Going into the Australian Open, there were seven British players who made the main draw. On the men’s side, recently knighted world number one Sir Andy Murray was one of the two favourites for the tournament along with his rival and world number two, Novak Djokovic.
Elsewhere, Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund had real potential to join Murray in the later stages of the tournament, after achieving some impressive results over the course of 2016. Aljaz Bedene made up the number of British males in the draw to four.
The tournament started impressively for Murray as he breezed through the first three rounds without losing a set. After Djokovic’s shock departure from the tournament in the second round, all eyes fell on Murray to see whether he could add to his three grand slam titles and claim an elusive Australian Open crown.
One would think that this may have been Murray’s best chance to win the title. However, the Brit picked the wrong game to have an off day against Mischa Zverev in round four. The German world number 50 played the game of his life as he knocked Murray out in four sets, a result no one saw coming.
The world number 1 was clearly devastated by the result, and there is no doubt that he will bounce back from this shock defeat. This loss, whilst one of the worst of his career, can only buoy Murray to win at least one of the three grand slam titles left in 2017. I am confident that we will see Murray back to his best soon enough, and can put this defeat down to fatigue after playing so many games in recent months.
The rest of the British males in the main draw had mixed success. World number 109 Bedene lost in the first round to a man of similar ranking position, Victor Estrella Burgos, whilst world number 45 Edmund was knocked out in the second round to world number 31 Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets after a very disappointing match. Certainly not the start to 2017 Edmund had in mind. In contrast, Evans continued his great start to 2017 here in Melbourne.
Evans had reached the final of the ATP Sydney tournament in the week before the first grand slam of the year. To add to this, Evans recorded the best win of his career, beating seventh seed Marin Cilic in the second round and 29th seed Bernard Tomic in the third round, before eventually losing out to Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga in round four. This was a real coming of age for Evans, who at 26 years of age, can certainly be confident going into the rest of 2017.
In the women’s draw, Johanna Konta led the main hopes for the British women who made the draw. The world number 9 has shot up the rankings since she unexpectedly reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in 2016, becoming a very talented player.
The other British women in the main draw were Naomi Broady and Heather Watson who have both been very inconsistent over their careers, despite having considerable talent. Two women who did not make the main draw after being knocked out in qualifying were Tara Moore and Laura Robson, who both lost in the first round of the pre-tournament event.
There was a first round exit for Broady who put up a great fight against home favourite and 22nd seed Daria Gavrilova, losing in three sets. Watson will be disappointed in the manner that she was knocked out. After impressively beating 21st seed Sam Stosur in the first round, she lost out to qualifier Jennifer Brady despite having seven match points, again highlighting her inconsistent results in recent years.
This left Johanna Konta who, coming off the back of her tournament win at the WTA Sydney event, was one of the most confident players in the draw. Konta had a tough draw, but showed impressive form to reach the quarter-finals without dropping a set, despite playing matches against some high calibre opponents.
Her stunning form set up a quarter final tie against arguably the greatest of all time and eventual winner Serena Williams, the first meeting between the pair. Williams is the best for a reason, and she performed remarkably better than Konta on the clutch points, the ones you must win to win a match. Konta lost in straight sets to Williams, but there is a lot of promise from the world number 9 and British number 1, and I think she could easily be in the top-5 come year end, and could maybe even make a grand slam final.
So, overall, a missed opportunity for Murray will be the main focus from a British point of view after the Australian Open, although I would expect Murray to bounce back from this. British tennis fans can also be very excited about Konta for the rest of 2017, as well as, the new and improved Evans.
Additionally, Edmund still has plenty of potential and is still young, so 2017 could also be a very exciting year for him. Finally, despite only the one quarter-finalist across the board at the Australian Open, I am expecting 2017 to be a huge year for British tennis.