Tennis365’s 2018 Australian Open winners and losers
The first Grand Slam of 2018 is done and dusted with Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki walking away with the singles titles.
Tennis365 looks at those who had a good fortnight in Melbourne and those who would rather forget their trip Down Under.
Yes, Roger Federer may have won his 20th Grand Slam, but Wozniacki was the biggest winner in Australia as your first Grand Slam win is always special and she had to wait a long time to get her hands on a major.
After winning the WTA Tour Finals last year and climbing back to No 2 in the world, expectations were high upon her arrival in Australia.
And she looked to have squandered another opportunity to win a major as she was 5-1 down and faced two match points in her second-round clash against world No 119 Jana Fett.
But instead of buckling under the pressure, Wozniacki pulled off a miracle to claim a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 win. She had another three-setter against Carla Suarez Navarro, but again held firm.
The final was a classic and again she had to pull out all the stops to beat Halep. Sure the Romanian was running out of gas, but in years gone by the Dane would’ve wilted.
And now she can call herself a Grand Slam winner.
#RF20 has a sweet ring to it. He started the first Grand Slam of the year as the clear favourite as most of his rivals were struggling for injury and he looked every bit the favourite throughout the tournament.
Some claimed that Federer had an easy path to the final, but many forget that he was actually in the tougher bottom half of the draw containing Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Tomas Berdych.
There is not much you can do when there are a couple of giant-killings in the earlier rounds.
Pre-final reports suggested it would be one-way traffic, but it was anything but as Marin Cilic was a worthy opponent and gave him a run for his money.
Federer, though, had too much class in the end and no one is quite sure if the fairytale will ever end for the 36-year-old.
Her wait for a first major title continues, but the Romanian was brilliant throughout the tournament. She came through a marathon clash against Lauren Davis in the third round, saving three match points before winning the decider 15-13.
In the quarter-final she dispatched fellow contender Karolina Pliskova with ease before again going the distance against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, this time saving two match points and winning the third set 9-7.
It was clear that she had very little left in the tank by the time the second set got underway in Saturday’s final. Wozniacki prevailed, but there is no doubt that Halep’s time will come.
The Croat is one of those players who quietly make their way through the early rounds with no one taking note until the final few matches.
He has risen to a career-best No 3 in the world on the back of his run, he beat Rafael Nadal in quarter-finals, was way too good for the unseeded Kyle Edmund in the semi-finals and gave Federer a good fight in the final.
There is no reason why he can’t add another Grand Slam title to his name, especially with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka and Andy Murray continuing to struggle with injury.
The unseeded underdogs
Kyle Edmund, Hyeon Chung and Elise Mertens added a bit of romance to the 2018 Australian Open.
It’s been hard for unranked players, especially in the men’s game, to break the stranglehold that the big-name stars had on the Grand Slams, but this year there were three unseeded players in the quarters and two in the semi-finals.
The 21-year-old Chung is the future of tennis along with Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem with many labelling him “mini-Djokovic”.
Edmund, meanwhile, gives the British public hope that there is life after Murray and, at just 23, he has years ahead of him and can only get better from here on in.
Mertens also gave us a glimpse of the future of women’s tennis and she already has three WTA titles to her name at 22. Have Belgium unearthed another Grand Slam winner?
The walking wounded
Andy Murray never made it to Melbourne, Stan Wawrinka lasted only two matches, Novak Djokovic was blown away by Hyeon Chung in the quarter-finals and Rafael Nadal threw in the towel while staring down the barrel against Marin Cilic.
While the 36-year-old Federer is celebrating his 20th Grand Slam win and arguably playing the best tennis of his career, his younger rivals are battling injury and no one is quite sure if they will ever reach the heights that they did a few years ago.
Pretenders to the crown
This was their big chance to break the “Big Five’s” Grand Slam dominance, but Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem were found wanting against the underdogs.
Sure, Edmund, Chung and Tennys Sandgren were playing the tournaments of their lives, but you expect players who believe they are next in line behind Messrs Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka to just show that extra bit of quality when the pressure is on.
However, they flopped spectacularly.
Grand Slam winners Sloane Stephens and Garbine Muguruza
US Open winner Stephens’ record since her Flushing Meadows makes for sorry reading: Played eight matches, lost eight matches. That is shocking. She needs to pull her finger out and find some form otherwise she will end up as a one-Slam wonder.
Muguruza was also an early casualty in Melbourne after losing in the second round and, although her record is not as alarming as Stephens’, the Spaniard’s form has also dipped in recent months. Wozniacki and Halep look like they are only getting better and Muguruza needs to make sure she doesn’t fall too far behind.
It was meant to be one of the feel-good stories of the 2018 Australian Open, but it ended in a PR nightmare for Tennys Sandgren. Competing in the main draw for the first time, the journeyman reached the quarter-finals by seeing off the likes of Wawrinka and Thiem.
However, he left Australia in a huff and had to put out all sorts of fires after he was accused of homophobia and supporting alt-right groups with even Serena Williams calling for an apology.
Social media can be dangerous at times and Sandgren learned that the hard way.
Thirteen male players and 17 female players entered the main draw for the Australian Open. Only one player in the men’s draw and one player in the women’s draw made it to the fourth round.
It was like a warzone for the Americans in the opening round as Venus Williams, Coco Vandewghe, Stephens, John Isner and Jack Sock all departed.
Sandgren and Madison Keys were left to carry the flag, but American tennis is going through a bit of a lean period in the men’s game.
In the women’s game they still have Serena Williams to come back while Keys and Vandewghe have shown a lot of potential, but not too many expect Isner and Sock to be challenging for Grand Slams any time soon.
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