Tennis expert and friend to Virgin Active, Andrew Castle looks back on a memorable Australian Open that saw Andy Murray just a feather away from back-to-back Grand Slam successes...
The first tennis Grand Slam of 2013 is over and I mourn its passing. I love the Australian Open because it transports me across the globe to a land of sunny skies and colour at a time when the UK is a uniform grey.
I played a few Australian Opens and promised myself I would live there one day, never happened despite my best intentions. It doesn't matter whether you are watching on TV or in person at Melbourne Park, the sheer spectacle of professional tennis is awe inspiring wherever it is played.
So what did you make of Andy Murray versus Novak Djokovic in the final? Andy had his chances but fell just a few points short of taking a real stranglehold on the match. Having won the gruelling 1st set 7-6 Murray had 3 break points in the first game of the 2nd set but just failed to win one. From a warm and comfy commentary box the game is easy and tactics clear, in the heat of battle and with a Grand Slam on the line things are not so easy. Murray would love to have another crack at that game.
In the second set tie break a feather fell from the roof of the 15,000 seat Rod Laver Arena between Murray's 1st and 2nd serves. He walked forward, removed it and served. He missed, a double fault at the worst possible time and Djokovic the world no.1 surged ahead to make it 1 set all.
After having his battered feet treated between sets Murray was on the back foot. Djokovic would claim sets 3 and 4. This was his 6th Grand Slam title, as another 6 time champion Boris Becker said in the BBC studio, Djokovic had found an extra gear and deserved to win.
Andy Murray is the reigning Olympic Champion, the US Open Champion and Wimbledon finalist. We are fortunate to have him as British No 1. Through hard work both on and off court he has achieved excellence. He is a model professional and a fantastic role model for the aspiring professionals to look up to.
And how about the British women. Heather Watson and Laura Robson both jumped 10 places
in the rankings by reaching the 3rd round. Laura is the more aggressive of the two and can fire winners from all parts of the court, her marathon win over former Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova was as impressive as her wins over Kim Clijsters and Li Na at last years US Open.
Success at any level is gradual. Our British players are enjoying public adulation now but it is the steps taken out of the glare of media attention that has made it all possible. You may not yet have heard of Donna Vekic. She is a 16 year old from Croatia, the youngest player in the main draw of the Australian Open. She caused a stir by winning her 1st round match. She is taking these 1st steps to pro success at Northwood VA. We congratulate her.
Good luck all, hope to see you on court sometime.
Andrew Castle - a former British Number One tennis player and double Olympian - is one of the most experienced live presenters in British broadcasting, having occupied the famous GMTV sofa as an anchor for ten years.