Now the 2019 Aussie Open is over, what did we learn from the last two weeks? Here are five things.
1) Nole owns Rafa (still). Djokovic says the biggest rival in his career has been Nadal. He certainly makes sure he saves his best for when he plays him. Rafa, on the other hand, would probably see Federer as the biggest rival during his career. Related? I am not sure. Going into the final it was the toss of a coin. Djokovic had dominated the contest in the last five years but Rafa had looked awesome with his new serve and early aggression in a point. Novak was having absolutely none of it though. A straight sets rout, showcasing flawless tennis, proving to us right now that the gap is as big as it has ever been.
2) It is fair to say that Naomi Osaka is here to stay. Back-to-back grand slams titles in New York and now Melbourne is all the proof you need. There was no real doubt that she would always add to her tally from NYC. This soon though? She has that uncanny ability to stay in a match when she is not playing well and play the big points exceptionally. The sign of a Champ. Beating Serena and Petra in slam finals also looks pretty useful on one’s CV. I would also like to add how nice it is too see Petra back in a slam final after her struggles. Osaka made sure Saturday was her day though.
3) Andy Murray, what a man! Muzza’s first-round match against Bautista Agut was a showcase of his career. The fight, the hustle, the intensity, the hard work and the drama. Sadly, unlike most of his career, he ended up losing this one but what an effort. It has been clear for some time that Muzza has been playing through the pain barrier. If this is to be his last tournament, he went down kicking and screaming and we will be worse off for not having him around. BY A MILE. Three Slams in an era with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is a top effort. It has been one hell of a journey.
4) Serena is there. I have seen a few comments suggesting that maybe it is time to retire. A Fourth round at the French (withdrew), two runners-up spots at Wimbledon and the US (lost to Kerber and Osaka) would be a dream by most players standards. Not for Rena or her fans though. There is no need to panic just yet, however. A last eight loss to Pliskova, when she was 5-1 up and missed match points was more about the ankle injury sustained on the match point. Aside from that, she was right there still judging by her level of performance. She should still be knocking on the door come SW19.
5) Tsitspias breakthrough/Federer loss. All the fuss has been about Sascha Zverev but it’s Stefanos who makes the last four of a slam first. We knew this lad had bags of talent but his increasingly strong mentality, positive approach and intelligence are starting to make the tennis world take note. The maturity shown in his displays against both Federer and then backing it up against Bautista Agut was impressive. Playing Rafa proved that he is not quite there yet but he sure ain’t far off. For Federer, there have been some big defeats in slams since his Melbourne title last year. Losses to Anderson, Millman and now Tsitsipas pose some serious questions. I have written him off before and been proven wrong, it is clear SW19 will be key to his season.
Andy Del Potro