What more can you say about Serena Williams except that, when she’s dialed in, she’s obviously the best women’s player by far…and on the short list for the best women’s player ever.

Her 6-3, 7-5(5) victory in the Australian Open final over Maria Sharapova was just another example of her superiority. Sharapova played to the max in the second set and yet Williams was still able to pull out the match on a day when she was not in the best of health.

That final ace to end the match was Serena at her boldest – she misses an ace on her first serve because it’s a let and then comes back and hits the very same shot to wrap a bow on the final.

There was some question about how she would have held up in the third set because of her coughing and nausea, but the serve saw her through.

There’s one thing that’s undeniable, that uber-efficient service motion is better than any that has ever been seen in women’s tennis.

So, Williams now passes Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and has 19 Grand Slam titles. That ties her with 1920s and 1930s immortal Helen Wills – whose name brings up one of my pet peeves. She was Helen Wills Moody because of her husband Frederick Moody during many of those Grand Slams, but they divorced and she later married a man named Aidan Roark.

So, I’m sure she would not like being referred to as Helen Wills Moody. Just like Chris Evert is not Chris Evert Lloyd (name of her first husband) – the same should go with Wills – Helen Wills short and sweet.

Now, Williams has a chance to catch Steffi Graf at 22 and possibly Margaret Court at 24.

It is revealing to note that she credits her recent success – winning the ’14 US Open and ’15 Australian Open to relaxing and going with the flow. After surprise losses to Garbine Muguruza at Roland Garros and Alizé Cornet at Wimbledon last year, she realized she was putting too much pressure on herself.

It just goes to show that good forehands and backhands are important, but if the mind is not in the right place, they assume a secondary role.

Can Williams win the Grand Slam this year? It says here that she cannot – but if she’s able to win her third career French Open in June, the answer to that question becomes a lot less sure.


Novak Djokovic is almost becoming the Roland Garros “Rafa” of the Australian Open. He still has a way to go to win nine of 10 French Opens like Nadal, but four of the last five (and five overall) at Melbourne Park is pretty impressive.

Djokovic had a fairly smooth ride through to the semifinals – including a quarter-final win over Milos Raonic that was close until the end of the first-set tiebreak.

The semifinal was very tricky, and very patchy as both he and Stan Wawrinka played with alarmingly uncharacteristic inconsistency. Looking back, it looks like it can be chalked up to their recent Grand Slam history – five-set matches at the Australian Open in 2013, the US Open in 2013 and the Australian Open in 2014, with the last one finishing 9-7 in the fifth for the Swiss.

Djokovic pulled out the five-setter this time – but both players were really not themselves. Djokovic hits zero winners and 14 unforced errors in the fourth set followed by “Stan The Man” getting bagelled in the fifth.

In the 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-0 final against Andy Murray, the Scot probably missed his best chance when he had the point all set up but just missed a backhand volley long to take a 6-5 lead in the first set tiebreak. If he makes that shot – and then wins the first set – Djokovic would not have been able to play so freely the rest of the way.

Murray claims he was put off by Djokovic’s wobbling a few times early in the third set when it was one-set apiece and Murray was ahead 2-0. But he should not have been thinking Djokovic was out of it – as Lleyton Hewitt noted during Channel 7’s coverage of the final, Djokovic has been through ‘wobbles’ like that before and he knows how to handle them.

The sad part of the match was Murray losing the final set 6-0. It served to underline that Djokovic is just plain a better player – and past results clearly show that. It is unlikely the Serb would have lost a final set 6-0 in a similar situation.

Djokovic joins Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi as an eight-time champion in the Open Era (since 1968). Pete Sampras and Nadal at 14 may be beyond his reach as he approaches his 28th birthday in May – but the great Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg at 11 are definitely within striking range for the wiry, athletic and fun-loving Serb.


It was quite amusing to hear a TV commentator before the mixed doubles final remark about Kristina Mladenovic, 21, “it’s like she’s crashing a legends” match.

Mladenovic was on the court with her partner, Daniel Nestor, 42, playing against Martina Hingis, 34, and Leander Paes, 41.

Often Mladenovic is the dominant player on the mixed doubles court, male or female, but she did not have a good day in the Nestor – Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3 loss to Hingis and Paes. She missed a lot of service returns and just generally was not able to assert her power the way she usually does.

But Nestor was not nearly at his best either. With the score at 4-5 in the first set and him serving at 30-15 to Hingis, he double-faulted long. Then, after a missed backhand volley long made it 30-40 (set point), Nestor proceeded to hit another double fault to Hingis.

One double fault by the man to the woman is a no-no – two in a row is almost unthinkable.

It was a good run for Nestor and Mladenovic and a popular win in Rod Laver Arena because Hingis was playing on the 20th anniversary of her first Australian Open (as a junior).

Fed  Cup disappointment


It was a big blow to the Canadian Fed Cup team when it was announced on Monday that Genie Bouchard will not be on the team as it makes its first appearance in the eight-nation Group I of the competition against Czech Republic beginning on Saturday (TV on Sportsnet One) in Quebec City.

It is understandable that top players from time to time do not play for their country in Fed Cup or Davis Cup. The two best Czech players – Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova – are skipping this weekend even though they led their nation to its third Fed Cup title in four years last November.

Many top players, starting with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have been selective about when they play.

Bouchard helped Canada defeat the Serbs and the Slovaks last February and April to reach the top group. But there was a cost, particularly after the win in February in Montreal. She went directly to Doha and lost first round to No. 42-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and then went on to Dubai where she lost in the third round of qualifying to No. 50 Annika Beck. That may even have carried over to Acapulco a few weeks later when she was beaten by No. 89 Caroline Garcia.

But what was disappointing was Bouchard’s reaction when asked if she would play Fed Cup after her loss to Maria Sharapova last week at the Australian Open.

With a complicit smile on her face, she turned toward her agent, Jill Smoller (also Serena Williams’ agent) and answered in a glib manner (transcript below).

Q. You’ll be going back to somewhere cold and dark: Canada. Are you looking forward to Fed Cup?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well, I don’t know if I’m playing or not. Am I playing, Jill? Well, I’m going to go visit the family, that’s for sure. Take some time off, rest the body a bit.

Q. Why would you not play?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: That’s something I was going to decide after the tournament. You know, my tournament ended like half an hour ago, so I’m still going to talk to my team and make the best decision.

So Bouchard will not be available. It’s too bad, but it would have been made more acceptable if she had genuinely expressed some regret and/or offered a more complete explanation.

The Federer loss


Roger Federer fans will be disappointed by his 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(5) loss to Andreas Seppi in the third round of the Australian Open.

It struck this observer that the difference between winning and losing can be so small.

At 5-all in the fourth-set tiebreak – Federer lost a Hawk-Eye challenge by the smallest of margins. Then at 6-5 for Seppi – match point – Federer hit a very good approach shot and Seppi replied with a brilliant running down-the-line passing shot that landed in – and that Federer might have been able to hit.

It was ironic that a key shot – Andy Roddick was up a set and 6-2 in the second-set tiebreak – in the 2009 Wimbledon final went the other way. Federer desperately hit that forehand down-the-line shot and Roddick – of two minds about whether to hit it – did and missed a backhand volley wide. Federer came back, won the tiebreak and the match 16-14 in the fifth set for his record 15th Grand Slam title with the likes of Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras watching.

About that small difference between winning and losing – here’s what Daniel Nestor had to say after he and partner Rohan Bopanna were beaten in the second round of the Australian Open – looking back to their title the previous week in Sydney.

“It’s just like any other tournament – things go your way and things go against you – you know we fought through some tough matches in Sydney and by the end we were playing well – every match is the same, it comes down to a couple of points, if we had got ahead early, maybe it would have been a different match. In Sydney we were getting ahead early, and here we didn’t. It’s a typical doubles match. ”

A tennis chuckle

These were three fun questions in a recent issue of Melbourne’s THE BIG ISSUE magazine quiz (answers below).

1.     Which of the following players is not the name of a real tennis player?

a.      Margaret Court

b.     Anna Smashnova

c.     Dan Lobb

d.     Katrina Nett

2.     Which of the following tennis players is not an Australian?

a.      Jarmila Gajdosova

b.     Anastasia Rodionova

c.     Olivia Rogowska

d.     Sheila Summers

3.     Which of the following is NOT a nickname of a real tennis player?

a.      Fraulein Forehand

b.     Barcelona Bubblebee

c.     Tomic the Tank Engine

d.     Gorgeous Gussie

ANSWERS:  1. d / 2. d / 3 – they have all been nicknames.

Post card from Sydney


This was the scene on a recent Sunday morning on a downtown street in Sydney.

Best post card


Koalas apparently spend about 22 hours a day sleeping – and when they’re not, they have big decisions to make.