Highlights from the women's draw at the 2015 Australian Open
The 2015 Australian Open saw incredible matches throughout the fortnight. There were plenty of upsets and surprises in the women’s draw at the year’s first Grand Slam. The top seeds did not have it easy in the early stages of the tournament, but ultimately the topmost of the top seeds was left holding the trophy aloft.
Let us look at all the major talking points from the women’s draw in Melbourne Park.
Note: You can catch all the best moments from the Australian Open on Sony Liv Sports here.
Early upsets made everyone sit up and take notice
It is extremely difficult to pick a winner in the women’s section for any Grand Slam tournament because of the sheer unpredictability of it all. That was reinforced right on Day 1 of the Australian Open as No. 5 seed Ana Ivanovic was knocked out by unseeded Czech player Lucie Hradecka in the first round.
Camila Giorgi, meanwhile, is a tricky opponent and No. 12 seed Flavia Pennetta found that the hard way after she was shown the door by the young Italian in the opening round.
Other seeded players who made an early exit included the likes of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sabine Lisicki, former World No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Angelique Kerber, Lucie Safarova and Caroline Wozniacki. The young players showed the world they were more than capable of taking on the best, in the process infusing the tournament with explosiveness right from the word ‘go’.
Intriguing match-ups add sizzle to the tournament
The No. 8 seed Wozniacki was up against two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round, since Azarenka was unseeded for the tournament after an injury-plagued 2014. The Belarussian proved too good for the Dane with her powerful groundstrokes and did not let Wozniacki settle into the match.
Maria Sharapova was expected to streamroll through her second round match, but Alexandra Panova had other ideas. Panova pushed the No. 2 seed all the way and had two match points up her sleeve, but couldn’t convert them. Sharapova upped the ante at the right moment to progress to the third round.
Serena Williams passed a tough test posed by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round. Muguruza had beaten Serena at the French Open last year and had the game to repeat the result at Rod Laver Arena. Serena didn’t quite look herself in the opening set as she committed 14 unforced errors, and Muguruza capitalised on that to take a one-set lead. But Serena showed her class in the second and third sets as she broke the Spaniard’s serve four times to reach the last eight stage.
2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova took on Azarenka in the Round of 16. It was difficult to separate the players until the middle of the third set in this stroke-filled extravaganza. Towards the end of the match, however, Cibulkova started to dial up the aggression even further by taking the ball early and winning a majority of the rallies. The No. 11 seed got the crucial break in the seventh game of the decider and never looked back after that.
No. 6 seed Agnieszka Radwanska was expected to go deep in the tournament after hiring Martina Navratilova as her coach. But she had a task on her hands in the fourth round against five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. The American committed 36 unforced errors against just 19 by the Pole, but Venus hit 43 winners to wrap up the match in a one-sided third set.
Top players bring out their best tennis towards the end
There was a lot of hype surrounding the clash between Eugenie Bouchard and Sharapova in the quarterfinals even before the tournament began. The anticipation levels rose even higher considering that both players looked in superb form coming into the encounter. However, the match did not live up to the expectations as Sharapova dictated points and imposed her game on Bouchard from the outset. The No. 2 seed broke the Canadian’s serve four times and hit 19 winners in a power-packed performance. Bouchard failed to convert her two break point opportunities and committed 30 unforced errors to crash out of the tournament.
In a match that was seen as the passing of the guard, Keys took out Venus Williams with some breathtaking tennis. The 19-year-old did not show any signs of nervousness as she appeared in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Keys executed her gameplan perfectly to overpower Venus and reach the semifinals.
The semifinals did not light up the Melbourne sky though, as both Sharapova and Serena brought out their finest tennis to win their matches in straight sets. Serena dusted off Keys despite the latter seemingly surprising the World No. 1 with her power. Later, Serena expressed appreciation for Keys’ run and voiced her opinion that the young American can go on to win Grand Slams in the future.
Makarova, meanwhile, was no match for her compatriot Sharapova in the semifinals as the No. 2 seed won an impressive 81% points on her first serve and struck 23 winners to reach the final.
So finally it was World No. 1 vs World No. 2 in what promised to be a blockbuster finale, albeit only on paper. Sharapova came into the final on a 15-match losing streak against Serena; the last time the Russian defeated Serena was way back in 2004.
Almost on cue, the No. 1 seed broke the Russian’s serve three times in the opening set. Sharapova broke back in the eighth game, but it was too little too late as Serena won the first set in comfortable fashion.
The second set was a much closer affair as both players pushed each other to get their hands on the silverware. The set went to a tiebreak and it was Serena who emerged as the better player to raise her sixth Australian Open and 19th Grand Slam title overall.
Serena went past her compatriots Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the Grand Slam leaderboard with her win in Melbourne, and in the years to come the 2015 Australian Open may well be recognized as the event when Serena went from being an all-time great to the greatest player who ever lived.