Five Things We Learned From The Australian Open
As we turn the page from the first month of the 2023 ATP Tour season, we look back at some of the key takeaways from the Australian Open. From the dominant performances of champion Novak Djokovic and finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas to the first-week odyssey of Andy Murray, there was no shortage of storylines at the year's first Grand Slam.
1. Djokovic Sets The Standard
The Serbian left Melbourne as World No. 1, reclaiming the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time since last June. The honour is reward for a scintillating stretch of results dating back to Wimbledon: Djokovic is 38-2 since the start of the grass-court Slam, winning six of his seven tour-level events in that span.
The 35-year-old carried his red-hot 2022 form into the new year, peaking in the later rounds of the Australian Open. Despite a hamstring injury he suffered in Adelaide limiting his movement in the opening rounds, Djokovic dropped just one set in Melbourne — to Enzo Couacaud in the second round — before hitting top form in devastatingly one-sided wins against Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev.
Tested by Tsitsipas in the final, the Serbian took a page from a familiar playbook by being the more solid player in the clutch moments, winning two tie-breaks to secure a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam men's singles crown.
2. Tsitsipas Hits Top Form
The Greek had been to three Australian Open semi-finals, including each of the past two, before this season. But he broke new ground at what he affectionately calls his "home Slam", advancing to the title match with the loss of just three sets.
While he missed out on the chance to debut atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with defeat to Djokovic on Sunday, Tsitsipas is back up to his career high of World No. 3 after reaching his second major final. It's a fitting milestone for the 24-year-old, who showcased some of the best tennis of his career in Melbourne, particularly off his powerful forehand wing.
Following a strong close to the 2022 season that included runs to two finals (Astana, Stockholm) and a semi-final (Paris), the Greek built on that success in Australia, where he won his first 10 singles matches dating back to the United Cup. His most impressive performance at the Australian Open came in the fourth round, when he held off a furious comeback from Jannik Sinner to advance in five sets.
3. American & Chinese Men On The Rise
With Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Ben Shelton all reaching the AO quarter-finals, it marked the first time since 2000 that three American men featured in the last eight Down Under — and the first time the United States had three quarter-finalists at any Slam since the 2005 US Open. Paul, who broke into the Top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, went on to reach the semis in his best major showing.
Eight Americans were among the last 32 in Melbourne, including J.J. Wolf, who reached the fourth round. He is one of 10 U.S. players in the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
The 2023 Australian Open also marked a milestone for Chinese men's tennis. Shang Juncheng, Wu Yibing and Zhang Zhizhen became the first male trio from the nation to compete in a Grand Slam singles draw in the Open Era, and the first in Australian Open history. The 17-year-old Shang, a qualifier, advanced to the second round as the youngest player in the field.
4. Upsets Showcase ATP Tour's Depth
In addition to the three unseeded AO quarter-finalists (Paul, Shelton, Jiri Lehecka), a slew of early upsets was the latest example of the unrelenting depth of talent on the ATP Tour. In reaching the quarters, the Czech Lehecka knocked off 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in consecutive matches. The 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up did not have any Grand Slam wins across his debuts at all four majors last season.
The Melbourne second round saw three Top 10 men exit: Mackenzie McDonald took out top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets, Jenson Brooksby eliminated second seed Casper Ruud in four, and home favourite Alexei Popyrin edged Taylor Fritz in five. One round later, Korda dismissed returning finalist Daniil Medvedev in three sublime sets.
5. Murray Fights On, Finds New Gear
At the tournament where he announced his potential retirement in 2019, Murray delivered three vintage performances to flash his credentials as a Grand Slam contender. He saved a match point in a thrilling five-set win against 13th seed and returning semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini in the opening round, then followed it up with a comeback from two-sets-to-love down against Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round.
While he bowed out with a loss to 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, the 35-year-old Briton again demonstrated his battling qualities by winning a set and pushing the Spaniard to the last ball despite his previous exertions. Across his three matches, Murray spent more than 14 hours on court, including 10 hours and 34 minutes in his two victories.