Out of the ordinary couldn’t even begin to describe what the 2021 Australian Open was. From strict travel restrictions, hotel issues, a city wide lockdown, to a huge underdog story, this year’s Australian Open was a roller coaster of an event.
The Australian Open was the first of the “Grand Slams” in the last year to occur with full participation of the top-rated players. “Grand Slam” tournaments are the four most prestigious events in the sport of tennis, with the five being: the Australian Open, US Open, French Open, and the Wimbledon. Unlike the Australian Open, the US and French Opens earlier this year had many opt-outs.
It wasn’t just the players who have had problems with playing under the circumstances. The Australian government had very strict protocols regarding players traveling to the country. Every player had to quarantine for two weeks after arriving before they would be allowed to play.
The players resided in hotels near Melbourne Park; the stadium where they would eventually play. Many, however, found their stay unpleasant. Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva had to swap rooms because of a mouse complaint, to which Putintseva found another mouse in her new room. She took to Twitter to air out some of her grievances. She posted, “it’s actually a lot of them! Not even 1 in my room now (face palm emoji).”
It wasn’t only the players who struggled dealing with the circumstances, as the fans also had to endure them as well. The number of fans allowed was limited to around 50 percent capacity, which gave a feeling as if something were missing. There was also a moment when the Australian government had to lock down the city due to a minor outbreak. They notified fans and players that the fans were no longer going to be allowed inside the stadium. Many fans went to the stadium anyways, knowing they would have to leave mid-game.
One of the players that a lot of fans wanted to see was Serena Williams. This was due to the fact that Williams needed to win the Women’s Grand Slam in order to tie Margaret Court with most Grand Slam victories in women’s history with 24. Williams, who was ranked seventh in the Woman’s Division, made it to the semi-finals and faced Naomi Osaka, who was ranked third. Osaka, who was the favorite to win the tournament, ended up conquering Williams 6-3, 6-4. With mutual respect, the two embraced and moved on. Osaka faced off against America’s own Jennifer Brady. The match was over pretty quickly, with Osaka picking up her fourth Grand Slam with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the Pennsylvania native.
The heavy favorite for the Men’s Division was Novak Djokovic, ranked at number one. He faced Stefanos Tsitsipas who was ranked fifth and defeated him en route to make it to the semi-finals, where he had an interesting match as well, against a largely unknown opponent.
Aslan Karatsev, the Russian player, was the lowest ranked man in the tournament, ranked at 114 and was the fairytale story of the Open. Because Karatsev wasn’t sponsored by any big company, he didn’t bring many clothes with him to Australia, so he had to borrow some from other players. He was able to beat 18th ranked Grigor Dimitrov, as well as number eight ranked Diego Schwartzman, and others to reach the semi-finals against Djokovic. The fact that Karatsev made it that far is a miracle.
The fairytale was for naught, however, with Djokovic defeating Karatsev in three sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic would go on to the finals to face fifth ranked Daniil Medvedev. The competitive match came to end with Djokovic winning in the third set and receiving his 18th Grand Slam championship.
Through all the struggle and the possibilities that came about in the Australian Open 2021, the highest ranked man and the highest ranked woman came out as the eventual winners, adding to their illustrious careers. One, an eighteen-year veteran, the other a 23-year-old champion who’s been on the rise. Both earned their spots on top of the mountain during unprecedented times.
Despite the circumstances, it was such a remarkable tournament, with a lot of prominent players. Very exciting.