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Australian Open:  The men in Melbourne

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The Australian Open commemorated its 108th year in which Nadal, Djokovic and Federer arrived in Melbourne with the singular purpose to increase individual tally of Grand Slam titles.

Getting to Australia as world number 2, Djokovic had additional goals of an eighth title and the top spot in ranking. At the conclusion, the Serbian superstar achieved his three goals.

The tournament kicked off with justifiable anxiety over the effect of the bushfires raging nearby and the attendant harsh weather conditions that claimed casualties in the qualifying event.

While some players were apprehensive about competing, the top-seeded Nadal assured the tennis world that he was comfortable with the assurances of the organizers who insisted that “the show must go on.”

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, seeded 8, fell in a brutal five-setter with America’s Tennys Sandgren in the second round. Exhausted from Davis Cup and ATP events, Spain’s strongman Roberto Bautista Agut lost in the third round to Marin Cilic.

The sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, a title hopeful, lost to a rejuvenated Milos Raonic in the third round. Stan Wawrinka dismissed the fourth seeded Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round in which Dominic Thiem routed Gael Monfils.

The 38-year old Federer escaped defeat in the third round when Australia’s John Millman was just two points away from victory in the third round. America’s Tennys Sandgren lost to Federer in the quarter-finals after forfeiting 7 match points, in the heart-breaker of the tournament. Thereafter, the Swiss Maestro had nothing left in the tank as he succumbed to injury in a one-sided loss to Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Djokovic lost one set in his first round match with Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff and did not drop another set en route to the finals. However, Thiem dropped a set to Australia’s Alex Bolt in the second round and was taken to five sets in the third round by America’s Taylor Fritz before outlasting Nadal in the quarter-finals.

In the second set of the final match, Djokovic was penalized the first serve for service clock violation. He lost the game and set. However, he vented his unhappiness at the change-over when he touched the umpire’s foot thrice and uttered some words. The apparent assault was not sanctioned. Djokovic’s prolonged ball bouncing before serving led to the introduction of the 25-second limit between points.

The incident in Melbourne this year may cast a pall on Djokovic’s record eighth title in Melbourne as well as his career achievements in general because all along, other players had muted that bouncing the ball over 15 times is a deliberate tactic of gamesmanship.


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