“Without you, we could not have done this.”- These were the words of Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka to the Victorian Government, who did a good job to ensure the first grand slam of the year was successful.
The 2021 Australian Open finally came to an end on Sunday despite all the odds. Tennis was badly affected in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic with a lot of tournaments either postponed or cancelled.
And with the pandemic still not over, there were doubts whether Tennis Australia would be able to pull off the difficult job of staging the first grand slam of the year.
However, Tennis Australia in collaboration with the Australian Government did a very good job of hosting the tournament. The tournament started later than usual as all the players were required to stay in quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival in Australia.
While the decision did not appeal to some of the players, it was the right thing to do. Australia are one of the countries with zero to low positive cases, so it was important they put these restrictions in place to protect their community.
Also, all the WTA and ATP tournaments ahead of the slam were played in Australia as a precaution against Covid-19. The tournament kicked off on February 8, and after two weeks of exhilarating tennis, the usual suspects took home the trophy on both the men and women’s section.
Freshsports take a look at some of the talking points from the tournament.
Novak Djokovic closes on Federer And Nadal: The Serbian has made the Rod Laver Arena his home, and Sunday was no different.
Going into the final, Djokovic was 8-0 in the Aus Open final, but he faced a difficult challenge in Daniil Medvedev. The Russian was on a 20-match winning streak, including 11 wins against top ten players.
However, as always, Djokovic raised his level when it matters most. The first set was competitive, but it was the 33-year-old that eventually took it 7-5.
From there on, it was smooth sailing as he won the next two sets 6-2, 6-2. The win is Djokovic’s ninth title at the down under, and he also became the second man to win at least nine or more titles at the same grand slam.
Djokovic’s win is also his 18th grand slam title, and he is now just two away from matching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s 20 grand slam titles. Following his win, Djokovic revealed his main focus now is grand slam titles.
“Most of my attention and my energy from this day forward, until I retire from tennis, is going to be directed in majors, trying to win more major trophies,” Djokovic said
And with him younger and in this sort of form, he looks well on course to be the player with the most majors.
Osaka is the new face of women’s tennis: For a very long time, Serena Williams was the face of women’s tennis, but there’s a new queen in the game, and that’s Naomi Osaka.
The Japanese made it 4-0 in slam finals as she won her second Australian Open and fourth major by beating Jennifer Brady in straight sets.
Osaka burst into public consciousness when she beat the woman she’s usurping (Serena) at the 2018 US Open finals. The 2018 US Open was her first major, but she has won three more since then, including the 2019 Australian Open and last year’s US Open.
The 23-year-old defeated Serena in the semi-finals at this year’s first major, and that confirmed the changing of guard if there were any doubts before.
Osaka’s success on the court is not what just make her the new face of tennis, but also her work off the court. The Japanese received praises for speaking out against racial injustice during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement last year.
However, Osaka still needs to transfer her success to the clay and grass courts. The 23-year-old is yet to go past the 3rd round of either the French Open or Wimbledon, but that needs to change if she wants to be considered as one of the true greats of the game.
24 keeps eluding Serena: While Osaka is now the new queen, it was another opportunity missed for Serena in her quest to break Magaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles.
The 39-year-old has won 23 majors but has not won any since she came back from a maternity break. Not that she has not gotten close, but it has not just happened for her.
At this year’s first major, she appeared to be cruising until she lost to eventual champion, Osaka in the semi-finals. And with age no longer on her side, it’s now a matter of if and not when Serena will win another major.
Next Gen so close but yet so far: One of the most consistent topics on the men’s tour in recent years is if the next-gen are ready to take over from the Big Three.
However, Djokovic’s win and Nadal’s success at the French Open showed the big three are not ready to give up their throne yet. Before his victory on Sunday, Djokovic revealed the next-gen would have to work hard to end the dominance of the big three.
While Thiem won the US Open last year, he did it without facing any of the big three, so there are still question marks over their ability to beat the big three in slam finals.
Medvedev had an amazing run to the final and was even some people’s favourite, but once again the final showed that playing one of the big three in the final of a major is a different thing.
The next-gen are knocking on the door, but they are still not ready to end the big three dominance in slams.
Tennis Australia lays down the blueprint: Tennis Australia did a very good job of hosting a successful tournament in the middle of a pandemic.
Although it was not like last year, there were still crowds in the stadium, and that’s a brilliant thing given the circumstances the world is currently facing.
This should help French Open, Wimbledon and US Open organisers in staging their events later in the year.