Say what? The best quotes of AO 2021

  • Alex Sharp

The players have really put on a show at Australian Open 2021, and the world’s tennis elite have also made us laugh and think with some brilliant soundbites.

Here are some of the best quotes from their media duties at Melbourne Park.

Thanasi Kokkinakis has had to deal with a multitude of injuries and provided an early feel-good story.

“I felt this massive roar and massive cheer from the crowd. I started tearing up, it was a bit of a soft moment,” stated the home charge, roared on by the raucous crowd for his first AO win since 2015.

“It was just so much stuff behind the scenes to get back to that point. Not a lot of people realise apart from my team and friends and family. Yeah, definitely got a bit emotional.”

How about this for a champion’s perspective …

“I have this mentality that people don't remember the runners up. You might, but the winner's name is the one that's engraved,” stated AO 2021 women’s champion Naomi Osaka.

“I think I fight the hardest in the finals. I think that's where you set yourself apart, it's like the biggest fight.”

It was a scintillating comeback from Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas to overturn a two-sets deficit against 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal.

A typically philosophical assessment from Tsitsipas …

“I don’t know what happened after the third set, I just flew like a little bird. I was so much … how would I describe myself? Nirvana.”

Mayar Sherif provided another historic moment, becoming the first Egyptian woman to win a main draw match at the Australian Open.

“People, a lot of times, like they stop me, they want a picture, they just say good luck for the next. It's such a great feeling, especially when kids come and they recognise me,” said the 24-year-old.

“For me that means a lot because that's the next generation and I want them to believe in themselves and to see me and look at me and say that we can be like her. When someone tell me, ‘Oh, I wish one day to be like you' I go, 'No, you have to be better, you have to achieve for something more, you have to go for more'.”

Nadal is a consummate pro on and off the court. He has even started breaking news in press conferences.

“I need to make another step forward against Tsitsipas,” he said, before pausing.

“Is it official? I think I heard that (Matteo) Berrettini was a little bit injured but not official at all," came the question in reply. 

Cue a sheepish laugh from the 2009 champion.

“Sorry for that ... but yeah, something ... well, I messed it up.” Too good.

Hsieh Su-Wei exemplifies ‘free spirit’ in every sense.

Her idiosyncratic game lights up the hot-shot reel, and this February the world No.71 booked her first Grand Slam singles quarterfinal spot.

"It's so good. I have a record against (Sara) Errani three times: every time I have a bagel. A bagel means zero,” she said, recalling tough sets against the Italian. “Before the match I was just thinking: ‘Better don’t eat a bagel today.” Hsieh always bringing a smile to proceedings ...

“That I can play with everyone. To be there and to compete with everyone” – coming in at world No.114, breakout qualifier Aslan Karatsev reached his first major semifinal on Grand Slam debut. He has no doubts he belongs at this level.

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Karatsev came from the clouds to make the final four

An emotional Serena Williams wasn’t ready yet to reveal any retirement plans in a very poignant press conference.

“I don’t know, if I’ll ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

The 23-time Grand Slam champion also offered up a selection of light-hearted moments this fortnight.

“It's been a long minute,” said Serena with a chuckle, asked when she last felt she owned contests involving prolonged rallies.

“I think 19 ... 1926, the summer of 1926 I think was the last time I felt that.”

Home crowd favourite Ash Barty expressed her joy at finally being back in the cauldron of competitive tennis following a year at home in lockdown.

“I've had a couple cracks at that (year break from tennis), I certainly enjoy the year on more, being able to challenge myself every day,” stated the world No.1.

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Barty was happy to re-awaken her competitive spirit in Melbourne

“Absolutely, I missed tennis every single day. The competitor in me missed what this is all about. Missed the last hour before we come out on the court when (coach Craig Tyzzer) ‘Tyz’ and I chat about how we’re going to try and dissect the match. That’s what I missed the most; it’s coming out here and really enjoying that thrill and the fight.”

Gael Monfils is one of the greatest entertainers, but is struggling for form, breaking down in tears following his first-round exit.

“I don’t have any confidence. I would like to get out of this nightmare but I can’t,’ said the AO 2016 quarterfinalist. 

“I don’t know when it’s going to end. It’s hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I’ve lost again. I’m being honest and it’s going to take time.”

We look forward to seeing Monfils back in Melbourne with his bag of tricks.

Jennifer Brady’s final run impressed the tennis world, including Hsieh. The quarterfinalist was Instagramming updates of the American’s progress, which delighted Brady.

“You just made my day. I can't wait to see it,” declared the 22nd seed. “Su-Wei, I'm honoured. I love Su-Wei. She's awesome, her personality is very strange. She's a character. I think more people should watch this sport because of Su-Wei.

“The way she plays tennis is something that you have never seen before. I've played her several times and it's a pain in the ass. It's not easy. You have to stay focused on every single point because you don't know what Su-Wei is doing. I don't think Su-Wei knows what she's doing. To know she was watching me, that's nice. Thanks, Su-Wei.”

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Brady's run to the decider earned praise from her peers

Let’s finish with the words of nine-time champion Novak Djokovic.

His gladiatorial battling qualities were on full display in the third round, picking up a nasty-looking abdominal injury. Somehow the world No.1 found the physical reserves and mental fortitude to edge past Taylor Fritz, all the way to his 18th Grand Slam title.

“I was praying and hoping. This is definitely one of the most special wins in my life,” he said. 

“It doesn’t matter what round, against who, under these kind of circumstances, to pull this through is something I’ll remember forever.”