After warm up tournaments across Asia, the first grand slam of the year got underway in Melbourne on the 16th of January – and what a way to start 2017. From two old foes fighting it out in the men’s final, shock early exists from the world number one and two Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, and Serena Williams winning a record 23rd grand slam, this Open has set the rest of the year up nicely.
First looking at the men’s draw there is only one place to start. Roger Federer, notoriously strong on fast courts, won his first major in five years following a surprise final battle with Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who reached his first major final in three years after successive injuries have thwarted his return to the court.
Turning back the clock, both the veterans showcased their skill in a mammoth final, which went to five sets and lasted four hours. Federer defied logic and age to defeat Rafa, to pull off arguably his best grand slam win. This could possibly be the thirty-four year olds last victory, with many pundits and fans saying the great is nearing the end of his career – yet the Swiss rolled back the years with the magnificent Open win.
However, Federer was helped by the shock early exits of favourites Murray and Djokovic. Murray crashed out against world number 50 Mischa Zverev. He is the lowest ranked player Murray has lost to at a grand slam since 2006. Murray was visibly distraught after the loss after an excellent 2016, which ended with him being world number 1, he will be extremely disappointed with his start to 2017. Zverev, known for his strong left handed net rushes, was too strong for the Scotsman.
Admittedly, Murray never hit top gear and was sluggish in the opening set losing a 3-1 lead. No one saw this coming and Murray will be extremely disappointed to crash out, especially after closest rival Novak Djokovic crashed out earlier in the slam. The six-time Australian Open champion was beaten in five sets by Denis Istomin.
“Dan Evans had his best run at a grand slam – losing to Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in four sets in round 5.”
The Serbian had never lost to anyone ranked lower than No. 69 in the world, but world number 117 was certainly a bolt from the blue. Djokovic was by no means off colour but like Murray later in the tournament, he never hit top gear. One would have thought that Murray would have gone on with confidence to win the open but that was not the case.
Dan Evans had his best run at a grand slam – losing to Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in four sets in round 5. Despite taking the first set, the world number 51 Evans looked fatigued in the later stages of the game. He admitted after that Tsonga was too strong for him and that he will go work on the physical side of his game. Despite the disappointing loss, Evans will take pride from his progress over the last years. He will hope to continue his good form for Great Britain in the Davis Cup in Canada.
He will take enormous pride from his performance in Melbourne as the Englishman attained some mammoth victories including a win over seventh seeded Marin Cilic in the third round – which shocked us all.
“She was named the greatest female player ever, which speaks volumes about her undeniable power and pedigree.”
Looking over to the women’s side we saw the Williams sisters battle it out in the final. Serena beat sister Venus in two sets to win a record twenty-third Grand Slam. She was named the greatest female player ever, which speaks volumes about her undeniable power and pedigree.
On her way to the final Serena beat British number 1 Johanna Konta in the quarters. After the match Williams claimed that the 25-year-old is a future champion. The Brit, who reached the Australian Open semis last year, will be happy to with her progress in this tournament and will hope to build on it through the rest of the year.
It was a surprising tournament in many ways and an encouraging one for our British tennis players, despite Murray’s purple patch taking a substantial hit. Johanna Konta has proven she can compete against the best in the world while Evans and Edmund will be brimming with confidence after their runs in the competition.
Next on the agenda is Britain vs Canada in the Davis Cup this weekend.