We are at about the halfway point of the 2018 Australian Open. Like any other tennis major, there is no shortage of storylines. Here is a closer look.
Men’s all-time greats are still the greats
With Andy Murray not in Australia at all and injury concerns surrounding Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, there was considerable thought that we could see an out of the box champion in Melbourne.
Think again. Between them, defending champion Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have dropped a grand total of one set. Upsets have been more than common to this point. In fact, between both singles draws, a total of seven players ranked outside the top 70 are still alive. Despite that, the upset bug has not gotten close to the best of the best.
Federer and Nadal have been particularly dominant on serve and have not played from behind at all. Djokovic hasn’t played in half a year but is getting better and better.
Especially with Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev already on flights home, it is a virtual guarantee that one of these three legends will add to their already fantastic career numbers. Whether or not this speaks to the quality of the trio or is an indictment on the rest of the field is always a debate.
For now though, the cream continues to rise to the top.
Halep toughing it out
Despite being ranked World No. 1, Simona Halep has struggled in big matches for the last couple years. She blew a huge lead in the French Open final last year and lost in the first round of two other majors.
Thus, Halep could have easily folded when she rolled her ankle in her opener at this event. Instead, she has done just the opposite. The Romanian has grinded her way into the last 16. This includes a third-round victory over American Lauren Davis that was one of the longest women’s matches in Australian Open history. Halep had to save three match points to win 15-13 in the final set.
Halep relies on her movement and isn’t moving at anywhere near 100 percent. Her body may not allow her to win her first Grand Slam title at this particular event.
Even so, she has clearly made some progress during the offseason. More than anything, that is what will eventually earn her that prized Grand Slam title.
2017 was a year that saw Angelique Kerber start out as the top-ranked player in the world and holder of two major titles. The German lefty finished last year without winning a tournament and ranked outside the top 20.
Kerber has rebounded in a big way in 2018. She is undefeated on the year and has already picked up a trophy in Sydney. If you are going purely on current form, Kerber is the pick to win this title.
In a battle of the only two remaining Grand Slam champions in the draw, the 21st seed needed just over an hour to send a suddenly resurgent Maria Sharapova packing. Unless your name is Serena Williams, it is eye-popping to see Sharapova dominated the way she was by Kerber. Sharapova’s countless detractors will be eager to write her tennis eulogy after this defeat.
However, the 6-1 6-3 score line had more to do with Kerber being astonishingly good than it did with Sharapova being bad. Any player who can have a single-digit unforced error total after playing two sets against a player of Sharapova’s caliber deserves nothing more than a tip of the cap and to be considered the favorite in a wide-open women’s field as we head into the second week.
Television coverage of the Australian Open continues nightly for another week on Tennis Channel as well as the ESPN family of networks.
Featured image from sbnation.com
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