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Brilliant Barty and nifty Nadal set Melbourne alight

Updated: May 21, 2022

The first tennis Grand Slam of 2022 delivered incredibly entertaining and high-octane tennis at the Australian Open. Ashleigh Barty and Rafael Nadal were the big winners in the Singles action, with each competitor emerging victorious down under to make history in their own right.

This year hosted the 110th edition of the Aussie Open, and the biggest talking point of the event came in the two weeks leading up to the start of the tournament in Melbourne Park.

Last year mid-November, Tennis Australia issued a statement that all persons involved in the 2022 Australian Open – including players and their respective camps – were to be vaccinated against Covid-19, in line with the Australian government's vaccine mandate for all incoming travelers.

Most individuals fulfilled their obligation to get jabbed, but there were a small number of irregularities. World no.1 and three-time defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has openly admitted that he is against vaccination, and the Serb sought to use his fame and status to wriggle his way out of an uncompromising national vaccine policy.

Djokovic was granted a medical exemption by the Victorian government, however the Australian federal government intervened by cancelling his visa and restricting the multi-major winner to a detention hotel in Melbourne.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison declared Djokovic would not be given preferential treatment and that unless the 20-time Slam winner could provide medical grounds for his reluctance to vaccinate, he would be deported from down under.

After winning an initial appeal, Djokovic was released from detention and pictured training at Rod Laver Arena. Also doing the rounds on social media were images of Djokovic at a public event one day after the Serbian had tested positive for coronavirus, according to his lawyers.

It emerged that Djokovic abandoned his isolation for an interview with a French journalist, in which the tennis star reportedly barred questions on the vaccine.

The top seed was included in the draw ceremony however the following day immigration minister Alex Hawke exercised his power to cancel Djokovic's visa for a second time, citing “health and good grounds”.

Djokovic was once again detained, and 48 hours later the world no.1 was deported to Dubai for a connecting flight back to his native Serbia. Three judges upheld the decision to cancel the visa and Djokovic has since been banned from entering Australia for three years, with the nine-time Australian Open champion deemed a public threat.

Upon being thrown out of Australia, Djokovic said: “I will be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this. I am extremely disappointed with the ruling”.

Other absentees in the Men's draw included world no.8, Casper Ruud, who pulled out due to an ankle injury just hours before his proposed 1st round encounter. Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem were ruled out with long-term knee and wrist injuries, respectively.

On the Ladies' side, Karolina Pliskova missed out with a hand injury. Both Serena and Venus Williams pulled out ahead of the tournament, marking the first time in 25 years that neither sister took part in the Australian Open.

Doubles player Renata Voracova entered Australia under the same vaccine exemption as Djokovic and she, too, had her visa cancelled and was kicked out the country.

With the Men's defending champion out of the equation, it was a level playing field with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup up for grabs.

In the 1st round, South African duo Kevin Anderson and Lloyd Harris both crashed out of the tournament, the former losing in straight sets to American Reilly Opelka whilst the latter was beaten by wildcard Aleksandar Vukic in four sets.

Andy Murray scraped through the 1st round in five sets, but was later outdone in straight sets by Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel in the 2nd round.

Australia's Nick Kyrgios was unsuccessful against top seed Daniil Medvedev, going down three sets to one in the 2nd round.

10th seed Hubert Kurkacz lost to unseeded Adrian Mannarino in the 2nd round, while 13th seed Diego Schwartzman went down to wildcard Chris O'Connell – both in straight sets.

The 3rd round saw no.5 seed Andrey Rublev crash out to 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic, however the Croatian fell to Felix Auger-Aliassime the following round. 14th seed Denis Shapovalov upset world no.3 Alex Zverev as the 22-year-old Canadian cruised past the German in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals.

Stefanos Tsitsipas twice came from a set down to book his spot in the quarters, as the fourth seed overcame Taylor Fritz in a five-set thriller where the Greek sealed the result two minutes past midnight local time.

The Men's tournament hit its peak in the quarterfinals, with three of four ties decided in five sets. First, Frenchman Gael Monfils squared off with Matteo Berrettini where the Italian was two sets to the good before the veteran Monfils – at his 17th Australian Open – won the next two sets to draw level.

Berrettini took the deciding set, 6-2, to confirm a third major semifinal for the no.7 seed who also became the first Italian man to reach the last-four at the Aussie Open.

Nadal came up against young Shapovalov, who is 13 years Nadal’s junior. Nadal took the first two sets – 6-3, 6-4 – before Shapovalov replied by winning sets three and four – 6-4, 6-3 – to stretch the tie to a deciding fifth set. Nadal put his longevity to great effect, ousting Shapovalov 6-3 in the final set, to confirm his place in a 36th Grand Slam semi.

Top seed Medvedev met Auger-Aliassime for a place in the final four, and for the first time in the tournament Medvedev found himself in losing position. Auger-Aliassime stunned the Russian by taking the opening set tiebreaker, 7-4, before the no.9 seed won the second set, 6-3.

Medvedev rallied from two sets down to half the deficit, winning the third set tiebreaker 7-2, and then to get back on level terms by edging the fourth, 7-5. Medevedev harnessed his momentum to see out the contest and set a date with Tsitsipas in the semis.

Tsitsipas was the only quarterfinalist to win in straight sets as he produced his best tennis of the tournament to dump out 20-year-old Italian, Jannik Sinner – 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Nadal saw off Berrettini in the semifinals, three sets to one, to put the Spaniard into his 29th Grand Slam Final and sixth at the Australian Open.

In the corresponding semi encounter, Medvedev battled Tsitsipas. With neither competitor dropping serve, a tiebreaker was needed to decide the first set which Medvedev took 7-5.

Tsitsipas then came out firing, breaking Medvedev’s serve in the opening game of the second set, before the Russian broke back in Tsitsipas’ third game of service. Tsitsipas broke again to take a 5-4 lead and he then closed out the second set.

Medvedev bounced back and went ahead for a second time, before the maiden major winner crushed Tsitsipas 6-1 in the fourth and final set.

The two finalists had met once before at a major, in the 2019 US Open Final when Nadal ousted Medvedev in a captivating five-setter. Ahead of a crunch Championship clash with defending US Open champion Medvedev, Nadal had won just one of five previous Australian Open Finals.

Medvedev broke serve in the fifth game of the match, and again in Nadal’s next service game for the Russian to see out the opening set, 6-2. Nadal broke Medvedev twice in the second set however the Russian survived a set point and sent the set to a tiebreaker and he subsequently took it (7-5) to go two sets up and on the brink of history.

Nadal pulled a set back, taking the third 6-4, before the 35-year-old broke Medvedev’s serve in the third game of the fourth set but the no.2 seed returned the favour the very next game. Serve was dropped for a third game on the bounce as Nadal needed as many as seven break points to go 3-2 up, and he held on to win the set, 6-4, and pushing the Championship match to a fifth and deciding set.

Nadal broke first in the fifth game, before Medvedev broke back in the tenth to make it 5-5. Nadal broke again immediately after and sealed the game, set, match, and title on the first of three Championship points.

It was approaching 1.15am when Rod Laver Arena erupted as Nadal bagged his second major crown in Melbourne – 13 years after his first – and a remarkable 21st Grand Slam.

Nadal lifts himself above Federer and Djokovic (20 majors each) and the Spaniard is now the outright record-holder for most Grand Slam titles in history.

In the Ladies' Singles 1st round, no.11 seed Sofia Kenin lost out to unseeded compatriot Madison Keys, who went on to match her career-best of reaching the semis at the Australian major. Also exiting in the 1st round was American teen Coco Gauff.

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu lost in the 2nd round, as did third seed Garbine Muguruza and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit, all at the hands of unseeded opposition. Defending Aus Open champion Osaka was eliminated in the 3rd round, just as she was when she last defended her crown in 2020.

In the 4th round there were several more high-profile exits, most notably no.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka who was beaten by Kaia Kanepi, the unseeded Estonian who previously overcame 16th seed and 2016 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber in the opening round.

Two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep lost to unseeded Alize Cornet while Jessica Pegula disposed of no.5 seed Maria Sakkari in straight sets, and fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova beat two-time Aus Open winner Victoria Azarenka in straight sets.

In the quarterfinals, Krejcikova was beaten comfortably by Keys, while home favourite Ashleigh Barty swept aside 21st seed Pegula. 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek defeated Kanepi in three sets, and American Danielle Collins beat Cornet in straight sets.

In the semis, Barty cruised past Keys – 6-1, 6-3 – to qualify for a third major Final. 27th seed Collins upset 7th seed Swiatek – 6-4, 6-1 – to give the 28-year-old her maiden Slam Final.

In the Championship match, it was ultimately Barty's to lose. Being the top-seeded player on her tour, and having the support of her home crowd behind her, Barty had no excuse to not rewrite the history books.

Barty broke serve in the sixth game of the first set, to go 4-2 up and she saw out the opener, 6-3. Collins broke early in the second set and again in the sixth game to put herself 5-1 up but she failed to close the set, as Barty rallied back to 5-5. The set went to a tiebreaker which Barty claimed, 7-2.

Barty did not drop a set throughout her seven matches on the way to becoming the first Australian to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup since 1978.

Following Barty's historic victory, Australians were in party mode overdrive on Saturday evening and this was further spurred on by Mens' doubles champions Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, both from Australia. Krejcikova and fellow Czech teammate Katerina Sinakova won the Ladies' Doubles Final in three sets.

Barty and Nadal each walked away with a winner's cheque for $2M USD, while runners-up Collins and Medvedev pocketed $1,1M USD apiece.

Medvedev served a remarkable 117 aces in 7 matches, more than any other player at the event. Barty served the most aces in the Ladies' draw with 45. Nadal won 33 break points throughout the competition, proving integral in delivering a 21st major championship.

Doubles champion Kyrgios delivered the fastest serve at the tournament, at a blistering speed of 228 km/h.

Krejcikova has climbed one place to sit 3rd in the WTA Singles rankings. Swiatek moves up five spots to 4th. Ladies' runner-up Collins has jumped 20 places to now occupy 10th, while Muguruza has dropped four places to 7th. Reigning US Open champion Raducanu rises five places into 13th.

Just one change in the top 10 of the ATP Singles rankings, which has seen Berrettini (7) and Rublev (6) trade places. Medvedev remains in 2nd place but has sliced the gap behind world no.1 Djokovic. Nadal stays 5th.

While Nadal will be eyeing a coveted 14th Roland Garros crown, Djokovic remains at risk to miss the French Open – starting 22 May – should the Serbian star persist with his opposition to vaccination.

Barty has won three of four majors
Nadal is a record 21-time Grand Slam winner

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