It took Herculean efforts to host the 2021 Australian Open and overcome many of the pandemic restrictions but the tournament still delivered high quality games and produced two incredible masters in Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic

With a late start, quarantine issues, and the resurgence of fans (then their absence and return), Tennis Australia managed the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus as best it could and continued to build on the successes of the 2020 US Open and French Open Upsetches, wondrous runs of strangers and exciting battles on the square

If there is one thing that the tournament has made perfectly clear, it is that, much like its predecessor, the 2021 season will be full of constant change – on and off the pitch

The 23-year-old left little doubt about her current place in women’s tennis with another dominant performance. Osaka defeated Jennifer Brady in the final, took her fourth big title, linked her with Kim Clijsters and only followed Serena and Venus Williams among the active players – and is now in a 21-match winning streak

While her direct win over Serena Williams in the semifinals attracted the most attention during her run in Melbourne, perhaps it was her match against two-time slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round that was most impressive when Osaka was in the third Set sidelined and lost two match points 5: 3 He never looked back. She won the next three games and moved forward After all, she was the eighth woman in the Open era to win the Australian Open after saving a match point

With her recent triumph, as well as her current activism and notoriety off the field, Osaka is undoubtedly the new face of the sport, but she doesn’t seem particularly scared

“To be honest, I don’t really think about it that much,” she said on Sunday. “For me, I just focus on myself and what I can do. That way I don’t really put too much pressure on myself”

Moments after losing in straight sets in the men’s championship game on Sunday, Daniil Medvedev summed up his opponent perfectly in his second speech:

“Nine Grand Slams in Australia, 18 in total, are amazing and probably not your last,” he said with a laugh. “So I have no words to say”

Djokovic cemented his status as King of Melbourne with his one-sided 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over Medvedev in less than two hours, and his self-proclaimed “love affair” with Rod Laver Arena went on he has now won more hard court titles (12) than any other male player and is only behind Serena Williams


After a tough year for Djokovic – with his unfortunate Adria Tour, comments against vaccinations, disqualification at the US Open, defeat in the final of the French Open and examination of a list of demands on the CEO of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley – this title could have meant the most

“He needed this win so badly,” said his coach Goran Ivanisevic. “He’s been going through [a lot], you know, especially after the US Open last year, the pretty bad Roland Garros final, and [it] is not just “

For a moment it looked like his losing streak was going to last in Melbourne when he suffered a ruptured muscle in his midsection during his game against Taylor Fritz in the third round, it took him five sets to take the win and it gave speculation that led to his next match that he couldn’t play despite the setback, he found a way not only to compete but keep winning

Djokovic dropped five sets en route to the final – his highest to date in a slam where he reached the final and most with a No. 1 seed has reached a grand final since 1997 – but he’s on the biggest stage not stalled

With his 18 major trophies, he is only two behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Since Federer is expected to be competitive again next month after knee surgery, the “Big Three” should continue to fight for hardware and the GOAT talk of Men intensify

After a difficult exit by Osaka in the semi-finals, Serena Williams’ heartfelt moment with the crowd and her tearful and abruptly ended press conference left more questions than answers about her future in the sport

“If I ever said goodbye, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” she said just before she started crying

Since her return from birth in 2018, fans and the media have focused relentlessly on Williams’ ability and chances to make her 24th birthday Winning main title to tie Margaret Court’s long-running record.She has made up to four finals and two semifinals in that time, but struggled at the greatest moments.She appeared to be playing her best tennis since returning in the fortnight ( all in a Flo-Jo-inspired catsuit) but just had no answer when Osaka found her rhythm

Even so, she jumps to No 7 on the latest leaderboard, showing that she is more than capable of beating some top players like Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka (and even a new tournament record for fastest serve at 126 miles set up per hour) But at 39 it’s clear that her time is nearing its end and how long the tennis world has to cherish the GOAT while she’s still playing could be the biggest question in the sport

While the women’s game has seen a fair share of unlikely runs in slams lately, men with lower rankings in majors have been significantly less likely to break through

That is, until Karatsev showed up in Melbourne and blew brackets like it was the NCAA tournament

The 27-year-old, who has spent most of his career in Challenger and Futures events, qualified in Doha to play in his first major – and was then the first man in the Open- Era that reached the semifinals on his slam debut after teeing off No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman, No. 20 Félix Auger-Aliassime and No. 17 Grigor Dimitrov.He lost in the semifinals against Djokovic, but still made more than a name for himself

Karatsev competed in tournament number 1 114 but goes to number 42 and more than doubled his career income After losing, he said he was excited about the direct participation in tournaments without qualifying and the experience big games But his biggest takeaway from the event?

“That I can play with anyone,” he said, “to be there and compete with everyone”

Can he repeat his future success? Will this be the start of other lower ranked male players making deep runs in slams? let’s wait

After playing to no fans at the US Open and a very limited number at the French Open, the players were thrilled to see a sizable crowd for the first time in nearly a year – about 50% of normal year capacity when the Australian Open started

“Compared to what we played last year [before] which is zero, that’s huge,” Venus Williams said after her game in the first round. “I’m not complaining. It’s exciting I think every single one Person there was probably in awe of sitting at a sporting event, just as I should be there “

In an unexpected sign of “back to normal”, a fan was even kicked out after harassing Nadal during his second-round win

On day five of the tournament, the local Victorian government announced a mandatory five-day lockdown due to a minor outbreak, effective as of 11:59 p.m. The awkward timing meant fans had to leave during the fourth set of the Djokovic-Fritz game The match was abandoned when fans reluctantly headed for the exits – and the atmosphere went from lively to eerily calm in one of the most surreal scenes of the fortnight

During the next five days of action, the players had to create their own atmosphere again, however fans were allowed to return in time for the semi-finals and some players had problems adjusting

“I think it added a little more nerve, a little more pressure, just to do well in front of people,” said Brady after her semi-final win over Karolina Muchova. “I think maybe I’ve lost focus a little I had before without fans “

Players have to get used to the different atmospheres from tournament to tournament. The Miami Open, the next event in the USA, recently announced that it will allow a capacity of 15% at the end of March

Following positive tests by passengers on three charter flights to Melbourne, 72 players – including Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Kei Nishikori – were forced into a “tough quarantine” protocol for 14 days, confined to their hotel rooms only and were given a stationary bike, weights, and various other pieces of equipment, but it wasn’t ideal training conditions before a Grand Slam

Some players have complained (and been heavily criticized) but most have understood. Still, Angelique Kerber, the three-time self-isolating main champion, couldn’t hide her frustration with her experience after the first-round loss / p>

“At the beginning I had the feeling that my balls are always a bit out of course and I didn’t feel the rhythm that I had two weeks ago, to be honest,” she said. “When I look back, I had Of course I didn’t plan the two-week hard quarantine I don’t know, maybe I would think twice if I knew this beforehand, in order to really stay in the hard quarantine for two weeks without hitting a ball when I know the real situation before my trip I would think twice about coming here maybe “

“I’ve reached my first Grand Slam final If I wasn’t in quarantine, I might have won, “she said jokingly.” I don’t think it really bothered me. Who knows? “

Barbora Krejcikova and Rajeev Ram, the winning pair in mixed doubles, were both in quarantine, but Krejcikova believed it might have made the difference for the couple

“I’m just very grateful,” said Krejcikova, “and I’m just very happy that even though we had to go through this tough quarantine, we just went well and maybe that was the key”To win the tournament Who knows?”

Australia’s policies have been particularly strict compared to many other countries that are scheduled to host tournaments, so players are unlikely to have to face a quarantine scenario unless they test positive

After her incredible 2019 season, where she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at the US Open, Gauff (aged 15) had the biggest win of her young career against Osaka, the reigning champion in the third round of the Australian Open 2020 The fan favorite lost in the round of 16 against Sofia Kenin, the eventual winner of the tournament, but looked ready for a big year

Of course, much of the season was suspended because of the pandemic, but Gauff was still looking strong when the season resumed with a semi-final at the Top Seed Open in August

Since then, Gauff has not passed the second round in any tournament. She was steadfast after her defeat in the second round to Elina Svitolina

“I’m trying not to compare the results and anything because the past is the past,” she said, “You’re focusing on that now, and yes, I’m not really focusing too much on past results and all that because it happened and it can’t change “

Due to her age, Gauff was only able to play a limited schedule before the end of the season, so she had no chance of playing a full season on tour.But when she turns 17 next month and is allowed to play a larger number of events, the 2021 season could be enable her to find the routine and rhythm she was lacking

Gauff had more success in doubles with partner Caty McNally, and the pair reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the second year in a row

After several years of experimenting with the idea at various tournaments and using the technology on all but two places at the US Open, the Australian Open was the first major to be played entirely without linesmen and exclusively on Hawk-Eye Live, an automated system that uses advanced imaging technology

A pre-recorded voice warned players about calls like “out” or “error”, and there were no player challenges. If they disagreed with a call they could request a replay

“No offense at all, but no mistakes happen, and that’s really good in my opinion,” said Dominic Thiem. “When the electronic call is over, the ball is over, so there is no room for mistakes I like the “

But there were a few moments when some fans and players paused over total reliance on the technology as Francesca Jones believed that Shelby Rogers had long struck a ball but was substituted on during a game on the first round reps that seemed Jones Jones to support

“I don’t know who is responsible for the referee system that is here, but certainly questionable, extremely questionable,” she said after the game. “I saw the replay that was being shown, was it Eurosport or whatever , and it’s clearly from

“I prefer human error to systematic failure Look, it’s a new system and I understand why it’s used, but I think this definitely needs to be overhauled”

As the season continues during the pandemic and tournaments seek to limit the number of players on the courts and around players, reliance on technology may grow stronger – whether players like it or not

Just hours before the five-day ban went into effect, Kyrgios faced Thiem, the reigning US Open champion, at the John Cain Arena in front of a crowd eager to create every dwindling second of freedom

He played on his favorite seat and took the lead by two sets – he took the second set with an armpit ace – fueled by incredible athleticism, incredible shot selection, and unparalleled showmanship.The crowd ate up his every move, and social too Media loved it

Thiem struggled and miraculously won the match, but it almost didn’t matter.The enthusiastic crowd kept waving their Australian flags and cheering loudly at Kyrgios until it was long over.The energy made it feel more like a basketball game than like a tennis game at

Kyrgios couldn’t stay calm in the most tense moments against a top opponent On the other hand, it would have been difficult to imagine that he would play his next match without fans if he had advanced

Kyrgios still found a way to achieve the highlight with his doubles teammate and Aussie colleague Thanasi Kokkinakis With his war of words with Djokovic, he also dominated the press conferences and proved once again why he is one of the most polarizing players in the sport

Djokovic, Novak Djokovic, Medvedev tennis, Daniil Medvedev

World news – FI – Naomi Osaka’s dominance, Novak Djokovic’s crown and other Australian Open takeaways