Alcott v Wagner
Dylan Alcott v David Wagner match highlights (RR)
Another Australian Open has slammed happily into the memory bank. There were historic firsts, shock score lines and record crowds. We take a look back at the memorable numbers of AO19.
The previous attendance record of 743,667 set in 2018 was smashed in 2019 as 796,435 fans flocked to Melbourne Park. The AO continues to track as the best-attended tennis tournament in the world, No.1 among the Grand Slams since 2015. The days when the AO was the poor cousin among the majors are long past.
A benchmark seventh title and perfect 7-0 finals record for Novak Djokovic, who overtook six-time winners Roy Emerson and Roger Federer to make it official: he’s the greatest Australian Open men’s champion of all time. 'Emmo' and fellow Aussie greats Ken Rosewall, Frank Sedgman and Rod Laver were happy to witness the historic feat and have a photo with the victor.
Sam Stosur clinched the doubles title 13 years after blowing match points against Yan Zi and Zheng Jie. This time, in her 13th major final, the former No.1 doubles player came through with clutch serving to win 6-3 6-4 alongside good friend Zhang Shuai. Stosur touchingly talked Zhang out of retiring three years ago.
Stosur, 34, and Zhang, 30, put out the top seeds in the quarterfinals and No.2 seeds and defending champions Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos in the final for arguably the feel-good story of the fortnight.
Lisa Raymond, Stosur’s partner in that traumatic 2006 final, was one of the first to congratulate the new title-winners.
No less than 11 women were in the hunt for the No.1 ranking at Melbourne Park, including incumbent Simona Halep. The last woman standing was appropriately the new Australian Open champion. Naomi Osaka is the first Asian to rank No.1 in tennis.
The most stunning stat in Stefanos Tsitsipas’ momentous 6-7(11) 7-6(3) 7-5 7-6(5) defeat of defending champ Roger Federer was 12 break points saved. “I also didn’t break him at the Hopman Cup [in their first meeting],” Federer rued.
Local hero Dylan Alcott achieved his record fifth Australian Open Quad Wheelchair title, a 6-4 7-6(2) winner over long-time rival and No.2 seed David Wagner. But Alcott, 28, was even more euphoric at winning unprecedented visibility for wheelchair tennis, with the final telecast live for the first time on mainstream channels.
“To broadcast it live to the world, never been done in a final, that’s huge for the movement of parasports, everything I believe in,” said the 28-year-old Melburnian.
That wheelchair tennis has gone mainstream is in no small part due to Alcott’s activism, towering record and winning personality.
Novak Djokovic hoisted his 15th Grand Slam trophy at AO19, passing childhood hero Pete Sampras. Djokovic was a six-year-old at tennis summer camp in the mountains of Serbia when he watched the American win his first Wimbledon in 1993. At 31, the seamless Serb trails only Rafael Nadal (17) and Roger Federer (20) in the all-time tally.
It’s been 18 years since a maiden major winner backed up rather than bombed out at her next Grand Slam. Naomi Osaka stepped up from her surprise US Open title over Serena Williams to edge Petra Kvitova 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4 in a quality final for the AO crown. The 21-year-old also ends a record streak of eight different women champions at the last eight majors.
Jennifer Capriati was the last newbie champion to repeat, at Roland Garros 2001.
Djokovic v Nadal, the most titanic rivalry in the game, played out its 53rd chapter in the final.
Their previous meeting was a two-day clash of the titans at Wimbledon, stretching to 10-8 in the fifth set. Their last Melbourne Park decider in 2012 was a near six-hour epic that stands as the game’s longest Grand Slam final. But rather than another stock-standard epic encounter, this was a shock ending - Djokovic cantering to a 6-3 6-2 6-3 win in barely two hours.
No one could recall Serena Williams ever losing from four match points up - as she did in her quarterfinal against Karolina Pliskova.
Serving for the win at 5-1 in the final set, and arriving at 40-30, her first match point, Williams jarred her left ankle attempting to change direction for a wrong-footing winner by the Czech. She would not win another point on serve.
But at 5-4 Williams had another three match points on the Pliskova serve. The Czech hit a backhand winner on the first, then Serena netted two forehands under pressure. Striving for a record-equalling 24th major at the site of her last victory in 2017, while pregnant with daughter Olympia, Serena met not with history but one of the most dramatic losses of her storied career.
Most shocking scoreline of AO2019 had to be Danielle Collins’ fourth-round rout of 2016 champion Angelique Kerber by the very unKerber score of 6-0 6-2. This just one round after Kerber’s 6-1 6-0 demolition of Aussie Kimberly Birrell.
It wasn’t like the former No.1 had never seen her No.35 opponent before - Kerber trounced the flinty American 6-1 6-1 on grass at Eastbourne before her run to the Wimbledon title.
Former college champion Collins had zero wins at Melbourne Park before AO 2019. She backed up her upset of the No.2 seed with a win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal and first experience of Rod Laver Arena, to make the final four.
Australia had three men in the third round, all of them named Alex. Top Aussie Alex de Minaur fell to Nadal 6-1 6-2 6-4 - the exact same score (and round) as their Wimbledon clash.
Alexei Popyrin had a retirement TKO against No.7 Dominic Thiem before going five sets with Pouille, from match points down in the third set. The No.149’s performance looked even better in hindsight, with the Frenchman’s run to the semis.
The (literal) bolter was Alex Bolt, blonde-topped flamboyant lefty, who was on a construction site three years ago. The No.159 wildcard toppled No.29 Gilles Simon from four match points down in their fourth set. Bolt took eight entertaining games from the younger Zverev, in an all-Alex showdown.
A 45-year-old played at AO2019 - and not in the Legends. Leander Paes, 1990 runner-up in the junior singles - when the Australian Open was still played at Flinders Park - notched his 25th Australian Open.
The old-school, single-handed Indian has competed in every eligible event: juniors, singles, doubles (champion in 2012 with Radek Stepanek) and mixed doubles (winning with both Martinas, Navratilova in 2003 and Hingis in 2015, and Cara Black in between).
This wasn’t Leander’s longest stay: he and Sam Stosur won a round in mixed doubles.