Aussie stars set to make an impact at AO 2021

  • Matt Trollope

Since Lleyton Hewitt reached the Australian Open 2005 final, fellow Aussie stars Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios have made the deepest runs at Melbourne Park.

And it is commonplace for at least one local to feature in the second week of the singles action.

Sam Stosur (fourth round 2006, 2010), Casey Dellacqua (fourth round 2008, 2014), Bernard Tomic (fourth round 2012, 2015, 2016) and Daria Gavrilova (fourth round 2016, 2017) are others who have excited the home crowds.

The following players are the best-placed to do so at AO 2021.

Ash Barty

AO win-loss record: 13-7
Best result: Semifinal (2020)
Ranking: 1

In 2020, the world No.1 came closer to reaching an AO final than any Australian woman in almost 40 years. And she is Australia’s best hope of ending the host nation’s title-winning drought, which dates back to 1978.

READ MORE: Aussie superstar Barty seeking home Slam breakthrough

Barty’s 2020 semifinal was preceded by a quarterfinal finish at AO 2019, continuing a trend of strong performances on home soil. And although she has not played competitively in almost a year, she has been training diligently in Brisbane and typically does not need a lot of match play to find her highest level.

Her ability to peak at Grand Slam events is impressive; the 2019 Roland Garros champion has reached the second week at the last six major tournaments she has played.

Alex de Minaur

AO win-loss record: 3-3
Best result: Third round (2019)
Ranking: 23

The Aussie men’s No.1 suffered heartbreak when, after a brilliant showing at the inaugural ATP Cup, an abdominal tear forced him to withdraw from AO 2020. He will thus arrive at this year’s edition even hungrier.

De Minaur reached the last 32 at Melbourne Park in 2019 and, like Barty, has shown a history of strong performances at Australian tournaments, such as winning his first career title at the 2019 Sydney International.

Since then De Minaur has gone on to notch even better Grand Slam results – last year he advanced to the US Open quarterfinals – and he began 2021 on the perfect note with an ATP title in Antalya. 

Nick Kyrgios

AO win-loss record: 14-7
Best result: Quarterfinal (2015)
Ranking: 47

Since his 2015 quarterfinal run, Kyrgios has posted fourth-round finishes in 2018 and 2020 and now owns more match wins at Melbourne Park than at any other Grand Slam venue.

Yet regardless of how far he progresses in the draw, it’s the 25-year-old’s energy that adds an unmissable element to the AO action each year. 

Especially dangerous when playing at his beloved John Cain Arena, Kyrgios has been a part of some of the tournament’s most electric five-set affairs, most notably victories over Andreas Seppi (2015) and Karen Khachanov (2020) – the latter during which he saved a match point. 

Like Barty, Kyrgios has not played competitively in almost a year, making his return to the court all the more intriguing.

John Millman

AO win-loss record: 6-6
Best result: Third round (2016, 2020)
Ranking: 38

Millman, who broke through for his first ATP title in late 2020, is one of the sport’s late-blooming success stories after years of injury struggles.

The 31-year-old upset Roger Federer to reach the 2018 US Open quarterfinals and very nearly repeated the feat at AO 2020 when he led 8-4 in the deciding match tiebreak before the Swiss great escaped.

It marked Millman’s sixth appearance in the third round at a Slam, and the second time at Melbourne Park.

One of the fittest players in the game, Millman’s ability to turn contests into brutally physical affairs, and thrive in the Australian heat, makes him a dangerous opponent in a draw where the best-of-five format features.

Ajla Tomljanovic

AO win-loss record: 3-6
Best result: Second round (2014, 2015, 2020)

Ranking: 69

Tomljanovic’s best major result came at Roland Garros in 2014 when she advanced to the fourth round, but the 27-year-old has since gone on to record other impressive career statistics.

She cracked the top 40 in 2019 – peaking at No.39 that April – and scored wins over two top-10 opponents the same year, proving her weaponry from the back of the court matches up with the very best in the game.

At AO 2020, Tomljanovic stretched eventual finalist Garbine Muguruza to three sets in a compelling second-round clash at Rod Laver Arena, after upsetting No.31 seed Anastasija Sevastova in round one.