So much about the Australian Open suggests a year of intrigue and fresh storylines, but there is disturbing familiarity to the biggest story:
Nadal came to Australia without a tournament victory in eight months, along with a 1-9 record in recent matches against Top 10 players. Last year he was brought down by significant knee and abdominal injuries; now it's the right knee again, forcing him to retire in the third set of his Tuesday quarterfinal against Andy Murray, who was leading 6-3, 7-6 (2), 3-0.
For those looking forward to the semifinals, the overriding theme will be Murray's quickness, creativity and anticipation, each at a noticeably higher level in the wake of his rigid training regimen. This was the biggest match of his career, and he did not disappoint. "I'll be shocked if Murray doesn't win a Grand Slam tournament soon, and I'll be very surprised if he doesn't get three or four," former tour great
As for Nadal's mood going in, the Spaniard had admitted, "This match can change a lot the situation for me." It certainly does, although in truth, it reinforces an existing pattern. Nadal has been punishing his body for years, revealing himself as one of the most relentless competitors in the sport's history, but now comes the payback: physical breakdown. Never quite comfortable with the English language, Nadal tends to talk the way he plays: hurriedly and self-contained. He'll speak of coming back strong, and he'll work as hard as possible to get there. His opponent will be the forces of doubt.
During the break between the first and second sets of his Tuesday quarterfinal against
"He has just gone away,"
We'll see in the coming weeks if Roddick's shoulder issued him a warning or whether it's a temporary malaise. Considering Nadal's plight, a back injury that removed former world No. 1
• If you've stayed with the television coverage from Melbourne, you're likely predicting a
Serena looked decidedly sluggish and overweight at the outset of recent Australian Opens, but arrived trim and prepared this time, an absolute force from the beginning. She's not just serving better than anyone in the tournament; I wonder if any woman in history ever served with Serena's combination of power and accuracy when she's really on form. She has an equipment edge over past greats, no question, but watching Serena's serve recalls the sight of
Several experts discounted Henin's title chances after her leg ailment became such an issue over the first two rounds, but she looked pretty spry in her straight-set victory over
"She's just such a good player and fighter," Serena said of Henin. "I think she brings a totally different theme to the game."
Stirring moment from the first set of Henin's fourth-rounder: With
• Not that it really made a dent on a bleak landscape for American men's tennis, but
An equally upsetting episode, in its own way, for Young: During his first-round match against