It is the midway point of the tournament, which begs one question: what have we learned from the first week of Australian Open 2013?
For a start, those who came in as favourites at the beginning of the competition have only reinforced their credentials in the opening rounds. Messrs Djokovic, Federer and Murray are gently moving through the gears in preparation for the latter stages, while the Misses Williams (S) and Sharapova are looking mighty impressive.
When the draw was first made – and that seems like a very long time ago – there was a sharp intake of breath when two key matches were lined up for the third round: Roger Federer against Bernard Tomic, and Maria Sharapova against Venus Williams. That looked very tasty, and while both of them satisfied the appetite, they did so in very different ways.
The resurgence of Tomic in the opening weeks of this season has cheered the souls of Australia’s tennis-watching public. His talent with a racquet and ball is plain to see but, as yet, he is still learning the business of being a top professional player. He is not alone in that and, aged just 20, he has plenty of time to learn. That said, he has clearly worked his socks off in the off-season and he took on the mighty Fed with the belief and the confidence that he could win. He took the fight to Fed – and not many youngsters have dared to do that over the years. And the Swiss was impressed.
“He has improved,” the Great One said bluntly. “Obviously he played me so different that it's hard to judge because I've never seen him play offensive tennis against me in the past. So now it's just a matter for him to keep it up. That's the proof he's the much improved player.
“But it's only over time that you're going to see. He's had a great run now. I hope he knows what he needs to do the next few months, weeks, and years ahead. Isn't always a two-month tour. You know, we play 10, 11 months of the year, it's bring it every single day. He seemed like a very good player today to me. So you would definitely expect him to rise in the rankings, get better draws as we go forward, plays more consistent, gets more confident. That's how you make your move, really.”
Ah, Fed made it all sound so simple but, then again, he has won 17 major championships so he does know what he is talking about. When Tomic piled on the pressure, Federer simply pulled another stunning winner out of his kitbag and left the crowd and Tomic speechless. There is no legislating for that, so neither Tomic nor Australia should feel too disappointed about the defeat.
Venus Williams ought not to be too disheartened by her walloping at the hands of Sharapova either, but as a former serial grand slam winner, her standards are higher than most. The match was relatively brief even though Venus made more of a fight of it in the second set, but, even so, she took a pasting.
Still trying to reclaim some of her former glories on the singles court after her diagnosis with Sjorgens Syndrome, she is trying to take the positives out of every result, good or bad.
“Every day that I practice is a day that I'm motivated to be better,” she said. “Regardless of my results I want to be better, the best, the best that I can bring.”
And the best that she brought to Melbourne was some of the best we had seen for quite a while. A third round loss at a major championship may hurt at the moment, but her start to the season bodes well for the future.
As for Sharapova, she let out a howl of delight as if she had won the title when the last point was done. She knew she was playing well and she knew she had just negotiated a major hurdle with the greatest of ease. As the second week beckons, Shazza knows she is in the perfect position to make a charge for the trophy.