Tramlines

Roger, over and out

Tramlines

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What on earth is going on? First Rafa is dumped out and now Roger finds himself checking out of Melbourne earlier than expected.

While Nadal could quite easily blame his defeat to David Ferrer on injury - not that he was happy to - Federer has no such excuse for his untimely exit.

He was beaten fair and square, all ends up by a combination of his own demons and a far better player on the night.

But let's not dwell on Roger's frankly shocking backhand, which let him down continuously all night long, or his 44 unforced errors or his first serve percentage of 66. For to do so would be to devalue the achievement of his opponent.

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Novak Djokovic was simply sensational under the lights on Rod Laver Arena. He was better in every department and Roger simply had no answer to the world number three's onslaught.

But Tramlines will be honest. This blog was not written until the fat lady was well and truly singing her Serbian ditty. Even when Roger was two sets down, even when Nole was serving for the match, Trammers did not have the confidence to start writing about the fall of Federer.

Normal rules don't usually apply when Federer is playing.

But they did tonight. Maybe these last two days represent something of a changing of the guard, with the top two lying by the wayside and the pretenders, having been kept waiting in the wings for so long, coming to the fore.

Or maybe not. After all, it happened this time three years ago, when Roger and Rafa were ousted at the same stage in Melbourne, and look what happened since then - one of the pair has featured in every single Grand Slam final.

Until now. So on Sunday, we'll have a final featuring either Andy Murray or David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic, the man who in 2008 claimed his first Grand Slam title. And on tonight's performance, who would bet against him repeating the feat and picking up a second?

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Despite a dodgy night's sleep which apparently made her forget her fifth wedding anniversary, Li Na made history today, becoming the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final and maybe, just maybe, ushering in a brave new world of Asian tennis.

Li saw off Caroline Wozniacki with a cavalier performance that was totally at odds with that of the world number one - and fully deserving of victory.

The Chinese number nine seed hit 42 winners to Wozniacki's meagre 10 and she made 51 unforced errors as opposed to the Dane's 24.

Those stark stats prove that Li went out to win that match by way of attack - and that Wozniacki's game is indeed built upon a solid defence and little else.

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That may be good enough to win the title of world number one over the course of a long, hard season, but it remains unlikely to bring Wozniacki success at a Grand Slam event, where her nearest rivals' shotmaking - Li's included - is simply too much for her conservative style of play.

The delightful Li also took the upper hand off the court on a day that prompted talk of a serious shift in the balance of power in the women's game.

Pre-semi-final, Wozniacki had been the undoubted darling of the Melbourne Park media room, playing pranks on journalists from around the world and making press conferences fun rather than the usual chore for all concerned.

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What a difference one result can make. Previous meetings had been standing room only, but Tramlines was one of but a smattering of journos present for Wozza's final appearance in Melbourne. There were no jokes, there was no laughter and most definitely there were no inflatable native animals. The first question put to her even had something to do with the match, for goodness sake.

Clearly, with defeat comes gravity. That's normal. And likewise, with victory comes light heartedness.

So back to Li, who gave a charming performance both in her on-court post-match interview and during the press conference, when she brightened up the room with her giggly answers and cheeky sense of humour (we found out her snoring hubby will be spending the night in the bathroom before he is allowed back into the bedroom).

She is fun. She is quirky. She is likeable. And she is a Grand Slam finalist. Li Na, Tramlines salutes you.

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: 'Rafa slammed'. Last night's sub-editor on the sports desk of Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper must have read Tramlines before he approved copy... or was it that obvious a headline?

MEMORY LANE: When asked if she had any special memories of the now retired (for good) Justine Henin, Vera Zvonareva said: "I played her so many times and I never beat her, so that's probably the biggest memory that I have. She's a great player. That's all I can say."

CAPTION COMPETITION: It's a ball boy. He's doing something weird at the net. Think of something funny to say. Simple.

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