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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday January 29, 2023

Andy Murray

The champions weren't the only ones inspiring us during a legendary Aussie fortnight. Here are 23 thoughts on what we saw.

Photo Source: Getty

The 2023 Australian Open kicked off another Grand Slam in style with another memorable fortnight that kept us up – and up all night – as we watched drama unfold from first ball to last.

Tennis Express

Before we say goodbye let’s run back the tape and relive some of the glory with these 23 thoughts:

1. Djokovic's 22nd Slam is His Most Emotional

This one meant EVERYTHING to Novak Djokovic! It wasn't clear during the fortnight, as Djokovic made fending off the ATP's best while mending a wounded hamstring look easy. But after he secured the title with his 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) triumph over Stefanos Tsitsipas, the World No.1 and 22-time major champion (crazy, right?) let all his emotions flow out.

Djokovic broke down in tears with his team, laying on the ground for a good minute as they surrounded him and let him cry his eyes out. He eventually made his way down to his chair and bawled some more, his head in his hands, as he contemplated the meaning of his latest, greatest triumph. It was stunning to witness.

On court after raising the trophy, Djokovic explained why this Australian Open was one of the most challenging tournaments of his career.

"This is probably, I would say, the biggest victory of my life, considering the circumstances," he said when explaining his journey to this title, as he referred to the controversy that unfolded last year, leading to his eventual controversial deportation from Australia, and his struggle with injury over the last few weeks.

Emotions aside, it was another emphatic statement from the World No.1. As he rewrites the record books each season, it gets harder and harder to make the case that he isn't the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet.

2. Sabalenka Wins

Saturday’s epic victory over Elena Ryabkina represented a microcosm of Aryna Sabalenka’s last year and a half. There was a quick start followed by periodic bouts of turbulence and doubt. There was – perpetually – the refusal to bow down or yield. Then there was the rise from the ashes of her own struggles, the brutal, breathtaking power, the growing sense of self-belief as the shadows surrendered and the seas parted to let Sabalenka, the warrior princess, sail into the gleaming sunshine of her newfound glory.

You have to search far and wide to find a more deserving Slam winner. She paid her dues and sat at the bottom of the murky sea for a season, mired in panic. She now sails to the new land, exalted, with Daphne cradled close to her in all its glorious curvature.

3. Andy Murray Inspires

Just want to stop by here and say thank you for the sleepless nights during week one, Andy Murray. Because if there was any player in the Australian Open that was able to properly convey the true essence of living and dying for the sport, it was you. And we will never forget watching you weave your way through two rounds that lasted over 10 hours. Never ever.

4. Iga meets her match

It was hard to imagine anybody stopping Iga Swiatek at this year’s Australian Open. The Pole is just that good, and surely destined to be even better in the not too distant future. Far and away the best player in the world, we expected her to find her way to the title in Melbourne and – who knows – maybe do something ungodly like go undefeated all the way through Roland-Garros.

But that changed at United Cup when she was hammered by Jessica Pegula, 6-2, 6-2, and the trend continued when Swiatek lost to eventual runner-up Elena Rybakina, 6-4, 6-4. Not a bad loss by any means, but it will, when combined with Pegula’s upset, chip away ever so slightly at Iga’s aura.

Maybe the door is open for others to close the gap on the Pole this season.

5. Tsitsipas breaks new ground

Maybe he is not a Grand Slam champion yet, but Stefanos Tsitsipas – the sports’ Helios – took giant steps in the direction of being one of the dominant players in the sport over the next five years. He’s still only 24, with two major finals under his belt and, perhaps most important, he has shown the capacity for evolution in the last 52 weeks. What will Tsitsipas look like this time next year, relative both to Djokovic, and the rest of the Top-10? Never mind his disappointing performance in the final...  If the current growth trend continues, we think Tsitsipas has Grand Slam titles and the No.1 ranking within his reach.

6. American Men Make Merry

Eight American men in the round of 32 for the first time since 2000 at the Australian Open. Three into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005. That’s quite an achievement for the men donning the stars and stripes, and to think they did it without Taylor Fritz, who fell in the second round, and Frances Tiafoe, who fell in the third round.

With 10 players in the Top-50 next week, most of whom are 25 or younger, things could look even better by the time Wimbledon and the US Open rolls around later this year.

7. Elena Rybakina - Oh So Impressive!

Ok, we completely get it now. Elena Rybakina is no joke, and her Wimbledon title run in 2022 was no fluke. The 23-year-old has now reached the final in two of the last three majors and we shouldn’t be surprised if she continues to be a terror on the Grand Slam stage.

Most will mention the serve immediately when they talk about the Kazakh, but peel back the layers of the onion to find underrated athleticism and tennis IQ, all mixed into a cocktail of calm focus.

Watch out women's tennis. It’s likely that we have not seen the best of Elena Rybakina yet.

8. A special fortnight for Magda Linette

Kudos to Linette for being the last Pole standing and for reaching the semifinals of a major for the first time in her 30th appearance in a main draw. She did it with steady, sturdy baseline play and newfound confidence. She pushed Aryna Sabalenka in their final four matchup and earned wins over [16] Anett Kontaveit, [19] Ekaterina Alexandrova and [4] Caroline Garcia en route to the semis.

9. Blockx and Korneeva take junior titles

Look out for Belgium’s Alexander Blockx, a rangy right-hander with booming power. He’s hardly started to grow into his body and already he’s a force, winning the boys singles and taking runner-up trophy in doubles. And kudos to Alina Korneeva, who outlasted her best bud Mirra Andreeva in an all-Russian girls singles final that lasted three hours and 18 minutes!

10. Lehecka Arrives

Since Tomas Berdych’s retirement at the end of 2019, things have been relatively quiet for Czech men’s tennis. There is only one Czech man inside the Top-100 at the moment, but that man is most certainly on the rise. 21-year-old Jiri Lehecka reached the quarterfinals and will make his Top-40 debut on Monday, thanks to a magnificent, eye-opening run that saw him defeat Borna Coric, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to a quarterfinal loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Making the story all the more interesting was the fact that Lehecka made his debut at all four Slams in 2022, but didn’t come away with a single win. He erased a lot of doubts about his long-term potential in Melbourne.

11. Tip of the Cap to Khachanov

Karen Khachanov told reporters that he has reinvented himself over the last year, and it shows in his results at the Slams. Back to back semifinals at the majors is a most excellent result for the Russian force. Not sure if it points to further breakthroughs for Khachanov, who has lost 23 consecutive matches against the Top-10 despite the great Slam results, but it does show that he is beating who he should be beating at the majors, and doing it in impressive fashion at that.

12. The Fruhvirtova Sisters play their first Slam together

Mark the Slam. The 2023 Australian Open will forever be the first time that Czech sisters Linda and Brenda Fruhvirtova played in the same main draw at a major. Brenda, 15, qualified and lost in the first round; Linda, 17, reached the round of 16 on her Australian Open debut.

The pair of surging sisters are part of a deep, talented pool of Czech women that we are likely to be hearing a lot from over the years to come.

13. Sam Stosur Bids Farewell

2011 US Open singles champion and former doubles World No.1 (for 61 weeks) Sam Stosur bid farewell at her home Slam, with fans paying tribute to her after her doubles career ended. The 38-year-old conducted her career with the utmost professionalism and was a true triple-threat on tour. She was an elite singles player for many years and one of the best in the business on the doubles court, where she won four major doubles titles and three in mixed.

But in the end, it’s the character and the personality that really got us hooked and made us appreciate Stosur, for her humility and respect for the game. She’ll be sorely missed.

14. More Doubles Love from the Aussies

With Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis unable to defend the men’s doubles title, Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata stepped in to give the crowd something homegrown and magical to cheer about over the weekend. They defeated Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski, 6-4, 7-6(4) for the title on Saturday.


15. Korda Looking Like a Future Champ

Props to Sebastian Korda, former junior champion in Melbourne, and son of former Aussie Open champion Petr Korda, who toppled two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev and Top-10 stalwart Hubert Hurkacz to reach his first major quarterfinal. He ran out of gas, suffering a wrist injury in the quarterfinals against Khachanov, but along the way the 22-year-old demonstrated that he may one day be the leader among the deep, talented pool of American men.

16. Sania Mirza’s Last Slam

Pioneer, trailblazer, fighter. Sania Mirza’s legend knows no bounds in the sport. As one of the highest paid and influential athletes to ever hail from India, Sania helped break boundaries for women in her country and around the world. She held the doubles No.1 ranking for 91 weeks, and was the first woman from India to achieve the No.1 ranking. She won six major titles–three in doubles and three in mixed–and will officially end her career at Dubai next month. She ended her Grand Slam career with a runner-up finish in mixed doubles.

17. Krejcikova and Siniakova Continue their Domination

They are starting to look like one of the best doubles teams of all-time. Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova, who defeated Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara 6-4 6-3 on Sunday to complete a successful title defense in Melbourne. The Czech duo have now won 24 straight matches at the majors, taking the last four majors they have contested.

In total, they have won seven major doubles titles.

18. Raducanu and Gauff Preview the Future

The second-round tilt – and first ever meeting – between Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff went to the American in straight-sets, and it may have featured a lot more unforced errors than winners, but it did showcase the enormously talented games of both players. The quickness, athleticism, variety and pop was dreamy at times, even if it wasn’t the instaclassic that many had hoped for. Gauff’s 6-3, 7-6(4) was a highlight of the opening week and a splendid preview of a rivalry that could take center stage one day on the WTA Tour.

19. The Grit of the Big 3/4/5

Ode to the Big 3. Ode to the Big 4. Ode to the Big 5. We think of the effort that Novak Djokovic made in Australia, battling against time to get his hamstring fit so that he could chase history, while Rafael Nadal gave everything he had, though hobbled, and refused to retire from his match against Mackenzie McDonald. 36-year-old Nadal preferred to do the honorable thing and play out the match without retiring and it was a testament to his character. Stan Wawrinka, now 37, lost a heartbreaking five-setter in the first round to Alex Molcan, but the legendary Swiss still inspired with his determination and grit as he makes a desperate push to finish his career on his terms.

Then there was Murray, the epic battler, willing himself into the third round with a stirring comeback from two sets down in the second round after upsetting Matteo Berrettini in the first.

They may be getting nearer the finish line, but the five greats – now whittled down to four without Federer, and call ‘em what you like – still inspire with their talents, their desire, their passion and the legacy that follows them into any tournament they play.

All we can say is, buy your tickets and catch them while you still can...

20. Vika Returns to the Scene

A resurgent Victoria Azarenka, a two-time champion at Melbourne, celebrated the ten-year anniversary of her second title in Melbourne with a stirring run to the semis. How did she do it? By challenging herself to think differently about her game and her growth during the off-season. The 33-year-old is a quality role model for any young player to follow.

21. Rune’s Heartbreak

Many felt that Holger Rune might be the only player with a chance to push Novak Djokovic prior to the final at Melbourne, but the Dane was dealt a heartbreaking loss at the hands of Andrey Rublev in the round of 16. He had two match points, but could not get over the line. That which does not kill, makes stronger…

22. Popyrin’s Jubilation

Emo moment of week one? Alexei Popyrin’s celebration after defeating Taylor Fritz in the second round. He was open and teary-eyed as he talked to the crowd about the meaningful win. It was a strong reminder of the blood, sweat and tears that all these players are investing at the Grand Slams. But something about Popyrin struck a chord. He has a keen and inclusive way of expressing himself. He’s a cool watch, and we're a fan.

23. Mmohmentum

How about Michael Mmoh? Out in qualies, packed and ready to go home, then gets a late call from the tournament that he’s into the main draw as a lucky loser. What does he do? Saves a match point in the opening round and defeats Alexander Zverev in the second to reach the third round at a major for the first time. The lesson? Be ready when opportunity knocks.


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