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Australian Open 2016 report card: A look back at how the top players performed in the tournament

5.20K   //    02 Feb 2016, 11:44 IST


The Australian Open saw some hits, some misses and a lot of surprises early on in the tournament.

The women’s draw in particular saw some significant upsets, with a majority of the seeded players crashing out in the earliest stages of the tournament.

Among them were former World No. 2 Simona Halep, 10th-ranked Venus Williams – who made her return to the top 10 after a resurgence in late 2015, Kristina Mladenovic and Ana Ivanovic, all of whom crashed out by the end of the third round of the tournament.

In a shock upset, Halep’s loss – in the first round, no less, came at the hands of a qualifier – 133rd-ranked Shuhai Zhang of China, to whom the Romanian lost in straight sets.

The men’s draw, on the other hand, saw perhaps the upset of the Open, with former World No. 1 and 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal exiting the tournament, losing to Davis Cup teammate and longtime rival Fernando Verdasco in a five-set nail-biter.

Although Verdasco would himself exit the tournament in the very next round, he had shown the fallibility of a now-enervated Rafael Nadal.

For those who have missed out on any of the action from the tournament need not worry. You can easily relive all the matches of the tournament on the SonyLIV website and App. You can watch highlights, winning shots, key moments, interviews and many more things.

Here’s a report card for the top players at the tournament:

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic Andy Murray Australian Open 2016
Djokovic defended his title successfully against his 2015 rival

He’s not World No. 1 without a reason. Novak Djokovic has dominated the sport for over three years now, and he has not so far shown any signs of slowing down.

The Serb has had his most significant Grand Slam successes here in Melbourne, with 5 Australian Open titles prior to 2016 – and in perhaps a combination of a change in diet, a renewed energy Djokovic attributes to his family and the birth of his son, and just practice, he remains firmly on the top, digging his heels in and looking even less likely to give up his reign.

He faltered somewhat in the earlier stages of the tournament; although he only dropped two sets in his entire Australian Open run, he found his mettle tested by some unexpected challengers.

French teenager Quentin Halys, ranked 171st, was routed by Djokovic in the first two sets – by a Djokovic who has undoubtedly been in the form of his life. Despite this, the youngster picked up an early break of serve and tenaciously progressed through the match with some strong serves, taking the Serb to a close tiebreak in the final set.

Following that, Djokovic played what was undisputedly his worst match of the tournament when he took on French 14th seed Gilles Simon. That was both down to Simon’s tenacity and an unforced error count so uncharacteristic of Djokovic that it has since gone down in the history books despite having happened only a week ago.

100.  A hundred unforced errors committed during the course of that match.

Still, it is perhaps down to the Serb’s immense skill that he managed to win that match despite the number of errors he committed, and while he loses points for making them, he held on to make up for it and progress nevertheless.

Andy Murray

If there were a tennis equivalent to ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride,’ that would be Andy Murray at the Australian Open. The Scot has reached the finals here on 5 occasions – and not once has he won it. Of those, he lost to Novak Djokovic on three occasions, and to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal the other two times.

He’s the only player to have reached the finals of a Slam 5 times and never won.

This time, perhaps, Murray could be given some leeway.

The Scot, who has been consistent all year, has been under significant duress in his personal life, with his first child due to be born imminently. In addition, his father-in-law Nigel Sears, the coach of former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, took ill while his pupil was playing American seed Madison Keys on court in the earlier stages of the tournament – whilst Murray’s own quarterfinal was underway.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal crashes out Australian Open 2016
Disappointment etched on his face: Nadal had a disastrous outing at the Open

This was the shocker of the tournament. Nadal may have only won one Australian Open – but that is one more than Murray, who has reached the finals 5 times and been unable to build on it.

On this occasion, Nadal did not add to his 14 Slams – but he did get the wooden spoon, dumped unceremoniously from the tournament by compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a five-setter.

It was the first time Nadal had not made it past the first round of the Australian Open. His game was significantly freer of errors than his rival’s, but his serve, once feared by every opponent in Nadal’s path, faltered and let him down in the end.

It’s unsure what malaise is plaguing Nadal, or perhaps it is a combination of a number of things. Last year, the Spaniard, dubbed the King of Clay, said 2016 would be his ‘comeback year’ – but that does not seem to have come together for him just yet.

Is it age? Nadal has not looked low on energy, it is more an errant serve and inconsistent play that has let him down.

It is also perhaps time for Nadal to dispense of the services of his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal.

Uncle Toni, as he is known, is one of the most successful coaches in tennis history, with 14 Grand Slams coming from his former No. 1 nephew.

Nadal has not won a Grand Slam since 2014, which is not that long ago – but for a player of his calibre, his results, especially in the past year, have been very disappointing.

It appears that he has been stuck in a rut with his uncle, who has himself since perhaps warmed to the fact that Nadal should in fact hire another coach to try and tap into different skills.

It’s a suggestion John McEnroe himself made to Nadal in 2015.

Dynamism is something Roger Federer has long relied on, and Nadal would do well to learn from this.

Which brings us to…

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