|2008 Australian Open|
|Date||14-27 January 2008|
|Category||Grand Slam (ITF)|
|Jonathan Erlich / Andy Ram|
|Alona Bondarenko / Kateryna Bondarenko|
|Sun Tiantian / Nenad Zimonji?|
|Wheelchair men's singles|
|Wheelchair women's singles|
|Wheelchair quad singles|
|Wheelchair men's doubles|
|Shingo Kunieda / Satoshi Saida|
|Wheelchair women's doubles|
|Jiske Griffioen / Esther Vergeer|
|Wheelchair quad doubles|
|Nick Taylor / David Wagner|
|Hsieh Cheng-peng / Yang Tsung-hua|
|Ksenia Lykina / Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova|
The 2008 Australian Open was a tennis tournament played on outdoor hard courts. It was the 96th edition of the Australian Open, and the first Grand Slam event of the year. It took place at the Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, from 14 through 27 January 2008.
After twenty years of playing on Rebound Ace, the courts were changed to Plexicushion, a marginally faster surface. The new surface is thinner, and therefore has lower heat retention. This decision was made in a bid to reduce the "stick" of the court and the frequency of the extreme heat policy being invoked. However, the new surface faced criticism for being too similar to DecoTurf, the surface used at the US Open. Player reaction to the change of surface was generally ambivalent.
Both Roger Federer and Serena Williams were unsuccessful in defending their 2007 titles; Federer losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals and Williams losing in the quarter-finals to Jelena Jankovi?. Djokovic won his first Grand Slam singles title, defeating unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final; Maria Sharapova, runner-up to Williams in 2007, defeated Ana Ivanovic to win her first Australian Open title and third Grand Slam title.
For the mixed doubles, in every game, the first team to score four points, won the game. In other words, when a deuce happened in a game, the team who won the next point won the game.
On 30 May 2007, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley announced that as of the 2008 Australian Open, the Rebound Ace surface that had been used since 1988 would be replaced by a newer, faster Plexicushion surface. The Rebound Ace surface had been criticized for several years, from players including Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis, who claimed that the "stick" of the court was a contributing factor in many players injuring themselves. This "stick" was a result of the thick rubber mat (10 mm) laid beneath the surface, the high heat retention because of this, and the high temperatures present during the Australian summer, which intermittently resulted in the extreme heat policy being invoked. Conversely, players such as Pete Sampras and Marat Safin put the high number of injuries down to lack of preparation from players; partly due to the fact that the tournament is held so early in the year, but also because there were so few tournaments preceding it. Rebound Ace was also chastised by Lleyton Hewitt for having an inconsistent bounce, in terms of height and pace (shock absorption); and claimed that these factors varied depending on the weather. The heat retention of the surface had also been a point of contention between players.
In announcing the change, Tiley said Plexicushion would have a "lower rubber content than Rebound Ace, was firmer under foot and retained less heat through its thinner top layer." Tiley later said that the change of colour, from green to blue, would also benefit players and officials, although this change was quite arbitrary. The manufacturers of Rebound Ace derided the new surface, with director Paul Bull saying that, "We had an Australian icon event with a unique Australian product and now we are just going to become a clone of the US Open." Bull also said that the inconsistencies in pace were down to the organizers' imperative, who kept asking for the pace to be adjusted to pander for certain players, such as Hewitt. Bull, however, conceded that a change was needed; and said that the suggestion of a Rebound Ace court with a rubber mat thickness of around 5 mm was made.
The Plexicushion surface received a relatively mixed reception from players. Lleyton Hewitt, Justine Henin and Serena Williams were all keen to endorse the new courts; with Hewitt's appraisal focused on the greater consistency of the courts. Henin called it a "good surface" but said she did not find it markedly distinguishable from Rebound Ace, saying the biggest difference was the change of colour. Williams claimed that the court was not as "bouncy" and was causing less physical strain on her feet and ankles. One source of criticism from players was the slower than expected pace, although many of these comments came prior to the event's commencement. Players were exposed to the new courts through other tournaments, played in advance of the Open; and practise on the new surface. Roger Federer described it as slow, with Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovi? and James Blake all corroborating this opinion, albeit from experience in preliminary tournaments. Pundit and former World No. 1 Pat Rafter said it was possible that the courts would speed up in time.
On 21 December 2007, organizers of the event announced that the tournament would be watched under the scrutiny of anti-corruption officials. A partnership was formed with Victoria Police. This announcement came in the wake of a series of scandals to hit the sport, including World No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko coming under suspicion of match fixing; with at least a dozen other players coming forward about having been approached to influence matches in an unethical manner. Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood commented that, "Match-fixing and illegal gambling are a threat to the integrity of sport. We're putting our policies, procedures and programme in place to protect it."
This was followed by a statement from the wider community of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and organizers of all four Grand Slams that they would review their anti-corruption policies in the future. This announcement came six days prior to the start of the Open, on 8 January 2008.
On 15 January, Day 2 of the tournament, Victoria Police had to intervene when Greek Australian supporters, following Greece's Konstantinos Economidis in his match against Chilean Fernando González, became unruly. The match, in progress at the Margaret Court Arena, was suspended for ten minutes as the police attempted stop the "offensive chanting" and eject certain fans. Approximately forty supporters, heavily outnumbered by Chilean fans, were warned of their disorderly conduct prior to the police deploying pepper spray. The police regiment was heavily outnumbered, with a BBC Radio employee commenting that, "[there were] two guys against maybe 70-80, that's not good." Tournament officials said that 3 people had been sprayed and 5 evicted; a small proportion of the Greek fans left the arena, upset at how events were transpiring and fearing for their safety.
Both players said that the trouble was not something they had witnessed before; and Economidis condemned his supporters, saying that, "It was a really nice atmosphere until this moment. I am really unhappy." Some witnesses have implicated Cypriot and Serbian supporters in the trouble.
Australian Open director, Craig Tiley, had announced in the week preceding the event that police and security forces would "impose a 'zero-tolerance' policy on anti-social behaviour". This statement appeared to be a delayed reaction to the trouble that marred the event in 2007, with Australian youths of Greek, Serbian and Croatian origins involved in mutually abusive sparring. However, the problem was much more pronounced in 2007, with violence breaking out and around 150 fans ejected.
Police were called to investigate a report that a 12-year-old girl was indecently assaulted by a drunk man at the Australian Open.
In a brief statement, Victoria Police said they received a report that the girl was inappropriately touched on the buttocks on Monday.
"The matter was reported to police this morning and the incident is currently being investigated", the statement said. This event mirrors a series of incidents that occurred at last year's event, when several men attending the tournament were arrested for taking upskirt photographs.
During the Open, a video posted on YouTube almost a year earlier made headlines in the Australian media. The video shows the 2008 fifteenth seed, Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, at a barbecue hosted by his Greek Australian fans in Melbourne in early 2007. In it, Baghdatis is holding a flare and taking part in chants against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Melbourne's Turkish Cypriot community called for Baghdatis to be expelled from Australia, but in a statement issued through his manager, the Cypriot player said he was "supporting the interest of my country, Cyprus, while protesting against a situation that is not recognized by the United Nations".
This tournament saw strong performances from Serbian players. The men's side saw Janko Tipsarevi?, winner of the boys' tournament in 2001, almost cause an upset when he pushed Roger Federer to five sets in the third round, with the final score being 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8 in Federer's favour. The match, which overlapped into the night session due to rain earlier in the day, took almost four-and-a-half hours to complete. Third-seed Novak Djokovic became Serbia's first Grand Slam singles title winner (Ana Ivanovic would later become that country's first Grand Slam women's singles title winner, at the 2008 French Open), and the youngest ever winner of the Australian Open, at 20 years and 250 days of age, when he defeated surprise finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final, having defeated the defending champion Federer in the semi-finals, and Australian hopeful Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets in the fourth round. Coincidentally, Djokovic would also defeat Federer in straight sets en route to his second Australian Open title, in 2011.
The women's draw saw Jelena Jankovi?, the 2001 girls' champion, and Ana Ivanovic produce notable performances to reach the semi-finals and the final, respectively. Jankovi? saved three match points against Tamira Paszek in the first round, before defeating rising Australian player Casey Dellacqua in the fourth round. Jankovi? then ended the title defence of Serena Williams in the quarter-finals, before losing her semi-final to Maria Sharapova. Twenty-four hours after Jankovi?'s victory over Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic recorded her first career victory against Venus Williams in her quarter-final, and went on to reach her second Grand Slam final by defeating Daniela Hantuchová in the semi-finals, having to recover from a 0-6, 0-2 deficit to do so. Ivanovic was then defeated in the final by Maria Sharapova, in a match dubbed as the "Glam Slam" final.
These were the seeds for the 2008 Australian Open.
On the women's side of the draw, all of the world's top thirty-two players were present; whereas in the men's draw Tommy Haas and Guillermo Cañas were both forced to withdraw due to injury. On the date that the seeds were announced, 11 January 2008, Haas was No. 12 in the world and Cañas No. 17.
Men's qualifiers entries
Women's qualifiers entries