Australian Open

Can Roger Federer Win Another Grand Slam Title?

There is no debate that when it comes to men’s singles tennis, Roger Federer is the G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time). Currently third in the ATP world rankings, but with 103 career titles to his name, Federer holds the record for the most Grand Slams with 20. His last came at the 2018 Australian Open and as we gear up to 2020’s tournament, let’s take a look at the Swiss Maestro’s career and future.

After years of dominance, injuries are starting to take their toll on the Swiss ace and this year he failed to win a major title. The two-time defending champion lost out in the fourth round of the first Grand Slam of the year. Rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas was FedEx’s opponent in Melbourne and the 14th seed turned around his losing start, going on to win 6–7(11-13), 7–6(7-3), 7–5, 7–6(7-5).

In June’s French Open, old foes Federer and Nadal met at the semi-final stage. The Spaniard is unstoppable on clay, his favoured surface, and so it proved again. He dispatched Federer in straight sets 6–3, 6–4, 6–2, before beating Dominic Thiem in the final to win a 12th French Open title, and yet another record.

Grass season came around and attention turned to Wimbledon. Federer reached the final here, his best performance of 2019’s Grand Slam calendar. Facing Novak Djokovic, the two played out the longest singles final in Wimbledon history. It took Djokovic four hours and 57 minutes to defeat Federer 7–6(7–5), 1–6, 7–6(7–4), 4–6, 13–12(7–3).
2019’s final Grand Slam, the US Open, saw Federer crash out in the quarter-finals. Unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who has fallen down the rankings to 78th in the world, rediscovered some of his old form to come from a set down and beat Federer 3–6, 6–4, 3–6, 6–4, 6–2.

If you’re looking at the latest odds on the Australian Open, you’ll find Federer slightly down the pecking order at odds of 17/2, behind his rivals Nadal and Djokovic, and world number 4 Daniil Medvedev.

Since the US Open, Federer has only played a handful of events: the Shanghai Masters, the Swiss Indoors (which he won) and the ATP finals. But after that, he’s decided that he won’t play in any professional tournaments for almost two months. It’s a move that could pay off – after all, he reached the semi-finals of the French Open after three years away from the clay court.

Of his decision not to partake in any of the Australian Open warm-up competitions, Federer said: “I think with age and experience I can be confident about what I do in training. I’ll travel to Melbourne early to give myself the best chance to be ready. I believe I can be ready. I don’t think I need a ton of matches especially on the hard courts but maybe I’m a bit more dependent on the draw early on at the Australian Open but the key is health and if I’m healthy I know stuff can be achieved.”

Since Federer last won a Grand Slam title, Djokovic has won four and Nadal has won three. His rivals are hot on the heels of his record, with the Serbian on 16 and the Spaniard just one behind on 19. You can’t help but feel that time is running out for FedEx. Should the other two members of the ‘Big Three’ stay fit, they have the potential of overtaking his tally.

UTR, Tennis Australia Announce Multi-City Australian Open UTR Wildcard Playoff

Universal Tennis (www.MyUTR.com) and Tennis Australia, today announced the AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff, a multi-week, multi-city event that gives all tennis players, regardless of age and ability, the opportunity to play their way into the main draw of the Australian Open 2020 via the AO Wildcard Playoff in Melbourne.

The new AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff will kick off in Queensland from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th November, with New South Wales to follow from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th November. The top two finishers (male and female) in each event will advance to the AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff Finals in Melbourne, from which two winners will gain entry into the AO Wildcard Playoff, held Monday 9th to Sunday 15th December.

The AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff will utilize the Universal Tennis tournament platform and organize draws based on a player’s Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) Powered by Oracle, to create a competitive, level-based staggered entry format. Staggered entry draws based on UTR have quickly been gaining global traction as the preferred way to create a truly open community tournament where players are matched purely on skill level for better competition.

Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open Tournament Director said, “This is an exciting chance for us to open up opportunities for the everyday player and bring a new level of innovation to the Australian Open. The AO 2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff will encourage players of all levels to get excited about the sport as well as offer a creative and fun way for them to get involved. Our partnership with Universal Tennis is integral to our efforts to grow the game and create more opportunities for players of all levels to have a fantastic tennis experience wherever they are.”

The AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff is part of a long-term partnership between Tennis Australia and Universal Tennis that aims to create more pathways within the game and increase local participation through level-based tennis. Today, there are tens of thousands of tennis players in Australia who have a UTR, which allows them to unlock a more fun and flexible tennis experience by finding better matches and more people to play with.

“Our goal at Universal Tennis is to increase tennis participation in local ecosystems and bring players together via level-based play opportunities,” said Mark Leschly, Universal Tennis Chairman and CEO. “Together with Tennis Australia, we are excited to offer players a new road to the Australian Open via the AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff. Creating engaging events that allow players of any level to have a competitive match is key to achieving our shared goal of growing the game and making tennis more affordable, accessible, and fun for all.”

AO2020 UTR Wildcard Playoff Calendar:

● Stage 1 – Queensland Qualifying: Thursday 7th November to Sunday 10th November 2019. New South Wales Qualifying: Thursday 14th November to Sunday 17th November. Two finalists from each event will move on to Stage 2.
● Stage 2 – Melbourne Final: Friday 6th December and Saturday 7th December 2019. Two winners receive entry into the AO Wildcard Playoff.
● Stage 3 – Melbourne AO Wildcard Playoff: Monday 9th December to Sunday 15th December 2019. Winner receives entry into the Australian Open Main Draw.

Registration for the New South Wales and Queensland AO UTR Wildcard Playoff Qualifying closes on October 30, 2019 at 11:59 PM AEST. For more information and to register for the Queensland AO UTR Wildcard Playoff visit MyUTR.com/AOWCQLD. To register for the New South Wales AO UTR Wildcard Playoff visit MyUTR.com/AOWCNSW.

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About Universal Tennis
The mission of Universal Tennis is to make tennis more affordable, accessible and fun for all players, regardless of age, gender, level and socioeconomic status. Anchored by the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) Powered by Oracle – the world’s most accurate tennis rating system – Universal Tennis is creating opportunities and pathways for players from all over the world, in all stages of life, to find better matches and unlock a more fun and flexible tennis experience. Visit MyUTR.com to learn more.

About Tennis Australia
Tennis Australia is the governing body of tennis in Australia, promoting and facilitating participation in tennis at all levels. TA also conducts national and international tournaments including the Australian Open. For more information please visit tennis.com.au.

Lleyton Hewitt vs. Bernard Tomic – An Analysis

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

Australians Alex de Minaur, Alexei Popyrin and Alex Bolt came up with impressive performances for their nation when the world and its tennis players gathered to play the season’s first major there in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Lleyton Hewitt, the country’s Davis Cup captain and its last major titlist (among the men), speaking highly of them also effectively shut any doubts that may have lingered about their individual potential.

All this made for a perfect segue – of a country’s old sporting guard validating the credentials of the new – except for one, major blot marring the scene. That of Bernard Tomic who, a few years ago, had been similarly welcomed into the fold as one of Australia’s brightest future prospects and who accused Hewitt of throttling his career – especially when it came to playing the Davis Cup – and prioritising his self-interests.

The continuing spillage of rebutting allegations and counter-rebuttals to these between Hewitt and Tomic has now taken on a distinct note of “He Said-He Said”. Aside from this, however, the ongoing fracas has led to implications beyond a cursory professional falling-out.

Tomic’s accusations at the Australian Open that Hewitt was creating a conflict of interest both by captaining the Australian Davis Cup team and continuing to play professionally on the ATP Tour does present the former world No. 1 in an unflattering light. Although Hewitt did not play the doubles rubber in Australia’s Davis Cup qualifier tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina in February in Adelaide, the fact that he would be playing doubles in a few upcoming ATP events then conveys the message that he is trying to secure the best of both worlds for himself.

Not that being the Davis Cup captain and playing on the Tour are mutually exclusive. But while Hewitt had made a big show of announcing his retirement from the circuit a couple of years ago, there is a lack of certitude and clarity as to what is his status on the circuit presently. Is Hewitt to be considered retired, professional, semi-retired or semi-professional?

Hewitt’s response to Tomic’s allegations that the 26-year-old had issued threats and blackmailed him – and his family – highlighted his thuggish behaviour all over again. Hewitt’s stance of not being keen on selecting Tomic in the Australian Davis Cup squad was also justified, given Tomic’s penchant of displaying lack of commitment in matches, and towards the sport in general.

Also, considering that Tomic had blown a seemingly innocuous question about his availability for the Davis Cup into a theory of ill-intentions, not only towards him but also towards his compatriots – Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis – neither of whom who were in the picture nor a part of the question, showed his immaturity once again. Then, he may have had raised valid concerns about Hewitt purportedly side-lining Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, but his rant was definitely ill-timed. Most importantly, Tomic need not have tagged Tennis Australia, too, into the fracas thereby forcing them to pick a side – which they eventually did. To that end, Tomic lost twice-over when Tennis Australia not only sided with their Davis Cup captain but also cut off the financial support that it had been providing him.

Interestingly, in Tomic’s downward spiral touching a new low – after his interview with Chanel 9’s 60 Minutes, in which he accepted that he had indeed threatened Hewitt – the initial point he had been trying to raise, about Hewitt’s status quo in the general scheme of things, was conveniently deflected. Moreover, with the Australian team marching to the Davis Cup finals with a mammoth 4-0 win over the Eastern European nation, Hewitt’s assertive captaincy has come to be seen as redoubtable so much so that his statement of Tomic never donning Australian colours for the Davis Cup takes on an ominous ring, shutting the door on Tomic in more ways than one.

Australian Open Proves There Is Still A Ways To Go For The “Changing Of The Guard”

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

As the 2019 Australian Open concludes, one of the biggest upsets of the tournament was that of Roger Federer. The two-time defending champion’s fourth-round defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas set the ball rolling anew about changing of the guard and how Federer’s – and his other peers’ – time had come to an end.

Yet, as it turned out in the days after Federer’s upset, the old guard remained as they were – with Novak Djokovic defeating Rafael Nadal for the men’s title – even as the youngsters kept dropping off, one-by-one as the draw narrowed further. Until eventually, the two others who reached the penultimate stage of the tournament – Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lucas Pouille – got quite a lesson as to how they were expected to play at that point.

The concept of changing of the guard, too, has taken a lunging step backwards at this point. To that end, it is following the usual chain of events that usually transpire in an event. Each time that one among Federer, Nadal and Djokovic loses – and a Next Gen player wins – in a tournament, or a tournament; the narrative repeats itself. But, the moment any of them wins an event, the younger players get relegated to the backburner even as the legendary status of these players is cemented further. As such, suffice to say, the idea that there is a change of guard happening in the upper echelons of the game will soon reappear as the season progresses from beyond the Australian swing. And, at this point, it has honestly begun to get slightly tiresome.

All this, however, is not to say that the youngsters are not making their way through. But that there is an attempt to conflate expectations and reality, without considering the time factor needed to merge the two into a single entity. For example: in the last few years, Alexander Zverev has been a steady presence in the top ATP rankings with a slew of titles backing his credentials. Yet, his results in the majors have been disappointing – although not for want of trying.

Much as Zverev himself ponders about the dichotomy of his results otherwise in the ATP events and at the majors, for the numerous others who have directed their scrutiny at him, the takeaway ought to be that not keep harping on it and rather, let him figure it out for himself with his team. The same case can be made for Hyeon Chung – who after a surprisingly great run at the 2018 Australian Open has been laid low with injuries and inconsistent performances – and more recently, for Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In case of the Greek, the highs after his win over Federer – and Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarter-final – came cascading down in his lopsided 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 semi-final loss to Nadal. In a curious admission about the result, Tsitsipas observed in the post-match press conference, “I don’t know, I feel very strange. I feel happy with my performance in this tournament, but at the same time I feel disappointed. I feel like I could do a bit better today. I don’t know. That’s how I felt. But it’s a very, very weird feeling. Almost felt like just couldn’t play better. I don’t know.”

The rest of his press conference followed along the same lines with Tsitsipas outlining Nadal’s game-plan during the match and his inability to deal with the tactics employed. As far as analysis went, it was needed. But considering that Tsitsipas had faced Nadal twice before – as recently as in 2018 – and had lost both matches to him, he needed to have a strategy worked out to cover all his problematic areas against the Spaniard. Most importantly, as befitting the ranks of a player ushering in a new era, he needed to adjust his strategy right there, on the court, when the ones he had been employing were not working effectively against Nadal.

At the moment, this is the biggest differentiator between these multiple-time champions and the new players. The older players’ acumen in manipulating their tactics to put their opponents on the back-foot, then, is not something that can be gained in a match or two. It takes years to put together and even then, it is not perfect at all times.
But, in case of losses, it is the experience-wrought capability to reset their games that has made them so dominant, year-on-year and season-after-season. Even for Federer, despite his loss which has not been his first, and which will not be his last either.

The Latest On Naomi Osaka, Japan’s New Tennis Titan

Naomi Osaka is taking the tennis world by storm. Last year at this time, Japan’s newest tennis super star was ranked No. 72 and now she is on the cusp of becoming No. 1. Here are some info in advance of her Australian Open final.

She is making fourth main draw appearance at Australian Open, where she has advanced to first Australian final and second Grand Slam final.

Her previous best result here was a round of 16 showing in 2018 where she defeated two Top 20 players (No.19 Vesnina and No.17 Barty) before falling to World No.1 and eventual runner-up Simona Halep. Osaka’s 2018 run saw her become the youngest Japanese to reach the round 16 at a Slam since Ai Sugiyama at 1995 Roland Garros (19 yrs, 342 days) and she was the youngest player from Japan to reach this stage at Australian Open since Kimiko Date in 1990 (19 yrs, 122 days).

In other outings at the Australian Open, she made the third round in 2016 (as qualifier, lost to Vika Azarenka) – which marked Grand Slam main draw debut – and a second round in 2017 (losing to Jo Konta).

Having won the US Open in 2018, Osaka is bidding to be the 10th woman to win US Open and Australian Open back-to-back (most recently accomplished by Serena Williams in 2015). She is seeded at No. 4 this fortnight, which is her highest seeding at a Slam, up from No. 18 at 2018 Wimbledon. The No.4 seed has won title in Australia on three occasions in the Open Era: Mary Pierce (1995), Martina Hingis (1997) and Li Na (2014) Osaka is contesting 2019 Australian Open at a career-high of No.4, which was first achieved October 8, 2018.

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Tsitsipas Upset of Federer Sets Up Potential Inter-Generational Aussie Open Semifinals

The men’s field at the 2019 Australian Open could turn into a battle of the generations.

After the Stefanos Tsitsipas upset of six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer in the round of 16 Sunday, the men’s singles draw appears to point towards two intriguing semifinal match-ups of “old guard” versus “new guard” players.

After his upset of Federer, Tsitsipas will next face Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the quarterfinals, where he will be favored, despite RBA’s recent tournament win in Doha and suffering through three five-set match wins en route to the quarterfinals. Tsitsipas would then, likely, face world No. 2 Rafael Nadal who, despite injury fears at the end of last year and the start of this year, has rolled into the quarterfinals. Nadal is a heavy favorite to beat another “NextGen” young star, 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe of the USA, who defeated Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round to reach his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal. A semifinal between the 20-year-old Tsitsipas and the 32-year-old Nadal would be a prime box-office engagement.

Almost as intriguing a semifinal match-up would be a potential penultimate round showdown on the top half of the draw between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 4 Alexander Zverev. Djokovic, 31 and a six-time Australian Open champion, has No. 15 seed Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round and either No. 8 Kei Nishikori or No. 23 Pablo Carreno Busta and appears on a collision course with the 21-year-old Zverev. With new coach Ivan Lendl is his corner, Zverev will seek to reach a major semifinal for the first time. Former Wimbledon finalist and Australian Open semifinalist Milos Raonic awaits in the round of 16 and No. 11 Borna Coric or No. 2 Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals.

It will be interesting to monitor the tennis betting odds at 888sport and who they view as the favorite in these and other potential match-ups.

Five-Set Tennis Matches Are Like Test Series Cricket

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

In the cricketing world, the recent Test series between Australia and India concluded on a remarkable note, in more ways than one. India won the series 2-1, marking their first Test series win on Australian soil after 71 years. On an individualistic front, Indian player Cheteshwar Pujara with his gruelling game recapped how Test cricket was supposed to be played – with perseverance and doggedness complimenting players’ talent.

To the uninitiated, Test cricket is the longest – and oldest – form of the game, played over five days, across three sessions. The playing conditions are arduous and punishing – especially in Australia and in the sub-continent under the blazing heat – just as they are tricky, when the matches are hosted in England, or in the Caribbean. As the name suggests, the format ideally tested the players to outwit their opponents, playing ball-after-ball, and over-after-over, to see if they can secure a draw instead of trying to get an outright win. On the other hand, getting a draw would mean staving off a defeat to keep the team’s hopes – and even dignity – intact.

In the last few years though, the significance of Test cricket had, then, come to be eroded with the clamouring for fast-paced cricket necessitating a change where only one-way results – be it win or loss – mattered. The newer genre of players, too, feeding on this demand for quicker cricket, opted to showcase flashes and blazes instead of displaying finesse and painstakingness to build up their repertoire of Test cricket.

In tennis, five-set matches can be considered as Test cricket’s equivalent of the longest form of the game, asking for patience and endurance aside from tactical ingenuity. In all these years, receptiveness to the format’s continuity has continued to alter, forcing tweaks to be put in place, in order to seemingly reconcile with time constraints.

Then, be it changing the best-of-five set finals in the Masters to best-of-three, or initiating tie-breaks in the first four sets in the Majors, or coming up with concepts such as best-of-four-games’ sets, or the recent theme of introducing tie-breaks in the fifth set in two of the four Majors – thereby giving three of the four Majors leeway to give their own interpretation of the enforcement of the tie-break – the influx of new to the existing has been a process of evolution. It is also taking the newer generation of the sport’s audience further away from its quintessence.

Consider this: for all the clamouring about best-of-three set matches saving time, some of the most memorable matches that have emerged at the 2019 Australian Open have come at the best-of-five sets of play. In the first five days of the event, around 20 five-set matches have been played, with each result outweighing the others in its qualitative appeal – even Polish qualifier Kamil Majchrzak’s painful retirement in the fifth set to Kei Nishikori in the opening round.

These results, then, also raise the inevitable question as to whether the players’ being able to dig deep – within themselves – to find the composure, and the emotional and tactical wherewithal to eke out a win, would be possible if there were no margins to fall back on? Because, if there were not, we would not have seen epic comebacks from when two sets down, not only at the ongoing Australian Open – like Marin Cilic against Fernando Verdasco, or like Alex Bolt against Gilles Simon – but across the rest of the Majors, and even at the (now-defunct) Davis Cup.
More importantly, though, the best-of-five format also acts as a reality check for the younger generation against their aspirations and ambitions. They can be touted as the players to take the game – and the sport – forward, each with an individualistic game. But, then, it is their ability to step up and muster a challenge in the longer format that stutters even as they are able to close out matches relatively easier in the shorter format. And since it does, it is their composure and emotional and tactical wherewithal that needs to be recalibrated and improved upon rather than the sport needing to change to accommodate the so-called change of guard. And that is perhaps the difference between the past players and the current crop. The former, with their dominance, changed the way results came about – with lengthier formats – even as the latter seek noticeable enabling to ensure they can match up, and surpass, what has been achieved up to now.

Borrowing from cricket one last time, which has an old-school Test cricket representative in Pujara, maybe tennis, too, does have similar misfits in its ranks. These could, perhaps, establish their legacy, without wanting to modify the game beyond the cursory, unmindful of the scepticism coming their way.

There’s Something Distinct About Alex de Minaur

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

All it takes is one glance at Alex de Minaur to know the teenager has something distinct about him.

He does not have the imposing stature – height bestowed or otherwise – many of his peers and rivals command. But given the quick-fire way expectations have been passed over in the Australian men’s tennis circuit, like a baton, from youngster to youngster, de Minaur’s lack of physical impressiveness seems like a much-needed antidote.

More importantly, with his spryness on the court, coupled with a compact and wiry frame – justifying his nickname, Demon – de Minaur looks capable enough to not only hold the weight of these expectations, but also live up to them as and when opportunity presents itself before him. And, in the course of the last few days, between the end of the 2018 season and now, at the start of the 2019, de Minaur has had several opportunities to back up claims about his potential.

A quarter-final finish in Brisbane followed by the maiden ATP title win in Sydney meant that the 19-year-old had his job cut out for him at Melbourne Park, as the top-ranked Australian player. And against Pedro Sousa, who had quelled his personal demons – pardon the pun – in reaching the main draw of a Major for the first time in his career, de Minaur had a riveting first round opponent.

Watching him play, it became clearer why his game reminded many of Lleyton Hewitt although personally, I thought his game had a splashing of David Ferrer, too, as he went about his shot-creation – serving as a reminder to his Spanish connection.

The match, then, reiterated de Minaur’s tactical prowess as he exploited and bested Sousa’s aggressiveness with craftiness, drawing out the errors from his racquet instead of going for winners outright. With the win, de Minaur equalled his previous best result in the tournament – reaching the second round in 2017 – but this time around, he does not have the advantage of the relative obscurity he had had before. In his post-match press conference, de Minaur, too, concurred about him being a different player than who he was in 2017.

“I think I’m a completely different player from a couple years ago. Really looking forward to going out there, coming back, just having fun. I think that’s the main thing. To feed off the energy of the crowd. I mean, the support I’ve been getting has been amazing. Just makes you want to go out there, compete and have fun,” de Minaur admitted.

It’s for this reason, perhaps, the draw takes on added significance for him this year, with a third-round clash against world no. 2 and 2009 Australian Open champion, Rafael Nadal looking imminent as the first week unwinds. Undoubtedly, Nadal would go in with an edge over his younger rival in the match. But it is what de Minaur – with his unfazed temperament – would present on the day that continues to add to the fervour building around that potentiality.

Beyond the obviousness of that one match-up centred on de Minaur – as far as the home hopes go – de Minaur’s continuity at the Australian Open is also acting as a buffer to blot the backdrop of chaos unfolding in Australian tennis.

At a time, when the divisions in the country’s tennis ranks are almost spilling out with Thanasi Kokkinakis voicing his opinion about not receiving a main draw wild card, and Bernard Tomic accusing the country’s Davis Cup captain Hewitt of favouritism, focusing on de Minaur’s on-court exploits, then, is quite a normalcy-offering respite, much like his game.

Most Memorable Women’s Australian Open Finals

The first Grand Slam of the tennis calendar kicks off later this month with the Australian Open down at Melbourne Park.

Caroline Wozniacki is the reigning women’s champion but it is the seven-time winner of this event, Serena Williams, who is the bookmakers’ favourite to be the Australian Open 2019 women’s winner, with current odds of 4/1.
Whether this year’s competition will produce another classic final remains to be seen or not, but here are five from recent memory that we thoroughly enjoyed:

2018: Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 3-6 6-4 Simona Halep

Last year’s Australian Open was up for grabs as Serena Williams didn’t participate following the birth of her child in September the previous year. The final was contested between the world’s top two players at the time, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.

In a classic encounter it was Wozniacki who upset the world number one in three sets that lasted two hours and 49 minutes, with the match finishing shortly before 10:30pm local time.

Caroline Wozniacki became the first Dane in men’s or women’s singles to win a Grand Slam in doing so.

2016: Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4 Serena Williams

Germany’s Angelique Kerber took her first of three Grand Slams to date at the 2016 Australian Open with an upset victory over Serena Williams in the final.

Kerber beat future Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka 6-1 6-1 in the third round before seeing off Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta in straight sets in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

Few gave Kerber a chance of beating Serena in the final, particularly after losing the second set, but she came through in the decider to become the first German of either sex to win a Grand Slam singles competition this millennium.

2004: Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3 4-6 6-3 Kim Clijsters

Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne took her first and only Australian Open crown with a dramatic 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over fellow countrywoman Kim Clijsters in 2004.

Henin-Hardenne looked set to win the final in straight sets with a set and 4-2 lead in the second before the world number two broke back, pulling off four straight games to take the match to a decider.
However, Clijsters couldn’t keep the momentum going as she fell 0-4 down in the third and final set. Justine Henin-Hardenne produced the goods at the right time to make it 3-0 in Grand Slam finals versus Clijsters, having also beat her fellow Belgian in the 2003 French Open and the 2003 US Open finals.

2003: Serena Williams 7-6 3-6 6-4 Venus Williams

2002 saw the Williams sisters’ rivalry swing in the favour of Serena for the first time. The 2003 Australian Open was also the fourth consecutive Grand Slam final that saw the two Williams sisters face each other.

Serena had beaten her sister in straight sets at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open finals the previous year and completed the ‘Serena Slam’ with a three sets victory at Melbourne Park in 2003.

This would be Serena Williams’ fourth Grand Slam and her first in Australia. The future tennis Hall of Famer has won in Australia six times since and has 23 Grand Slams overall. To get to the final in 2003 she had to come from 1-5 down in the decider against Kim Clijsters in the semi-final before beating Venus in in the final.

1993: Monica Seles 4-6 6-3 6-2 Steffi Graf

Two-time defending Australian Open champion Monica Seles made it three in a row by coming from a set down to beat Steffi Graf in an historic final back in 1993.

Winning the first set 6-4 in the final, Graf hadn’t dropped a single set at the Australian Open that year, which included victories over Jennifer Capriati and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.
However, the Yugoslavian fought back with an impressive display in the next two sets to take what would be her eighth of nine career Grand Slams.

Should Alexander Zverev Be Taken Seriously For The Australian Open?

by Shubham Singh

If we take a look at last 4 years of the Australian Open, the tournament has either been won by the world number one, Djokovic, or the Swiss Maestro, Roger Federer.

It is the first major tournament of the year and players rarely miss out on it. It generally takes place after a decent break that gives players ample time to pull their socks up, get their heads in the right place and their bodies in the ideal condition — that’s where these two perfectionists get the better of their opponents.

However, regardless of the fact that fans generally fancy these two to the lift the trophy, the winds of change that have blown through tennis recently suggest that it could be a different story this time. Alexander Zverev’s two outstanding victories in the ATP Finals against Roger Federer in the semi-final and Novak Djokovic in the final, both won in straight sets rocked the tennis world.

Many players come out of the blue every year and send a wave of awe across the world of tennis but not many are as special as Alexander Zverev. That’s why everyone has been talking about him lately, that’s why he looks like a realistic punt — as per the suggestions of Australian Open odds — he’s charming, talented and desires to be one of the best players to grace the court. So, what makes him so special and such a serious contender for the Australian Open?

The reason for his inclusion in the upper echelons is not just his current success. He has shown significant growth in his style of play and on the overall aspects that play a crucial part in the long run. He brought Jez Green into his team in 2013 to bolster his fitness which shows he’s taking not purely concentrating on his style, but also, his fitness.

He isn’t short of success at his age, but he doesn’t want to settle for the minor titles. His biggest concern has been his lukewarm presence in the Grand Slams. Although he has been coached by his father, the addition of Ivan Lendl has been instrumental in his recent success at the ATP Finals. Lendl was influential in Murray’s success — he guided Murray to three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold in 2012. We could expect some of his expertise to rub off on Zverev. Even Zverev acknowledged Lendl’s advice being crucial in his recent triumph. After his victory, he credited Lendl for his advice that helped him in both the semi-final and final.

“He talked about golf to me before the match. No, I’m kidding,” Zverev joked following his victory. “He obviously analyzed the match that I played with [Djokovic] a few days ago, told me a few things I had to do different. I was more aggressive today.”

“Obviously Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing. That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”

With an already strong camp, Lendl’s inclusion would be a cherry on top.

One of the best things about Zverev right now is that he is surrounded by proven winners in his camp and his interviews and behaviour on the pitch reflect a good sense of maturity. Djokovic was full praise for the youngster who defeated him in straight sets and mentioned how he the two of them are common in some aspects.

He said, “I mean, there’s a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers.”

“Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that. He seems like someone that is very dedicated. Without a doubt, he’s a really nice person, someone that gets along very well with everyone. He deserves everything he gets so far. There’s a lot of time ahead of him. Wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles.”
But the 21-year-old has his feet planted firmly on the ground and didn’t spare a moment to play down the comparison. He said, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, my God,”

“I mean, I’ve won one of those [ATP Finals]. He won five. He’s won, I don’t know what, 148 titles more than me. Let’s not go there for now. I hope I can do great. I mean, but just chill out a little bit.” ‘Chill’ is certainly apt.

What to expect from Zverev in 2019?

It’s obvious that he’d be treading into Australia with huge confidence. With Lendl’s winning formula and Zverev’s potential, we can expect at least one Grand Slam next year.
Although there are few things about his play that need to be addressed. All the star players have big weapons in their repertoire at their disposal in crucial moments. For now, Zverev seems to lack that. He does have a fantastic first serve that can turn the game in his favour many times but he needs to put work on his overall game if he’s aiming for something big.

He’s just 21 and has many years ahead of him. If he keeps progressing like this, 2019 would certainly be a big year for him and we would probably see him lift a Grand Slam title.