Key takeaways from the 2021 Australian Open: Djokovic is the GOAT
That’s it folks, the first tennis Grand Slam of 2021 is in the bag. The Australia Open organizers pulled off a serious operation to get the tournament staged in the first place, and our reward was two weeks of thrilling tennis, shocking results, and a couple of very worthy champs.
Fresh off the back of the results in Oz, here are five key takeaways from the competition.
Djokovic is the new GOAT
Make that nine titles from nine finals at Melbourne for Novak Djokovic, and as he said in his post-match interview, "The love affair with Melbourne continues."
It wasn’t just about the victory for the World No. 1, but the way he did it. After suffering with an abdominal injury mid-way through the tournament, Djokovic was forced to limit his practice and even considered pulling out. But that didn’t halt him in his path of dominance.
His opponent in the final, Russian Daniil Medvedev, simply had no reply. Djokovic won in straight sets as Medvedev imploded on the other side of the net. The Serb may be 33 years old, but he had no problem swatting away the challenge of a new generation.
The win gave Djokovic his 18th Grand Slam title – two behind both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the race to be the GOAT. But with Federer approaching 40 and Nadal’s success seemingly confined to clay, 2021 could see Novak join them on top.
Serena can still make history
Serena Williams left the press room in tears after crashing out in the semi-finals to eventual winner Naomi Osaka. Serena was questioned on whether she would be retiring from the game after TV cameras caught her staying on court longer than usual to say goodbye to fans.
Williams wouldn’t answer on whether or not this is the end, but I for one hope it’s not.
Serena still sits on 23 Grand Slam singles titles – her last one being the 2017 Aussie Open – and she needs just one more to tie the record held by Margaret Court. She proved in the last couple of weeks that she still has all the ability, despite turning 40 this year, and showed just why she is one of the all-time greats with battling victories over Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka.
There is no doubt Williams has the quality to equal that record this year.
Osaka is top of the women’s game
To do so however, she'll have to beat Naomi Osaka. Despite the world rankings currently placing the Japanese star at No. 2, there is no doubt she is top of the game now.
The 23-year-old prodigy has now won four of the last six Grand Slams on hard courts and is on a 21-match unbeaten streak. She is simply a phenomenal talent and is now only one of three players to win her first four Grand Slam finals – Roger Federer and Monica Seles being the others.
Here she won six of her seven matches in straight sets – including the semi-final with Serena Williams, and the final against Jenny Brady. The one game she did drop a set in – the fourth-round match with Garbine Muguruza, she faced match points but overcame that to grind out the win, showing an ability to battle with the very best.
Karatsev is no fluke
The story of Aslan Karatsev is magical whatever way you put it. Ranked as 435th in the world, Karatsev had to win two qualifying matches to even get into the tournament in Melbourne, but it was well worth it!
He beat eighth seed Diego Schwartzman, and came from two sets down to upset Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach a quarter-final where he beat Grigor Dimitrov. The dream came to an end at the hands of Djokovic in the semi-final, but Karatsev had already written himself into Australian Open folklore.
He was the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in more than 20 years, and the first to do it in Melbourne since 1977.
The run lifted him into the world’s top 50, meaning he won’t need to qualify anymore, but the best stat of all is how much he won. His career winnings spanning more than 10 years on Tour before this competition were $618,000. In five matches in Australia, he won $650,000.
The Canadian Curse
And finally, a word for Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian is a quality player and there is a Grand Slam in his locker somewhere, but whether it’s mentally on the court or some kind of witchcraft, the world No. 20 can’t seem to make the latter stages of a competition.
That was his seventh Grand Slam appearance, and once again he failed to make it to the quarter-finals – this time despite being 2-0 up on Karatsev. He’s also played 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and got past the third round just once. That ended in semi-final defeat in the 2019 Miami Open.
Thank you Australia for the past couple weeks. 🙏🏽— Félix AugerAliassime (@felixtennis) February 15, 2021
Sometimes, things just don’t go your way, but I gave it my all. There are a lot of good things that came out of this start of the season & my stay in 🇦🇺 was overall very positive.
Time to regroup and get back to work. 👊🏽 pic.twitter.com/9ZIaII1HGu
Worryingly, in his career Felix has made seven ATP Tour finals in the 500 and 250 series and lost all seven – most recently in the Murray River Open, which was a warm-up for the Australian Open.
There is no doubt Felix has bags of quality, but he needs to get over this jinx if he is to bag a Grand Slam.