Both male and female world number ones successfully defended their titles and top rankings at the Australian Open in January. RT talked with Russia's first female Grand Slam winner, 2004 Roland Garros champion Anastasia Myskina, to help explain why.
The men's event saw all four top seeds reach the semi-finals before world number one Novak Djokovic claimed an Open era record of three Australian Open titles in a row and four in the 25-year-old's glittering career.
“Djokovic likes to play in Australia. He feels comfortable in every respect.Besides, he didn't face Roger Federer, and this might have made a difference. I think Roger is currently the only one who can beat Novak. He knows him very well and his mental game is stronger. Then, in the final against Andy Murray, Djokovic was fitter, he moved better, he was faster,” Myskina said.
Victoria Azarenka's triumph was the second straight time the Belorussian had won at Melbourne Park and her second Grand Slam title since turning pro in 2003.
“Azarenka knew she needed to win the Australian Open to remain world number one. And that's what she was really bothered about. She wanted to prove she deserved top spot in the rankings. So she gave her all in Melbourne. I think she produced one of her best ever performances,” believes Myskina.
According to Anastasia Myskina, one of Russia's most tactically adept players, the key to Azarenka's success is simple – the intelligent use of her own strength.
“Azarenka is powerful and very patient. She knows the best moment to turn her power on. She plays wide using different angles, all the space of the court. That's what gives her an edge,” Myskina explains.
It was the USA's Sloane Stephens, who produced the biggest shock of the tournament. The 19-year old stunned compatriot Serena Williams in the quarter-finals, and was only stopped by the eventual champion in the last four.
“Stephens moves well and hits hard. And she can read her opponents. But she's not good at offensive play, yet. She needs to create more opportunities. If she improves this aspect, she'll be very hard to beat,” Myskina admitted.
“As for Serena, she claims most of her wins by means of power and strength. But when she's not at her full capacity or injured, like against Stephens, she can be outplayed, because she loses her main asset – power.”
Meanwhile, the other semi-final saw another favorite bow out as Maria Sharapova was thrashed by former French Open champion Na Li of China.
“There were some psychological factors that affected Sharapova's performance – her main opponents produced very solid tennis. At the same time, Na Li had some old scores to settle and was extremely motivated. I think Maria played good tennis but not good enough to win this particular Grand Slam,” Myskina said.