Australian Open 2017
by MAC

I wasn't expecting Rafa to do much in this tournament. Anything would be better than last year. I won't pretend I'm not disappointed that he didn't lift the trophy (I'm comfort eating chocolate brownies with fudge icing as I write this) but I am thrilled and ridiculously proud that he did as well as he did.

I was quietly confident that he could take out Florian Mayer but worried that my confidence would be misplaced. It wasn't, of course, and he won, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. So already it was better than 2016.

I wasn't relishing his second round encounter with Marcos Baghdatis since their last match had been too close for comfort. Again, though, it wasn't a problem and he won, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

But that was the last of the "easy" matches. The draw had not been kind to Rafa (when it is ever?) and there were some really tough opponents looming in his quarter of the draw.

The first of these was Alexander Zverev who is widely expected to be a future number one. The match was nail bitingly (is that a word?) tough and it took five sets for Rafa to prevail, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2.

So far, so good. He was into week two and Novak Djokovic had been removed from his half. A lot of tennis to go before he could potentially capitalise on that, though.

It was Gael Monfils next. You never know what you're going to get with him. He's extremely talented but possibly lacking the killer instinct. Their last encounter (in the final in Monte Carlo last year) was tough and he'd been playing well before being sidelined by injury at the end of last year. It was tough here, too, but Rafa wasn't going to be stopped at this point. He won, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

I was hoping someone would take out Milos Raonic before Rafa had to face him since he'd beaten Rafa in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago. I'm glad no-one did, though, because it must have done Rafa's confidence a world of good to beat him in straight sets here, 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4.
Yes, I was relieved it wasn't Novak Djokovic across the net in his semi final. Not that Grigor Dimitrov would ever be an easy opponent. He, also, had beaten Rafa in their most recent encounter (in Beijing at the end of 2016). It took 5 gruelling hours for Rafa to tough out the win, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4.

And so, beyond my wildest dreams at the start of the tournament, Rafa was in the final. It was a shame that he was up against a rejuvenated (and better rested) Roger Federer. Had he had the extra day to get over his semi final, too, it might have been a different ending. As it was he lost, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 3-6.

As always, Rafa's words in his press conference are balm to my soul.

On today's result :-

" At the end of the day is another title. There is a winner, there is a loser. In these kind of matches, anyone can win. Being honest, in these kind of matches, I won a lot of times against him. Today he beat me. Just congratulate him. Is not more than another important title for him, another important two weeks for me. Even if didn't finish the way that I wanted, have been an important two weeks for me.

" The only thing that I can do is congratulate him and go back home with very positive feelings for me. "

On the future :-

"I feel happy. I played a great quality of tennis during the whole month that I have been playing. That's a great news for me.

"The only goal for me is keep going. I believe that if I have my body in the right conditions, I can have a great year because I feel that I am playing well.

"I cannot predict what's going on in the future. That's always the same thing. I just think that I am playing well. I just think that I worked hard to be where I am. I believe that playing like this, good things can happen. Can happen here in this surface, but especially can happen on clay.

"If I am able to play like this, to hold matches like I hold the other day, and recover well as I recovered, but on clay I recovered better than here, then the opponents don't get that many free points, and I am playing from the solid baseline.

"If I made that happen, I think I can keep having success in hard courts, but on clay can be special.

"This year I won important match against Zverev in the third round. That's important. I won great matches against great players. I competed well against everybody. That's the most important thing for me. That makes me feel happy.

"Of course, winning an event like this is so important. For me, if I won that one, will be amazing. But the real thing is what makes me more happy, more than the titles, is go on the court and feel that I can enjoy the sport.

"At this moment in my career, more than titles, for sure if I am playing here, I believe that I going to win titles. More than all these kind of things is being health[y] enough to work the way I need to work, to fight for the things I want to fight. I'm going to keep trying to do and to work the same way.

"I am with big personal satisfaction. I cannot say that I am sad. I wanted to win, yes, but I am not very sad. I did all the things that I could. I worked a lot during all these months. I keep working, and I competed well.

" I enjoyed the competition. I won against the best players of the world, and I competed well against everybody. That's the most important thing for me, and that give me confidence to keep playing, and that's what I going to try."


Enhorabuena, Rafa