Image: Wikimedia Commons / Christopher Johnson
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Christopher Johnson

Australian Open 2020: Djokovic and Kenin Scoop Melbourne Prize

Kicking off the Grand Slam season, this year’s Australian Open tournament ran from 20 January and finished on 2 February in Melbourne, Victoria. Sofia Kenin and Novak Djokovic got their 2020 Grand Slam seasons off to a victorious start, earning their trophies at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Kenin’s win against former Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday marks her first Grand Slam success, although there are many more to come based on this achievement. Djokovic prevailed in the men’s final on Sunday against Dominic Thiem, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an epic encounter. Both Djokovic and Kenin had to come from behind to win against their formidable opponents, Thiem and Muguruza.

Winning the women’s singles final and beating double-slam champion Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, has solidified Kenin’s place in the top ten of women’s tennis. Despite a rough first set, Kenin managed to turn the tables around when Muguruza produced a double fault on the second match point and secured a victory in just over two hours at the Rod Laver Arena. “I’m not very happy about my performance,” said Muguruza, who was playing in her first hardcourt slam final. “At the important moments, I didn’t find my shots… Physically it was a tough battle out there,” she added.

Kenin is without a doubt a threat to all in the upcoming Roland-Garros tournament.

A child prodigy, Kenin has become the eight first-time women’s champion in the past twelve Slams at the age of 21—the youngest Australian Open champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008. “My dream has officially come true,” said Kenin, “these two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life.” This victory makes Kenin the new American all-star, overtaking Serena Williams, and the world No 7. Part of a new generation of tennis aces, including Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty, Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the third round of the French Open in 2019, is without a doubt a threat to all in the upcoming Roland-Garros tournament.

Thiem was a serious threat to the defending champion in the Open final, but Djokovic pulled through a rough couple of sets in just short of four hours. “I was on the brink of losing that match,” Djokovic said later. “I didn’t feel great at all. Dominic was dominating from the back of the court and won two sets easily.” Although not physically injured, Djokovic attributed his lack of energy and dizzy spells to an emotional reaction, remarking that he was “nervous, stressing out about everything.” The Austrian 5th seed, who will surely make a comeback after defeat in his third slam final, said later: “There were some small mistakes here and there, but they happen. At the end, it was a super-close five-setter. I don’t really regret anything. These guys [Djokovic, Nadal and Federer] have brought tennis to a completely new level.”

This is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together, now more than ever…there are more important things in life

– Novak Djokovic

Djokovic is the first man in the Open Era to win Grand Slam titles in three different decades, his victory in Melbourne on Sunday marking his 17th slam title. “This tournament sets a high standard for all the other tournaments around the world and it’s definitely my favourite court, my favourite stadium in the world,” said Djokovic. “I’m blessed to hold this trophy once again.” Addressing the Rod Laver Arena, the champion honoured NBA legend, Koby Bryant, and recognised the devastation of the bushfires: “This is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together, now more than ever…there are more important things in life.”

The men’s final was witnessed by a record-breaking 31,020 spectators, both in the Rod Laver Arena and on the big screen outside the grounds, breaking last year’s record of 30,753 fans. This year’s total Australian Open tournament attendance was also at an all-time high of 812,174, despite the initial bushfire concerns. At the onset of the tournament, the Australian Open director, Craig Tiley, attempted to calm furious players over air quality concerns that emerged due to raging bushfires that had burned large portions of Australia and left a smoky haze over Melbourne on the first day of qualifying matches, leaving players calling for medical timeouts and retirements.

Although shadowed by the bushfires and the Margaret Court controversy, this year’s Australian Open was a thrilling tournament.

Although off to a slightly rocky start, the Australian Open occurred according to the original schedule, with slight changes in match relocation from the exposed outside courts to the three main covered stadiums in an attempt to evade the bushfire-polluted air. The main confusion and arising concerns, according to Tiley, arose from the existence of different metrics of air quality, which is why the tournament proceeded under the direction of the Environmental Protection Authority and with the guidance of the Australian Institute of Sport. However, the questions of whether the poor air quality affected games and whether the sporting industry should have done more to help, remain.

Although shadowed by the bushfires and the Margaret Court controversy, this year’s Australian Open was a thrilling tournament. With the first Grand Slam event of 2020 complete, here are some predictions for the upcoming French Open. Granted that Djokovic’s big win renders him in contention at the French Open, Rafael Nadal will be the overwhelming favourite again at Roland-Garros, having won there a remarkable 12 times.

It will definitely be intriguing to follow Kenin’s performance at Roland-Garros 2020 after her victory in Melbourne.

Given his performance in the Australian Open final, if anyone is guaranteed to catch up to Nadal on a clay court, it is likely to be Thiem, who finished runner-up to Nadal in 2018 and 2019. Thiem has proved to be a rising star and serious threat to Djokovic, with the 2020 Australian Open champion stating that “probably one point and one shot separated us tonight. Could have gone a different way.”

It will definitely be intriguing to follow Kenin’s performance at Roland-Garros 2020 after her victory in Melbourne. However, there are so many emerging stars in women’s tennis at the moment, with the majority of recent slam events having been won by fresh faces, that it is difficult to predict exactly what might happen. Barty will be the defending champion at the French Open, currently standing as the world no 1 after her WTA victory in Shenzen and is likely determined to make a comeback after her loss to Kenin in the semi-finals on home ground. Muguruza also stands as a threat, having won the French Open title in 2016, alongside Serena Williams and Simona Halep, the 2018 Roland-Garros winner.

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