Following a lop-sided final in 2019 where Rafael Nadal was humbled by Novak Djokovic in straight sets at Melbourne, 2020 Australian Open men’s final lived up to expectations. The challenger from Austria, Dominic Thiem was scarily good and was just a set way from causing an upset of monumental proportions as he gained a two-sets to one lead over the defending champion Djokovic.
However, the resilient Serb wasn’t ready to relinquish his fortress yet. For the first time in eight attempts, Djokovic found himself trailing 1-2 after first three sets. But, as he did when he beat Nadal in their five-set epic in 2012, he found a way to claw back and record his eighth title Down Under. With the win at Melbourne, Djokovic now has 17 majors to his name and is just three shy of Federer's all-time record of 20 Grand Slam wins.
In the process, Djokovic also has dethroned Nadal in the rankings table as he regains his No.1 ranking which he surrendered following his round-robin exit at the Nitto ATP Finals last November.
For the Austrian powerhouse, it was once again a tale of so near, yet so far as he succumbed to his third consecutive Grand Slam final loss at Melbourne. Before his loss against the Serb, he also had lost to Nadal in the final at the French Open in 2018 and 2019. Nonetheless, his rise at the hardcourt major for the first time ever in his career was the story of Australian Open this year. En route to the title clash against Djokovic, the 26-year old Austrian outclassed the 2009 Australian Open champion Nadal in the quarter-final and the first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Alexander Zverev in the semis.
Following his stupendous run to the final at Melbourne Park, Thiem has set the tone for this year as he aims to add multiple titles on hard courts as well. The 26-year old Austrian, who started as a clay court specialist, gained massive strides in 2019 as he won three titles on hard courts last year and his journey to the final at the Australian Open this year is a step in a right direction as he strives to become the man for all surfaces.
For Rafael Nadal, his woes at the Australian Open continued as he bid an early goodbye to the tournament following a quarter-final exit at the hands of Thiem. This is the first instance since the Australian Open 2018 where the 33-year old Spaniard failed to qualify for the semi-finals or beyond at a major. He succumbed to Thiem in four sets, losing three tie-breakers in their battle of last eight that lasted over four hours at the Rod Laver Arena.
The 38-year old Roger Federer rode his luck and lived his life on a knife’s edge at this year’s Australian Open as he escaped two defeats to find himself a place in the semi-final at the first Slam of the decade. If Federer’s win against John Millman where he won six straight points to win the match tie-break in his 3rd round encounter was a grand escape, his quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren was nothing short of a miracle. In his quarter-final contest, the 20-time Grand Slam champion saved as many as seven match points and coming from a two-sets to one deficit, recorded an unbelievable victory to live another day at this year’s Australian Open. However, the 6-time Australian Open champion ran out of luck as he took on the eventual winner Djokovic in the semi-finals at the Melbourne Park. The injured Federer, crippled with a groin strain fought hard in the first set, but crashed out of the tournament in straight sets against the relentless Serb.
34-year old Stan Wawrinka put on an impressive show in his quarter-final run Down Under this year as he downed the 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev in his 4th round encounter in five thrilling sets before falling short against the young German, Alexander Zverev in their quarter-final face-off.
Following a disastrous 2019 and a dismal start to his 2020 season as well, where he lost all of his matches at the ATP Cup that preceded the Australian Open, Zverev appeared to be in total disarray as he entered the first Slam of the new year. However, to everyone’s surprise, the 22-year old young German did not lose a set in his first four rounds and following a memorable victory against Wawrinka in four sets in the quarter-final, found himself a place in the semis at a Major for the first time ever in his career. In the semis, Zverev fought hard against an inspired Thiem, but came second-best to end his most successful Grand Slam campaign so far of his career.
The women’s side of the draw witnessed a fresh face being crowned as the Grand Slam champion as the 21-year old American, Sofia Kenin played some of her best tennis to win her maiden major.
26-year old Garbine Muguruza, in her first Slam final appearance since her win at Wimbledon in 2017, won the first set against Kenin in the final, but could not win another as she went down against the inspired Kenin.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion, Serena Williams, chasing that elusive 24th major title was upset in her 3rd round encounter at the hands of Wang Qiang as clouds darken over her chances of adding another title to her list of glittery records.
With the first Slam of the year done and dusted, it would be interesting to follow how the things unfold in the coming weeks in the build-up to the Masters 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami that are scheduled to begin in March.