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Australian Open Awards: 2023 edition

  • Matt Trollope

With two weeks of incredible Grand Slam tennis now in the books, we recognise the players, moments and matches which helped make Australian Open 2023 a record-breaking event.

Match of the tournament

Women’s final: Aryna Sabalenka v Elena Rybakina

This contest ticked every box. Two players attaining their best level, at the same time, in a match with the highest stakes. The quality of tennis was extraordinary – Sabalenka and Rybakina combined for 82 winners versus 53 unforced errors – and the power breathtaking.

The Rod Laver Arena crowd was captivated as the match extended to almost two-and-a-half hours. And it concluded with the most compelling of final games, as Sabalenka attempted to serve for the biggest title of her life – and complete a full-circle journey, spanning 12 months, from serving yips to Grand Slam winner.

On her fourth championship point, she did just that.

Best performance

Novak Djokovic defeated Alex de Minaur 6-2 6-1 6-2

After scratchy second- and third-round performances during which he visibly struggled with an ongoing hamstring injury, Djokovic elevated his game to another plane in the last 16 against Alex de Minaur.

Less compromised physically, Djokovic played ruthless, relentless, clinical tennis, striking almost three times as many winners and allowing the Australian just five games. 

Looking ahead to his quarterfinal opponent Andrey Rublev during his on-court interview, Djokovic said: “(He plays) a little bit like De Minaur. So hopefully the result will be the same.”

Two nights later, Rublev won just seven games.

Most impressive new talent

Ben Shelton

Ben Shelton had only recently cracked the top 100, only played one Grand Slam main draw – at the 2022 US Open – and had never before travelled outside the United States. 

These facts combined to make his Australian Open quarterfinal run all the more staggering.

RELATED: Shelton shaping up for shining career

Fans were drawn in by his on-court energy, left-handed all-court style, impressive power – he belted the fastest serve of the tournament at 228km/h – and his obvious joy at competing on the big stage. His challenge ended against Tommy Paul, but not before he stretched his more experienced opponent to four sets in an entertaining battle at Rod Laver Arena.

It will be exciting to see what he can achieve in 2023, as he makes his first appearance at other high-profile international events.

Best comeback

Andy Murray defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis

Saving match point to upset 13th seed Matteo Berrettini in the opening round was impressive enough.

More incredible was how he backed that result up.

Trailing Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4 7-6(4) 5-2, Murray – at age 35 and having endured two hip surgeries – looked gone. Kokkinakis served for the match.

But Murray would not surrender. He engineered the most staggering of comebacks, eventually completing a five-set victory which required five hours and 45 minutes, ending after 4:00am local time.

It marked a record 10th comeback from two-sets-to-love down. And his finest.

Lifetime achievement award

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur first competed at the Australian Open in the singles qualifying event in 2000. 

Twenty-three years later, her AO story – and career – concluded with a first-round mixed doubles loss alongside fellow Aussie Matt Ebden.

In between, Stosur recorded stellar results at her home major, including two fourth-round runs in singles, the women’s doubles title in 2019, and the mixed crown in 2005. She also reached the 2021 mixed final, again alongside Ebden.

Stosur, a former world No.4, a US Open singles champion in 2011, and Australia’s top female player for almost a decade, told that “there's players out there that would kill to have my career”.

She went out in style, receiving a standing ovation before a packed crowd at Court 3 under a spectacular Melbourne sunset.

Most heartwarming celebration

Magda Linette

Before the AO 2023 fortnight, Magda Linette had never been beyond the third round at a Grand Slam tournament.

Perhaps this helped explain the joy she exuded following upsets of fourth seed Caroline Garcia and former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova, which propelled her into the semifinals, at age 30.

Magda Linette celebrates her quarterfinal victory over Karolina Pliskova. (Getty Images)

"I will never forget this," said Linette, who revealed she had learned to better separate her on-court results from her sense of self-worth.

"It's the first time ever I'm breaking through … This will stay with me for life, so I'm really grateful."

Top photograph

Andrey Rublev defeated Holger Rune (captured by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images)

The agony and the ecstasy: Andrey Rublev (foreground) celebrates his fourth-round win over Holger Rune (background) at Australian Open 2023. (Getty Images)

"I was 5-2 down in the fifth set, 6-5 down two match points, then 5-0 (and) 7-2 down in the super tie-break. In my life I've never been able to win matches like this,” said Rublev, after beating Rune 6-3 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6[11-9] in the fourth round.

The match finished on a net-cord which dropped onto 19-year-old Rune’s side of the court.

Best outfit

Frances Tiafoe. 

And Aryna Sabalenka.

Funniest interview

Ons Jabeur

Early-round on-court interviews with the top women proved a hit with fans.

Iga Swiatek apologised to an amused crowd for talking for too long. Maria Sakkari gave fans a quick lesson in the new on-court coaching rules. Coco Gauff giggled as she explained her mother was outshining her in her own TikTok videos. 

And then there was Ons Jabeur’s interview following her first-round win over Tamara Zidansek. 


Best duet

Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler

The energy and positivity these two Australians brought to the court was magnetic.

And it took them all the way to the AO 2023 men’s doubles title.

Hijikata and Kubler had never before played together, and were wildcards into the draw. They then slashed their way past a succession of quality doubles pairs – including top seeds Neal Skupski and Wesley Koolhof – to complete a dream fortnight.

“I think we were just happy to be in the draw, to be honest,” Hijikata said. “We were like, Geez, if we could win one match or so, that would be a pretty good effort.

“It's been a ridiculous two weeks. I can't really put it into words. It's been an absolute blast. I can't really believe this just happened.”

Greatest swansong

Sania Mirza

Playing in her final Grand Slam tournament, 36-year-old Sania Mirza came within one match of a fairytale finish and seventh Grand Slam doubles title before falling at the final hurdle of the mixed event alongside Rohan Bopanna.

Still, it was a remarkable achievement to progress that far, and Mirza reflected on that after one last appearance at Rod Laver Arena.

“If I had to picture (a) dream scenario in my head how I want to go out, it would be on centre court, biggest or one of the biggest arenas in the world,” said Mirza, who made her Grand Slam debut at Australian Open 2005. 

Sania Mirza (L) reached the third round on her Grand Slam debut at Australian Open 2005, where she fell to eventual champion Serena Williams (R) at John Cain Arena. (Getty Images)

Mirza peaked at world No.27 in singles and became the first player from India to reach world No.1, which she did in doubles in 2015 – around the same time she scooped three straight major titles with Martina Hingis.