- Ravi Ubha, Tennis
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MELBOURNE, Australia -- The Australian Open produced an array of storylines and wonderful matches.
Here are 10 thoughts from the season's opening major.
It won't be three years before Novak wins again
His transition game was outstanding, he ripped forehands and he was almost impossible to break. His defense remains outstanding. We saw glimpses of that in late 2007 and early 2008.
However, a more mature Djokovic won't be slumping anytime soon.
ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert said he expects Djokovic to finish in the top two by year's end and, barring an injury, he's probably right. Djokovic might even give Rafael Nadal a test on clay.
The Kimmy Slam is alive and well
Although the "Rafa Slam" bit the dust, another player picked up steam in an attempt to win four straight majors.
Clijsters has got two in a row, and having finally won outside Flushing Meadows, she'll be difficult to stop at the French Open, assuming motivation doesn't wane. That's always a concern.
Her coach, Wim Fissette, says there's no reason Clijsters can't win on the terre battue -- she reached finals in 2001 and 2003. Justine Henin is out of the picture, and Serena Williams hasn't ventured past the quarterfinals since 2003. Of course, Serena's foot injury remains a concern.
Rafa will be back
Rafa fans, look on the bright side: When he's 100 percent, he's virtually a lock to reach Grand Slam finals. There's little to suggest Nadal won't be ready for the French Open in May, which means he'll be the favorite. He bounced back from last year's knee injury in style.
The probability, however, of winning the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in succession for the second straight year is logically low. This was his chance to win four straight, and he knew it.
Roger needs a pick-me-up
A week ago, the notion of a rejuvenated Roger Federer winning two majors was plausible.
At this point, one would be a successful season.
Realistically, Federer won't win the French Open. Further, if Nadal does, he'll be tough to stop at Wimbledon, where he owns a 14-match winning streak. The momentum Nadal garners from Paris lifts him enormously.
And after losing to Djokovic here, will Federer find the form that propelled him to a 26-2 fall record? His next three tournaments, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, should reveal a lot.
It's the same old Murray
Murray vows he's made important changes to his game in the past year. He says, for one, he's hitting the ball with more purpose.
Whatever he's doing isn't enough.
The serve and forehand continue to be scrutinized, rightfully so. They often get exposed in vital matches against the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. More likely than not, he'll have to beat at least one of them if he ever wants to win a Grand Slam title.
That defensive mindset needs to change. The better opponents aren't going to miss.
Can't get enough Li
She had a great story to back it up. In a nutshell, she quit tennis, came back, suffered almost as many injuries as Tommy Haas and is playing her best at 28. Clijsters needed to work hard to beat her in the final.
Li will be dangerous at Wimbledon -- maybe the All England Club can break with tradition and allow her to address the crowd after each of her matches. Now that'd be fun.
China is getting closer.
Justine's timing stinks
Henin is one of the all-time greatest players. Her versatility was a nice counterpoint to the excess of one-dimensional baseliners.
But why announce your retirement -- for the second time -- during the tournament? It was selfish and far from classy. And here we thought Henin was supposed to have matured during her stint away from tennis.
Her seven Grand Slam titles will be remembered, but so will, for instance, her ungracious display in the 2006 Australian Open final. Henin deprived Amelie Mauresmo of a proper celebration by retiring at 1-6, 0-2 -- because of illness.
Keep on chugging, Francesca
Why, oh why, couldn't Francesca Schiavone have emerged earlier?
She possesses a lovely, varied game and just the right amount of hubris.
The 30-year-old proved last year's French Open was no fluke, completing her Grand Slam quarterfinal set and prevailing in the longest women's match in a major in the Open era.
Don't worry about Isner
Andy Roddick's form in Grand Slams is worrying, although illness did throw him off in 2010. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open will be huge for the Texan.
Even though John Isner lost 9-7 in the fifth set in the third round, he's a keeper. Isner's demeanor following the defeat to Marin Cilic spoke volumes. He was completely dejected -- and vowed to come back strong.
Sam Querrey, Isner's pal, continues to frustrate.
This one won't soon be forgotten
The 2011 edition must go down as one of the most memorable Grand Slams in years.
Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova hustled for 4 hours, 44 minutes; six times players won from two sets down; and David Nalbandian saved two match points in a near five-hour thriller against home hope Lleyton Hewitt. He was one of several to escape after staring at match points.
Caroline Wozniacki fooled the media before squandering a match point herself in the semis, and several youngsters, including Alexandr Dolgopolov, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Bernard Tomic, Grigor "Baby Fed" Dimitrov and Rebecca Marino, impressed.
Rafa and Roger losing in straight sets on consecutive days doesn't happen very often in majors, either.
Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
10hMichael C. Wright