The Fiery Party Down Under: The 2020 Australian Open
It was a record 8th Aussie Open for Novak, and the crowning of a new Queen Sofia as the 2020 Australian Open came to a close
The first Tennis Grand Slam of the year, and a few days before it all started in Melbourne, there was major concern about the air quality in the area, given the bush fires all over the country. Some even voiced their displeasure over how a sporting event such as this could on with all that was happening on the continent. To the credit of the organizers, what was transpiring bush fire-wise was never far from the tennis that was going on. All the players would mention the fires during the post match press appearances; and I’d wager a bet, that awareness about, and money to support the relief efforts, picked up during the tournament. For one, Australia’s #1 Nick Kyrgios was making sure of that, especially vocal about the drive for relief funds and efforts.
If the first week was about upsets on the Women’s Draw, and some notable Next Gen exits on the Men’s side; the indisputable ‘star’ of the first week would be the ball girl who Rafa Nadal accidentally hit on the head with a stray return during a match. He rushed to her, made sure she was fine, and kissed her cheek. And you can be assured that a great number of female tennis fans were wishing they’d be hit on the head if it garnered that much care and attention from Rafa. The young girl was fortunately fine, and was blushing after Rafa planted the kiss.
As for the tennis, the Women’s Draw saw a new queen being crowned in a final no one saw coming, or might have wanted. The current World #1 is Australian Ashleigh Barty, so of course the crowd was rooting for her during her Semi against the 14th seed, 21-year old American Sofia Kenin. You have to think back to 1978 to record the last time an Australian woman won the Open. Perhaps the pressure got to her; but when the smoke cleared, it was first time in a Slam final for Kenin who was headed to meet the unseeded Garbine Muguruza from Spain.
Muguruza had faded off late and came into this tournament unseeded but has under her belt two Slam titles; so on that count alone, she was actually the favorite heading into the Saturday Final. But it was not to be, in spite of winning the first set. Astounding the whole world, Kenin has now crowned herself the new young American player we should all look out for. She’s the youngest Singles champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008. Playing bold but controlled the midpoint games of the 3rd set and Kenin’s consistency in producing outright winners spelled the difference.
Novak Djokovic is now an 8-time Australian Open Men’s Champion. While it still PALEA in comparison to what Nadal has achieved in his French Open history; you can't discount what Novak has amassed, and how he’s done it. Facing Dominic Thiem in the Sunday Finals, Novak took the first set, then dropped sets two and three. So a number were already wondering if this would be that long awaited first Slam title for a Next Gen player.
But showing steel resolve and determination, Novak took on this war of attrition and came out the winner and champion. That’s 3 Slam Finals Thiem has now reached—a far better achievement than his other Next Gen companions, Tsitsipas, Medvedev, and Zverev. But to this date, they’re all faltered in the Finals, still finding that Final hurdle of a Djokovic, Nadal, or Federer to much to handle.
So it’s the French Open, the red clay of Roland Garros up next on the Slam calendar.
Photos via Getty Images AsiaPac/Zimbio