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2024 Australian Open recap: Sinner Sinner, chicken dinner

After two weeks of intense tennis matches, another Australian Open has come and gone. I do not know how I will get by without checking tennis scores at five in the morning, but I will soldier on. This year’s Australian Open, which was played from Jan. 14 to 28, turned out to be fairly eventful. For most of the tournament, a lot of matches had predictable outcomes, with many seeds getting out at their normal times. However, when we got close to the end, that is where everything got exciting. That excitement culminated in a maiden grand slam title for number four seed Jannik Sinner. He is the first winner of the Australian Open outside of the Big 3 (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal) in a decade. At 22 years old, Sinner is showing everyone that a new generation of players has arrived. I am looking forward to seeing what else this generation can do. That was the big moment of the tournament, but there were plenty of other fun results and matches that can only come from the electricity of a grand slam. The Australian Open is the first grand slam of the year, so it needs to start off strong. I would say this year’s tournament accomplished that goal, as these two weeks were full of thrills, energy and some new players to keep an eye on.

Sinner burst onto the scene in his late teens, winning the Association of Tennis Professionals Next Gen title and voted Newcomer of the Year at 18. Since then, Sinner has made a name for himself in the sport.

Last year, Sinner won his first Masters 1000 title at the Canadian Open, made his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, and made the final round of the year end ATP Finals tournament. As 2023 went on, it was clear that the question was no longer if Sinner would win a Grand Slam, but when. That point was emphasized throughout the Australian Open. Sinner came in hot, with every match looking like an absolute cakewalk for him. He did not drop a single set until the semifinals, even up against fantastic players like number 15 seed Karen Khachanov and number five seed Andrey Rublev. Then came his semifinal match against Djokovic. 36-year-old Djokovic hardly ever loses at the Australian Open and won three out of the four grand slams last year, which includes last year’s title at this tournament. In addition, Sinner and Djokovic played each other three times in a span of a few weeks at the end of last year, at the Davis Cup and the ATP Tour Finals. Those few weeks ended with Sinner winning twice and Djokovic winning once. So at this point, a sizzling rivalry was in the making, which is why this was guaranteed to be an entertaining semi final, which turned out to be the case. It is difficult to start out a match against Djokovic with the first two sets having scores of 6-1 and 6-2 in your favor. Nevertheless, Sinner was able to do that with no problem. While this was also the match where Sinner lost a set for the first time in the tournament, he still played amazingly against the old-timer. At the moment, Djokovic is the biggest challenge that ATP players face on the tour. Sinner’s performance here showed that he was getting better by the day, and that he was ready to win a grand slam final. However, his final match was not going to be so easy, especially with a tough opponent on the other side of the net.

In the final, Sinner faced off against number three ranked Daniil Medvedev. Medevedev is already a grand slam winner, winning the 2021 US Open. This final was also Medvdev’s third Australian Open final, meaning a lot was on the line. Medvdev had a tough road to the end compared to Sinner, in terms of the hours and sets he played. While Sinner hardly ever dropped a set during this tournament, Medvedev only played one match where he did not drop a set (the one match was against Felix Auger-Aliassime, who has had a bumpy couple of months). Medvedev is a fighter and does not let a set or two losses hold him back. One of his tougher matches came in the quarterfinals against number nine seed Hubert Hurkacz, which felt pretty even throughout the match. There was also Medvedev’s semi-finals match against number six seed Alexander Zverev, a rivalry that was meeting in their 19th match. Zverev looked like he had the lead at two sets to love, but Medvedev was able to come back without missing a beat to win. Ironically, this was also the type of score that created Medvevdev’s downfall. Against Sinner in the final, Medvedev was up two sets to love, with the match looking promising for him. However, Sinner’s strength allowed him to power through to the end. The Sinner of this tournament was unlike any he had ever seen before. Medvedev may have won the tournament against another person, but this was Sinner’s time. Now, Medvedev is 0-3 in Australian Open finals and Sinner finally can lift that big trophy.

While the two finalists are the players we end the tournament thinking about, they are not the only players who left their marks in Australia. As mentioned before, there are the semi-finalists, Djokovic and Zverev. Djokovic has become a mainstay in the late rounds of tournaments. If he does not make it at least to the quarter finals of any tournament, people assume he is injured. In this tournament, he had a pretty easy draw, not playing players that were very high-ranked until the semi-finals. So naturally, he breezed right through. At this point his results do not provide amazement, as they are just matching expectations. Usually tennis players are fading by the time they reach their mid-thirties, but not Djokovic. If anything, his semi-final loss was what provided some excitement to the tournament. I’m sure we will see more of his excellent tennis skills in the rest of the tournaments, probably picking up at least one or two grand slams. Then there is our other semi-finalist, Zverev. Zverev (who will soon be going on trial for domestic abuse allegations) has been a consistent top ten fixture for a while, bouncing back from his 2022 injury very quickly. If it wasn’t for that injury, he probably would be ranked higher than six, which is saying something for a ranking that high. Zverev had plenty of tough matches in his way through the tournament, having some of the most hours on court by the time he reached the quarterfinals. He just doesn’t like making things easy for his opponent and himself. However, it paid off for the most part with his many victories. That includes his victory over number two seed and two-time grand slam winner Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals. His luck at Grand Slams has vastly improved compared to the early days of his career. Nevertheless, that luck could only get him so far. As mentioned before, Zverev choked in his semi-final match against Medevdev, showing that some of his comeback luck could last so long. It probably could have worked out against a weaker player but weaker players do not make it to the semi-finals. Regardless, the semi-finalists did a good job and were worthy of getting that far. All four players who made it this far will almost certainly have terrific tournaments for the rest of 2024.

We should also talk about players that did better than what looked to be laid out for them. Normally, there would be a lot more people to name, but this was a straightforward tournament. This demonstrates a consistent future win tennis as the new talent emerging is able to keep up standard strength. The only players that made it to the quarter-finals unexpectedly were Hurkacz and number 12 seed Taylor Fritz. I say on paper because even though they were not one of the top eight seeds, it was not surprising that they made it to the quarterfinals finals. For instance, Fritz beat number seven seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round, which was only an upset when listed. In reality, Tsitsipas has been in a slump lately due to some recent injuries, whereas Fritz has been exceptional. So the result was expected. Although it is unfortunate for Tsitsipas, considering he was in the finals last year. Fritz ended up losing to Djokovic in the quarterfinals, a result that shocked no one. As for Hurkacz, he is a reliable tennis player, in that you don’t see many sudden drops with him. Hurkacz is a smooth sailor. He was a man on a mission, and was able to play terrifically. He lost to Medvdev in the quarterfinals, but the match could have gone either way easily, as it was a neck and neck match with two strong servers. Another reason that Hurkacz made it this far, besides his consistency, was that the top seed in his quarter was Holger Rune, who lost pretty early on. Like Sinner and Alcaraz, Rune is a top ten player breaking through quickly in his early twenties. However, he is not so consistent, and has kind of fallen a bit. Even so, his second round loss was definitely surprising.

Talking about Rune’s loss brings us to a player that actually defeated expectations, Arthur Cazaux. Cazaux was a wildcard who shockingly made it to the fourth round. In his path to the fourth round, he defeated number 28 seed Tallon Griekspoor along with Rune. Cazaux is a newcomer who would probably be farther in his career if he were not plagued with many injuries. His results here demonstrate that he has overcome his past and could have a bright future in tennis. Other surprising fourth round competitors were the unseeded Nuno Borges and Miomir Kecmonović. Borges is an under the radar player that you will usually see at tournaments without having to play qualifying matches, but will still usually get out early. However, he was able to prove the naysayers wrong in Australia. Borges made it to the fourth round, beating players like number 23 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and number 13 seed Grigor Dimitrov. Borges’ win against the latter was certainly shocking, as Dimitrov the journeyman looked like he was rising back up in his career and skills, which includes winning the Brisbane 250 the week before this tournament. Nevertheless, Borges was the better player that day, and went all the way to round four, losing against Medvedev. Then there is Kecmonović, who, while certainly better than Borges, is another player that is just always there. There were high hopes for him in his high-performing youth, and he has made it to the fourth round of this tournament before. However, no one really saw him going to the fourth round again this year. Kecmonović was able to show that he has long-lasting skills when he went to the fourth round, beating players like number 24 seed Jan-Lennard Struff and number 14 seed Tommy Paul. Paul made it to the semi-finals last year at the Australian Open, which means he had a lot to lose going into this tournament. That did not stop Kecmonović, who knocked him down in a five-setter, much like he did to Struff. Kecmonović eventually lost to Alcaraz in, to put it bluntly, a harsh beatdown. It is always nice to see a player defeat the odds and go far in a tournament as big as a Grand Slam. It demonstrates that anything is possible in tennis, and it is what keeps people watching.

So that is one grand slam down and three more to go. Unfortunately, we have to wait a while for the next three since the Australian Open takes place in the Southern Hemisphere summer and the other ones are in the Northern Hemisphere. I will be counting down the days until the French Open in May. Until then, there will still be plenty of smaller tournaments to watch and talk about. From Masters 1000s like Indian Wells (the unofficial fifth grand slam) to 250s like the Dallas Open (which is happening currently), there is so much tennis that will be happening in the next couple of months. These will be the tournaments that will help me predict what happens at the Grand Slams. We can see if Sinner will hold up the momentum he has possessed and become an even bigger superstar. Right now, it looks like the sky’s the limit for him and he could easily get another Masters 1000 or two under his belt before the next grand slam. Hopefully I am not jinxing him, but it is always good to be optimistic. This year’s Australian Open was a terrific tournament as there were many close matches and we got to see many top players in their prime form. There are countless possibilities in terms of how the rest of the year will go, but I will be watching closely to see what amazing moments and victories happen next.

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