The Blizzard of Oz – Australian Open 2022 First Semester Report Card

Published January 23, 2022, 8:09 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

It’s that time of the year again, when the first of the calendar tennis Grand Slams happens Down Under. It was scorching, sunny Melbourne weather as the Australian Open began, but the tournament turned a freezing, cold shoulder on world #1 Novak Djokovic, before the first serve was even tossed. Dominating the news prior to the Open even starting, was the non-vaxxed visa woes of Djoko – and so all the tennis news wasn’t centered on tennis courts, but in courts of law.

Rafael Nadal (AFP)

Thankfully, it was all settled (took too long, though); and tennis was soon back in the news, proving that the Australian Open and any of the Slams, will always be bigger than any one single player. And so as far as Report Cards go, we can mark Djoko as Absent, with Excuse Slip denied – and let’s see if that will hold for the prescribed three years. And if his visa woes will extend to the French Open.

As I write this, fellow Serb, the unseeded Miomir Kecmanović is still in the draw, reaching the Round of 16. And while people back home are making a big deal of Kecmanović flying the Serbian colors, and making this dream run; the little irony is that he was drawn to meet Novak in the first round, so he can be blessing his lucky stars that Novak got bundled out, or he probably wouldn’t be in the 4th round at all – and would have been a 1st round casualty whose name we’d have already forgotten (Kecmanović lost to Frenchman Gaël Monfils in the Round of 16).

If there is something to take note of this Aussie Open, it would be the resurgence of the Americans in Women’s tennis. And the interesting thing here is that it’s not the usual suspects of Serena, Coco Gauff, or even Sloane Stephens. While Madison Keys is an old name and has reached the Quarters by upsetting Paola Badosa; that you had four Americans in the Round of 16 was impressive enough – two Romanians was the next best nation-showing.

Besides Keys, there’s Jessica Pegula (also in the Quarters, by taking down Maria Sakkari), Amanda Anisimova (who with poise, bundled out defending champion Naomi Osaka – but bowed to Ashleigh Barty), and seasoned player Danielle Collins. And sure, you can question whether there’ll be an American standing in the Finals; but for now, given their track record of late, and how it’s been Eastern European countries dominating the Ladies’ tennis scene, this showing of the American girls could be a foretaste of what we’ll see throughout the year.

Madison Keys (AFP)

The match of the first week will have to be awarded to the 3rd round Matteo Berrettini – Carlos Alcaraz Garfia four hours, ten minutes war of attrition. Decided by a fifth set tiebreaker, it’s a shame that said tiebreaker was anticlimactic, as Berrettini had too much of an advantage in the latter part of the tiebreak. It’s one of those matches that you hate seeing one have to lose and head home, and it augurs well for the future of the 18-year old Spaniard, and what he’ll offer in the years to come.

And the big upset of the weekend would be Canadian Denis Shapovalov (the 14th seed) eliminating Alexander Zverev (#3 seed) in straight sets. Completely frustrating Zverev at every turn, it was another wasted Slam for Zverev, who’s getting left behind by Medvedev in terms of winning when it counts.

A big storyline that still has traction in it, is that Rafa Nadal is in the Quarter-Finals, where he’ll meet Shapovalov on Tuesday. Rafa is thereby still in the hunt for his 21st Slam title – he’s presently tied with Novak and Roger Federer, with 20 Slam titles each.

For the home crowd, Barty is still alive in the Women’s Draw, while there’s Alex de Minaur flying the Australian colors in the Men’s. De Minaur takes on Jannik Sinner of Italy in their Round of 16 half of the draw on Monday.

So with the first week done and dusted; the Aussie Open Report Card gets my A-. The enthusiasm of the crowds and their Siuuu’s has been infectious. Medvedev at one point through they were booing him. And in the end, it’s been the tennis that’s speaking volumes on behalf of the Open. Let’s hope the second week, and the run to the Finals will be just as exciting.