A few years ago, when the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry was at its peak, tennis fans could count on one fascinating match-up after another, usually in a Grand Slam final. Then Novak Djokovic broke through and added another dimension to the intrigue at the top of the rankings. The decline experienced by the first two of the trio–age catching up to Federer, injuries diminishing Nadal–opened the door to the top, and last year’s breakthroughs by Wawrinka and Čilić (Australian and U.S. Opens, respectively) seemed to indicate that other players were ready to step up and widen the field.
So where does Djokovic’s victory today in the Australian Open final leave us? It’s hard to say. The just-concluded Australian was a tournament largely lacking in interest; certainly the quality of play was not up to previous levels. (None of the quarterfinal matches went beyond three sets; among all the late round matches, only the Djokovic-Wawrinka semifinal went the full five.) Djokovic remains on top, but his chief rivals are now question marks, and again Andy Murray has shown himself to be a “not quite.” Unless some other player ups his game, or unless Djokovic slacks off, we may be in for a series of relatively easy wins for the Serb–and that won’t generate much enthusiasm for the sport.
Oh, and the less said about Serena Williams yawning us with yet another dominating win over her closest rival, the better. Talk about a lack of competition.