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Australian Open: the tops and flops of a (really) notable edition

TOPS.

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Australian Open: the tops and flops of a (really) notable edition

TOPS

Six of the first eight seeds were in the quarterfinals (only Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune were missing), everything but a tournament that turned everything upside down. But the men's draw offered a succession of breathtaking matches (Djokovic's first close rounds against the Croatian Prizmic and the Australian Popyrin; the 3 matches in 5 marathon sets Mannarino; Kecmanovic surprising Tommy Paul; the Chinese surprise Junchen Shang, the Portuguese revelation Nuno Borges; Zverev's obstacle course against Norrie, then Alcaraz, before only seeing the light in the semi-final against Medvedev…). Before a stunning finale. And, as in 2022, under the sign of the hare and the tortoise. Daniil Medvedev ended up losing against Jannik Sinner, as well as against Rafael Nadal, the big absentee from a thrilling edition. With 35 matches played in five sets, the first Grand Slam of 2024 set a record, tied with the 1983 US Open.

Since an epic quarter-final lost in 2022 in New York against Carlos Alcaraz, the planet has announced that the duel of the future will pit the Italian against the Spaniard. Jannik Sinner (22 years old) waited a little longer than his rival to distinguish himself in the Grand Slam but in recent months he has displayed breathtaking success (27 victories in 30 matches; 3 titles) which took him to his first triumph in Grand Slam. To dust off the history of Italian men's tennis (after the victories at Roland Garros by Nicola Pietrangeli in 1959 and 1960 and Adriano Panatta in 1976). At the end of a controlled tournament during which he got the better of Novak Djokovic in the semi-final (defeated for the third time in 2 months), before overthrowing Daniil Medvedev in the final to dominate a Top 5 for the first time in the 5th set. By finishing with a thunderous forehand to offer the Australian Open an unprecedented winner. Before lying down. And to participate in the festivities with contained emotion and the detachment of those who are impatiently waiting to experience (and win) new major finals.

Like Lindsay Davenport (in 2000), Maria Sharapova (in 2008), Serena Williams (in 2017) and Ashleigh Barty (in 2022), Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka won the Australian Open without losing a set. She hovered over the final won 6-3, 6-2 in 1h16 against the Chinese Qinwen Zheng and over the tournament to become the first player since Victoria Azarenka (2012-2013) to retain her Grand Slam title. By taking a brilliant revenge of the final of the last US Open in the semi-final against Coco Gauff. And display new solidity and regularity (six consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, three finals, two titles). Aryna Sabalenka, determined at 25 not to stop there.

Richard Gasquet (brilliant during 1 set against Carlos Alcaraz in the 1st round) and Gaël Monfils (swept in the 2nd round by the Argentinian Tomas Etcheverry) reminded us that they were not eternal. The resounding and refreshing victories of Lucas Van Assche against the Italian Lorenzo Musetti (n°25) in the 2nd round, of Arthur Cazaux against Holger Rune (n°8) in the 2nd round, of Clara Burel against the American Jessica Pegula (n °5) in the 2nd round put French tennis back in the saddle and pushed young players to the forefront. Cazaux (21 years old), Van Assche (19 years old) and Burel (22 years old) reminded Arthur Fils, Ugo Humbert, Adrian Mannarino Caroline Garcia and Varvara Gravecha that they do not alone carry the hopes of French tennis. Strength can come from variety, which can dilute the weight of responsibilities and expectations. These Blues can feed off the new momentum and gain experience. Like Arthur Cazaux who knew how to continue and not let himself be dazzled to compete in a first round of 16 in a Grand Slam and resist against Hubert Hurkacz (n°9). Waiting for the sequel.

FLOPS

The earth shook in Melbourne. For the first time in his career, Novak Djokovic, the man with 24 Grand Slam titles, was ejected from his garden in the semi-final of a tournament that he had won ten times. Unable to get the slightest break point against the Italian Jannik Sinner during his defeat (6-1, 6-2, 6-7 [6], 6-3) - a first for him in a Grand Prix match Slam – he was notably ghostly during the first two rounds. On his favorite playground of Melbourne Park (10 titles), he had not lost a match for six years (in the round of 16 against Hyeon Chung in 2018), had never surrendered at this stage of the competition in 10 semi-finals and remained on a fabulous streak of 33 consecutive victories. Since his misstep in 2018, he had won four more coronations in five editions. In 2022, he was out of the game. Failing to be vaccinated against Covid-19, he was excluded from Australia. Lack of physical intensity, longer reaction times than usual, very rough footwork..., the 36-year-old legend displayed crippling weaknesses against a young player with full confidence. The eternal young man suddenly remembering that he was also a “veteran”. Should we therefore speak of the beginning of the end for Djoko? There is only one step...A certainty. Well surrounded by the two phenomena Alcaraz and Sinner, the Serbian is no longer alone at the top of world tennis.

Also readNovak Djokovic, king of the Australian Open

Beaten in the third round by the young Czech Linda Noskova (3-6, 6-3, 6-4), the Pole is the first number 1 seed in 44 years to have lost before 1/8 of the Australian Open women's singles final. In 1979, Virginia Ruzici fell to Mary Sawyer in the first round. Iga Swiatek had not been eliminated so prematurely in a Grand Slam tournament since her disappearance in the 3rd of Wimbledon in 2022. The three-time winner of Roland-Garros had already suffered in the first round against Sofia Kenin, before pulling away to dominate Danielle Collins (editor’s note: she was down 4-1 in the 3rd set). And she lost it against a player she was supposed to master. “Why do you need to understand? Sometimes I don't understand, so I don't know if you prefer? » Annoyed to be relaunched at a press conference on the reasons for her failure, she wanted to quickly turn the page. It must be said that Australia is not very successful for him. She has never done better than a semi-final in 2022.

Unlike the men's draw, the best players did not make it to the semi-finals. Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina and Jessica Pegula fell very early. Just like Iga Swiatek. The surprises were legion (Noskova, Yastremska, Kalinskaya). This is what has made the women’s Grand Slam draws so charming in recent years. Except that the quality of the matches was not often there. The semi-final between the surprise Yastremska from qualifying and the Chinese confirmation Zheng was disappointing, as was the shock semi-final Coco Gauff - Aryna Sabalenka which did not reach the hoped-for heights. The last meeting of the fortnight between Sabalenka and Zheng did not excite the crowds, either. It must be said that the Belarusian, winner 6-3, 6-2, was much too strong than Zheng, who was discovering this stage of the competition. A final without suspense which contrasted with the stunning one in the men's draw between Sinner and Medvedev...

At the start of the season, Carlos Alcaraz assured Le Figaro that his main objective in 2024 was the Paris Olympics. A year after missing the Australian Open due to injury, the double Grand Slam winner wanted to move forward after his disappointing second part of the 2023 season given his immense potential. After a rather promising start to the tournament, the Spaniard showed his current limits during his first big test in the quarter-final against Alexander Zverev. The latter tamed the 20-year-old prodigy (6-1, 6-3, 6-7[2], 6-4). Absent from the debates, Carlos Alcaraz gave the feeling for a long time of not having left the locker room, and was down two sets to zero, 5-2 in the third set. With pride and taking advantage of Zverev's nervousness, he almost reversed the situation to come back to two sets to one after a tie-break controlled from start to finish. But that wasn't enough, as his entire performance was messy. Too little, too late. We obviously expect better from Alcaraz, at a time when Jannik Sinner, his announced rival, displays absolute confidence.

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