Australian Open Update; Djokovic and Murray ousted, American women play strong
It was an exciting first week of tennis at the Australian Open. Tennis fans witnessed some wild moments that saw top names go out early and some familiar faces rekindle some grand slam magic. As we enter the business end of the tournament here are the major headlines of the first week.
Djokovic and Murray ousted
The biggest story of the tournament in week one was the improbable upset of six-time Australian Open Champion, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic was sent packing from the tournament by Uzbekistan player Denis Istomin in five sets (7-6(8) 5-7 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4). This lost was the first time since 2008 that Djokovic lost in a grand slam before the third round. This also was the first time that Djokovic lost to a player under lower than 75 at a grand slam.
This was a surprisingly lost for Djokovic not only because he consistently has made the later rounds the past couple of seasons but because he just beat his rival Andy Murray at the Doha tournament. The tennis community thought for sure that this was a sign that Novak was returning to the form that saw him dominant the first half of last season.
With Djokovic gone, tennis fans and experts thought for sure that Andy Murray would finally win his first Aussie Open (he is a five-time finalist, losing four times to Novak). However, that was not to be the case as he was defeated by the older brother of rising tennis star Alexander Zverev, Mischa Zverev. Mischa played a bold brand of serve and volley tennis that saw him come to net over 100 times (119 to be exact). Murray who usually loves a target was completely thrown off and lost the match in four sets 5-7, 7-5, 2-6, 4-6.
American women rise to the occasion
Three American women are in the quarterfinals at this year’s Aussie Open. As expected Serena Williams is in the quarterfinals and for the most part has done so without much drama. A little bit surprisingly Serena’s older sister Venus has also made it into the quarterfinals and just like her sister without losing a set. Venus as the number 13 seed, has benefitted from an easy draw that saw all her seeded opponents lose to lower ranked players.
The real surprise of the three American woman is unranked Coco Vandeweghe. Coco did what no American woman since Jennifer Capriati has done, other than a Williams, and that is defeat a world number one. Coco in a dominant fashion, disposed of, German and defending champion, Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3. Coco used her big serve and powerful groundstrokes to overwhelm the world number one.
This win was a shock to everyone not named Coco. After the match, Coco said “Going out there and playing an opponent, any opponent, I go out there expecting to win. It’s just another person that’s in front of me, whoever it may be, if it’s No. 1 in the world, No. 130 in the world, it doesn’t matter, it’s still an opponent to get in my way of achieving my goals.”
It is also worth noting that qualifier Jennifer Brady made it all the way to the fourth round before losing to 34-year-old Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Lucic-Baroni last made it to a quarterfinal 18 years ago).
Roger and Rafa reassert themselves
At the start of the tournament many wonder how Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would perform. Both had miss time the previous season due to injury. Both had challenging draws that saw them face players who were in good form. However, both proved their games are back and that they are ready to compete for the championships.
When the draw came out all eyes were on a possible meeting between Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal. As alluded to in this article and in previous articles (Five Burning Questions for the ATP this season). Zverev is a talented 19-year-old that many people including Nadal believe will not only win a grand slam but be the number one player in the world. Rafa said that he knew it would be a tough match against Zverev, that it was. Zverev held a two to one set lead over Rafa before Rafa imposed himself to take the match in five sets.
Rafael next faced Frenchmen Gael Monfils. Despite the match having some exciting rallies, it was straightforward with Rafa winning in four sets 6-3. 6-3, 4-6. 6-4
Like Nadal, Federer’s first real challenger awaited him in the third round. The hard-hitting number tenth seed, Tomas Berdych stood between Roger and the second week of the Aussie Open. Roger apparently didn’t get that memo, as he was in vintage form, easily dispatching Berdych in three sets 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
The fourth round had Federer facing an even tougher opponent, fifth seed Kei Nishikori. Kei came out strong winning the opening set 7-5 (at one point he had a 5-1 lead). Roger found his game and won the next two sets easily 6-4, 6-1. Kei then return to his form winning the fourth set 6-4. The match came down to a fifth set. Coming into the match, the last time Roger has beaten a top ten player in five sets was in 2014. Kei came into the match with an excellent five set record at 15-5. So the odds were really against Roger. But in the end the greatness of Federer was too much for Kei and Roger won the match winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Now as the numbers are winding down tennis fans must be wondering whether there is a possibility to see a Federer-Nadal final (they are in opposite halves). There is also the possibility to seeing an all Williams final (though both players have hungry challengers ahead of them). With upsets reigning supreme, it is best to stay clear of predictions and just stay tuned to the action.