Rafael Nadal’s record-breaking 21st Major

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal broke the three-way tie between Djokovic, Roger Federer and him for the most Majors won by a man when he came back from two sets down to beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in almost five-and-a-half hours and clinched his 21st Major. Nadal also became only the second man in the Open Era to win every Slam at least twice.

Ash Barty ends Australia’s 44-year-wait

Local favourite Ashleigh Barty ended Australia’s 44-year wait and became the first home player since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to become the Australian Open singles champion by defeating American Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the final.

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Ashleigh Barty waves as she holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after defeating Danielle Collins in the women's singles final at the Australian Open.

 

The Novak Djokovic saga

Months before the actual tournament began, the Australian Open was the talk of the tennis world with one simple question - Will Novak Djokovic play? Melbourne had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the tournament organisers had earlier made vaccination against the virus mandatory for the participating players. However, they later introduced the grey area of a medical exemption,paving the way for the entry of the unvaccinated Djokovic. As it turned out, an error in Djokovic’s visa application and the politicisation of the issue by the Scott Morrison government eventually led to the nine-time Australian Open champion being deported from the host nation on the eve of the tournament.

ALSO READ : Barty and Djokovic keep No. 1 ranking, Collins in top 10

Junior Boy’s Final

Apart from Nadal’s and Barty’s historic finals, another final from the Australian Open 2022 made headlines - the junior boys’ summit clash. Top seed Bruno Kuzuhara of USA and his Czech opponent Jakub Mensik played a marathon final that lasted almost three hours at the end of which Kuzuhara won 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 7-5. Mensik was so exhausted that he collapsed with a cramp after match point and had to be taken off court in a wheelchair.

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Jakub Mensik lies on the court as he suffers cramps against Bruno Kazuhara in the boys' singles final at the Australian Open.

 

Kenya’s history-making girl

The small African nation got a slice of history of its own at the Australian Open 2022 as the junior player Angella Okotuyi became the first woman from her nation to reach the third round in singles of any event at a Grand Slam. Okotuyi received praise for her performance from Oscar-winning actor Lupita Nyong’o.

The Great Interrupters

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu was down 4-6, 6-4, 1-3 in her second-round match against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro. It was Kovinic’s turn to serve but she was made to wait as a seagull was flying all over the Margaret Court Arena. The same situation later happened during the fourth-round match between Aryna Sabalenka and Kaia Kanepi.

If it was seagulls in the air, on ground, it was the insects. During the men’s singles fourth-round match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz, there was a moment when an insect had found its way onto the Rod Laver Arena and even frightened a ball girl before Tsitsipas carefully put the insect on his racket and removed it from the court.

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An insect is seen on the foot of Taylor Fritz during his fourth round match against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 

The heat

The searing heat in Melbourne was a huge obstacle that players involved in the day session matches had to face and some were severely impacted by the same. Barbora Krejcikova, who won the women’s doubles title with her Czech compatriot Katerina Siniakova, particularly struggled during her singles quarterfinal defeat against Madison Keys. Krejcikova had to ice herself on changeovers and also requested a trainer to visit at the end of the first set.

Rafael Nadal apparently suffered from heatstroke during his five-set win over Denis Shapovalov in the men’s singles quarterfinal.

ALSO READ : Nick Kyrgios hits out at the media over Ash Barty comments

The ‘Siuing’

While Australian Open is a tennis tournament, football somehow found its way to make its presence felt at Melbourne Park this year. ‘Siu’, the word Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo uses during his goal-scoring celebration, was widely used by the crowd in Melbourne. At first, it was confused with booing but once it became clear what it actually was, not many players liked it. Andy Murray, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5) in the first round, found it “incredibly irritating".

Kaia Kanepi Slam

Veteran Estonian player Kaia Kanepi, 36, completed her set of reaching at least the quarterfinals at every Major after a dramatic 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win over world number two Sabalenka of Belarus in the fourth round. Kanepi had three match points but Sabalenka came back to force the super tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Kanepi apparently forgot the final tiebreak rule of first to 10 points introduced in 2019 and celebrated too soon when she won the ninth point but eventually got her moment a point later.

Sixty-third time’s the charm for Alize Cornet

France’s Alize Cornet, 32, finally reached the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam in her 63rd attempt when she upset two-time major winner Simona Halep of Romania 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the fourth round. Cornet dropped down to her knees and clasped her hands, putting them over her face after the match-point. “It’s never too late to try again!” said Cornet in her post-match on-court interview with Jelena Dokic. Thirteen years ago, Cornet had two match points against Dinara Safina in fourth round of the Australian Open and would have faced Dokic in the quarterfinals had she won. The duo’s on-court interview and the embrace, in the end, is one of the most memorable moments of Australian Open 2022.

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Alize Cornet of France reacts after defeating Simona Halep of Romania in their fourth round match at the Australian Open.

ALSO READ : Australia conquered, Barty's coach calls for change at U.S. Open

Cressy gets people talking about serve-and-volley again

American Maxime Cressy’s serve-and-volley game reminded the spectators of the players from the earlier generations. Cressy showed potential by reaching the final of the warm-up event in Melbourne where he lost to Nadal. At the Australian Open, Cressy reached the fourth round where he went down to the eventual runner-up Medvedev. However, he managed to eke out a set and made the Russian work extremely hard for his 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 7-5 win.

Naomi Osaka

Even though defending champion Naomi Osaka went out to USA’s Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the fourth round, her reaction to the defeat showed that she is in a much better head space after her struggles with mental health last year. In the post-match press conference, Osaka said, "I'm not God! I can't win every match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude. Of course I lost, but I'm happy with how it went. I just want to go into this year knowing that I'll play the whole year and I'll just have the greatest attitude ever."

“Where is Peng Shuai?” t-shirts

Almost two-and-a-half months after former women’s world number one double player Peng Shuai of China alleged that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past, which led to concerns about her whereabouts, the #WhereisPengShuai campaign continued in Australia. After a video posted on social media of security officials instructing fans to remove shirts with the slogan on them went viral, Tennis Australia said the fans were free to wear them as long as they don’t become “disruptive”. Last month Peng said she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her and that a social media post she had made had been misunderstood.

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Spectators wearing "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts pose outside Melbourne Park ahead of the women's singles final.

READ : From Federer to Djokovic, reactions to Nadal's Australian Open win

Misbehaviour with the chair umpires

A$69,000 in fines were handed out for 24 code violations in the men's events while A$9,500 against five players in the women's competitions. Misbehaviour with the chair umpires increased in the later stages of the tournament. Medvedev was fined a combined A$12,000 (about $8,400) for two code violations, one for an audible obscenity and the other for unsportsmanlike conduct during his quarterfinal against Tsitsipas where he shouted at umpire Jaume Campistol. Canadian Denis Shapovalov was fined the same amount for calling match official “corrupt” during his quarterfinal against Nadal where he wanted the chair umpire to give time violation penalty to the Spaniard. Later in the press conference, Shapovalov also said that Nadal received “preferential treatment".

Retirements

This Australian Open saw several players either retire or announce that they will retire at the end of the season. Quad wheelchair singles legend and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott bid farewell to the sport after losing to second-seeded Dutchman Sam Schroder 7-5, 6-0 in the final. Sam Stosur, another home player, retired from singles after her second-round loss to world number 11 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Alize Cornet hinted that this will be her final year on tour after her second-round win against Garbine Muguruza. Indian tennis trailblazer Sania Mirza declared that she will say goodbye to the sport after the US Open.