Tebbutt: The 2023 Australian Open Rear View
The pair of zip lines over the Yarra River is not far from the site of the Australian Open. In the distance is the famous 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground and to the lower right is the Tennis Australia headquarters building at Melbourne Park.
Looking back, 2023 wasn’t quite a vintage year for the Australian Open. The main reason being the main players who either didn’t play at all or did but were absent once the event reached its final stages.
On the women’s side, that would include world No. 1 Iga Świątek and No. 2 Ons Jabeur as well as No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 4 Caroline Garcia – all gone before the last eight except quarter-finalist loser Pegula.
The men’s tournament was desperate for a legitimate threat to conqueror Novak Djokovic. But below average defending champion Rafael Nadal went out in the second round, Carlos Alcaraz (right leg injury), ranked No. 1 and US Open champion, didn’t even reach Australia and Holger Rune, who beat Djokovic in the Paris final in November. , catapulting him to the frontline of the challengers, was ousted in a thriller by Andrey Rublev in the round of 16.
There was also the no-show, the drawing card of host Nick Kyrgios (left knee) as well as the premature exits of emerging stars such as second seed Casper Ruud, No 6 Félix Auger-Aliassime and the #8 Taylor Fritz, all three of them had all shown a lot of promise by the end of 2022.
Photo: Martin Sidorjak
The positive for the women is that the most depressing memories of the big names faded, replaced when No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka beat reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6- 4 with captivating and hyper-aggressive tennis in the final. It was hard to resist the attractive personality and history of the 24-year-old Belarusian.
His struggles at the AO a year ago – six double faults in a single game – compared to just seven this year in the entire two-hour, 28-minute final, set up a Sabalenka fairy tale ending 2023 tournament. and its catchphrase, “The story begins here.”
Photo: Martin Sidorjak
The Rod Laver Arena was the place to be for Sunday night’s men’s final between Djokovic and No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Unfortunately, there was little drama from the Women’s Championship match. Djokovic, despite all the remaining qualms about his left hamstring injury after his quarter-final victory over Rublev, has reached an untouchable level for the 24-year-old Greek, or anyone else. at this year’s event.
He beat Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) and the historic significance of his win – 10 Australian Open titles, 22 Grand Slams overall and a comeback ranked #1 – eclipsed what happened. during the two hours and 56 minutes of action on the pitch.
St. Kilda Beach on Port Phillip Bay is a hip and cool place to hang out in Melbourne. The saxophonist here, engrossed in her music, is just one example of the flora and fauna to be found on trendy Acland Street.
CANADIANS AT THE AUSSIE OPEN Photo: Martin Sidorjak
BIANCA ANDREESCU: The biggest mystery among the Canadians was Andreescu and her 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 loss in the second round to No. 100 qualifier Cristina Bucsa of Spain. This followed her impressive 6-2, 6-4 first-round win over 25th seed Marie Bouzkova.
The first set against Bucsa went as planned but Andreescu gradually lost his aggressive tennis and his confidence. It seemed all the more mysterious when Bucsa went on to lose 6-0, 6-1 to top seed Iga Świątek in the third round. A game against the world No. 1 was what Andreescu really craved.
GENIE BOUCHARD: Fit and motivated to start the new year, she lost in the first round of qualifying – 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 to 18-year-old Ashlyn Krueger. Thirteen years after first playing in the junior event at Melbourne Park, the 28-year-old Bouchard came out on top after a sketchy first set and looked set to finish off the lanky 6ft 1in American. She had a break point and a forehand near the net at 4 all in the last set, but missed it in the net.
Krueger then held and broke serve in the next game to end Bouchard’s hopes. After winning a qualifying round in Auckland the week before, Bouchard had to forfeit with food poisoning – not ideal preparation for the AO.
GABRIELA DABROWSKI: It was a disappointing fortnight for the No. 7-ranked doubles player. She and her Mexican partner Giuliana Olmos, the No. 3 seeds, were beaten 7-5, 6-2 by the American-Russian duo by Caroline Dolehide and Anna Kalinskaya in the third round. They picked up a solid second-round win over the Swiss duo of Belinda Bencic and Jil Teichmann.
In mixed doubles, Dabrowski and Australian No. 8 seed Max Purcell were ousted in the second round by Australian Wild Cards Lisette Cabrera and John-Patrick Smith.
Photo: Martin Sidorjak
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: After losing just four matches in her first two pre-Aussie Open rounds at the Auckland WTA 250, Fernandez faced the left-handed brute force of Belgian powerhouse Ysaline Bonaventure – inside – and was beaten 6 -4, 6- 2.
In the second round at the AO, she lost 7-6(5), 7-5 to No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia after leading the first set tiebreaker 4-0 and earning a point set point in the second. Two rounds later, a nervous Garcia lost 7-6(3), 6-4 to 45th seeded Magda Linette. The bad luck Fernandez was playing well enough to have tracked Linette’s eventual path to the semis had she passed Garcia.
REBECCA MARINO: Going 1-1 against China’s Zhu Lin in their previous encounters, this time Marino was outplayed from the baseline 6-2, 6-4 by the Chinese’s accurate and fast ball shots ranked #87. Zhu proved his fine form by reaching the fourth round with upsets against No. 32 seeds Teichmann and No. 6 Maria Sakkari.
KATHERINE SEBOV: The Canadian revelation of the 2023 Australian Open, the 24-year-old qualified with victories over Czech No. 58-ranked Linda Noskova, fresh off a second-place finish in Adelaide against Sabalenka, No. 170 Priscilla Hon of Australia and No. 128 Simona Waltert of Switzerland.
It was a first for Sebov – her first Grand Slam main draw, her first top 200 finish at No. 190 and her first experience at a Grand Slam main stadium, Rod Laver Arena, where she was beaten 6-3 , 6-0 by Garcia.
CAROL ZHAO: Bidding for her first main draw at a Grand Slam, Zhao, 27, lost a crushing second round, advancing in the second round against No. 130-ranked Clara Burel, 6-7 (4), 6 -4, 7 -6[10-2]. Rarely has a match turned out as dramatically as this one. Zhao was on his way to victory ahead 4-0 and a point for 5-0 in the second set against a totally dejected Burel.
There seemed to be no turning back for the 21-year-old Frenchwoman, but Zhao then hit a regulation forehand over the baseline. A reinvigorated Burel won six straight and the set before claiming the rocking third set in a one-sided tiebreaker.
Photo: Martin Sidorjak
FELIX AUGER-ALIASSIME. It never came close to establishing cruising altitude in Australia. He lost in the first round to No. 113 ranked Aussie Alexei Popyrin in Adelaide, then was outplayed after the first set in a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 7-6 loss. (3) against 21-year-old, fast-growing No. 71-ranked Czech Jiri Lehecka in the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
A late 2022 season finale at the Davis Cup final and then an exhibition event in Dubai just before Christmas may have meant he wasn’t as fresh for Australia as he would have been. wish.
GABRIEL DIALLO: The 21-year-old Montrealer has made incredible progress over the past six months, going from No. 669 in early August to No. 227 ahead of AO qualifying.
Diallo faced Aleksandar Vukic in the first round and had four break points in the 26-year-old Australian’s first two service games. He couldn’t convert any of them and Vukic, who qualified, only needed one break in each set to win 6-3, 6-4. It was a first real taste of the big moment for the 6ft 7in Diallo and should provide him with some solid experience to build on.
ALEXIS GALARNEAU: The 23-year-old was playing his first Grand Slam qualifier and won his first round 7-6(5), 6-2 over 27-year-old Briton Ryan Peniston. In the second, he faced another 27-year-old player, Juan Pablo Varillas.
Galarneau won the first set on his fifth set point, having saved a set point, but gradually the No.103-ranked Peruvian started playing more consistently from the baseline. It was the difference in the result 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-4. Galarneau was in for it but Varillas had a bit more moxie in key moments.
VASEK POSPISIL: After going through a late 2022 season spurt – including winning the National Bank Challenger in Drummondville in his last event – to gain direct entry to the 2023 Australian Open, Pospisil has lured his compatriot Félix Auger-Aliassime in the first round. He started well, taking a 5-0 lead in the first set before starting to suffer (leg) cramps at 5-4 in the second.
He ended up sweating through nine shirts before losing 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 on a rather mild evening. The (bad) luck of the draw and his continuing problem with cramps helped to make things very frustrating for an in-form Pospisil.
Photo: Martin Sidorjak
DENIS SHAPOVALOV: He reached the third round before going out against No. 10 seed Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (3), 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3. A poor sixth game in the fifth set to break ruined the momentum of his dominating game in the third and fourth sets.
But it was always going to be tough to win in five after losing the first two sets, especially after serving for the first at 5-4 and having a point for 3-0 in the second. After the match, Shapovalov admitted nervousness was an issue, something he continues to work on.
The Young and Jackson Hotel is located at the crossroads of Melbourne city center and Flinders and Swanston streets. It has gentrified in recent years, but in the days of 2002 champion Thomas Johansson a lively group of young Swedes used to hang out there – refueling at the bar at 10 a.m. before heading to the nearby park in Melbourne to clap and sing for their compatriot.