well for the rest of the year.
That being said, her forehand is still too weak to be a real threat to either Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka when they are at their best in my opinion.
#2: Dominika Cibulkova
Cibulkova played great Tennis, beating Maria Sharpova and Agnieszka Radwanska on her way to the finals. She plays more aggressive and has significantly changed her service motion.
So once again this is a continuous improvement story and it will be interesting to see if she can keep up this high level.
Cibulkova with a big victory over Agnieszka Radwanska
Remaining at this level also has a lot to do with the belief that she can beat the Top3 players in the world. It is tough to say whether or not she has that belief but she ceratinly has taken her game to a new level!
#3: Serena Williams
Serena lost to Ana Ivanovic but was apparently hindered by an injury. I expect her to go back to dominating form as soon as she is 100% healthy again!
#4: Maria Sharapova
I was not impressed by Sharapova's Tennis in this tournament. She hired Sven Groeneveld as her new coach but I did not see any new developments in her game.
I am a bit skeptical about her chances for a great 2014 and am not sure if this is a good coaching fit for her.
Allright. So much on the 2014 Australian Open. Let me know your thoughts and comments below!