Australian Open began on a despairing note on Day 1, with many of the top tennis stars’ names coming up in a fixing row. However it didn’t let the spirit of the players down and some of the newcomers registered the biggest upsets on the opening day of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Some of the big guns were crushed by a few of the new entrants in the Grand Slam Arena, while the champions like Djokovic, Serena Williams and Roger Federer cruised through to the fourth round.
Just when Novak Djokovic lost the number one ranking to Andy Murray towards the end of 2016, yet bounced back in 2017 capturing Doha to refresh the rivalry. And when the draws for Australian Open came out, first round against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco seemed like a huge roadblock. But, World No. 117 Denis Istominto bringing about the biggest upset right at the start of the year was absolutely the least expected. The bespectacled Uzbekistan player Denis ended the reign of Djokovic Down Under with a 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 win in a shade under five hours.
Shortly after a shocking round two exit of the defending champion and 6 time winner Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray threw away his golden chance to cruise through the Australian Open’17 and redeem himself from the past 5 failures at the finals.
It was World No.50 Mischa Zverev who brought about the upset playing sublime tennis and battling past the World No.1 in four sets 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. The 29-year-old German played the most important match of his career as he debuts in the QF. The next best performance has only been in Wimbledon where he reached the third round in 2008.
“Honestly, I don’t know how. I was in a little coma just serve and volleying my way through it,” Zverev said after the match.
For the first time at the Australian Open in 15 years, the men’s top two seeds have both been ousted before the quarter-finals of the opening slam of the year.
Nadal has been reduced to dust by some of the newcomers on the tennis court in recent times. Rafael Nadal has surely lost his vibe in the past few years, having not reached pass any Grand Slam quarter finals in 2015. On Day 2 of the Australian Open 2016, Nadal faced Fernando Verdasco – a man he had beaten up regularly, in the last decade. The 2009 Australian Open Champion had beaten Verdasco in the semifinals of the same tournament. But the result was different this time around as Nadal’s powerful strokes were dealt with severely by his Spanish compatriot. Though Nadal started played with his unshakable spirit, Verdasco came back in the final set, winning six games consecutively, and won the game by
7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2. Nadal said after the match, “The match is a tough loss for me obviously.”
“Especially because it is not like last year, when I arrived here playing bad and feeling not ready for it.”
The streak started from the Wimbledon 2014 when Nadal was ousted by the Australian Nick Kyrgios. It continued thereafter in the Australian Open 2015 when he was taken down in the Quarterfinals by Tomas Berdych in straight sets. He lost to Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the French Open 2015, thus breaking his 9 year streak.
The British No. 1 Johanna Konta ousted the 2003 Australian Open Finalist Venus Williams in straight sets by 6-4, 6-2 at the Rod Laver Arena in 2016. Konta rose from her 150 ranking to no. 47 when she ended the 2015 season with 24-4, qualifying for the US Open and reaching the 4th round in the tournament. In their previous meeting Venus had triumphed over Konta in Wuhan when she pulled of the game, winning the last set by 7-5. A controversy was further created after the match, when hours after her loss, the International Tennis Federation confirmed the news that Venus had declined to do her compulsory post-match engagements and she could be fined for the same.
A similar controversy was created in 2015 as well when she was fined $3,000 after her loss in the first round of French Open to fellow American Sloane Stephens.
The 24th seeded American, much like her fellow American Venus Williams, crashed out of Australian Open 2016 on day one , when she lost to the Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang. Even after a good start when she was leading by 3-1, she gave away the momentum, losing the next 10 games and handing the game over to Wang by 6-3, 6-3. This was quite a setback for her after a great start to the year, having won her second WTA title in Auckland at the ASB Classic after having won her first title a few months earlier in Washington. She was hopeful after the match and said, “I’m disappointed that I lost here but if I play until I’m 35, I have plenty more Grand Slams to go. So I just have to look past it”.
Rankings are mere numbers as the big guns continued to be stunned by players who came out of nowhere to take the game away from them. One of the favorites to win the competition after Serena in 2016, the number 2 seed Simona Halep was stunned by World No. 133 Zhang Shuai on Day 2 by a margin of 6-4, 6-3. Though Halep committed less errors than Zhang (17 to 21), she fell short in the number of winners delivered while Zhang was pelting them at Halep (31 to a mere 11 by Halep). She won her first ever Grand slam game, out of the 15 times she played. She found herself in the draw 14 times, but hadn’t been able to win even a single set since Wimbledon 2011.
“I am excited about today, I played so well,” she said, eventually. “I think in my life, the best tennis. First win – I’m so happy, so excited. I want to say thank you to my parents, my coach. Thanks you everybody for supporting me.
The 29 Year old Strycova made her way to the top 16 of the Australian Open, making it past the first week of a major in 39 Grand Slam games after she defeated the Wimbledon 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza on Day 4 of the Australian Open, in straight sets by 6-3, 6-2. Muguruza lost the first set in only 38 minutes and then went down 2-0 in the second set as well. She hit a total of 32 unforced errors in the match, while Strycova was steady throughout, hitting 15 winners and 16 unforced errors.
Muguruza quoted after the match, “Clearly not my best, for sure,” Muguruza said after the loss. “I think today is a very bad day at the office. I just couldn’t find the court, my shots … I didn’t really find my game. I didn’t feel quite good at any moment today.”