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By Erik Gudris and Chris Oddo

Maria Sharapova, Australian Open 2013 (Janauary 20, 2012) -- As we round the bend and head into the business end of 2013’s first Grand Slam, let’s have a look back at the moments that moved us this past week:

1. Best Women’s Match: Zheng d. Stosur, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 -- While the tennis was not always high quality, the drama sure was: the partisan Aussie crowd did all they could to will Sam Stosur to victory in the second round. Instead, it was the "never say die" aggressive play of Ms. J.Z.  that finally saw her through in a three-set victory.

Honorable Mention: Robson d. Kvitova

2. Best Men’s Match: Djokovic d. Wawrinka, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils set the bar high with their 5-set thriller on Day 6, but Djokovic and Wawrinka took it one step further in their fourth round. The five-hour-and-two-minute clash had a little bit of everything: momentum swings, world-class shotmaking, near-death experiences and match points saved. Plus, it involved the No. 1 player in the world (who is also the two-time defending champion) playing against a sentimental favorite. Consider the bar set for the rest of the season in terms of quality matches.



3. American Women on the Rise -- Serena Williams is still the favorite to win it all, but Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Jamie Hampton proved the future of U.S. women's tennis is very bright. Stephens, 19 reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal on Monday, Keys, 17 is on her way to being a true force in the game, and Hampton, 23, displayed major guts and game by pushing Victoria Azarenka to three sets in the third round.

4. Electric Youth of the WTA -- To borrow a phrase from Debbie Gibson, who couldn't help but notice the plethora of young women ready to make a name for themselves on tour. From Donna Vekic, Garbiñe Muguruza, Yulia Putintseva, Madison Keys and more, don't be surprised to see these youngsters rising up the ranks this year. 

5. Brian Baker's Injury Setback – Baker’s torn meniscus sent shockwaves through the tournament on Day 3. For the better part of a year, American tennis fans have embraced what Baker represents: A rags-to-riches , feel-good story that appeals to the dreamer in us all. People can’t help but root for a person as nice as Brian Baker, and when he went down, perhaps nobody expressed what we felt better than his opponent Sam Querrey, who came and sat with him as he waited to see medical staff.

The good news for Baker -- and his fans -- is that he didn’t tear his ACL, and if his rehab goes well he’ll be back in action within a half-year, ready for comeback No. 2.

6. Jerzy Janowicz's Meltdown -- Was it appropriate? No. Was it funny? You bet. Mr. J.J. proved in his five set win he has a big enough personality to match his big game. 

7. Maria's Master Class -- From not dropping a game in her first two matches to completely dominating Venus Williams in their much-hyped encounter, Maria Sharapova proved that she may finally be able to give Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka a run for their money in a Slam final. Heading into her quarterfinal with Ekaterina Makarova, Sharapova has set a tournament record for the fewest games dropped in her first four matches (five), eclipsing the previous mark of eight, held by Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.



8. Weekend at Bernies -- Even though he met his maker in Roger Federer in the third round, Tomic was by far the most improved player in the draw on the men’s side. Keep in mind: this was a player who was falling apart at the seams as 2012 drew to a close. But at home, in front of his rowdy, rollicking supporters, Tomic sprang to life. His serve had juice, his groundies were popping, and all that newfound weaponry, coupled with a savant’s feel for the game, made it stunningly clear that Tomic could -- and probably will -- become a top ten player in the near future.

9. Superb Sveta -- She may be the lowest ranked women left in the quarterfinals, but two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova proved this week she very much belongs among the top tier of the WTA. Welcome back! 

10. Kimiko Still Kickin' -- Everyone cheered as 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm returned to the third round of Melbourne for the first time since 1995. Her run will help keep her going for a full year this season allowing more to witness the marvel of Japan's ageless wonder




(Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/ Corleve)

 

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