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Federer, Serena add to majors haul

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's no doubt who the top tennis players in the world are right now, as the great Roger Federer and Serena Williams just collected some more major hardware in Melbourne.

Federer added to his already-record men's total of Grand Slam singles championships by nailing down number 16, while Serena got past her arch-rival Justine Henin in order to secure major title number 12.

The incredible Federer has now played in a record 18 out of the last 19 men's major finals and appeared in a mind-boggling record 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals. The reigning Aussie, Wimbledon and French Open champ hasn't bowed out before the final four at a major since the 2004 French.

Wow!

Federer was somehow stunned by Juan Martin del Potro in five sets in last year's U.S. Open final, otherwise he'd be holdin' all four of the major championships.

Roger Federer owns four Aussie Open titles among his record 16 men's major championships.
Note: Federer has won at least one Grand Slam title in a record eight consecutive years and his 16 major titles in a span of 27 Grand Slam events is yet another record.

Pete Sampras (14 majors) continues to fade in Federer's rear-view mirror, while Serena still has a ton of work to do on the women's side if she's going to catch the likes of Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills Moody (19), Martina Navratilova (18) and/or Chris Evert (18).

The reigning Aussie Open and Wimbledon champion Serena's latest Grand Slam glory tied her with the legendary Billie Jean King for sixth best in terms of major victories. But if you take only the Open Era (since 1968) into consideration, Serena would be number four with her dozen majors, behind only Graf, Navratilova and Evert.

Impressive.

The Aussie Open singles runners-up were Andy Murray and the nifty Henin.

FYI: Three of the four singles finalists in Melbourne were either current (Federer and Serena) or former (Henin) world No. 1s. That's quality.

Murray appeared in his second career major final, but, unfortunately for him, they've both come against the greatest player in the history of the sport. The Dunblane, Scotland native also lost to Federer in the 2008 U.S. Open title bout.

The 22-year-old Murray failed in his attempt to give Great Britain its first men's Grand Slam champion since the great Fred Perry in 1936.

That's only 74 years.

Andy Murray couldn't give Britain its first male major champ in 74 years.
Seeded fifth in Melbourne, Murray is now up to No. 3 in the world, despite having never won a major title. As a matter of fact, he's the only member of the men's Top 5 without a Grand Slam championship.

Meanwhile, the remarkable Henin reached a major final in only her second tournament back after coming out of a more-than-a-year-and-a-half retirement. The former world No. 1 stud was denied an eighth major title by Serena, just three weeks after she also finished as a runner-up in Brisbane against U.S. Open champion and fellow Belgian star Kim Clijsters.

Barring an unusual circumstance, Henin will be the favorite on her best surface, at the French Open, in late-May/early-June. She's a four-time French Open champ and was the reigning Roland Garros titlist when she retired from the tour back in May of 2008.

Shifting gears.

Federer and Murray weren't the only men's stars in Melbourne.

Reigning champion, or should I say 2009 reigning champion, Rafael Nadal succumbed to Murray, and a bum knee, in the merry old land of Oz.

Nadal was trailing Murray by two sets and love-3 in the third when he retired from their quarterfinal showdown, citing a right knee injury. The former world No. 1 Spaniard is now down to No. 4; hasn't won a title of any kind since last May; and now doesn't own any of the major crowns. At this time a year ago, the powerful Nadal was the reigning Aussie, French Open, Wimbledon and Olympic champ.

What a difference a year makes.

The six-time Grand Slam champion Nadal was unable to defend his Wimbledon title last year because of his ongoing knee problems, and his latest setback will have him sidelined for at least a month.

Are Rafa's best days behind him?

Could be.

Serena Williams is a five-time Aussie Open champ and owns a dozen major singles titles overall.
The hottest men's player in the world, prior to the Aussie Open anyway, was Russian star Nikolay Davydenko. But he was cooled off by Federer in fours sets in the Oz quarters. Davydenko had won his last two matches against the supreme Swiss, but he's never beaten the Fed at a major, and last week was no different.

Davydenko had won his last two tournaments, as he stunned Federer, Nadal and the U.S. Open champion del Potro in order to title at last year's prestigious season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, and he toppled Federer and Nadal on his way to capturing an Aussie Open tune-up in Doha last month.

Former Aussie Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga soared all the way to the Down Under semis this time around, before giving way to, who else, Federer. Jo- Willy has played his best major tennis in Melbourne, where he finished as the surprise runner-up to Novak Djokovic two years ago.

Speaking of Djokovic, he was upended by Tsonga in an Aussie Open rematch in the quarters last week. And, as has happened so often in the recent past, Djokovic was affected by his nerves at a major, as he battled nausea for the better part of his setback against Tsonga, and actually left the court at Rod Laver Arena at one point in order to vomit.

Despite his disappointing loss, Djokovic is up to a career-best No. 2 in the world.

American hopeful Andy Roddick was unable to get past ever-improving Marin Cilic in the quarters, as the gutsy American exited the draw following a tough five-setter against the 6-foot-6 Croat, who was on the other side of the net while the Wimbledon runner-up Roddick was battling some right shoulder problems.

The rising Cilic would wind up being Murray's semifinal victim.

Back over on the women's side, China made some Grand Slam history, as the populous nation sent no less than two players into a major final four for the first time ever. Li Na, however, wound up falling against Serena, while diminutive Zheng Jie bowed out at the hands of Henin in the semis.

Justine Henin has reached a pair of finals since returning to the WTA Tour last month.
Women's tennis in China is certainly startin' to take off, with three of the top-51 players in the world (Li, Zheng and Peng Shuai) hailing from there, while the men in China...well...not so much. The highest-ranked Chinese male is Shao-Xuan Zeng...at No. 367.

Ouch.

Although you gotta give 'em table tennis.

World No. 2 and 2009 Melbourne runner-up Dinara Safina is having some big-time back problems right now and she was forced to retire from her fourth-round match during the first set against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, who also knocked out compatriot and fellow glamour girl Maria Sharapova in the first round.

The struggling Sharapova, a former world No. 1 and three-time major champion, has been unable to regain her once-dominant form since returning to the tour last year following some right shoulder surgery.

Sharapova was the Aussie Open champ just two years ago.

Meanwhile, Serena's big sister Venus, last year's Wimbledon runner-up to her younger sibling, was knocked out by Li in the quarters, while another former top-ranked star, Clijsters, may have had the most disappointing loss of all in Melbourne. Clijsters, who was clearly one of the favorites in Melbourne, was basically a no-show for her third-round match against inconsistent Russian Nadia Petrova, as the popular Belgian star suffered her worst-ever loss on the WTA Tour, a comprehensive 6-0, 6-1 beatdown.

Clijsters headed to Melbourne having beaten her long-time rival Henin in the Brisbane final and was last year's U.S. Open champ after coming out of retirement and winning a major title in only her third tournament back.

With the continued brilliance of Serena; the return of the Belgians, Henin and Clijsters; and the likes of rising stars Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in the fold, it would appear as though women's tennis is back!!! The men's game is obviously solid, and will continue to be just that, spearheaded by Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. Murray, del Potro, Roddick, Tsonga, etc.

If Henin is the likely women's favorite at the French, who will get the nod for the men there? Will it be the high-flying Federer, or will it be Nadal if he can get those knees healthy in time?

One thing I do know is that there will be plenty of tennis between now and then, and plenty of time to decide who the favorites will be.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Riley


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