MELBOURNE — The 2019 edition of the Australian Open came to a conclusion having satiated tennis fans with the quality and excitement of play. If this major is an indication of what’s ahead this year, there should be a lot of memorable moments in tennis.
Federer looking his age
Don’t take this the wrong way. Roger Federer, 37, is still a formidable and elegant player, and he shouldn’t be counted out of winning titles. But it’s hard to deny he’s showing signs of being a senior citizen of the tour.
Like it or not, winning seven matches at a major in best-of-five set encounters will require things to fall perfectly in place for Federer.
When Federer’s been extended past straight-sets at the last three majors — in the 2018 Wimbledon quarterfinals, the US Open fourth round and this Australian Open fourth round — he’s been shown to the exit.
Serena is vulnerable
Serena Williams is finding out that it’s not so easy for a professional athlete to do it all — be a champion not only on the court, but as a wife and mother at home.
She’ll be a year back from maternity leave in March, has played a limited schedule and still is in the hunt for a 24th Grand Slam singles trophy, which would tie her for the record with Australian Margaret Court.
Williams did reach the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, but couldn’t put together the win. In Melbourne she had a 5-1 lead and four match points in the third set of the quarterfinals and crumbled to Karolina Pliskova.
The truth is fellow players no longer consider Williams unbeatable, which makes every event even harder for the 37-year-old. The good news is she left here already thinking about the French Open, which is a sign she’s still focused on making new records.
Djokovic back to being dominant
Last year at this time the tennis world was wondering if Novak Djokovic would ever be as big a factor in the game as in the past. He hadn’t won a Grand Slam title since the 2016 French Open and a right elbow injury was plaguing him for more than a year.
Reluctantly, he finally decided rehab wasn’t working and surgery was the only recourse, so he went under the knife. It took him awhile to find his footing, but now he’s back to being in charge.
He’s won the last three Grand Slams and when his game is on, no one brims with more confidence.
That said, while he could be heading toward a non-calendar Grand Slam it should be remembered the next major is on clay and he’s only won once in Paris.
Not to mention, if Rafael Nadal stays healthy, Roland Garros is Rafa territory and he’d be looking to increase his record to 12 career French Open titles.
Osaka is the real deal
It isn’t every day that a player can make headlines by winning a first Grand Slam title against Serena, but that’s what Naomi Osaka did at the US Open.
Following that achievement by winning the next Grand Slam title as she did here at the Australian Open is an absolute sign the 21-year-old is now the player to beat on the tour.
While her shy, somewhat quirky sense of humor is working for her now — she claims there are days she barely speaks 14 sentences — the truth is tennis grows as a sport when the top players boast dynamic personalities.
Hopefully, as Osaka becomes used to being in the spotlight she’ll become more comfortable letting the world have a glimpse at who she is.
The Greek god has arrived
If you didn’t know who Stefanos Tsitsipas was before the Australian Open, you surely do now. He’s the 20-year-old who, as the 14th seed, sent Federer packing in the fourth round.
Tsitsipas went on to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal, where he learned a few lessons for the future after only winning six games against Rafael Nadal.
Talented, cerebral and stylish, this guy has the necessary requirements to usher men’s tennis into the next generation of stars.