It took a Herculean effort to host the 2021 Australian Open and overcome many pandemic restrictions But the tournament nonetheless provided high quality matches and produced two incredible champions for Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic

With a delayed start, quarantine issues and the reemergence of fans (then their absence and return once again), Tennis Australia has best handled the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus and has continued to rely on the successes of the US Open and French Open 2020 There have been upheavals, miraculous races of unknowns and thrilling battles on the court

If there’s one thing the tournament has made perfect sense, it’s that just like its predecessor, the 2021 season will be full of constant changes – on and off the pitch.

The 23-year-old left no doubt about her current place in women’s tennis with another dominant performanceBeating Jennifer Brady in the final, Osaka clinched her fourth major title, tying her to Kim Clijsters and just trailing Serena and Venus Williams among active players – and now on a 21-game winning streak

While her straight-set victory over Serena Williams in the semi-final drew the most attention during her run in Melbourne, it may have been her match against two-time champion Slam Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round who was the most impressive Pushed to the edge of the third set and down 5-3, Osaka dodged two match points and never looked back.She won the next three games and progressed, eventually becoming the eighth woman of the Open era. to win the Australian Open after saving a match point

With her latest triumph, along with her current activism and fame off the pitch, Osaka is undoubtedly the new face of the sport but she doesn’t seem particularly baffled

“Honestly, I don’t really think about it,” she said on Sunday “For me, I just focus on myself and what I can do So I don’t put too much pressure on myself this way “

Moments after losing in straight sets in Sunday’s men’s league match, Daniil Medvedev summed up his opponent perfectly in his finalist speech:

“Nine Grand Slam tournaments in Australia, 18 in total, it’s amazing, and probably not the last,” he laughs “So I have no words to say”

Djokovic cemented his status as King of Melbourne with his unbalanced 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Medvedev in less than two hours, and his self-proclaimed “love affair” with Rod Laver Arena s’ is being pursued He has now won more major hard court titles (12) than any other male player, and only trails Serena Williams in total

After a difficult year for Djokovic – with his ill-fated Adria Tour, anti-vaccination comments, disqualification from the US Open, loss in the Roland Garros final and his list of demands for CEO of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley – this title could have meant the most of all

“He needed this win so badly,” said coach Goran Ivanisevic “He’s going through [a lot], you know, especially after last year the US Open, then the pretty poor Roland Garros final, and [it’s] not easy”

For a while, it looked like his unlucky streak would continue in Melbourne as he suffered from what he later described as a muscle tear in his mid-section during his match against Taylor Fritz in the third round. He needed five sets to get the win and there was speculation leading up to his next game he would be unable to play.But despite the setback, he found a way not only to compete but to keep winning

Djokovic lost five sets en route to the final – his record in a Slam in which he reached the final and the most of any No 1 seed entering a major final since 1997 – but he did not weakened on the biggest stage

With his 18 major trophies, he is only two behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most As Federer is expected to return to competition after knee surgery next month, expect this that the “Big Three” continue to fight for the material and that the conversation of the men on the GOAT intensifies

Following a tough outing at the hands of Osaka in the semifinals, Serena Williams’ heartfelt moment with the crowd and her tearful and abruptly ended press conference left more questions than answers about her future in the sport

“If I ever say goodbye, I won’t tell anyone,” she said a few moments before starting to cry

Since returning from childbirth in 2018, fans and the media have consistently focused on Williams’ ability and odds of winning her 24th major title to equal Margaret Court’s long-standing record She reached four finals and two semi-finals during that time, but struggled in the greatest moments.She arguably looked like she was playing her best tennis since coming back in the fortnight (while wearing a wetsuit inspired by Flo-Jo), but she just didn’t get any answers once Osaka found her rhythm.

Still, she will move up to No 7 in the latest leaderboard and has shown that she is more than capable of beating some top players like Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka (and even set a new tournament record for serve fastest at 126 miles per hour) But at 39, it’s clear her time is coming to an end, and how much longer does the tennis world have to enjoy the GOAT while she’s still playing could be the most big question of sport

While women’s football has seen its fair share of unlikely Slam runs of late, it’s much rarer for lower-ranking men to break into the majors.

That is, until Karatsev shows up in Melbourne and breaks the brackets like it’s the NCAA tournament

The 27-year-old, who has spent most of his career playing Challenger and Futures events, managed to qualify in Doha to play in his first major – and went on to become the first man in the league. Open era to reach the semi-final in his Slam debut after eliminating No 8 seeds Diego Schwartzman, No 20 Félix Auger-Aliassime and No 17 Grigor Dimitrov He lost to Djokovic in the semi-final but still got more just a name

Karatsev entered the tournament ranked No 114 but left at No 42 and having more than doubled his career earnings After the loss, he said he was delighted to have a direct entry into tournaments without having to qualify and have the experience of major games to his credit But her biggest thing to take away from the event?

“That I can play with everyone”, he said “Be there and compete with everyone”

Can he replicate his success in the future? Will this be the start of other lower ranking male players doing deep runs at the Slams? Wait and watch

After playing in front of no audiences at the US Open and a very limited number at Roland Garros, players were delighted to see a sizable crowd – around 50% of normal capacity – for the first time in close to a year of the start of the Australian Open

“Compared to what we were playing [ahead of] last year, which is zero, that’s huge,” Venus Williams said after her first round match. “I’m not complaining It’s exciting I think every person was probably amazed to be sitting at a sporting event, as much as I was to have them there “

In an unexpected sign of ‘back to normal’, a fan was even sent off after heckling Nadal in his second round victory

But on day five of the tournament, the local government in Victoria announced a mandatory five-day lockdown due to a small outbreak In effect at 11:59 a.m., the awkward timing forced fans to leave in the fourth set of the Djokovic-Fritz match.The match was stopped as fans reluctantly walked to the exits – and the atmosphere changed from lively to strangely calm in one of the most surreal scenes of the fortnight

For the next five days of action, players had to start again creating their own atmosphere.However, fans were allowed to turn back time for the semi-finals, and some players struggled to adjust

“I think it added a bit of extra nerves, a bit of extra pressure, just wanting to perform well in front of the people,” Brady said after her semi-final win over Karolina Muchova. “I think I may have lost some of the focus I had before without fans “

Players will need to get used to the different atmospheres from tournament to tournament The Miami Open, the next event to be held in the United States, recently announced that it will allow 15% capacity when it would start at the end of March

Following positive passenger tests on three charter flights to Melbourne, 72 players – including Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Kei Nishikori – were forced into a “strict quarantine” protocol for 14 days Limited only at their hotel room they were given a stationary bike, weights and various other equipment, but it was not ideal training conditions before a Grand Slam

Some players have complained (and have come under heavy criticism), but most have figured it out Yet Angelique Kerber, the three-time major champion who had been isolated, couldn’t hide her frustration at her experience after losing in the first round

“I felt that at first, of course my balls still came out a little bit and I didn’t feel the pace I was before the two weeks, to be honest,” she said. “When I look back, sure, I [had] not planned the two weeks of strict quarantine I don’t know, maybe if I knew that before I really stayed two weeks in the hard quarantine without hitting a ball, can -be I would think twice If I knew the real situation before my trip, I might think twice to come here “

“I made my first Grand Slam final so maybe if I hadn’t been in quarantine I would have won,” she joked. “I don’t think it really bothered me Who knows? “

Barbora Krejcikova and Rajeev Ram, the winning mixed doubles pair, were both in quarantine, but Krejcikova thought it could have made a difference for the pair

“I feel really, really grateful,” Krejcikova said, “and I’m really happy that even [even though] we had to go through this difficult quarantine, it works well and maybe that was the key. win the tournament Who knows? “

Australia’s policy was particularly strict compared to many other countries scheduled to host tournaments, so players likely won’t have to experience a quarantine scenario again, unless one positive test

After her incredible 2019 season, which saw her reach the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at the US Open, Gauff (aged 15) scored the biggest victory of her young career against Osaka, the Defending champion, in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open The fan favorite lost to eventual winner Sofia Kenin in the round of 16 but looked set for a huge year

Of course, much of the season has been put on hold due to the pandemic, but Gauff still looked strong when the season resumed in August at the Top Seed Open with a semi-final

Since then, Gauff has not gone beyond the second round of any tournament She has been unwavering after her second round loss to Elina Svitolina

“I try not to compare results and all, because the past is the past,” she said “You focus on going now, and yes, I don’t really focus too much on past results and all that, because it happened and can’t change it “

Due to her age, Gauff had only been able to play a limited time before the end of the season, so she didn’t have the chance to play a full season on tour. years next month and is allowed to play more events, the 2021 season could see her find the routine and pace she was lacking

Gauff had more success in doubles with partner Caty McNally, and the pair advanced to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the second year in a row

After several years of experimenting with the idea in various tournaments and using the technology on all but two of the US Open courts, the Australian Open was the first major tournament to be played entirely without linesmen, relying solely on Hawk-Eye Live, an automated system that uses advanced imaging technology

A pre-recorded voice alerted players to calls like “out” or “fault” and there was no player challenge. If they disagree with a call, they can ask to watch a replay

“No offense at all, but there is just no mistake, and that’s really good in my opinion,” said Dominic Thiem “If the electronic call is withdrawn the ball is out, so it there is no room for mistakes I like it “

But there were a few moments that gave some fans and players a break from the total reliance on technology Francesca Jones believed Shelby Rogers had hit a long ball, but she was called out in a game of first round Replays seemed to support Jones

“I don’t know who is in charge of the refereeing system that is here, but definitely questionable, extremely questionable,” she said after the game “I saw the replay that was broadcast, was it Eurosport or elsewhere, and it clearly came out

“I much prefer human error to systematic error Listen, this is a new system and I understand why it is being used, but I think this absolutely needs to be revised”

As the season continues through the pandemic and tournaments seek to limit the number of people on the courts and near players, addiction to technology could become more prevalent – like it or no to the players

Just hours before the five-day lockdown took effect, Kyrgios took to the court at John Cain Arena to take on defending US Open champion Thiem in front of a packed crowd that seemed impatient to gain every second of freedom count

Playing on his favorite court, he took a two-set lead – winning the second set with an ace under the armpits – powered by incredible athleticism, incredible shot selection and unmatched showmanship The crowd ate his every move, and social media loved him too

Thiem fought back and miraculously won the match, but it almost didn’t matter.The worshiping crowd continued to wave their Australian flags and loudly applaud Kyrgios until well after the end The energy was more like a basketball game than a tennis match

Kyrgios couldn’t stay calm in the dozens of moments against a top-tier opponent Then again, it would have been hard to imagine him playing his next game without fans if he had advanced

Kyrgios has always found a way to promote with his doubles teammate and compatriot Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis, and he has also dominated press conferences with his war of words with Djokovic, proving once again why he is there. one of the most polarizing players in sport

Djokovic, Novak Djokovic, medvedev tennis, Daniil Medvedev

World news – FI – Naomi Osaka’s domination, Novak Djokovic’s crown and other takeaways from the ‘Australian Open