5 Things We Learned At The 2017 Australian Open
We look into five storylines that emerged during the season’s first Grand Slam
ATPWorldTour.com reflects on the Melbourne fortnight
1. ROGER AND RAFA AREN’T DONE YET
With Rafael Nadal’s ongoing wrist issues causing him to cut this past season short in October, and Roger Federer sitting out after Wimbledon to continue rehabbing following knee surgery, some critics wondered if their bodies could withstand the rigours of professional tennis. Those doubts were swiftly erased by both players with their form this tournament.
Federer and Nadal recaptured the level of tennis that has brought them countless titles throughout their careers, firing winners at will and tracking down shots that seemed impossible to reach. Perhaps most importantly, they showed no issues with fitness or stamina, prevailing in a pair of five-set matches en route to the final before producing their own epic five-set classic in the championship match. With both players now back inside the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, it’s possible they could both be challenging for the top spot by the end of the season. Federer and Nadal are also hoping their strong start to the year will aid in a return to the ATP Finals in London.
2. THE ZVEREV BROTHERS ARE PRIMED FOR SUCCESS
Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev both enjoyed outstanding results this fortnight, but their paths to success in Melbourne have been radically different. Alexander is one of the emerging #NextGenATP stars and appears destined for greatness. The No. 24 seed gave Nadal all he could handle in the third round before the Spaniard prevailed in a marathon five-set match, but gained plenty of fans with his aggressive baseline play and ability to work a crowd.
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Mischa has endured a laundry list of injuries that saw him outside of the Top 1,000 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2015. But after revitalizing his career and re-entering the Top 60 this past season, he captivated fans this tournament with a magical run to the quarter-finals that included a win over World No. 1 Andy Murray. His vintage serve-and-volley tactics delighted fans and proved that as long as he can continue to remain healthy, he can do plenty of damage on the ATP World Tour.
Watch: Zverev’s Comeback Story
3. THE DEPTH IN MEN’S TENNIS IS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH
The days where the top two seeds could be penciled in for major titles are long gone. From Denis Istomin’s shocking second-round upset over two-time defending champion and second seed Novak Djokovic, to Zverev’s victory over Murray, unseeded players are proving they’re also capable of making big runs at important tournaments. The trend even extended to doubles, with Aussie wild cards Marc Polmans/Andrew Whittington reaching the semi-finals.
4. MURRAY, DJOKOVIC NO. 1 BATTLE PUT ON HOLD (FOR NOW)
Although Murray was disappointed with his early exit in Melbourne, he maintained his No. 1 standing by still advancing farther in the tournament than Djokovic. The Brit has minimal points to defend over the next two months, while Djokovic will defend ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells and Miami. Should there be a change in the top spot, it wouldn’t happen until the clay-court season at the earliest.
5. NEXT GEN ATP STARS ANNOUNCE THEIR ARRIVAL
Zverev wasn’t the only #NextGenATP star to make his presence felt this tournament, with several other emerging stars also producing solid tennis over the past two weeks. Among them are Ernesto Escobedo, Noah Rubin, Andrey Rublev, Frances Tiafoe and Alexander Bublik, who all came through qualifying and won their first-round matches in the main draw. Bublik recorded the biggest upset over No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille. Another honorable mention goes to a future #NextGenATP star in 17-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, who saved a match point in winning his opening round five-set battle over Gerald Melzer.