I’m struggling to recall a more remarkable fortnight of tennis. This year’s Australian Open certainly delivered and in my opinion was one of the best Grand Slams of recent memory. There was something for everyone at this year’s tournament. The underdogs prospered, there were throwbacks to the 80’s with some classic serve & volley and at the business end, it was the game’s legends who stood tall.
Much was said about the faster courts at this year’s event. Assuming this was an intentional move, in my mind this was one of the best decisions Tennis Australia have made for many years. Heavy favourites were taken out of their comfort zone, some unfamiliar faces made a name for themselves and there was some much welcome variety in contrasting game styles added to many of the matches.
Roger Federer – The G.O.A.T
The greatest of all time. There is no questioning it after what he produced over these past two weeks. Let’s not forget this was Federer’s first tournament in six months after an injury layoff. He had a nightmare draw in which he faced four top 10 players (Berdych, Nishikori, Wawrinka & Nadal) and he was able to come through on top, all at 35 years of age. It was fitting that Federer’s 18th Grand Slam victory was in an epic final against his greatest rival in Rafael Nadal. What Federer has achieved and still capable of, given the competition in the men’s game over the past decade and a half, is nothing short of astonishing.
Serena Williams – The most successful female in the open era
The greatest female in the open era. Serena just keeps delivering results. Her Australian Open triumph was her 23rd Grand Slam victory and she doesn’t look like slowing down in a hurry. Her 23rd major took her past Steffi Graf on the Grand Slam tally and is only one behind Margaret Court’s remarkable record of 24.
Roger Federer – I need to mention once more how good this bloke is. He had been written off by so many. They said he couldn’t win another major, they said he was on the way out. How wrong they were.
Rafael Nadal – Was tantalisingly close to capturing a 15th major but was beaten by the best. A terrific return from injury, Rafa almost looks to be back to his best. Early days but hard to pick anyone against him at the French Open in a few months based on his form here.
Grigor Dimitrov – A fantastic month for Grigor. Nobody has ever doubted his talent but he looks to be finally putting it together on the court and producing results. Took out the Brisbane title with some impressive wins over some big names. Was extremely unlucky to fall short in a 5 hour epic against Rafa in the semis but it was a pleasure to see him in full flight during the past month. Definitely one to watch closely in 2017.
Mischa Zverev – After enduring years of injury, Mischa produced the best grand slam performance of his career with a quarter final appearance. May have been helped by the slightly quicker courts at this year’s tournament but he still executed a serve and volley game beautifully. A fantastic win over Andy Murray in the 4th round which will be remembered for a while.
Venus Williams – Another who has endured years of frustrations with injury and indifferent form. Venus appeared in her first major final for almost 8 years. If she can stay injury free, expect to see her with a regular spot well inside the top 10.
Coco Vandeweghe – Fantastic tournament from the unseeded American. Dispatched both of Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza en-route to a semi-final appearance. Went after her shots and played some entertaining and super aggressive tennis. Her impressive fortnight sees her move to a career high rank of 20.
Mirjana Lučić-Baroni – A wonderful story for the Croatian veteran, not only in winning her first match at the Australian Open since 1998 but for winning another four matches and progressing to the semis. She equals her best result in a major which was previously at Wimbledon in 1999.
Novak Djokovic – A shock loss to Denis Istomin in the second round for the 6-time former Champion. Seems to be in a significant form slump and looks nowhere near as dangerous as he was this time last year. Has some work to do.
Nick Kyrgios – Looked great in his first five sets of the tournament then capitulated from the third set onwards against Andreas Seppi. Has heaps of talent but also a lot of work to do. Expected better given his seeding and an appearance at his home slam. Will be interesting to see how well he can bounce back.
Lucas Pouille – A disappointing showing from the young Frenchman. Was defeated by Alexander Bublik who was ranked outside the top 200. Pouille looked unstoppable early claiming the first set 6-0 but fell apart afterwards, losing in four.
Agnieszka Radwańska – Comprehensively beaten by Lučić-Baroni in the second round. There is no doubting about her ability but she needs to produce better results than this.
Simona Halep – Thrashed by Shelby Rogers on the first day. Her second successive first round exit at the Australian Open.
Sam Stosur – The first round exit at her home tournament was bad enough but the way she was beaten in the third set (6-0) at the hands of Heather Watson was very disappointing. Will be looking to find some form leading into the hard and clay court season.
Where to Next…
Both the men’s and women’s representative competitions kick off within the next week with the Davis Cup commencing on Friday and the Fed Cup commencing early next week.
Commencing next week there are a number of indoor hard court tournaments in North America and Europe as well as some clay court tournaments in South America before moving onto the masters series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami in March/April.