Goodbye from Melbourne, Australia
The year-long tennis season begins in Australia. The tournaments leading to the Australian Open took a toll on some players. Two of the events are not in the ATP Tour calendar or the Women’s Tennis Association. There was the World Team Tennis League in Dubai, featuring men and women and also the maiden edition of the United Cup, with 18 national mixed teams competing simultaneously in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.
In the scheduled Adelaide International, Djokovic had a tough draw as he defeated, successively, Shapovalov, Medvedev and sustained a hamstring injury during a hard 6/7(8); 76(3); 6/4 title victory over America’s Sebastian Korda.
The top seeded Nadal skipped the warm-up events but in Melbourne, he played a four-set first round match against Jack Draper of the United Kingdom. He had a day’s rest before facing unseeded American, Mackenzie McDonald, who took Nadal’s serve five times for a straight sets upset.
Other seeded players fell in a legion of upsets. The third seeded Tsitsipas and the fourth seeded Djokovic were the only players among the top 10 seeds that remained after the second Monday. They both played their ways to the epic final.
Djokovic again denied the Greek star a maiden Grand Slam title, having defeated him in 2021 Roland Garros final.
The women’s draw also had its legion of upsets. The top seeded Swiatek and the second seeded Ons Jabeur were defeated in the first week. During the fortnight, Aryna Sabalenka displayed a more mature game with a repertoire of shots.
Also, Coco Gauff also came to Australia having developed topspin ground strokes allowing greater clearance over the net and a deep landing close to the opponent’s baseline. The tennis ball travels in a parabola, like an aircraft taking off and drops on account of gravity pull. In Melbourne, the seventh-seeded Gauff had a good run before losing to Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round.
The women’s title match was a battle of fire versus ice, reminiscent of McEnroe and Borg of yesteryears. Every shot hit by Aryna was with a loud grunt, as every game won was celebrated with a Murray-like growl, as the tiger tattooed on her left arm. On the contrary, Elena never uttered a sound but remained poker-faced all through the match. It was Aryna’s power that prevailed and got her the crucial break in the seventh game of the third set. Her unrelenting attack annulled a break point, while a defensive shot elicited the Elena error for the fourth match point leading to victory in the tenth game of the third set.
Nigerian-American Michael Mmoh made his Grand Slam break-through in Melbourne with his impressive four set upset of the 12th seed, Alexander Zverev. Michael might have reached the fourth round if he did not lose his composure in the second set of the third round match with American John J Wolf who lost to compatriot Ben Shelten in a titanic fourth round battle. The consolation is that his performance catapulted him to 83 from his pre-Melbourne ranking of 107 in the men’s tour.
The historic 2023 Australian Open set records in attendance with over 900,000 fans passing through the tills to watch matches in the three major arenas and the field courts.
The women’s finals match was watched in the Rod Laver Arena by Billie Jean King and six of the original nine players, who signed the “one-dollar” contract that flagged off the women’s professional tennis in the world. The organisers announced that Kia Motors has extended its sponsorship for another five years.