The 2017 ATP season is well underway and the first Grand Slam of the year has come and gone.
The 105th Australian Open provided us with the shocks, anguish and the jubilation that has cemented its place as one of the most anticipated events on the sporting calendar.
In the women’s side of the draw, many tipped Serena Williams to win her record-setting 23rd Grand Slam title. She would have been encouraged by the fact that only three of the other top 10 seeds reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne.
World number one Angelique Kerber was aiming to defend her Australian Open crown but fell to a shocking fourth round exit at the hands of American Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets.
Serena Williams would reach the final without dropping a single set, and would meet her sister, Venus, for the ninth time in a Grand Slam final and the first final since Wimbledon 2009.
Serena largely dominated the final and won in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 to take her beyond Steffi Graf’s record of 22 titles in the Open Era and out on her own as undoubtedly the greatest female player of all time and one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Six-time Australian Open and defending champion Novak Djokovic lost out to world number 117 Denis Istomin in the 2nd round. World number one Andy Murray soon followed, losing to German Mischa Zverev in the 4th round.
This was the first time since the French Open in 2004 that both the men’s and women’s number one seeds have been knocked out of a Grand Slam before the quarter-finals.
After a six-month hiatus from the sport, 17-time Grand Slam winner, Roger Federer returned to Melbourne and set up a final clash with Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard dispatched of Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-final and Federer defeated his fellow countryman, Stan Wawrinka.
This would be Federer’s first Grand Slam final since 2015 and Nadal’s first since 2014, and a repeat of the 2009 Australian Open final, where Nadal emerged victorious. The two legends put on a tennis masterclass, with Federer taking the first set 6-4 and Nadal squaring up the match up at one-set apiece, taking the second set 6-3. Federer broke Nadal’s serve twice in the third set and took it 6-1 but again, Nadal hit back taking the fourth set 6-3.
In a tense and closely-contested fifth set, Federer was not to be denied as he came back from 3-1 down to win and claim his record-setting 18th Grand Slam title in his illustrious career, finally putting the discussion of the greatest of all time to bed after so many years.
Britain however did have its own success stories in Melbourne. Dan Evans reached the fourth round – his best at a Grand Slam – and knocked out former US Open Champion, Marin Čilić.
Johanna Konta reached the quarter-finals before losing out to eventual champion Serena Williams, but she still remains in the world’s top 10.
For the first time since 1987, there were five British players in the second round at the Australian Open, with Heather Watson and Kyle Edmund joining Murray, Konta and Evans.
Whilst no Brits returned home with silverware, there were many signs that the British game is improving across the board. If we have learned anything from this year’s first Grand Slam, it is that no wins are guaranteed and upsets can happen – even when they look least likely. We were fortunate enough to see four legends contest both the men’s and women’s finals.
And whilst we should always look to the future, it is always worth looking back to the greats and what they have done for the sport, and this year’s Australian Open is a perfect example of that.
Image courtesy of Julie Edgley