Nearly fourteen years ago, Pat Rafter was one of tennis’ most accomplished players when he beat a 17-year-old Swiss player in the first round of the French Open.
“The boy impressed me very much,” Rafter, ranked No. 3, told the media after. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.”
That player was of course Roger Federer, who, along with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are featured in one of the cornerstone articles of the Australian Open 2013 official program, due out on newsstands today.
The story, “The Big Four,” dives into the new reign of tennis’ demigods, who captured the four majors among them in 2012 and look to deliver much of the same come 2013, writes contributor Neil Harman.
That 1999 French Open also happened to be the first major Federer ever played, marking what Harman calls the beginning of a “phenomenon” in full flight as demonstrated in 2012, when Federer won his 17th major. Just one man – Juan Martin del Potro –has won a Grand Slam in the time that these four have collected a combined 31.
Never playing second fiddle, the comeback stories of the women’s tour – Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams – are profiled in an aptly-named piece by Suzi Petkovski called “Return of the Divas,” which looks at how they’ve fought off a new generation –defending champion Victoria Azarenka knocking at the door – to maintain a winning edge on the court.
“They’ve had their narky moments in the past, but all three champions now form a mutual admiration society,” the article reads. “Australian Open 2013 is shaping as a three-cornered contest between the 2012 Grand Slam titleholders:” Azarenka, Sharapova and Williams.
In one of the most creative pieces of the program, handwriting expert Malcolm McLeod breaks down the autographs of tennis’ most powerful to find deeper meaning in their signatures. Sam Stosur’s autograph? “A sign of optimism.” And Murray’s shows he’s “intensely motivated.”
The program dedicates extensive coverage to the participating players at the upcoming Australian Open, handing over 78 pages to the top 100 and including single-page profiles of the top 10.
Martin Blake writes in “Pivotal Points” about the gift and the curse for Australian players competing in front of home crowds while Darren Saligari walks through the career achievements of Lleyton Hewitt, the Adelaide native weighing in on everything from his inaugural major at the 2001 US Open to his epic middle-of-the-night win over Marcos Baghdatis at the 2008 Australian Open.
It’s Jon L. Wertheim of Sports Illustrated who profiles the potential “Disruptors” for this year’s tournament: those like Baghdatis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Ekaterina Makarova and Lukas Rosol who have caused upsets at majors.
The fan’s experience is explored in “Fan Slam,” while readers can get educated on how to stay tuned electronically in “On Your Favourite Channel.” Wimbledon editor Alexandra Willis looks at top-name juniors in “Faces of the Future” as freelance writer Matt Trollope details plans for Melbourne Park’s redevelopment in “Blue Print.”
The program also includes pages upon pages of glistening player photos from action both at Melbourne Park and around the world at more of tennis’ biggest stages. Some 14 pages are dedicated to Australian Open champion lists, histories and records while the back of the book contains a map of the grounds as well as key dining and shopping locations.