S. Williams, Federer Dominate Australian Tennis
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Roger Federer surprised almost no one in tennis over the weekend, while Serena Williams surprised almost everyone. Each won Australian Open singles titles in Melbourne.
Commentator John Feinstein joins us now. John, good morning.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Let's start with Serena Williams. What makes her a surprise winner of the Australian Open?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the fact that she's been missing in action for most of the last two years. This is her eighth major title but her first since she won the Australian two years ago, and she's played very little in that time.
And when she has played, she hasn't played very well. She's been injured. She's been off doing TV specials. She's just been interested in a lot of things other than tennis, but she came back this past week. She was very determined.
She fought off points where she could have lost in the quarterfinals and then dominated Maria Sharapova in the final, looked like the Serena Williams who was the dominant player in tennis a few years back.
INSKEEP: I wonder if she won seven majors, figured that was enough and just didn't have the moderation for a little while, and now here she is back again.
FEINSTEIN: Oh, I think that was a factor. I also think the death of her half sister, Yetunde, three years ago, affected both she and Venus Williams, who, as you know, has won five majors also. Both of them were clearly distracted by that, and now they seem to have moved past it.
Serena did dedicate her victory to Yetunde in the award ceremony. But it will be very fascinating to see now if her victory motivates Venus to come back, and maybe they'll have that rivalry they had a few years ago again.
INSKEEP: Great way to start the year.
FEINSTEIN: Certainly for women's tennis, which has been sort of searching for stars because so many players have been injured and away from a game in the last couple of years. It is a good way to start the year. You're right.
INSKEEP: Now, saying that Roger Federer won. I mean, you could just kind of phone that in. We could play the tape from the last time you and I talked.
FEINSTEIN: Right. The sun rose in the East, and Roger Federer won. That's exactly the way men's tennis is right now. He's won six of the last seven majors, 10 in all, which leaves him four short of Pete Sampras' all-time record. And he won this tournament, Steve, without losing a set.
And just to let you know how hard that is to do that, the last player to do that on the men's side, where you have to win 21 sets, was Bjorn Borg at the French Open in 1980.
INSKEEP: Twenty-one sets without losing a single set?
INSKEEP: They must be about like birdying every hole in a round of golf.
FEINSTEIN: It's pretty close, and again he faced one set point yesterday in the final against Fernando Gonzalez, but that's about as close as he came to losing a set in the entire two weeks.
INSKEEP: Well, since we mention Golf. How's Tiger Woods been doing?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, fairly well. He won his seventh straight PGA Tour event yesterday, coming from behind the way he frequently does on the last day. He's got to be the most indomitable competitor in sports, not just golf right now.
He's four short of Byron Nelson's all-time record of 11 PGA Tour wins now, which is considered one of those records like Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hit streak that nobody would ever break. But he's only four away. No one else has ever won more than six in a row. Tiger just won his seventh.
INSKEEP: Now, we should mention these are not major tournaments; how's the competition then?
FEINSTEIN: Well, he won - of the seven, two more majors.
INSKEEP: Oh, you're going back to then OK. Right.
FEINSTEIN: Yes. This goes back the last year. And also just to be clear, Steve, he did play a couple tournaments overseas that he didn't win. So it's not as pure a streak as Byron Nelson's 11-straight, where he won 11-straight times that he teed it up. But still, it's incredible to win seven straight times on a PGA Tour.
INSKEEP: And is anybody close to competing with him as people prepare for the major play this year?
FEINSTEIN: Not right now. Right, Phil Mickelson is in a slump. He was playing very well last year before he blew the U.S. Open. Right now, it's Tiger and then the rest of the world laps behind him in the sport of Golf.
INSKEEP: John, thanks.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Commentary of John Feinstein.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.