The start of the 2006 Grand Slam season brought with it everything that makes for a great tennis sensation. New heroes such as the young and wonderfully refreshing surprise finalist Marco Baghdatis from Cyprus, positive surprises from German-speaking tennis players, e.g. revitalized Nicolas Kiefer, Thommy Haas as well as Dennis Gremmelmeyer, tragic fates such as that of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, the HEAT POLICY (combination of wind, heat and humidity which results in halting play on a tournament day when the levels exceed a certain limit) which was enforced four times, and much more.
Winners of the tournament were Roger Federer with his seventh Grand Slam tournament win and Amelie Mauresmo, who succeeding in capturing one of the big four titles for the first time.
On her way to winning the event, the Frenchwoman benefited from the fact that, strangely enough, three of her opponents were forced to retire – something that had never happened before in Grand Slam history. In the third round Michaella Krajicek, stepsister of the former Wimbledon champion, suffered heatstroke at the beginning of the second round. In the semifinals Kim Clijsters twisted her ankle and hurt it so badly that she had to retire in the third set when the score was 2-3 and will probably have to take a break from the game for 2 months. Much to the disappointment of the over 15,000 spectators in Rod Laver Arena Justin Henin-Hardenne also had to stop play in the finals with a score of 1-6, 0-2. The night before the match she had complained about bad stomach pains and, under these circumstances, was never real competition for Amelie Mauresmo. Nevertheless, the player from France was a worthy winner. Since her win at the Masters at the end of the pre-season she has gained, above all, mental strength. As a reward for her hard work, a bottle of red wine, vintage 1937, is waiting for her at her home in Geneva.
Several of the seeded female players lost early on in the tournament. For example, Venus Williams was upset already in the first round by the relatively unknown Bulgarian Tszvetana Pironka. Her sister Serena lost to Daniela Hantuchova from Slovakia after two shoo-in wins. And much-praised Mary Pierce lost her second match against Benesova from the Czech Republic. A great surprise was Julia Schruff’s two-set win against the 9th seeded Russian Elena Dementieva. Other than that, the German ladies weren’t too successful at the first big tournament of the tennis season. No one – not even Julia Schruff – made it past the second round … a sobering fact. Only Anna Lena Gröneveld enjoyed succès d’estime by reaching the semifinals of the women’s doubles with her training partner Shaugnessy.
And then there was the glorious comeback of Martina Hingis after a three-year absence. After a quarterfinal upset by Clijsters after three sets, the 25-year-old “Miss Swiss” captured the mixed doubles title with her Indian partner Bhupahti.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, who slowly seems to be returning to her normal level of play, lost 2-6, 4-6 in the round before the quarterfinals to no. 1 ranked Lindsay Davenport, who, in turn, was upset by Henin-Hardenne, thus losing her leading position in the world ranking to Kim Clijsters.
As always, Patty Schnyder proved consistent DOWN UNDER. The player from Switzerland, who is always cheered on by her own fan club in Australia, reached the round before the quarterfinals with ease. Afterwards, her winning streak was halted in two straight sets against the later tournament winner Mauresmo. Patty simply couldn’t get into the game but was satisfied with the tournament overall as she had at least confirmed the good results from the year before.
As for the MEN, the tournament once again would have become a one-man show by Roger Federer if it weren’t for 20-year-old Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus. Thanks to his wins against Top 10 players such as Roddick, Ljubicic and Nalbandian he provided for a new MARCOMANIA worldwide. In his home country schools were closed during his matches, people danced on the streets for days, a huge fan club (including 9 uncles and 21 cousins) cheered him on in between rallies in a refreshingly cult-like and untiringly loud yet fair manner, Baghdati-souvlaki was on the menu of many Greek restaurants … in short, it was his tournament.
If it weren’t for this unbelievable Roger Federer once again! The 24-year-old #1 player in the world did not prove to be unbeatable in the absence of injured Raphael Nadal, title holder Marat Safin and US Open finalist Andre Agassi, but once again he couldn’t be beat. In his four-set wins against Baghdatis in the finals (5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2), Kiefer and Davydenko as well as in the round before the quarterfinals during his five-set thriller against Thommy Haas he proved to be incredibly strong, particularly with regard to the BIG POINTS. During the awards ceremony the outwardly relaxed Federer showed emotions for the first time when he began to cry during his speech – mainly because his big role model Rod Laver handed him the trophy. Consequently, there was nothing new at the top – but that’s not true on the other levels. In time before the Davis Cup it seems there’s a lot going on
Particularly among the Germans.the qualifier Dennis Gremmelmeyer who first lost in the third round to sensation-maker Baghdatis. After a four-set win against Jonas Björkmann from Sweden his big performance came in the second round. He lost the first two sets to 13th-seeded US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri. Then the left-handed player fought his way back with verve and won the biggest match of his career with 6-3 in the fifth set.
The performances of Nicolas Kiefer and Thommy Haas were even better. With Hogstedt, the former coach of Kiefer, Haas seems to have been able to recapture the good old days. In the round before the quarterfinals he played a great match against Federer – after defeating Gasquet, Goldstein and Luczak. He was the only one to win two sets against the Swiss player; however, in the end he was unable to stop him and was defeated by a score of 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 and 2-6. In the semifinals Nicolas Kiefer, who had reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time in his long career, tried to take it one step further. However Kiefer, who had spent a lot of energy over the course of the tournament playing against Srichaphan (after being down 0-2 in the set), Pashanski, Ferrero, Chela and Grosjean and who was also handicapped by an ankle injury at the beginning of the tournament, also wasn’t able to pose a serious threat to Federer, losing 3-6, 7-5, 0-6, 2-6.
Nevertheless, the tournament was deemed satisfactory from the German point of view despite several first-round upsets including those by Thomas Behrend (against Feliciano Lopez from Spain) and Rainer Schüttler (against his friend Lars Burgsmüller) and “Flo” Mayer’s second-round loss to Roger Federer.
And finally another great piece of news: A HEAD victory was celebrated at the Australian Open as well. Surprisingly, unseeded Alexandre Sidorenko from France captured the junior title. Congratulations!
Bring on the FRENCH OPEN!