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contents FEBRUARY / MARCH 2017 VOL.42 NO.2


FAIRYTALE SLAM We’ve long known the Australian Open as the Happy Slam but as Serena Williams and Roger Federer capped off a series of magical events with more milestones, it became even more special than that.





With a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title Serena Williams is amassing mighty numbers – and most impressive is that she seems far from done yet. Venus and Serena Williams feature in one of the most fascinating sporting rivalries – and partnerships – of all time.


Roger Federer’s record-extending 18th major at Melbourne Park exceeded the wildest dreams of his legion of fans, and the man himself.


A new, and memorable, chapter was written in a fierce rivalry between two of the game’s most prolific champions at Australian Open 2017.


John Peers added to a rich legacy of local victors as he lifted his first Grand Slam trophy before a home crowd at the Australian Open.


Dylan Alcott is a vocal advocate of wheelchair tennis – and at the Australian Open he got to showcase it on the sport’s biggest stage.

While some players struck the winning look at AO2017, others struggled with some unforced fashion errors. A review of the hits and misses. The Happy Slam became so much more as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and other stars returned to their former heights.


It was a summer to remember for Australian teen Lizette Cabrera, who scored her first WTA win and made a Grand Slam debut. She shares her experience in an exclusive recount.


Never neglecting your strengths is one of the most important lessons Casey Dellacqua has learnt in her career, as she writes in an exclusive article.



With a seventh Australian Open title, Serena Williams underlined her growing claim as Greatest of All Time.





A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s remarkable journey and tale of perseverance captivated fans as a heart-warming run to the Australian Open semifinal revived her embattled career.

REGULARS 62 64 67 74 83 86 88 90



SUMMER SUPERSTARS The many different qualities it takes to experience on-court success were on show in a memorable Australian summer. 4


EDITOR Vivienne Christie ASSISTANT EDITORS Leigh Rogers Daniela Toleski FOUNDING EDITOR Alan Trengove GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Andrea Williamson Dominica Glass Trevor Bridger

ADVERTISING MANAGER Nicole Hearnden ADMINISTRATION & SUBSCRIPTIONS MANAGER Camille Green PHOTOGRAPHS Getty Images, John Anthony COVER PHOTO Getty Images COVER DESIGN Andrew Hutchison Australian Tennis Magazine is published by TENNIS AUSTRALIA LTD, Private Bag 6060, Richmond, Vic 3121. Ph: (03) 9914 4200 Email: Distributed by Network Distribution Company Printed in Australia by Webstar The views expressed in Australian Tennis Magazine are not necessarily those held by Tennis Australia. While the utmost care is taken in compiling the information contained in this publication, Tennis Australia is not responsible for any loss or injury occurring as a result of any omissions in either the editorial or advertising appearing herein.


An impressive run at Melbourne Park could kick-start big seasons for: ROGER FEDERER

What a comeback! Now owns a record 18th Grand Slam title and with little points to defend in coming months, the 35-year-old can play freely – a dangerous proposition for his opponents.


A final run has reignited his confidence – not only in his game but his injury-prone body too. With the clay season looming an unprecedented 10th French Open title now looks very possible.


The 35-year-old stressed she was playing with nothing to prove at Melbourne Park. If she can take this carefree approach into the rest of the season – more titles, and records, beckon for the newly-returned No.1.


Back in a Grand Slam final for the first time in seven-and-a-half years – the American is showing no signs of slowing down and is now verging on the top 10 again.

TURNING POINTS An Australian Open campaign that did not go to plan, could prove a turning point for: NOVAK DJOKOVIC

A shock second round loss marked the Serb’s earliest exit at a Grand Slam since 2008 – a result that could prove a catalyst to revitalise any waning motivation.


Contesting a Grand Slam as the No.1 seed for the first time, the Brit surprisingly was nowhere near his dominant endof-2016 form. Expect him to bounce back strongly.


As defending AO champion the German made a nervy start to her season. Yet losing the No.1 ranking might dissipate pressure and allow her to play the game that took her to that spot.


After the Pole made her earliest exit at Melbourne Park since 2009, it reignited questions on whether she can ever fulfil her Grand Slam potential? Don’t discount the ever-consistent 27-year-old. Leigh Rogers 6


A dream EVENT


is a unique situation. Let’s enjoy this because probably (it) will not happen again.” Speaking ahead of the fi nal weekend at Australian Open 2017, the exhausted but smiling Rafael Nadal might have delivered the most sage words of an unforgettable fortnight. The Spaniard was expanding on a dream scenario that not even the most sanguine fan or promoter would have earlier dared to imagine: the 35-year-old Serena Williams would meet her 36-yearold sister Venus in the most senior Grand Slam women’s final of the Open era, while Nadal and his long-time rival Roger Federer would be reunited in their ninth Grand Slam final and 35th career contest overall. Amid all those records there were yet more to be added: Serena, of course, seized an unsurpassed seventh Australian Open title and record 23rd Grand Slam title overall, while Federer claimed a rare win over Nadal for his 18th major milestone and fi rst since Wimbledon in 2012. And even if Venus and Nadal ultimately left Melbourne Park without a title this time around, there was the unmistakable sense of wins in their respective finals losses. Returned to her fi rst Grand Slam fi nal in seven-and-a-half years, Venus’ claims of competing until at least age 40 no longer seem far-fetched. And having contested a Championship match for the fi rst since 2014, there is also a welcome assurance that as the clay court season approaches, Nadal will inevitably challenge for the game’s biggest prizes again. Incredibly, these were not the only happy storylines of the most feel-good Grand Slam in recent memory. A tournament that was shaped by the re-emergence of 30-something champions also saw Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, at age 34, contest her fi rst major semifi nal in

18 years, while Denis Istomin and Mischa Zverev made admirable charges on the men’s side. Naturally, there were shocks too – most notably, Novak Djokovic’s loss to Istomin, as well as early exits from top seeds Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber. But the perspective that those title favourites showed in their unexpected departures underlined the good spirits with which AO2017 was played. And the fans hardly complained. At the conclusion of an illuminative fortnight, 728,763 of them had experienced the action at a revamped Melbourne Park, surpassing the previous attendance record by more than 8000 fans. With television ratings fi gures also reaching new and epic numbers, millions more watched on from throughout the world. It may well be – as Rafa and some others suggested – that those fans never witness an event of such calibre again. Still, that hardly detracts from the dream experience. Those fans would well know that they had been a part of what was arguably the greatest Australian Open ever, if not one of the best Grand Slams of all time. Vivienne Christie



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2017 PREDICTIONS A brighte r future

DEC / JAN 2017

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We’ve long known the Australian Open as the Happy Slam but as Serena Williams and Roger Federer capped off a series of magical events with more career milestones, it became something significantly more special than that.








Setting an Open era record with her 23rd Grand Slam victory at Australian Open 2017, Serena Williams not only built her case as “greatest ever” but convincingly showed she has more to add to that claim yet. By VIVIENNE CHRISTIE


hen a 17-year-old Serena Williams claimed her fi rst Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open, she had no initial idea how to mark the early breakthrough. Eighteen years and many Grand Slams later, post-victory routines followed a similar theme. “It’s getting late. I don’t know how I’ll celebrate,” an elated but exhausted Serena surmised in the whirlwind of media commitments that accompany a major victory. “I’m just still excited.” And understandably so. By defeating her sister Venus to win the Australian Open for a seventh time, the already-prolific Serena seized her 23rd Grand Slam title, breaking the Open era major record that was previously held by Steffi Graf. If Serena wasn’t quite organised for the festivities that should naturally follow, others had confidently been preparing for months. Among them was NBA legend Michael Jordan, who sent a pair of specially branded shoes that were passed on to the record-breaking star. 22



“My Nike representative had them apparently at the (US) Open,” Serena explained, still wearing the commemorative “23” shoes post-victory. “That didn’t work out so well … they flew all the way here. I had no idea that was happening. Yeah, so I guess they’ve been waiting on this moment for a while.” It was a touching “onesporting-great-to-another” token that came with some significant messaging. If the shoe fits, she should wear it – and for Serena, that “fit” is a growing case as the greatest player of all time. Asked whether she’d joined the GOAT discussions that are so often dominated by Rod Laver and Roger Federer with her latest victory, Serena happily entered the debate. “I defi nitely think so,” she said of belonging in that same category. “I mean, between Martina (Navratilova), myself, Steffi Graf, hands down we are leading that conversation.” Most significant for Serena is not that she’s leading the “Greatest Ever” conversation, but the fact she’s still adding so convincingly to that claim. With victory over sister Venus in

their 28th career meeting also ensuring her return to world No.1, Serena is unmistakably capable of securing many more milestones yet. Insisting throughout the Melbourne fortnight “everything here is a bonus” it was nevertheless clear that Serena was indeed focused on seizing more tennis history. “It’s such a great feeling to have 23. It really feels great,” said Serena when her new record was finally secured. “I’ve been chasing it for a really long time. It feels like, really long time. When it got on my radar, I knew I had an opportunity to get there, and I’m here. I’m here. It’s a great feeling. No better place to do it than Melbourne.”

“That was a great performance. I played well,” Serena retorted. “She’s a former top-10 player. The last time we played together was the finals of a Grand Slam … I think it was overall a really good match on both our sides.” Confidence clearly growing, Serena easily defeated Nicole Gibbs, Barbora Strycova, Johanna Konta and the resurgent Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the matches that followed. In defeating Venus 6-4 6-4 in 81 minutes, Serena secured her momentous title without the loss of a set. With the convincing victory, public attention naturally turned to Serena’s quest for a 24th major, which would match the all-time record set by Margaret Court. The champion, though, was focused only on the milestone It was a milestone that must that was just in hand. have seemed far from the “One thing I learned in the past eventual champion’s mind when is you have to enjoy it,” she said. the draw pitted her against two “That’s the beauty of winning former top 10 players in the Australia, you have a few months opening two rounds. to relax. If you win the French The first of them, Belinda (Open), it’s like back-to-backBencic, had defeated the world back-to-back. Australia, you No.1 in their most have time to enjoy the recent match at moment before the FAMILY TIES: “There the 2015 Canadian next Grand Slam.” is no way I would be Open, making Also off the agenda at 23 (Slams) without her,” said Serena of Serena’s straight-sets was talk of a calendarsister Venus. “There’s year Slam. “I don’t progression against no way I would be at the rising Swiss star think about that one without her.” this time around all either,” Serena said. the more impressive. “Just one at a time.” So too was the convincing Whether it’s this Grand Slam manner in which she outclassed title, or all of them, there is Lucie Safarova, who Serena clearly much for the recrowned had last faced (and defeated) in champion to celebrate. the final of the 2015 French Open. “I never had a number. That’s A straightforward win over the the beauty of it,” she said. “I just Czech was clearly tougher than wanted to win a Grand Slam. it looked, as Serena noted when Then I just wanted to win. Every she demanded that a reporter time I step on court I want to who’d suggested it was a “scrappy win,” she said. “It’s just really performance” apologise. remarkable.” AUSTRALIAN TENNIS MAGAZINE




Fairytale Roger Federer’s record-extending 18th major at Melbourne Park exceeded the wildest dreams of his legion of fans, and the man himself. By SUZI PETKOVSKI


o, Roger Federer rules again. Australian Open 2017 could have been scripted by Walt Disney. The game’s most admired and adored champion capped a remarkable return from six months on the sidelines to win a fairytale 18th major in a five-set classic over archrival Rafael Nadal. Even the most febrile Federer fan could not have dreamt of the 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 final result, from a break down in the fifth no less, against his nemesis Nadal. At 35, Federer is the oldest major winner since Ken Rosewall in 1972; his fifth Australian Open ends a span of nearly five years and three lost finals since his last Grand Slam win at Wimbledon 2012. “This one will take more time to sink in,” Federer said post-win. “When I go back to Switzerland, I’ll think, ‘Wow’. The magnitude of this match is going to feel different.” Later though. On victory night, the father-of-four



had more pressing matters. “We’re going to be partying like rock stars tonight.” The ‘dream fi nal’ between the old masters (combined age 65, combined majors 31) indeed lived up to its heady billing, though the numbers suggested a nightmare for Federer. Nadal had dominated their meetings 23-11, their Australian Open bouts 3-0, their Grand Slam showdowns 9-2, their major fi nals 6-2; almost a decade had passed since Federer’s last Grand Slam victory over the dauntless left y in the 2007 Wimbledon fi nal. Federer was helped here by the slicker court surface, a less arduous passage to the final (five hours shorter than Nadal’s) and his rival’s own comeback from an injuryravaged season. Both harked back to the opening of Nadal’s tennis academy in Mallorca last October, when they were too battered to play each other and instead swatted a few balls with juniors. Neither dreamed they would meet again in the next Grand Slam final.

Seeded 17, his lowest ranking since 2001, and coming off the longest break of his career, Federer only hoped to go deep into the first week. He began with patchy wins over qualifiers Jurgen Melzer and Noah Rubin. Then for his Friday-night showdown with 10th seed Tomas Berdych, Federer produced a 6-2 6-4 6-4 master class that had the hapless Czech wishing he could have watched from the stand rather than across the net. A scrambling five-setter followed against Kei Nishikori, whom Federer has always talked up. Perhaps the glowing pre-match praise this time was a way of cushioning a likely loss. From 0-4 and thinking the first set was gone, Federer found himself in a tiebreak, and his teeth in the match. He prised a 3-0 lead in the fifth set for a 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory, his 200th win over a top-10 player.





ABeautiful MOMENT Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s remarkable journey and tale of perseverance captivated fans as a heart-warming run to the Australian Open semifinals revived her embattled career. By LEIGH ROGERS




fter her inspiring Australian Open 2017 came to end, Mirjana LucicBaroni pulled her mobile phone out of her racquet bag and took a video selfie as she was applauded off Rod Laver Arena. “The court was full. It was just a beautiful moment,” Lucic-Baroni reasoned. “It was just something for me. I just want to have in my phone. It’s just that moment, full crowd, packed court. It was really a very beautiful moment.” Who could begrudge the 34-year-old for doing so? Remarkably, she'd waited almost 18 years to reach a Grand Slam semifinal again – and in a career characterised by struggle, this was a very beautiful moment indeed and one she deserved to cherish. How do you even recap the story of Lucic-Baroni’s career? Many have tried – but as LucicBaroni pointed out, no-one really knows exactly what she has endured. “People think they know – they have no idea. A lot of the times when I hear, like, injuries and things, those were not the problems at all,” she revealed. “One day when I feel like talking about it, I will. Right now is not that day.” What we do know is that LucicBaroni’s life has not been easy. On-court success came early, she was a two-time junior Grand Slam champion at 14 and won the first WTA tournament she played as a 15-year-old in 1997. She won her first doubles event

too, claiming the Australian Open women’s doubles title in 1998 to set a new record as the youngest-ever champion at the tournament. But off-court her life was far from happy. As a 16-year-old she and her family fled from her abusive father, seeking political asylum in the United States. Financial difficulties followed and she became embroiled in a contentious lawsuit battle with her former management company. Consequently suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, she didn’t contest a Grand Slam between 2004 and 2009. “The way I stopped, it wasn’t really kind of by my choice. I couldn’t travel. I wasn’t able to travel. I was stopped at the moment. I didn’t want to stop. I felt kind of a little bit of unfinished business,” LucicBaroni reflected. Yet it is a period of her life Lucic-Baroni neither wants to remember, nor be defined by. “I don’t want to focus so much on that,” she told the media during the Australian Open. “I kind of want to be known as amazing fighter, a person who persevered against everything, against all odds. And that’s what I take pride in.” It’s a reputation she certainly enhanced with her heroics at Melbourne Park in 2017, where even passing the first round was a momentous result. A threeset victory over China’s Wang Qiang marked her first singles win at Melbourne Park since 1998, ending an unprecedented 19-year wait.

MAKING NEW PLANS: With a top 30 debut at age 34, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni has high ambitions for the season ahead.




WHAT WE LEARNED AT AO 2017 … While the world’s top players provided top-class entertainment at Melbourne Park, they also showcased educative elements equally well. JEREMY STYLES recaps some of the key lessons in a transformative Australian Open.


“I think people realise this is an More than 60 players who amazing job, so it's best to keep contested main draw singles it,” said the 36-year-old Venus. “I events at AO2017 were aged think this generation is going to 30 or older – 18 women and a inspire the rest of the generations remarkable 46 men. Even more to, obviously, play a schedule impressive, though, was the that's achievable, sustainable, progress that those players made; and that you can play Grand Slam 23 players aged 30 or over (seven tennis for a long time.” women and 16 men) While clearly contested the fourth benefi tting the players HIGHS AND LOWS: round and every themselves, the While Venus Williams singles fi nalist had 30-something trend is (above) showed how to peak after age 30, passed that age 30 undoubtedly boosting Andy Murray will learn the game generally milestone. from his early loss. All of those too. As Venus added: players were “This is beautiful for boosted by their experience, the game because it will be able as Venus Williams noted after to retain its stars for a long time, her three-set semifinal win which is a great business model.” over the 25-year-old CoCo ONE MORE SHOT Vandeweghe. There was also How many times do coaches some welcome wisdom from stress the value of one more the oldest participant in the shot? There was a stunning women’s draw, who provided example of why in the 26-shot insight into the motivation and rally that existed in the men’s management that helps her and fi nal between Roger Federer and other players continue to thrive Rafael Nadal. Late in the dramatic well into their 30s. 74


fi ft h set, when Nadal was serving with the score at deuce, the pair played a 26-stroke really in which Federer mostly defended to simply stay in the point, before securing it with a forehand winner. It was a pivotal turning point, as the Swiss went on to claim that important break for a 5-3 lead and soon closed out the match.

THE VALUE OF A COACH Nick Kyrgios had the most dominant fi rst round win of any man,

surrendering just five games in an 84-minute victory over Gastao Elias. But from there, it all went wrong for the Australian, who let a match point slip in a 1-6 6-7(1) 6-4 6-2 10-8 loss to Andreas Seppi. Among many questions there were none bigger than when he’d fi ll the role of coach – as Kyrgios himself admitted after the second round loss. “The coach is always a question mark for me,” he said. “That’s one area where I obviously need to start taking a bit more seriously. I mean, I don’t think there’s anyone in the top 100 without a coach except for me. That needs to change.” Respecting a coach was another

factor, with many wondering Grand Slam champion Rafael how much energy Andy Murray, Nadal to five suspense-fi lled who made a suprise departure sets in a marathon third round. in the fourth round, wasted by Maintaining a superb quality screaming at his coaching box. until the fi nal stages of the fourIf an example of how a coach hour, five minute encounter, can make a difference was Zverev lamented the cramp he needed, it potentially existed suffered after a 37-stroke rally in in Rafael Nadal’s newly-formed the fi ft h game of the deciding set. partnership with “I’m quite strong and MANAGING MARATHONS: Carlos Moya, who I feel quite well on Ivo Karlovic (below) is now working court, except that recovered superbly after alongside his one game where I an 84-game marathon, uncle, Toni Nadal. cramped,” said the while Alexander Zverev While the Spaniard No.24 seed. “It was (right) vowed to come back stronger after a repeatedly stressed very difficult.” five-set loss. it was too soon to Not so, difficult, see the fruits of though, that the that relationship, there were passionate Zverev couldn’t nevertheless signs of it’s success recognise the progress, or the – an improved serve, his pair stepping stone that his five-set of five-set victories and the marathon could provide for overall calm that existed as he future success. “ I love tennis. I progressed to a fi rst Grand Slam absolutely love the process. It’s fi nal since winning the 2014 exciting for me,” he said. “I think French Open. I can see how I’m getting better. “He knows very well my game, I can see how I’m getting better he knows what I need to do,” said in five sets. So you know, it’s Nadal of his countryman. “For me exciting. I think it's going to be an (it) is important to have people exciting year for me.” that I know well me around me. I have confidence with them. They have confidence with me. Most important thing is to have good human persons around you, and I have.”


There’s no bigger pressure point than match point – especially when the score is against you. But Mischa Zverev had the right approach as he took out No.19 seed John Isner before his breakthrough win over Andy Murray, albeit accidentally. The German saved a match point at 5-4 in the fourth set of their marathon second round but later admitted he didn’t realise that the situation was so critical. “I thought it was 4-3,” said Zverev after the 6-7(4) 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(7) 9-7 victory. Next time a coach tells you to play “one point at a time” you could do worse than remember Zverev’s example.

COME BACK STRONGER Few Next Gen members have made such rapid progress as Alexander Zverev. At AO2016, the then 18-year-old lost an unremarkable fi rst round to Andy Murray in three sets. A year later, he pushed 14-time


Marathons feature at every Australian Open but few are as hard fought as the one that Ivo Karlovic claimed in his 6-7(6) 3-6 7-5 6-2 22-20 win over Horacio Zeballos. The fi rst-round marathon began in 37 degree heat on the hottest day of the 2017 event, spanning five hours and 14 minutes before he advanced. Serving a tournament-record 75 aces – 38 in the 157-minute fi nal set alone – Karlovic’s comeback was epic, and exhausting. Naturally, it left him aching from his fi ngertips to his toes, but the more overwhelming feeling for the Croat was gratitude for earning the chance to claim such a memorable win. “This is (an) unbelievable life that I have,” said Karlovic, who at age 37 is the most senior man in the world’s top 100. “I really love travelling. I love winning. It’s an unbelievable life. I'm hoping that it will not end soon.” AUSTRALIAN TENNIS MAGAZINE



The many different qualities it takes to experience on-court success were on show in a memorable Australian summer …

Superstars APPRECIATION ROGER FEDERER After an injury-enforced six-month absence, just how much Roger Federer was missed was evident when more than 6000 fans packed Perth Arena to watch his first practice session of the summer at the Mastercard Hopman Cup. All ties he contested were sold out as record crowds flocked to the event in its 29th edition. That appreciation of the Swiss champion was also reflected when he made a welcome return to the Australian Open. It is support that does not go unnoticed: “(I) definitely I feel the love,” Federer says. The now 18-time Grand Slam champion’s own appreciation of the sport further endears him to his many fans. “You miss the feeling of winning, walking onto a stadium, seeing the guys. You know, it's like an extended family to some extent,” Federer says of his life on tour. AUSTRALIAN TENNIS MAGAZINE


Australian Tennis Magazine - February/March 2017  

The Greatest Ever – Special Collectors’ Edition

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