Defying the laws of nature

Harry Gosling gives his assessment of the 2016 Australian Open

Anyone who has played tennis enough times knows that the game is about more than fitness, tactics, or raw physical talent. Tennis is, as much as anything, a mental game. There are days when I feel like I could take on the world as I whip another forehand screamer into the corner of the court. Yet at other times, I seem unable to do anything other than loop the ball hopelessly over the net in a vague attempt to keep it in play.

Confidence is the key in tennis, but it is a simple human fact that confidence, particularly in high-pressure situations, is highly variable.

Yet Novak Djokovic, victorious in Sunday’s Australian Open final against Andy Murray, seems to defy the laws of nature. He remains unaffected by pressure, maintaining a level of consistency rarely seen before in tennis. His power at the baseline, and deftness of touch at the net, appear unshakeable. This was Djokovic’s fourth victory over Murray in the final of the Australian Open, and it was quite possibly the most straightforward yet, with a straight sets, 6-1 7-5 7-6 win.

Djokovic, it must be admitted, is not the only man in tennis to have defied the laws of nature in recent years. Roger Federer, at the age of 34, is still playing with the same panache as he did in his younger years, sweat rarely threatening his pristine features. Nature may well have finally caught up with him though, as he left the Australian Open with what looks to be a serious knee injury.

Whilst the men’s draw saw no upset, the women’s draw pitted Serena Williams against Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final. Williams has been an almost unstoppable force in women’s tennis for years now, collecting 21 grand slams. An extraordinary performance from Kerber and some inconsistent play from Williams, however, was enough to see the German triumph in three sets, 6-4 3-6 6-4. The following statement, Williams reaches Grand Slam final, Williams wins Grand Slam, has become almost tautological over the past couple of years. It’s rare for her to lose a Grand Slam final; she has won her last eight and has lost only four out of 25 over the course of her career. On this occasion, however, Kerber was able to overcome the force of nature that is Serena Williams

Related  A pick of Oxford's best running routes

Away from the singles, Jamie Murray became the first Briton to win the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open for 82 years. Murray and his partner, Bruno Soares, beat Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a scintillating encounter.