Commentary

Ten strange tales from a fortnight in Oz

Originally Published: February 1, 2011
By Kamakshi Tandon | Special to ESPN.com

The Australian Open ended with two familiar faces hoisting the trophy -- 2008 champ Novak Djokovic and last year's U.S. Open champ, Kim Clijsters. But there were plenty of unusual moments during the tournament, with milestone results marking the second week and some offbeat happenings during the first. Here are 10 Aussie Open occurrences that you don't see every day:

[+] EnlargeRafael Nadal
Greg WoodRafael Nadal suffered an early, injury-induced exit at the Australian Open. Grand Slam finals sans Rafa and Roger Federer have been easy pickings for Novak Djokovic.

1. A Grand Slam final without Fed or Rafa (equals a Djokovic victory)

It's only the second time in the past 24 Grand Slams that neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal was there for the title match, and both times Djokovic ended up the victor. The previous occasion was in 2008, when the Serb defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Oz to win his first Grand Slam title.

This year, Nadal lost to a fellow Spaniard -- another unusual event -- falling to David Ferrer in the quarterfinals after suffering a hamstring injury during the match. Equally unusually, defending champ Federer was knocked out in straight sets -- something that hasn't happened since the French Open in 2008. His loss to Djokovic in the semifinals means this is the first time since June 2003 that Federer is not holding any of the four Grand Slams.

Djokovic, meanwhile, becomes one of only four players on tour with multiple majors, joining Lleyton Hewitt, Federer and Nadal.

2. Belgian reign and retirement

OK, neither of those can be considered unusual. But both in the same week? Three-time U.S. Open champ Clijsters won her first major outside Flushing Meadows, while Justine Henin announced her second retirement from the sport in three years. Henin, who returned in Australia from an elbow injury that had sidelined her since Wimbledon, said the problem had not healed enough to allow her to continue playing competitively.

3. An Asian player on finals weekend

Li reached the semifinals last year and went one better this year, becoming the first Chinese player to reach the final of a Grand Slam.

4. Three Grand Slam finals defeats

Andy Murray has now lost three Slam finals without a set to his name. It's a disheartening stat for the 23-year-old Scot, but he can take comfort in knowing he isn't the first to find it difficult to break through: Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic and Ivan Lendl all lost their first three Slam finals. Lendl lost his first four, in fact -- just like this year's women's champ, Clijsters -- before going on to win eight majors.

5. Epic encounter

Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova went 4 hours and 44 minutes in their fourth-round match, the longest women's Grand Slam match. The 30-year-old Schiavone, who won 16-14 in the third, had already won her second-round match 9-7 in the third and then went three sets against top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals.

6. Wacky interviews

Whenever a WTA player got behind the microphone, we quickly learned to expect the unexpected.

Clijsters ambushed Todd Woodbridge about his text message speculating that Clijsters might be pregnant. No. 1 Wozniacki set out to prove she could be an interesting interview, starting one media round with an entertaining parody of a typical news conference and then holding forth on global warming and the dating game. In her next appearance, Wozniacki spun a tale about getting bitten by a kangaroo, neglecting to mention that the story wasn't true. An apology and clarification followed, and the world No. 1 turned up after her next match with a blow-up kangaroo and boxing gloves. Somehow, she also managed to find time to reach the semifinals.

Li produced a comedy routine every time she spoke in front of a camera, making jokes about using credit cards as motivation or her husband's snoring keeping her up at night.

7. Dancing with tennis stars

Lukas Kubot did high kicks after beating Sam Querrey, Andrea Petkovic continued her postmatch dancing habit, and Novak Djokovic was happy to turn the court into a ballroom floor for one of his publicity outings.

8. Courting trouble

A bounceless spot on the court left balls dropping like a stone, and birds swooped overhead in some unusual stadium sights this year.

9. Racket attacks

Sticks went flying -- or flying off, in Agnieszka Radwanska's case, after one racquet-smashing episode.

10. Fashion follies

From too low-cut dresses to Bethanie Mattek's usual fare, there was nothing to top Venus Williams' "Alice in Wonderland" dress, which left most people as confused as the story that inspired the number.

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.