MELBOURNE, Australia -- Here are 50 Thoughts from the 2007 Australian Open, trying to incorporate as many of your questions as possible.
1. Roger Federer -- no surprise -- did virtually everything right winning the men's title without surrendering a set. But what impressed me most was his defense. Time and again, he kept points alive with unbelievable scrambles and shots that neutralized power. Two balls later, he was suddenly controlling the point. Yes, it's early, but this sure bodes well for clay.
2. Just as we all prophesized, Serena Williams won the women's title, beating top seed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 in a final that somehow managed to be more lopsided than the score indicated. It was so predictable that Serena would resurrect her career (and beat five seeds) -- that only a fool would have dismissed her chances coming in.
3. Quite a tournament for Fernando Gonzalez, who's Gonzo no more, having harnessed his forehand and dialed back his go-for-broke style. What a performance beating Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake, Rafael Nadal and Tommy Haas and then giving Federer a respectable fight in the final. And if you can YouTube his runner-up speech, do so.
4. When Sharapova lost that heartbreaker to Serena here in 2005, she went on to win her next event. Be interesting to see how long Saturday's "statement match" sticks with her.
5. So I guess we know how much stock to put in that Kooyong final. (Andy Roddick, of course, beat Federer.) On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that all four semifinalists played the Kooyong; so at least it's a worthwhile tune-up.
6. The men's semifinal matches -- Federer/Roddick and Gonzalez/Haas -- were two of the most lopsided matches you'll ever see. And yet because the winner was deeply embedded in "the zone," both matches were thoroughly entertaining. Gonzalez winner-to-error ratio against Haas? 42 to 3.
7. The Bryan Brothers, Mike and Bob, took the men's doubles title beating Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi in the final. Because the preceding women's singles final was over so quickly, the house was packed.
8. Cara Black and new partner Liezel Huber won the doubles title. The real story of the draw, though, was the losing finalists Yung-Jan Chan and Chia-Jung Chuang -- total unknown wild cards from Chinese Tapei, whose victories included a rout of Zi Yan and Jie Zheng, the second seeds. Still more convincing evidence of the Asian tennis boom.
9. This is what's known in the business as a money quote. Asked about her fitness level following her title, a giddy Serena Williams responded: "I'm definitely in better shape than I get credit for. Just because I have large bosoms and I have a big ass. I swear my waist is 29-30 inches. I swear I have the smallest waist. And just because I have those two 'assets' it looks like I'm not fit. I was just in the locker room staring at my body and I'm like, 'Am I not fit? Am I really not fit? Or is it just because I have all these extra assets that I look not fit.' I think if I were not to eat for two years I still wouldn't be a size 2. No matter how slim I am, I always have this [points] and that [points]. We're living in a Mary-Kate Olsen world. I'm just not built that way. I'm bootylicious and that's how it's always going to be."
10. In the girls' draw, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia needed a pair of tiebreakers but beat American Madison Brengle in the finals. And amid all the doomsaying about the future of Australian Tennis, an unseeded local, Brydan Klein beat Jonathan Eysseric of France to win the boys event. (Plus, keep an eye on young Aussie Bernard Tomic.)
11. Interesting to see where Martina Hingis goes from here. Another respectable, but ultimately disappointing tournament. It's basically 2001 all over again. Hingis is a joy to behold but simply too power-deficient to compete with the top four. One point augurs well for her soldiering on: her fiancée, Radek Stepanek, is a tennis player too, so it's not as though she's leaving her love at home while she goes to Doha and Montreal.
12. Replay technology and line-call challenges continued its successful run in Australia. It has become a ritual that players look to their box before deciding to issue a challenge. Clearly this is a form of coaching. My take is that it's a) impossible to police and b) relatively circumscribed, so accept it.
13. Nikolay Davydenko spent his off-season on a honeymoon that included daily practices and tournament play. Does his new wife like tennis? "No. But she loves me." And here's the D-man on his apparel endorsement with the French brand Aimess. "Happy, yeah. I get clothes for free for three years. Yeah, happy." We're saving the all-Davydenko mailbag for Sweeps Week. But you can start sending questions now.
14. Losing semifinalist Nicole Vaidisova has tons of power ... and when she planes some of her rough edges, she will win big prizes. But her habit of looking at her box after every point is really detrimental. It radiates insecurity. If I'm on the other side of the net, I'm thinking, "This girl is meat."
15. Speaking of which, at the risk of triggering the wrath of the camp, for the life of me I can't figure out why Sharapova continues to let pops conduct his illegal coaching. (She was fined for coaching yet again this tournament, in what the papers called a "Yuri Fury.") Let's leave aside the moral issues and just look at this with a cold, rational eye. Particularly for a player whose image is worth so much, why continue a practice that undercuts your reputation of fairness and honesty?
16. Serena Williams went overboard with talk of the "haters." You're a transcendent star, a seven-time Grand Slam champ and your ranking slides outside the top 100? You leave yourself open to speculation (criticism, even) about your future, no matter who you are or how extenuating the circumstances. Sorry, dem's the rules. But even her harshest critics have to concede this: she is an exceptionally fair player on the court. No illegal coaching, no fake injuries, no tirades about line calls. This point doesn't get made often enough.
17. Nice-win tournament for Mardy Fish, whose road to the quarters was paved once he took out fourth-seed Ivan Ljubicic in Round 1. Note, however, that Ljubicic has entered 30 career Slams and lost in the first or second round of a major 24 times.
18. Andy Roddick loses six games in a quarterfinal against Mardy Fish. Roddick then wins just six games in his semifinal against Federer. Anyone else suspect that Fish is quietly thinking, "Whew. There but for the grace of G-d go I?"
19. Until Nadia Petrova can convert games like the stinker she played at 6-1, 5-3 against Serena Williams, she will be a Grand Slam also-ran. Astute reader Anna of Springfield noted that Petrova and Kim Clijsters -- both exceptional athletes with unexceptional mettle -- were born a year apart on the same date. Hmmmm.
20. The Abe Simpson rant of the tournament goes to Marat Safin. Continuing his weird (and seemingly one-sided) beef with Roddick, Safin remarked: "He comes with the shoes that aren't even tennis shoes, and he's telling me and I'm professional and I know when it's wet and when it's not wet, and he's telling me it's not wet." Riiight.
21. Australia doesn't really do political correctness. Clijsters rhapsodized about her future as a homemaker, a pair of fans hoisted a banner reading: "Our dishes are dirty too, Kim."
22. Poor Camille (Head of a) Pin. The French journeywoman lost, of course, to top-seeded Sharapova in that 9-7 first-round thriller. Then she drew top seeds Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur in doubles.
23. Word on the street is that Guillermo Canas wasn't here because his coach forgot to send the entry form. If you stand to back a player coming off a doping suspension, place your bets now on Canas doing well at the French Open.
24. A Page Six-style blind item: Which top player has become so difficult and inaccessible that he allegedly turned down media requests with his own website?
25. One player whose stock has a 'buy" rating: Andy Murray. His five-set battle against Rafael Nadal may well have the match of the tournament. Don't be surprised if Murray is a top-eight seed by Wimbledon. We all know what that means.
26. Jim Courier was excellent as the courtside interviewer. But next time he'll think twice about letting Roddick take the mic and ask questions. After destroying Mardy Fish, Roddick asked Courier: "You're in your mid-30s and aren't married. Do you have commitment issues?"
27. From the coaching carousel: Shahar Peer is working with Jose Higueras. Vania King is with Ray Raffels. Alicia Molik is now with Paul Kilderry, a former doubles specialist (and Pat Rafter mate), who often served as an Australian hitting partner for Serena and Venus Williams. Nicole Bradtke (sister-in-law of Todd Wodbridge and wife of a former NBA player, Mark Bradtke) will coach Sam Stosur. Meanwhile. Mark Merklein, a veteran doubles player known for his fitness, has joined James Blake's team in a trainer/nutritionist role.
28. In the men's draw, six of the eight "round of 16" matches went by the seeding. The only non-seed to make it? Mardy Fish.
29. We hear Marcelo Rios took a wild card in the Vine del Mar tournament this week. Wonder how he felt watching Larry Stefanki (his former coach) help guide his countryman, Gonzalez, to the final.
30. Here's the Sydney Morning Herald's Richard Hinds: "There was more chance President Hilary Clinton would put her husband in charge of the White House intern program than there was of an Australian winning the title." Another Hinds gem: "Assessing Nadal's chances against Federer based on [his first match against Robert Kendrick] is like rating your chances of chatting up Cate Blanchett based on some success with Paris Hilton."
31. One of the sadder sights: Juan Carlos Ferrero, a Grand Slam champ not that long ago, practicing alone and in total anonymity on a back court. Like Paris Hilton's virginity, you fear this guy's mojo is lost, never to be reclaimed. (Take that, Richard Hinds!)
32. Mas Spaniards. I've lifted the seat cushions and checked the basement and haven't found the skeptics who begrudged Tommy Robredo his place at the Shanghai Masters. The Barcelona Bull did himself proud here, reaching the quarters and doing a fine job frustrating Federer.
33. Have we made adequate note of the fact that Brad Gilbert's three charges have been named Andre, Andy and Andy?
34. Confirming speculation, Justine Henin-Hardenne announced that she was splitting from her husband. One of her first moves was to remove the "Hardenne" from her website domain name.
35. Former Illinois tennis coach, Craig Tiley, is now the Australian Open tournament director. He hosted a barbecue for former players who were in the draw: Amer Delic, qualifier Brian Wilson, and Indiana's own Rajeev Ram.
36. Bad luck for Joachim "JoJo" Johansson (the rare Charlotte Simmons reference), who finally recovered from his shoulder injury only to be struck by a nasty case of blisters, forcing him to retire two games into his first match. That's an awfully long trip to make for six minutes of tennis.
37. In keeping with the camp's M.O., Roger Rasheed was something other than a public figure when he coached Hewitt for three years. But after splitting with Hewitt earlier this month, Rasheed served as a capable foil for Jim Courier, doing commentary on Channel Seven.
38. Hewitt's coach during the tournament, Scott Draper, is forgoing a full-time job with Hewitt to try his hand as a professional golfer.
39. Did we hear correctly? Todd Woodbridge is going to be a future contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" later this spring? Can one of our Aussie readers please YouTube this and send the link?
40. Oops, we forgot mixed doubles. Daniel Nestor and Elena Likhovtseva beat Max Mirnyi and Vic Azarenka in the final.
41. Comings and goings: Jane Brown Grimes has officially begun her two-year term as USTA Chairwoman of the Board and President this week and will serve in this capacity through 2008. She becomes the second female chair in the USTA's 126-year history. Meanwhile, sadly, Andrew Rigby -- who merits a lot of credit for the excellent Davis Cup website -- is leaving the ITF. And Benito Perez Barbadillo, who did wonders for Nadal's popularity is leaving the ATP to work for Raffa privately.
42. This marks the one-year anniversary of Nicolas Kiefer chucking his racket across the net during a point and then refusing to fess up, one of the most flagrant acts of poor sportsmanship I can recall witnessing. Kiefer wasn't in Australia, still recovering from a wrist injury that's been bothering him since the French Open. Is karma a bitch or what?
43. Congrats to Danai Udomchoke of Thailand, a first-team all-name player, who beat Ferrero and has taken his country's baton (the Thai stick, as it were) while Paradorn Srichaphan rehabs his wrist. While we're at it, we'd like to take this opportunity to add Djambuli Chakvetadze (Anna's dad) to our list of favorite tennis names.
44. Lost in the mist: Our favorite prospect Juan del Potro had Fernando Gonzalez up 2 sets to 1 before wilting in the heat. Watch for him once clay court season rolls around. Speaking of Argentines, keep an eye on Willie Canas, who's been tearing it up since his doping suspension ended.
45. We'll say it again: one of the great treats of traveling internationally is catching that wacky Richard Quest on CNN International. In one segment, he's talking to a Syrian ambassador. In the next, he's dancing with Twyla Tharp.
46. A tip of the cap to Tretorn for the establishment of a premier series of 22 ATP Challenger Series tournaments. The agreement makes Tretorn the umbrella sponsor of the elite series, and designates Tretorn as the Official Ball of the ATP Challenger Series worldwide.
47. Overheard in the press room. Reporter A: "Anna looked good the last time I saw her." Reporter B: "Chakvetadze or Ivanovic?" Reporter A: "Kournikova. I guess we need to use her last name now."
48. Fernando Gonzalez has an endorsement portfolio that includes avocados. His recipe for an avocado smoothie: half a cup of yogurt, half a cup of milk, half a cup of mango, half an avocado. Add ice and throw in a blender. (And here we thought his ground strokes were a hit-or-miss proposition.)
49. We say it, as we do every year here: we miss Ted Robinson.
50. And we say this every year, too: if there is a more spirited, affordable, fan-friendly, unpretentious sporting event than the Australian Open, it's eluded us.
Have a great week everyone. Oh, one more thing: in no small part because of your persistence, "Tennis" will soon escape the "more sports" ghetto of SI.com and return to the main menu bar. We'll post a regular mailbag next week.