Nine things we learned from the 2021 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic collected his ninth Australian Open title and edged closer to the Grand Slam record held by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, whilst Naomi Osaka continued her dominance on the hard courts with her fourth Grand Slam.

There were many other intriguing stories, including the incredible journey of Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev as well as American Jennifer Brady, who reached the singles final despite enduring a two-week hard quarantine.

With the World No.1 winning his ninth title in Melbourne, it is only fitting to look at nine major talking points from this year’s fascinating Australian Open.

1. Nick Kyrgios is box office 

The presence of fans at Melbourne meant it was impossible to ignore Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open. He added a refreshing change of pace, expressing his opinion wherever necessary to use the energy of the crowd.

His excitement on court was indisputable, and the Australian’s matches with Ugo Humbert and Dominic Thiem were infectious, dramatic and entertaining.

In fact, Kygrios’ clash with Thiem was the most-watched non-news programme on TV in Australia this year so far.

Questions remain over his talent and work ethic, but his box office power is a fact. 

2. Dominant Djokovic 

Novak Djokovic leaves Australia with nine titles from nine finals. His greatness at Melbourne Park is truly impressive, and is comparable to his rival Rafael Nadal in Paris.

Daniil Medvedev was in brilliant form heading into the final, and there were even whispers that he was the favourite against the World No.1, but those words were washed away with ease as Djokovic ruthlessly dismantled the Russian.

The Serb still rules the roost, and the new generation must patiently wait for their chance once more. 

3. Nadal struggles again Down Under 

Another trip to Australia, another defeat for Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard led the quarterfinal against Stefanos Tsitsipas after winning the opening two sets, but the Greek stormed back to triumph in five.

Nadal has only won the Grand Slam once, losing finals in 2012 and 2017 that were in his grasp.

The 20-time champion was tipped to meet Djokovic in the final, but like so many of his efforts Down Under, it wasn’t to be.  

4. Osaka is dominating the hard court  

Naomi Osaka’s triumph over Jennifer Brady made it four wins from the last six hard-court Grand Slams.

The 23-year-old is still yet to taste defeat in a Grand Slam final and her challenge will now be to achieve similar levels on grass and clay.

Rafael Nadal’s love affair with clay has done his reputation no harm, but Osaka’s already meteoric rise through the sport would only gain speed if she could add the French Open or Wimbledon to her collection.

5. Hosting was a costly success  

The tournament was concluded successfully, and there were no coronavirus outbreaks in Melbourne, but organizers have been left reeling by the financial cost of the tournament.

Tournament Director Craig Tiley told Melbourne radio station SEN that they would suffer millions in losses, with estimates ranging between £67 – £78 million.

The Australian Open proved to sporting organizers around the world that staging such events was possible, but at a devastating cost.  

6. Record pressure showing for Serena?  

Watching Serena Williams’ tearful, premature exit from her press-conference after losing to eventual winner Osaka raised questions over the mental impact of chasing her elusive 24th Grand Slam title.

Williams has admitted in the past to feeling the pressure of being the number one target, and it would make sense for this stress to only increase with regards to the pursuit of a feat so widely perpetuated in the media.

7. Line judges may be a thing of the past

In an effort to make the tournament as bio-secure as possible, line judges were replaced by ball-tracking software and pre-recorded announcements this year.

The change had a mixed reaction from players, with some praising it for removing on-court arguments, while others inevitably labelled it ‘glitchy’ and to blame in their defeats.

While it was only brought in as a safety measure in the pandemic, this switch could mark yet another technological innovation to grab back page headlines moving forward.

8. Newcomers can always burst onto the scene

World number 114 Aslan Karatsev proved that there is always room for a surprise at Grand Slam level.

Few would have had their eyes on the 27-year-old Russian heading into the tournament but reaching the semi-finals of his debut tournament ended up being one of the biggest stories of the competition.

It took eventual champion Novak Djokovic to knock him out, but Karatsev reminded us that you cannot count anyone out until the players take to the court.

9. Plenty left in the tank for the runners-up

There isn’t much more frustrating than losing in a championship final, but Australian Open runners-up Daniil Medvedev and Jennifer Brady both showed that they still have a lot to offer.

Medvedev came away rightfully disappointed in his performance, but if he can iron out the unforced errors and fragility towards the back end of games, he has all that it takes to be a champion.

Brady equally showed all the makings of a winner and is bursting with potential given how far she went after two weeks of hard lockdown.

You can check out the rest of SWL’s Australian Open coverage here.

Featured image credit: Valmont1702 via Wiki Commons CC 3.0 license

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