New York: It took mere seconds after the final point of Roger Federer’s loss in the Australian Open semifinals Thursday for the idea to grab hold that an era had ended. No, Federer didn’t announce his retirement after the match, but his defeat, coming only a day after Rafael Nadal was bounced from the tournament, seemed ominous. After all, having Federer or Nadal in a Grand Slam final was always so dependable. They were like the furniture. It’s never normal when you wake up to find your couch missing.
But that’s what the past two days have wrought, inviting the instant analysis that the balance of power in tennis is shifting, as Ravi Ubha argues on ESPN.com. Sure, there are easy ways to poke holes in this. An injury led to Nadal’s loss to David Ferrer and it’s not like Novak Djokovic is some up-and-comer who knocked Federer off his perch; he has been whacking away at him for years. Still, it didn’t keep Courtney Walsh of The Australian from proclaiming the dynasty is over, no matter how snippily Federer reacted to that idea.
On the women’s side, the revelation was not that No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki could lose — she is No. 1 without ever having won anything major — but that China’s Li Na could ascend to the final while charming everyone in Melbourne with a hilarious postmatch interview in which she blamed her snoring husband for her lack of sleep, among other humorous anecdotes. That spawned the idea that Li could be the crossover star in tennis that Yao Ming was in basketball, but Greg Couch writes on Fanhouse.com that he doesn’t believe she can capture enough attention in the United States. She will get attention in China, however, where tennis was once so obscure Li had to explain the sport to her mother when she decided to play it.