The 2017 Australian Open: A Tournament To Remember
Posted on: February 24th, 2017
The first Grand Slam of 2017 is in the books, with the Australian Open kicking off the new tennis season just last month. With all the high profile returns and players looking to get their games back on track, the Open promised something special, and something special it certainly delivered.
This month we’re taking a look at the Australian Open, a tournament which showcased some of the best tennis we have seen in recent memory.
Federer reigns supreme
Much of the talk heading into the open revolved around the recent world number one, Andy Murray, and his competitive rivalry with one Novak Djokovic, but it was the historic rivalry between Federer and Nadal that became the focal point.
35 year old Roger Federer returned to the court after a six month break, and while many were curious to see how he’d perform after his hiatus, his masterful Championship win came largely unexpected. Rafael Nadal had cut his 2016 season short, bowing out in October, and had resumed play in the Brisbane International just a few weeks before the Open. He’d hoped to become better prepared for the challenging Australian conditions by competing in Brisbane, and it seemed to have worked as he fought his way to the final of the Open.
Nadal would be up against his fiercest opponent, a rejuvenated Federer who made sure to take his opponent to the limit. The five-set match ended in Federer’s favour, leaving the Swiss to celebrate an emotional victory – his first Major win over Nadal since 2007 – proving that his time in the spotlight is far from over.
Murray and Djokovic disappoint
One rivalry took precedence over the other this time around, and Murray and Djokovic will have to wait for another chance at an Open final. A Federer-Nadal final was barely whispered about beforehand, with Murray and Djokovic the ones expected to make it to the end. But that was not to be; Murray dropped out in the fourth round after losing to 50th ranked Mischa Zverev, while Djokovic only made it to the second round, losing out to wildcard entry Denis Istomin in stunning fashion. This made the 2017 Australian Open the first since 2002 where the men’s number one and two seeds had not made it to the quarter finals.
It was far from the ideal start to the season for both Murray and Djokovic, and both will be looking to learn from defeat after what must have been shocking, disappointing upsets for each.
Williams vs Williams
The powerhouse sisters Venus and Serena Williams met once more in a high stakes final, but it was Serena who would prove victorious. Not only did she claim her 7th Australian Open title, but Serena also made history by surpassing Steffi Graf’s Open-era record as she earned her 23rd Grand Slam.
Serena was the favourite heading into the final and she took the crown in straight sets, winning 6-4 6-4 against her older sibling. The match didn’t go completely smoothly, however. Serena smashed her racquet in frustration during the third game, and unforced errors in the early stages gave the crowd hope that Venus would go on to earn her first Major title since 2008.
It wasn’t to be, as Serena stood firm and found her groove. Her victory cements her as the premiere female tennis player, if not purely due to her longevity: she won her very first Major singles title in 1999, and has been going strong ever since.
A feel-good tournament
The Australian Open was filled with passion, emotion and joy. From returns and upsets to broken records and spectacular on-court action, the Open became one of the most exciting and memorable tournaments we’ve ever seen, but one story in particular stands out amongst the rest.
At 34 years old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni proved that adversity can be overcome, no matter how long it takes, as she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open after an numerous extended periods of absence from the sport.
Lucic-Baroni began her career in style, reaching the 1999 Wimbledon semi-final at just 17 years old, but the promising Czech ran into a host of personal off-court problems which eventually led to her drifting away from the sport for the better part of a decade.
Between 2004 and 2006, she played only two matches, and her career looked to be in freefall. But Lucic-Baroni persevered, fighting back against her personal and financial issues in the hope of returning to the heights she once knew. The 2017 Australian Open saw the culmination of her journey. She won her first match at the tournament since 1998 and made it to the semi-final, coming up short against eventual champion Serena Williams.
With her return to the elite, Lucic-Baroni has vanquished her demons and has found herself in a much healthier place. Her post-match interview in the fourth round was a message of hard work and determination, and she has no doubt become a figure of inspiration both on and off the court.
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