It was Groundhog Day for Novak Djokovic who successfully defended his Australian Open title, whilst there was a new name on the women’s singles trophy as youngster Sofia Kenin became champion.
The relentless Serb returned to the number one spot after victory in a draining showpiece against Dominic Thiem on the 2nd of February. The 26-year-old Austrian had beaten the previous top ranked player Nadal in a nail-biting quarter final but Djokovic’s determination and genius proved a step too far in Melbourne.
It was not straightforward for Djokovic though, as he had to come back from two sets to one down. Having conceded just one set in the entire tournament, the Serbian right-hander looked in good nick in the opening set, which he won 6-4 after breaking due to a sloppy Thiem double fault.
The next two sets, however, saw Djokovic under pressure both physically and emotionally, losing his cool with the umpire after being punished for failing to serve within the required time limit. He also received medical attention, citing dizziness as the cause for his third set capitulation.
Throughout his career Djokovic has shown nerves of steel and a will cast in iron, and once more in Melbourne he dug deep to keep himself in the tie. The Serbian superstar battled to win the fourth set before showing composure to close out the final set. The two players differing experience levels showed late on; Djokovic was as calm as ever, whilst unforced errors crept into Thiem’s game at vital moments.
It is the old guard of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer who continue to dominate the men’s game, and it is Djokovic in particular who has a stranglehold over this particular event. He has won an unrivalled eight Australian Opens, including seven of the last ten. Thiem, though, pushed him all the way, proving he is well-placed to pounce when the commanding era of the ‘big three’ finally ceases.
Whilst a select few rule men’s tennis, in recent years the women’s singles Grand Slams have regularly been conquered by newcomers. This trend continued in Melbourne as American starlet Sofia Kenin won her first Grand Slam. Her victory over Garbine Muguruza was the first Australian Open final to be contested by two players outside of the top ten.
The young American is not new to the spotlight, having long been tipped to be a future star, and on a humid Melbourne afternoon she lived up to the expectations. Despite losing the first set, Kenin recovered to take the second, before storming to victory with a clinical third set demolition. Another young star saw her stock continue to rise as Kenin’s compatriot Coco Gauff produced another giant killing. Following on from her victory over Venus Williams at Wimbledon, the teenager beat world number four Naomi Osaka.
Like Djokovic, Muguruza experienced illness in the final, calling for the trainer at the end of the second set, as she struggled with the conditions. In a month where Australia was ravaged by wildfires, there were questions over whether the Open would reach its conclusion at all. This was particularly prevalent in the earlier rounds of the competition when Slovenian player Jakupovic retired from a match due to a coughing fit caused by the hazardous air quality. Thankfully for tennis fans the tournament was given the go ahead and proved to be enormously entertaining throughout.