Every year, the tennis season begins with the Australian Open. Played under the scorching sunglow, it is the first of the four much-renowned grand slams. Often referred to as the “happy slam,” the 2021 edition is being held from 8th Feb to 21st Feb. Held in the delightful coastal south-eastern city of Melbourne. It is considered to be one of the most significant sporting events in the Southern Hemisphere. Owing to all the COVID protocols, this year’s edition is a bit different.
It was founded 116 years ago, in the year 1905. Melbourne has been the primary location since 1972, and there have been 108 editions so far. It wasn’t prevalent in its early years and managed to catch the significant players’ eye and the public only from 1982. It is preceded by the US open and succeeded by the French Open (Roland Garros).
Initially played on grass courts, the field has been through various transitions this year. From rebound ace to the cool blue plexicushion, to the current blue GreenSet. It is played in three arenas, all situated in the Melbourne, Australia’s garden city. The Rod Laver Arena (the main venue and the first to feature a retractable roof), the Margaret Court Arena, and the John Cain Arena (previously called the Melbourne Arena). All three arenas sport retractable roofs. Following the COVID-19 safety protocols, the precinct will be divided into three zones. Each arena offers varied experiences. Each site will be accessible with a ticket, and the audience will be bound only to that particular zone.
Most Men’s singles title: Novak Djokovic (8)
Most Men’s doubles title: Adrian Quist (10)
Most Women’s singles title: Margaret Court (11)
Most Women’s doubles title: Thelma Coyne Long (12)
We are living the life of unpredictability because of the virus and has affected the Australian Open 2021. Several top-notch players have pulled themselves out of this Grand Slam depriving the fans of some mouth watering clashes. Let us look at some players whom we all will be missing this year:
- Roger Federer – The Swiss maestro is the most notable absentee from the Aus. Open 2021. Having missed the majority of 2020 season including French Open, Roger expected a return this year. Delay in his recovery process following two surgeries in 2020, forced the 20 Grand Slam winner to withdraw his name.
- Andy Murray – Injury plagued former World No 1, Murray had to opt out of the tournament for not getting enough time to quarantine himself after testing positive for the virus. Murray is 5 times Australian Open runners up but has never won the tournament.
- Kim Clijsters – The Belgian declined the invitation for a Wild Card to the Australian Open 2021 citing personal reasons. The winner of four Grand Slams including an Australian Open title in 2011, Kim had expected to make a comeback but the pandemic altered her plans. Much like all of us, isn’t it?
- John Isner – The 6ft 10inches tall US player prioritized his family and pulled himself out of the tournament. The dotted dad feared that the strict quarantine rules might have restrict him from seeing his two toddlers.
Other notable players who will give this Tournament a miss are : Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kyle Edmund.
Favourites to win the tournament:
- Dominic Thiem – The Austrian who finished second to Novak in last year’s AO Final will look forward to win his second major in his career. If everything goes well, the World No 3 can face Novak in the semifinals.
- Novak Djokovic – The current World No 1 has a record 8 Australian Open titles, so it will be a sin not to pick him as one of the favourites. The Serbian retained the top spot at then of 2020 and will surely look forward to win the title for the third time in a row.
- Rafael Nadal – Although, he is struggling with a back pain the Spaniard Tennis ace has everything in his arsenal to clinch his second Australian Open title. A Finals win in this tournament will take his Grand Slam titles to 21, eventually surpassing Roger Federer.
- Alexander Zverev – This 7th ranked German player will be looking to replicate his 2020 Australian Open.
- Daniil Medvedev – The Russian has improved his volley game and can trouble his opponents with his unorthodox style of play.
Also follow: Sumit Nagal, an Indian Tennis star from Haryana and Audrey Rublev – This Russian has a 79.5% winning percentage on hard courts and is in a fine form.
- Naomi Osaka – The baby-faced teen who toppled the Titan (Serena Williams) in 2018 has every weapon to win her fourth Grand Slam title. The Japanese is currently ranked at No.3.
- Ashleigh Barty – The current World No1 from Australia, Barty’s last appearance was at the 2020 Australian Open Semifinals, where she lost to the eventual winner Sofia Kenin. She will surely look forward to increase her Grand Slam wins to two.
- Serena Williams – The veteran has lost her mojo with her last Grand Slam title coming in 2017, which was co incidentally her seventh Australian Open title. The 23- time Grand Slam is at the autumn of her career but her US Open performance indicated that she still may have a few titles to win.
- Simona Halep – The Romanian will keep no stones unturned to return back to her winning ways in 2021. Having lost the 2018 Australian Open, the World No2 will be aiming at her first Australian Open title.
- Bianca Andreescu – One-time Grand Slam winner will surely try to better her record of a Round 2 finish in the 2019 edition of the tournament. Her current rank is 7th.
Also follow: Sofia Kenin, the defending champion and World No 4 and Iga Świątek, the highest ranked teenager (17) is in a red hot form after winning the last Grand Slam (French Open 2020).
This article is written jointly by Rajasik Mukherjee and Siri Vaishnavi, both first year students of Manipal Institute of Communication.