MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14: Andy Murray of Great Britain thanks the crowd after losing his first round match against Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain during day one of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Tennis | Australian Open 2019 | Five Things We Learned in Week One of the Australian Open
The young ones are coming (Barty, Tiafoe, Collins)
Who were the big shocks of the week
Players of Week One
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – It has been a long week in Melbourne, but we are going to try and condense it down just a little bit with five things we learned in Week One.
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Murray going, going, gone… or maybe not
The tearful news from Andy Murray himself that this would be his final season made for a very sombre flight over. With the news breaking overnight, and the sheer volume of eulogising tweets, you would be forgiven for think he had shuffled off this mortal coil.
If it was to be his last hurrah though, what a way to go out. Watched by family and friends, Murray was held off by a single break in the first two sets by the consistent Roberto Bautista Agut, but then the unthinkable started to happen. Murray came back. First, he got one set. Then he levelled the match and just for a second, we wondered if he could do it.
Ultimately his body let him down, but it was an amazing effort, before he then seemed to put a cat among the pigeons by saying he might be back, before clarifying what he meant.
Murray has nothing to prove. He has won Grand Slam titles and thus laid the ghost of Fred Perry to rest. He has two Olympic Gold medals – something no tennis player had achieved. He has won the Davis Cup. He became World No. 1.
Let him have the hip resurfacing operation to be able to put his shoes and socks on, to walk his dogs, to run around after his kids, and to be able to walk out onto Centre Court in the Royal Box to wave us all farewell.
His quality of life by far outweighs the need to see him play one more time. But the outpouring of tributes to him from peers, and from an appreciate WTA says it all. British Tennis will never see his like again. Tennis will miss a true ambassador of the sport.
Setting Murray aside, Novak Djokovic got his first test at the hands of Denis Shapovalov with the young Canadian taking a set off him before bowing out in the third round, but he has had to contend with a growing sense of curiosity about his involvement with the now delayed vote regarding ATP Chief Chris Kermode.
The ATP seem to be splitting down the middle certainly in the higher echelons of power, in terms of whether or not Kermode has been good for the tour.
Djokovic became quite aggrieved: “I don’t know why people keep on talking about me as being against Chris. Who said that that was the truth? One of my greatest concerns right now, of every council member, is that we have leaking information from someone within the council in the last couple months.
“Many of those things that have been leaked to certain media are also not 100% true. It’s obvious that there is a certain kind of one-dimensional agenda in place. Players and certain medias are served with quite a one-sided story.”
The situation with player representative on the council, Justin Gimelstob currently facing charges of alleged aggravated assault, together with the scepticism about ATP Cup and Tennis Australia’s involvement in that and Laver Cup making them ITF Lite, makes for distractions galore.
While we are on the subject of Tennis Australia – the fact that Bernard Tomic went off on a rant after losing is nothing new. The fact that he laid into Lleyton Hewitt, who subsequently came into press and gave very much as good as he got made for early entertainment.
Tomic cheerfully tried to throw Nick Kyrgios under the bus as another Hewitt dissenter. Kyrgios stated he would be available if asked for Davis Cup. Hewitt wants Kyrgios to adhere to ‘cultural standards’ – perhaps get your own house in order before spreading your tentacles into the main tour?
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As we start to look towards the setting of the sun on the Big Four from the men’s side, we have been thrilled by performances from Ashleigh Barty, who clawed her way back from a real humdinger of a battle with Maria Sharapova. On Middle Sunday, she battled back from a set down to send the former champ packing.
Equally impressive was the beat-down that Danielle Collins gave another former champion in Angelique Kerber. The German had absolutely no answer as Collins effectively halted any chance for Kerber to get going with her usual game.
You would have to be pretty hard hearted not to have been happy for Frances Tiafoe. While poor Grigor Dimitrov must be wondering whether he will ever get a draw without some NextGen whippersnapper coming along and dumping him out of the tournament, Tiafoe’s story of how he got here, and wanting to be seen as an example of hard work has been pretty inspiring.
The Generation lost boys (sorry Dimitrov) has failed to live up to the Big Four, but the new chasing pack are coming, and they are fearless. Sunday night’s drama saw defending champion Roger Federer taken to four tight sets but ultimately losing out to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Undoubtedly losing the two defending champions before the start of the second week had to be the biggest talking points. Add to that Marin Cilic as last year’s finalist and the draws pen themselves up quite nicely.
There is a definite sense that the times, they are a-changing – on the men’s side potentially more than the women. There has been a period of change for a while now – with two of the current reigning Slam champions out, but if there was ever a year for the younger generation to stand up and be counted on the ATP side, this is it.
Players of the Week
On the women’s side I will pick Barty. She is not even remotely phased by pulling this out in front of a home crowd, and instead has stepped up and relished everything that has been thrown at her. Whether she can kick on and make it count in Week two – I am not sure, but she has been a marvel to behold this week.
For the men it is a toss-up between Tiafoe and Tsitsipas. Both were at the NextGen Finals in Milan, both have so much promise, but the edge maybe has to go to Tsitsipas who just acted as this was par for the course. Perhaps Tiafoe will have a come-down in his next match but Tsitsipas just seems destined to continue to make his mark.
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