With the ATP World Tour currently enjoying a rare week off from official tournament play, the world is still digesting everything we saw over the last two weeks in Australia. Here is how some of the big names stack up.
There are no longer sufficient adjectives in the English language that do Roger Federer justice. As the bodies of his much younger rivals continue to break down and be put back together again, the 36-year-old Swiss icon is coasting along, having just picked up his 20th major title.
Not only did he extend his own record for men’s major singles titles, but the way he did it was just as impressive. He did not have to break a sweat until his up-and-down performance in the final, where he won in five sets.
Federer’s biggest attribute has nothing to do with a serve, forehand or backhand. His ability to stay healthy is what we all should marvel at. At this particular tournament, Rafael Nadal was struck down by injury, Novak Djokovic was clearly not fully healthy despite playing his first tournament since Wimbledon last year and Andy Murray had to sit this one out altogether.
Meanwhile, Federer has been on the tour since 1999 and has had one extended injury layoff. Father time will eventually win, but Federer continues to milk the clock as well as anyone ever has.
With the way he started at this event, it sure looked like Nadal was headed for a rematch of last year’s final with Federer. However, he was forced to retire from his quarterfinal match with a hip injury and could barely walk in the press conference afterwards.
The good news is it is not another knee injury. The bad news is another part of the body is apparently now an issue for the 31-year-old Spaniard. He showed up and played well in Australia, which was in doubt until the last possible moment.
Even so, his extremely physical playing style continues to catch up with him. The clay court season is the one part of the calendar where Nadal is still the unquestioned man to beat. His upcoming schedule is in question, but not seeing him back on court until April or May is a possibility.
The top of the men’s game has been so good for so long. Thus, we do not see many fresh faces when we get deep into a major at the moment, but we got three in Australia.
Hyeon Chung used a unique blend of power and speed to become the first Korean man ever to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. The 21-year-old upset Djokovic and has a bright future. The same can be said of 23-year-old Brit Kyle Edmund, who upset a pair of top 12 seeds on his way to his first Grand Slam semifinal.
The loan bright spot for the American men was 26-year-old journeyman Tennys Sandgren, who came from nowhere to upset two top-10 seeds and reach the last eight. He had never previously won a main draw singles match at a major.
Cinderella stories in moderation are a good thing in tennis. They help balance out a top heavy sport.
Here we have another athlete with multiple Grand Slams that returned from a long injury layoff in Australia. Perhaps he should have waited a little bit longer. He was dismantled in straight sets by Sandgren in the second round.
It is always great to have the best players playing at the majors, but Wawrinka is currently a shadow of the player that has won three of them. Coming back from knee surgery at 32 years old is a tall order. He clearly has a lot of work to do.
Ordinarily, going out in the fourth round of a major would be disastrous for a 12-time major champion like Djokovic. It was his earliest exit at a Grand Slam since 2007. However, when you take into account that this was his first event in over five months due to an elbow injury, the result is not terrible.
It is obvious that he is still tweaking his game to protect his injured elbow, but coming out of this tournament healthy was the main objective. Mission accomplished as far as we know.
The Croat was the benefactor of Nadal’s injury in the quarterfinals and got the soft draw of Edmund in the semis. It was his performance in the final that had to turn some heads. He pushed Federer to five sets. Federer blew out an injured Čilić in last year’s Wimbledon final.
The 29-year-old is quietly putting together a really solid career in an era of all-time greats. The new World No. 3 has now reached at least the final in three of the four Grand Slams, including a surprise victory at the U.S. Open a few years back.
Each time he reaches the second week of a major, he looks like he belongs. That is half the battle.
Quit is a very strong word in the context of sports, but that is exactly what the 20-year-old German did in the fifth set of his third-round defeat to Chung. He failed to win 10 total points in the set. The new World No. 5 has the game to make it big.
He defeated Federer and Djokovic in the finals of regular tour events last year and can be as great as he wants to be, but Zverev is still looking for his first appearance in a major quarterfinal.
This is the kind of performance that raises questions as to whether or not he has the mental toughness needed to go with his immense physical gifts.
Before the event, Kyrgios would have been a safer bet than Zverev as far as a talented youngster quitting at the business end of a match. After all, he was fined for “lack of best effort” in the not too distant past.
However, the controversial 22-year-old played well enough to back up his 17th seeding on home soil. He was taken out by Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 16, the third seed was just a tick better. There is no shame in that.
It has never been a question of talent with Kyrgios, but rather desire. With his early results in 2018, he has gone a long way towards answering those questions in a positive way.
You can check out my grades for the women here.
Featured image from SI.com
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