Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Australian Open top 10

Following, in ascending order, are my top 10 Australian Open occurrences:

10. Czechapalooza!:  Players from the Czech Republic were all over the quarterfinals. Both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova played in singles competition. And in doubles, there were two teams--top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, and Barbora Strycova and Marketa Vondrousova.

9. Now you see her, now you don't: Maria Sharapova's defeat of defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was quite a thing to behold. The Russian star performed like vintage Sharapova, controllling the rallies, blistering the groundstrokes, and serving more than efficiently. "She's back!" I thought, but then, in her next round, Sharapova fell apart. Most significantly, her serve fell apart, and she lost to Ash Barty in the round of 16.

8. De Great still great: Defending wheelchair singles champion Diede De Groot picked up her sixth major singles trophy in Melbourne, defeating Yui Kamiji 6-0, 6-2 in the final. De Groot and partner Aniek Van Koot also won the doubles title, defeating Marjolein Buis and Sabine Ellerbrock 5-7, 7-6, 10-8 in the final.

7. When German engineering fails: Before the tournament began, I had a list of four players I thought could win it, and of the four, I gave Angelique Kerber a very slight edge over the others. What do I know? The mighty German, seeded 2nd, got blown off the court in the round of 16 by Danielle Collins, who upset the 2016 champion 6-0, 6-2. Of all the things I saw at this Australian Open, that one was the strangest.

6. When you get a second chance, take it: Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the world's top doubles team, were upset in the quarterfinals by eventual champions Stosur and Zhang (who also took out the other Czech team). But Krejcikova, with partner Rajeev Ram, went on to win the mixed doubles title. Krejcikova and Ram, seeded 3rd, defeated Australian wild cards Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith in the final.

5. Facing Houdini: Already known as a cool customer, Karolina Pliskova took that reputation to a new level when she went from 1-5 down in the third set to win her quarterfinal match against Serena Williams. The match contained as much drama as one could imagine--an injury, a foot fault at match point, and some nerves of steel from Pliskova.

4. Oh yes she did!: Danielle Collins, a former collegiate champion, has played on the tour only a few years. Until this Australian Open, she had never won a main draw match at a major, so it was quite a sneak attack she made, going on a tear and making it all the way to the semifinals. Collins began her campaign by taking out 14th seed Julia Goerges. That certainly got my attention. In the second round, Collins beat Sachia Vickery, then--in the third round--she upset 19th seed Caroline Garcia. This was becoming some serious run.

But it was in the round of 16 that Collins got everyone's attention. She allowed 2nd seed and 2016 champion to win only two games. Then, in the quarterfinals, she beat a suddenly-hot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Collins' run came to an end when she played Petra Kvitova. Kvitova won the second set 6-0, but in the first, Collins fought her all the way to a tiebreak. It was an amazing run.

3. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!: Sam Stosur and Australia mix well--except on a tennis court. The Australian veteran has experienced a career's worth of disappointment in her home country, but all that turned around at this Australian Open. Stosur and her partner, Zhang Shuai (for whom I'll shout out an honorary Oi! Oi! Oi!), unseeded, upset defending champions and 2nd seeds Timea Babos and Kiki Moadenovic in the final. Stosur is, at last, an Australian Open champion. And Zhang--who almost retired a few years ago, but instead, went on a singles tear in Melbourne--also, at age 30, gets the distinction of winning a major.

2. The Rock returns: Petra Kvitoa has been winning one tournament after another, so she was already back, so to speak. But returning to a major final was kind of an exclamation point placed on a hefty, run-on sentence. She didn't win the tournament (it always seemed that the Australian trophy could be hers at some point, and it still seems that way), but she played wonderfully, even in the final that she lost. The story of Petra Kvitova is still in the making, but even at this point in its arc, it's one of strength, inspiration and marvelous tennis.

1. Meet the new boss: She won the 2018 U.S. Open. For her next act, she began 2019 by winning the Australian Open. Naomi Osaka had to do it the hard way. She was challenged throughout the tournament, and especially in the final, by two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. It was a tense, thrilling final that ended with a victory for the 21-year-old Japanese star. Osaka, for all her talent, has much more that she can add to her game, so we can only guess how long her shadow will eventually stretch over the tour. In the meantime, she's the 2019 Australian Open singles champion, and on her way to being a household name.


Todd.Spiker said...

Gotta think the Kerber loss (if not the result, surely the scoreline) will likely rank as the biggest "What the?" of the entire season. (And that's coming after the same tournament in which Serena lost a 5-1 and MP lead in the 3rd!)

Diane said...

I know. I still can’t wrap my head around it, though credit to Collins. She was on a mission.

colt13 said...

Finally, The Rock has come back to Australia. Oh, a different rock. Petra did put on a show.

Diane said...

She did, but I am so disappointed in the final result :( I think Naomi is great—I just really wanted this for Petra.

Tennis Fan said...

Naomi is going to be at the top for a while. She is so shy, I am not sure I have see another player who as shy as she is. Her speeches at the trophy presentations are gold!

Diane said...

I think she’s going to be at the top for a while, too.