So the season’s first Slam at the Australian Open is “done and dusted” as they say, so what have we learned?
1. Novak Rules
Novak Djokovic began his 2019 Grand Slam season with the same fury with which he ended 2018, dominating. And that should portend well for the Serb especially with so few points to defend until Wimbledon. Heck, he could wrap up the No. 1 ranking by the time he gets to that title defense at the AELTC. And the clay season might have some intrigue.
2. Federer Breathing Easier
He may not care, but Roger Federer dodged a big bullet Sunday night, and he should probably send Djokovic a thank you card for preventing Rafael Nadal from a GOAT-clinching second Career Slam and 18th Slam title.
With 18 Slams, Nadal would surely get a couple more and equal Roger, but that second Career Slam is what puts him ahead.
Of course Djokovic can also win another Career Slam in Paris, but he’ll need a few more overall titles to put the heat on Roger.
3. Rafa’s Serves Notice
Well, Rafa’s game and serve looked great against the younglings of Alex De Minaur, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe, but Djokovic simply crushed it and then crushed his game.
Sure, maybe Rafa had an off night. But a thorough ass-kicking like this is going to stay with Nadal a while. And Djokovic’s has now won 17 straight sets over Rafa on hardcourts. That’s going to be tough to overcome when they meet again.
But as long as he doesn’t face Novak, he’s looking good!
4. Osaka On Top
High marks to Naomi Osaka for backing up her US Open title with a second in Melbourne. And she did it the hard way winning four 3-set matches and beating some tough, tricky opponents. Taking out lefty Petra Kvitova, the big-serving Karolina Pliskova, the unorthodox Anastasija Sevastova and the female Santoro, Su-Wei Hsieh.
That’s not easy to do but she did it coolly and competently and she did it with the spotlight on her. At just 21, she’s seems durable, focused and it looks like she’s enjoying herself. If you haven’t figured it out, she’s going to win a bunch.
5. The End Is Nigh For Federer, Serena
Going back to the Federer-Tsitsipas match, I just don’t think the Swiss played well, particularly in the big moments – he finished 0/12 on break chances.
His 37-year-old fellow-GOAT Serena also struggled at the end in big moments, blowing four match points in a stunning loss to Pliskova.
Just based on the situation – up 5-1, 40-30 – I’d rate Serena’s loss the bigger shock. But bottom line is, Father Time is catching up to both and I would say next year will be the last year we see either in Melbourne…If the even return.
6. Big 3 > NextGen
It’s just amazing watching the Big 3 – well, I guess Novak and Rafa this past week – deny upset bids by these NextGen kids like Tstisipas, Tiafoe, Daniil Medvedev and others.
I get the sense that they think they can beat them – and they have – but in a best-of-5 they don’t have the goods yet. With Djokovic just 31, he could stay on top of the tour another 2-3 years easy, and alongside Rafa and maybe one more title from Roger, we could see the trio continue to run the table on Slams for a while longer.
And at same point, this NextGen class could become another LostGen class, and we begin talking about younger guys we haven’t heard of yet (other than the FAA kid from Canada).
7. Zverev Needs More Help
Speaking of NextGen, its de facto leader Alexander Zverev continues to be a bust in Slams. He added Ivan Lendl to the team and that didn’t help. Maybe he should go after Andre Agassi or Brad Gilbert or Coach Roche or all of them.
What he probably should do but won’t, is completely break his game down then build it back up. Maybe frame in these best-of-5 matches. You just can’t be getting broken six times by Milos Raonic. Something is deeply wrong between the ears.
8. Women’s Matches
I have to admit, down the stretch the women’s matches in Australia far and away eclipsed the men’s. There was some decent drama during the men’s quarterfinals, but after that it was three straight absolute blowouts.
Meanwhile, the women stole the show with a really compelling final and a bunch of intriguing second week matches.
9. Murray Should Challenge His Own Retirement Announcement
I don’t know what’s going on with Andy Murray, but I did find it strange that he announced a retirement then walked it back. Now, who knows. I guess it was just a knee-jerk reaction, but you don’t do that and announcement you’re done. That’s one you really need to think about before announcing and by the sounds of it he wishes he could get a do-over.
10. High Marks For The Final Set Tiebreaker
I agree with many who said the Australian Open got it right by deciding the final by a 10-point tiebreak at 6-all. It’s been a long time coming, glad they stepped-up and had the guts to do it.
That means all four Slams have differing ways of finishing a deciding set contest, which is a weird, but I’m ok with it. But my guess is the French, which still plays it out, and Wimbledon, which has a breaker at 12-all, eventually also move to this format. The players like it.
That said, these are all just baby steps toward getting all matches down to a very tv- and low-attention-span-friendly best-of-3. It’s years away, but it’s going to happen.
11. Australian Open
How come as the technology improves and we make advances in internet, mobile data, speed, etc., the Australian Open website keeps getting worse year-over-year?
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