A Herculean effort was required to stage the 2021 Australian Open and navigate many of the pandemic restrictions. But the tournament still provided high-quality matches and produced two incredible champions in Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic.
With a delayed start, quarantine woes and the reemergence of the fans (then their absence and return yet again), Tennis Australia managed the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus as best as possible and continued to build on the successes of the 2020 US Open and French Open. There were upsets, miraculous runs by unknowns and thrilling on-court battles.
If there’s one thing the tournament made perfectly clear, it’s that, much like its predecessor, the 2021 season will be full of constant change — on and off the court.
Here are some key takeaways from the year’s first major.
The 23-year-old left little doubt about her current place in women’s tennis with another dominant performance. Defeating Jennifer Brady in the final, Osaka notched her fourth major title, tying her with Kim Clijsters and trailing just Serena and Venus Williams among active players — and is now on a 21-match win streak.
While her straight-set victory over Serena Williams in the semifinals garnered most of the attention during her run in Melbourne, it was perhaps her match against two-time Slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round that was the most impressive. Pushed to the brink in the third set and down 5-3, Osaka staved off two match points and never looked back. She won the next three games and advanced, ultimately becoming the eighth woman in the Open era to win the Australian Open after saving a match point.
With her latest triumph, as well as her current activism and celebrity off the court, Osaka is unquestionably the new face of the sport. But she doesn’t seem particularly fazed.
“Honestly, I don’t really think too much about it,” she said on Sunday. “For me, I just focus on myself and what I can do. So I don’t really put too much pressure on myself in that way.”
Read the full article at ESPN.