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Australian Open 2023

Novak's 22 Wikipedia Visit site

First Australian Open that I follow from the beginning since 1994 or so 🎾 Sabalenka won her first slam, Novak Djokovic made it to the 22nd, and I am loving this sport more than ever.

I have been warming up for 2 years now, since I decided - mid-pandemic - to start following this beautiful sport. I was a huge fan as a kid, up to my early 20s. Then I lost interest and pretty much blinked - for 2 decades - while Serena Williams, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic wrote some of the most spectacular pages of this sport's history.

In the lat 2 seasons, I have been learning the players, who's who, who's hot, and who's not. I have my favourites now, so I am vibing with the season since the first week of 2023.

Glad that I woke up just in time to see 2 of them win slams! 😅

Awesome finals, fair winners

🏆 Sabalenka's first

Photo of Aryna Sabalenka getting red to serve at Wimbledon 2021
Wikipedia Visit site

Aryna Sabalenka's first grand-slam! Congratulations!

This final was an awesome ball smacking battle. Sabalenka and Rybakina are probably the most offensive players on the top 20, maybe along Garcia and Swiatek. And they're arguably the most powerful of these 4.

In a match with just over 220 points there were a total of 26 aces and 82 winners! 🤯

Aryna Sabalenka looks like in a much better head-space than last year. Even when she almost double-faulted her way into a horrible scoreline in the second set, she laughed it off.

On the other side, Rybakina keeps adding depth to her game and evolving. She has only 3 titles in her career so far but one of them is a slam. She took the first set by a small margin and looked poised to take the championship.

But Aryna found an extra gear to serve more aces, to drive more winners, and dig better angles, without compromising consistency. The fair winner of a very even match.

Both will win more slams, maybe even this year. The field is very tight at the top and there are 3 slams lefts to grab. In my opinion, Garcia, Swiatek, Jabeur, Pegula, Sakkari, they all have a shot.

Watch: Elena Rybakina v Aryna Sabalenka Highlights

Djokovic's 22nd

What to say? I am rooting for the man! I want to see where this narrative goes. GOAT, for sure! But how many? Novak now 22 slams now, 10 AOs! And he is back at #1. Alcaraz, Tsitsipas, Ruud, Rublev, all relegated.. again.

And even if it looks at times like the age is catching up with the living legend, having played Rublev, Paul, de Minaur, Djokovic dropped one set - one single set - in the whole tournament.

As for the final...

I am saying Tsitsipas takes a set ... the third.

No! Just 3 sets, just over 3 hours. Tsitsipas did too many unforced errors and never really threatened! Yes, there was a set point on the second, an early break on the third. But that's not threatening for Novak, is it? Then the forehand just collapsed and the next 20 attempts at a winner went straight to the net.

In other news, Tsitsipas is playing better than ever and clearly attempting to deal with the family and synchronous coaching limitations. Will he make it this year? Will he ever be number one?

Watch: Stefanos Tsitsipas v Novak Djokovic Highlights

Early losers

Jabeur (2nd round), Garcia and Sakkari (3rd round), and Swiatek (4th round): the big losers of the women's draw. On the men's side, Ruud (2nd round) and Medvedev (3rd round) both lost winnable matches, against Brooksby and Korda respectively.

Nadal, Musetti, Berretini, Karatsev, Bublik, Nakashima ... all losing in round 2. Always happens, there's always the ones that fall a bit short. There are 128 players going at it, and 96 of them are eliminated on the first few days.

But yeah, you read right: Nadal is on this list and its weird. Thiem? Wawrinka? I don't think people, even fans, expects a quarter final. But we love watching them play a couple of rounds, so please keep playing! Is this the short-term future of Nadal already? Or will he retire? No one knows - and it's no one's business but Rafa's.

I expect this topic to dominate this season, and not without controversy, as not everyone observes decent ground rules for discussing player retirement. As for me, looking at how the last two slams went down, I am lowering my expectations.

Match of the tournament

Insane 5 sets between Murray and Kokkinakis on the second round.

Also, probably, rally of the tournament.

Not surprising that Murray started the next match - against Batista Agut with 1% battery. 🔋 He was dragging his feet - really dragging, not just the usual - from the very beginning. Even more than he usually does 🤣 The surprise was that he lasted 4 sets.

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