By Alessandro Mastroluca
- Britwatch Sports reviews the 2019 season. The first part covers the start of the season Down Under
- Andy Murray was in tears before the Australian Open and the organisers prematurely bid him farewell after his first-round loss to Roberto Bautista Agut
- Novak Djokovic won his seventh title in as many finals in the first major of the year. In the women’s singles, Osaka became champion and ascended to the top of the WTA rankings
LONDON, UK – It has been a fascinating year for tennis, with huge stories, classic matches and new stars emerging. Britwatch Sports looks at some of the best moments from the 2019 season
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Andy Murray began the 2019 season fighting back the tears as he beat James Duckworth to kick-off the campaign at the Brisbane International. The former world No 1 was visibly emotional during the on court interview recalling the challenging year after the hip surgery he had in January 2018. His sorrows became an emotional talking point in the first part of the season.
ATP Tour: Cameron Norrie claimed his maiden final in Auckland
Murray lost in the second round in a one-sided match against the Russian Daniil Medvedev. The No.4 seed surrendered in the final to Kei Nishikori, who finally ended his streak of nine consecutive title-matches lost on the ATP World Tour. During the same week, Roberto Bautista Agut won the opening title of the season in Doha. At the Maharashtra Open, the 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic became the oldest ATP Tour finalist since Ken Rosewall in 1977. The Croat lost (6’11”, 2.11m) lost to Kevin Anderson from South Africa (6’8″, 2.03m) in the tallest championship match in the Open Era (since 1968).
Sydney and Auckland hosted the remaining tournaments before the Australian Open. At the Sydney International, the tenacious Australian Alex De Minaur won his maiden ATP World Tour title. In Auckland, Cameron Norrie‘s first appearance in a tour-level final ended in a defeat to Tennys Sandgren. Norrie grew up in New Zealand and received good support from the crowd, but he failed to live up with the expectations.
WTA Tour: Petra Kvitova won a thrilling final in Sydney
On the WTA circuit, Johanna Konta started the year at the Brisbane International by defeating third seed Sloane Stephens before losing to Ajla Tomljanović in her lone event before the Australian Open. Karolina Pliskova made history in the final rallying from a 6-4, 5-3 deficit to defeat Lesia Tsurenko. Pliskova was two points away from defeat in the second set, but she managed to join Serena Williams as the only player to win two titles in Brisbane since the event gained a Premier-level status in 2012.
Since the opening weeks, unpredictability became the norm in the WTA Tour. Defending champion Julia Goerges rallied from the brink of defeat in the Auckland Classic final against Bianca Andreescu. The Canadian teenager, who won the WTA Newcomer of the Year award, lost 6-1 in the third set but gave the first glimpses of her stunning, non-conventional game. In the same week, Aryna Sabalenka won her third career title at the season-opening Shenzhen Open beating three-time finalist Alison Riske.
Sofia Kenin completed an almost-perfect preparation for the Australian Open. She partnered Eugenie Bouchard to win her first WTA doubles title at the ASB Classic in Auckland. Then, in her maiden singles final, the gritty American teenager beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia in the third title match between unseeded players in the past 10 years in Hobart. In a much different scenario, Petra Kvitova needed a final-set tiebreak to beat Ashleigh Barty and claim her eighth WTA final in a row at the Sydney International. Their gripping duel remains one of the most enticing matches of the season.
Australian Open: Murray falls short before a premature farewell tribute
“I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months. I want to get to Wimbledon and stop but I’m not certain I can do that”
Andy Murray fought back tears at a news conference in Melbourne before the Australian Open.
“I’ve been in a lot of pain for about 20 months now. I’ve pretty much done everything I could to try and get my hip feeling better and it hasn’t helped loads”.
The Scot said he needed to think about his quality of life in a suddenly silent media room. On court, he lost the first two sets to Spain’s Bautista Agut, managed to force the match to a decider before losing the fifth set by a score of 6-2.
While he hasn’t yet made an official statement about his farewell, organisers showed a video tribute in which colleagues on the ATP Tour including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal showed their admiration to the Scot’s impressive career. It was just the beginning of his process of resurfacing.
READ MORE | Tearful Murray to call time on his career
Novak Djokovic won his seventh Australian Open title
The Australian open, known as the Happy Slam, wasn’t that happy for British players. Four of them were in the main draw in the main draw: Kyle Edmund, Norrie and Dan Evans besides Murray. Only Evans moved through to the second round, losing to Federer who appreciated his creative game.
Six-time champion Federer, who was looking to ‘three-peat’ from his 2017 and 2018 wins, lost in the fourth round to Stefanos Tsitsipas. Consequently, he dropped out of the Top 5 in the ATP rankings for the first time since April 2017. Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to reach the semifinals in a Grand Slam singles tournament.
He lost to Nadal, looking to win a second Australian Open trophy which would’ve given him at least two titles from each of the major tournaments. But Novak Djokovic played a near perfect match and recorded his seventh Australian Open title in so many finals played. For the first time, Nadal failed to win a set in a major final.
READ MORE | Clinical Djokovic left speechless
Australian Open: Naomi Osaka made history
The Australian Open introduced a change to its deciding tie-break format – featuring a 10-point tie-break at six-games-all. Katie Boulter became the first player to win one of these deciding tiebreaks in the women’s singles draw against the Russian Ekaterina Makarova although she had not realised as she celebrated on reaching seven points.
No British player reached the third round in the women’s singles tournament. Konta bowed out to former world No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza in the latest starting match in the tournament’s history. The Briton and the No.18 seed came on court well after midnight, at 12.30 am, after two men’s five-setters, and fought for over two hours and a half.
In the third round, Maria Sharapova managed to beat the defending champion Caroline Wozniacki before losing to Barty. In the fourth round, Kvitova defeated Amanda Anisimova, the first player born in the 21st century to advance to the second week of a Grand Slam singles tournament, and went on to reach the final.
In one of the more dramatic matches of Australian Open 2019, Pliskova stunned Serena Williams to take her place in her first Melbourne Park semifinal. She trailed Williams 5-1 in the decider and saved four match points to beat the 23-time major champion. Pliskova ran out of steam against Naomi Osaka in the semifinals.
Osaka defeated Kvitova in the title-match to become the first player since Jennifer Capriati to win her maiden two Grand Slam titles consecutively. Thanks to that victory, Osaka became the first Asian player to top the men’s or women’s tennis rankings.
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