• Britain back on world stage

    Team GB celebrate in IsraelThe all-too-familiar questions were being asked after the first day of the Australian Open last month, when every British contender barring Andy Murray was dumped out of the first Grand Slam of the year. In straight sets.

    But despite the occasional setback, British women's tennis has not been in such rude health for some considerable time — and that was proved over the course of four impressive days in Eilat, Israel.

    The context of the Fed Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group I play-offs might not sound spectacular, but the performance was.

    First to be swept aside in Group C were Portugal. Anne

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  • Djokovic can be the greatest

    Novak Djokovic clasps his Australian Open trophy

    So how was it for you? Has there ever been a match so painfully pleasurable? Five hours and 53 minutes of blistering tension that seemed like it would never end.

    Such raw emotion, such unpredictablity, such effort, such athleticism and such heroism. Such beauty yet such brutality. It truly was something to behold.

    The 2012 Australian Open tennis final will be remembered as an item of real drama that is unlikely to be easily upended in the cluttered world of professional sport. Certainly not this year.

    Of course, it is easy to get carried away after such happenings yet it is much more

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  • Azarenka maturity pays dividends

    What a difference two years can make. Against Serena Williams in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in 2010, Victoria Azarenka was a set and 4-0 up and playing some fantastic tennis. She somehow conspired to lose.

    This year, having made it to the final against Maria Sharapova, the Belarusian again led by a set and after a couple of early breaks in the second she found herself in exactly the same situation.

    But this time around Azarenka is a completely different beast to the immature, emotionally-driven player that imploded back then. She held her nerve, took the set to love and deservingly

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  • Improvement fails to reap rewards for Murray

    New year, same end result for poor old Andy Murray.

    The wait for a Grand Slam title goes on for Britain's number one after an epic struggle with Novak Djokovic that ebbed and flowed over five thrilling sets ended with that familiar feeling of disappointment for Murray.

    He gave his all for nearly five hours but ultimately he was made to rue a disastrous fourth set as Djokovic raced away in the fifth and, despite a miraculous recovery from Murray at 5-2 down to push the match right to the death, the Serb closed out the match to book a mouth-watering date with Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

    Yet it was

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  • Rafa provides fireworks in Melbourne

    Who would you want to play for you if your life was on the line? Roger of Rafa?

    That was the rather excellent question Jim Courier put to fellow Channel 7 commentator Lleyton Hewitt midway through the third set of the latest, thrilling instalment of the Federer-Nadal rivalry.

    After (not too much) deliberation, Hewitt opted to put his life in Rafa's hands over the course of a five-setter because the Spaniard, he said, simply never gives up.

    Lleyton, this time you survive.

    A truly monstrous performance from Nadal saw him dig deep into his reserves and fight back from a set down to win in four

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  • Maria takes shrieking for grunted

    Maria Sharapova

    The debate over whether the shrieking in women's tennis has gone too far went up another notch after Maria Sharapova hit back at comments from Agnieszka Radwanska.

    The "grunt-o-meter", as its being called at Melbourne Park, frequently registers shrieks of over 94 decibels during Sharapova's matches with Victoria Azarenka not far behind her.

    And after losing to good friend Azarenka in yesterday's quarter-final, Radwanska said she thought the WTA ought to do something about a rule change.

    "To be honest, I'm kind of used to it, especially with Vika," the Pole said. "We've known each other for

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  • Challenge rules need clarification

    If there is one thing we've learnt from day nine of the Australian Open it's that clarification is desperately needed over the challenge rule.

    After the David Nalbandian debacle the other day, confusion over when is acceptable to challenge a call reared its ugly head once again when Rafael Nadal took on Tomas Berdych.

    At a crucial point in the first set, Nadal found himself cursing the lack of clear guidelines over the rules pertaining to when and when not is acceptable to challenge a line call.

    Rafa's belated attempted challenge was ignored by umpire Carlos Bernardes, the Spaniard having

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  • Stars put into shade in Melbourne

    An invincible aura was vaporised on day eight of the Australian Open as Ekaterina Makarova forced Serena Williams to accept her own mortality by ending the American's 17-match winning streak at Melbourne Park.

    Williams had been untouchable at the tournament for pretty much three years - having won in 2009 and 2010 and not competed last year through injury - during which time the legend of Serena The Untouchable had gathered quite some momentum.

    So much so that even though she sorely lacked match practice following a life-threatening illness, and also rolled her ankle at a warm-up tournament,

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  • Deconstructing Tommy

    Tomas BerdychThe Aussie crowd are renowned for being a fair bunch who, despite having the occasional favourite will support pretty much anybody and everybody. They are passionate about their sport, flocking to Melbourne Park in search of a good day out with some good tennis and not just because it's "the place to be seen" in the last two weeks of January.

    They are also a sarcastic bunch, the Aussies - as Victoria Azarenka found out against Casey Dellacqua when they mocked her grunting - but it's all in the name of fun and a famed good day out.

    But fall short in the sportsmanship levels and you will find

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  • Lendl already proving positive addition for Murray

    Andy MurrayTramlines couldn't help but feel a sense of déjà vu watching Andy Murray on the middle Saturday of the first Grand Slam of the year.

    We've been here before.

    The Scot was imperious against Michael Llodra, who threw everything he could at his opponent only to be undone in straight sets.

    Tramlines genuinely believes that if Murray had not had the mis-fortune to be born in the era of two of the greatest players of all time he would have a handful or Grand Slams to his name by now. But even we were beginning to question whether the Scot would ever manage to take that final step and actually win a

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