1. Osaka on top of the world Down Under
A second straight grand slam title and the world No.1 ranking to boot, 21-year-old Naomi Osaka confirmed what many already suspected – she is a bona-fide superstar. The Japanese player became the first since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win her first two grand slams back-to-back.
Top 10 moments of AO2019
1. Osaka on top of the world Down Under
A year ago, she arrived at Melbourne Park as the world No.70 and hadn’t been past the fourth round at a major.
“Maybe in the next tournament I play, if I see the No.1 next to my name, I'll feel something,” Osaka said. “But for now, I'm more happy that I won this trophy. I would assume my next goal is to win the next tournament I play.”
2. Djokovic takes the sport to another level
There was a warning in the shellacking world No.1 Novak Djokovic dealt French surprise Lucas Pouille in the semifinals. But Nadal had been equally impressive in all six matches leading in. Nobody expected the Serb to dismantle his great Spanish rival so brutally in such a one-sided title match.
It was ruthless shot-making, metronome-like baseline coverage and above all else, mental toughness at its finest. Djokovic now stands alone with a record seven Australian Open titles and closes to within five majors of Roger Federer’s all-time record.
“Just trying to contemplate the journey on the last 12 months,” Djokovic said. “I’ve been through a surgery and quite a major injury myself. I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago. To be standing here today to win this and three out of four slams is amazing.”
3. Kvitova back in a grand slam final
Petra Kvitova’s belief never wavered. The Czech always maintained she would be back competing at the highest level, but her doctors were more realistic and gave her a 10 per cent chance of making it back on tour. A knife attack had left her tendons, five fingers and two nerves damaged, but two years on – five years since her last slam final – the 28-year-old very nearly pulled off the most remarkable of comebacks, coming up just short to Naomi Osaka in the final.
“Thank you for sticking with me even when we didn't know if I would able to hold a racquet again,” Kvitova said to her team. “[The loss is] hurting a lot today. I wanted to win and have the trophy. But I think I already won two years ago. So for me, it's amazing. I think I still don't really realise that I played the final.”
4. Not taking back No.1 that easy
Zoned in, with her pre-match headphones and game face on, Serena Williams came striding onto Rod Laver Arena ahead of her blockbuster fourth-round showdown with Simona Halep. The seven-time champion was forced to make a hasty U-turn when she heard the announcer introduce the “world No.1”.
That mantel belonged to her opponent, with the Romanian walking onto court laughing after Williams retreated to the entrance.
It was the American who had the last laugh, however, beating the world No.1 to reach the quarterfinals. Unfortunately for the 37-year-old, history would have to wait. She let slip four match points in a quarterfinal capitulation to Karolina Pliskova, missing out on the chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors.
5. Tsitsipas leads the new wave of stars
For the best part of 15 years, Melbourne’s sizeable Greek population has been a fixture at Marcos Baghdatis’s matches. But when the Cypriot failed to make it through qualifying this year, Athens native Stefanos Tsitsipas well and truly filled the void, going on to become the first Greek player to reach a grand slam semifinal.
The 20-year-old’s stunning upset of two-time defending champion Roger Federer in the fourth round was reminiscent of Federer taking down former world No.1 Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001.
Tsitsipas wasn’t the only young gun making waves, with 21-year-old American Frances Tiafoe also reaching his first slam quarterfinal.
“I just managed to close that match and stay strong, beat my idol,” Tsitsipas said of beating Federer. “My idol today became pretty much my rival.”
6. Barty reaches first slam quarterfinal
A red-lining Petra Kvitova ended her charge, but Australian Open 2019 was Ash Barty’s coming-of-age slam. The hugely popular Aussie held her nerve to beat former world No.1 Maria Sharapova to progress beyond the fourth round at a major for the first time.
The 22-year-old departed Melbourne at a career-high world No.14 and spoke with a relaxed assuredness about her prospects for the season ahead.
“It’s been amazingly positive,” Barty said. “We set a goal to go deeper at the slams and we’ve been able to use that opportunity… in the first grand slam of the year. There are so many tournaments throughout the year and every one I enter I’m extremely hungry to do well. We enter tournaments to win it.”
7. Foul play
Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta were burning the midnight oil, literally, in their late-night second-round clash but not before both came off second best to a flock of seagulls. There was an attempt to start their match earlier on Court 3 but the birds scuttled those plans.
“Once Zverev and Chardy went to the decider, to the fifth set, we were actually going to go out to Court 3 to start. There was basically seagull poo everywhere,” Konta said. “They had to clean the court. By the time they would have cleaned the court, we would have been in the same boat anyway.
Fortunately, the foul play didn’t affect the standard of play as Muguruza went on to prevail in one of the matches of the tournament.
8. Stosur winning a slam at home
There was sweet redemption for home favourite Sam Stosur when she clinched the women’s doubles title with her best friend, Zhang Shuai. Thirteen years earlier, the Queenslander and Lisa Raymond let championship points slip, falling to Yan Zi and Zheng Jie in the final.
It was the 34-year-old’s first slam title in eight years and her second on home soil after winning the mixed doubles with Scott Draper in 2005.
"You never know if you're going to be in a Grand Slam final ever again," Stosur said. "To now 13 years later be holding this one instead of the runner-up is a really good feeling.”
9. Alcott’s moment broadcast across the nation
Dylan Alcott is no stranger to success at Melbourne Park but winning a fifth straight Australian Open quad wheelchair singles title stood out as his most special yet. The 28-year-old was a busy man, juggling his on-court exploits with commentating, interviewing for television, sponsor appearances, disability advocacy and motivational speaking, and promoting his memoir, ‘Able’.
Given his huge profile at home it was fitting this was the first wheelchair tennis final broadcast live across Australia.
“That meant the most,” Alcott said. “If you put yourself out there, it puts more pressure on you. It really does. I've really been everywhere the last two weeks. To broadcast it live to the world, never been done in a final, that's huge for the movement of parasports, everything that I believe in.”
10. Coin toss with a twist
Soaking up his five seconds of fame, a ball boy by the name of Skyler made a coin toss go viral when he channelled Michael Jackson on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the first-round clash between Polish qualifier Kamil Majchrzak and Japan’s Kei Nishkori.
As one fan tweeted: “There are two ways to flip the coin: this one and the others.” When the footage went viral, Skyler become a radio sensation. And it turns out the 12-year-old’s talents are not limited to the dance floor with an Instagram profile of his sketches emerging.