At the Net: Faves failed in Oz

11:25 AM, Jan 21, 2014   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA ( - It turns out my picks to capture Aussie Open titles both failed Down Under.

Heading into the 2014 Aussie Open, it appeared to me Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams would probably secure titles No. 5 and 6, respectively, at Melbourne Park.

But no one told Stan Wawrinka and Ana Ivanovic.

The first of the big upsets came on Day 7 of the fortnight, when the 14th- seeded former world No. 1 Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champ and '08 Aussie runner-up, came from behind to stun the current top-ranked star Serena, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Then lightning struck again on Day 9, when an eighth-seeded Wawrinka outlasted the second-seeded former No. 1 Djokovic in a five-set thriller, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7, in four hours at Laver Arena.

The amazing Djokovic had won the previous three Aussie Opens and was seeking a fifth title there in seven years.

No man has won four straight Australian Open championships in the Open Era.

Serena, on the other hand, already boasts a women's-Open-Era-record five Aussie titles, but, surprisingly now, none since 2010. That'll be a five-year dry spell come next January.

Heck, Djokovic and Serena are a combined 9-0 in their Aussie Open finals ... so I'm not sure anybody saw these early exits coming.

Djokovic had won his last 28 matches overall after losing to Rafael Nadal in last year's U.S. Open finale, while Serena was riding an almost-as-torrid 25- match winning streak of her own, dating back to last season. She opened her latest campaign with a title in Brisbane, Australia, a few weeks ago during the second-longest winning streak of her career.

The 26-year-old Djokovic had been 15-2 lifetime against Wawrinka, including a seemingly unstoppable 14-match win streak dating back to 2006. But maybe it was only a matter of time, considering Djokovic was forced to outlast the Swiss in a five-set epic in the fourth round in Melbourne a year ago and also barely topped the Swiss in a brilliant five-set U.S. Open semi in September.

Note: Wawrinka had been 2-28 lifetime against top-two players, including 0-6 at the Slams.

The six-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic had won his last 25 matches at the Aussie, and the super Serb also had appeared in 14 straight major semifinals before this week, the second-longest such streak in history behind only Roger Federer's ridiculous 23 in a row.

The Djoker's loss in Melbourne marked his first anywhere since falling to Rafael Nadal in September's U.S. Open final. He'd also won his last 13 matches overall against fellow top-10 players.

And (just for the record), the U.S. Open and Wimbledon runner-up Djokovic was making his debut with new coach Boris Becker in Melbourne.


Note: The "Big Four" of Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Federer have combined to win 34 of the last 35 Grand Slam events, and at the time of this column, three of the four men were still alive in Oz.

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Serena's quest for an 18th Grand Slam singles title will have to wait until the French Open in May/June.

The reigning U.S. and French Open titlist was 4-0 lifetime against Ivanovic before bowing out on Sunday. As a matter of fact, Ivanovic had never taken a set off the American stalwart, who'd won 51 of her last 52 matches in Melbourne (where she claimed a back injury slowed her on Day 7) and was a remarkable 78-4 overall in 2013.

Note: Only three players -- all women-- have won 18 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era -- Steffi Graf (22), Chris Evert (18) and Martina Navratilova (18).

On a side note, the big men's doubles faves, the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, were stunning third-round losers Monday in Oz, marking their earliest exit there in 11 years.

The 35-year-old twins were the reigning Aussie Open champs and are six-time winners in the 'Bourne.

Not a good Aussie for the faves.

The Sports Network

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