The month of January put the city of Melbourne under the spotlight as the first of tennis’ four grand slam tournaments has been playing out. The biggest stars of the tennis world have been battling for supremacy at the 2018 Australian Open, and it all comes down to this weekend to see who will come out on top.
In the men’s division, the top seeds were all returning from serious injuries to compete against one another for the crown. Former No.1 player Novak Djokovic was upset in straight sets by Hyeon Chung, the first Korean to ever make it to the last 8 of a Grand Slam. Unfortunately Chung had to retire in his match against defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer due to blisters.
No.1 player Rafael Nadal also retired with a leg injury in the fifth set of the quarterfinals against Marin Cilic. Cilic won his semi-final match in straight sets and will face off against Federer in the final. Federer will be looking to break his own record and win a 20th Grand Slam title. In nine meetings with each other Federer has only lost once, in the semi-finals of the 2014 US Open, when the Croatian won his only Grand Slam title.
One of the longshots to win the women’s draw was Venus Williams, whose resurrection in Melbourne would have been a well-deserved ending to a gratifying career. However, Williams understands that aging tennis stars must play well in each round or run the risk of being eliminated early in a tournament. Unfortunately, she struggled in her first round match and was quickly eliminated from the Australian Open.
Serena Williams gave tennis fans one of the special moments in 2017 when she won her 23rd Grand Slam title at last year’s Australian Open. It was a major disappointment when Williams announced that she was not physically ready to defend her title at this year’s tournament.
Her absence has brought a wildcard look to the women’s draw in Melbourne, but make no mistake about it, this was a very talented field that had a number of talented players looking to win the first grand slam event of the season. Last summer’s Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza was quite impressive with her early round play but was upset by Su-Wei Hsieh in the round of 64, making her earliest exit from the tournament for five years.
Sloane Stephens was gunning to contend for her first grand slam title, but she will have to wait another year after she was ousted in the first round at the Australian Open. Some observers feel Stephens needs another year on the tour to gain the confidence and maturity to battle for tennis’ biggest titles. Stephens is still a tough out as she has a legitimate forehand and the athleticism take over a match in no time.
The No.1 player in the world Simona Halep will battle for the crown in the finals despite her struggles in 2017 grand slam tournament play. She had a very disappointing French Open final, which was followed by an US Open opening round loss. Neither outcome can be accepted by a player of her caliber. A victory in Melbourne could help Halep to move quickly up the world’s rankings.
She will be facing Caroline Wozniacki who has been in two Grand Slam finals but never taken home a trophy. Wozniacki leads their head-to-head record 4-2, which includes a lopsided win against Halep two months ago in the WTA Finals.
After two weeks of play it will all come down to this weekend. Will Marin Cilic pull off the upset? Which woman will take home her first Grand Slam title? We will have to watch and see.