The 2019 Australian Open was enjoyable. But ask around if it was memorable, and that is where opinions might diverge, depending from which perspective one chose to remember the tournament.
The men’s singles draw featured the usual and veered along the lines of “same old, same old” despite the interspersing of steadiness from the younger generation in the draw – including Stefanos Tsitsipas’ upset of Roger Federer in the fourth round.
The women’s draw, on the other hand, stood out for varied reasons – even before Naomi Osaka defeated Petra Kvitová in the final.
As is its wont, the women’s draw scuppered the theory of “usual favourites,” heedless of the expectations surrounding them. Maria Sharapova upset (then) defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in the third round, Amanda Anisimova routed Aryna Sabalenka, unseeded Danielle Collins stunned Angelique Kerber, and so on and so forth. The biggest ripple in the draw, however, came in the manner of Serena Williams’ defeat at the hands of Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. The match swung from one player to the other between sets, but no one thought it would end in such fashion – one moment Williams served for the match (twice) and the other, Pliskova snuck in the win after being down 5-1 in the deciding set.
Williams’ struggle with her ankle, which she rolled while serving for the match – and while having match point – hampered her game thereafter. But that she had three more match points on Pliskova’s serve that the Czech saved, heightened the enormity of the result. That Williams would be thwarted yet again in her quest to win her 24th Grand Slam also served a reminder as to how the Tour had changed in the time she was away from competition. In a way, this facet has also made the Tour interesting.
True, there have been inconsistencies in the way results shaped up at the Slams (bar Simona Halep, who made two consecutive trips to the French Open final and stood on opposite side of the eventual result each time; and Osaka who became the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win a second straight Major after her winning her first) but it also means that it is not a one-woman race anymore at the Slams anymore.
To that end, an objective onlooker would view the women’s side of the event as the stand-out of the first Major of the year. The matches had verve – even when the organizers disregarded scheduling propriety, and dragged on the fourth day’s play onto the fifth, and they were intriguing, giving plenty of thought for everyone to mull about.
To cut a long story short: was, then, the 2019 Australian Open memorable? Hell, yeah, it was. And that was entirely thanks to the women, not the men.