The 3rd Covid Slam: The Story So Far
This year’s Australian Open was already mired in controversy before it had even started: positive test results of chartered flights on which players had flown put hundreds of competitors, coaches and officials in hard quarantine, drawing criticism from the likes of Novak Djokovic, who seems to be finding it hard to stay out of discussions related to Covid protocols. However, after a rocky start, the Australian Open has provided us with some of the best sporting entertainment since early 2020. The first 5 days saw the return of crowds in the biggest numbers since the days before coronavirus, producing some incredible atmospheres, most notably in the 3rd round thriller between Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem. However, a small outbreak in Victoria has seen the end of spectators in Melbourne and the return to the eerie silence in tennis stadiums.
Despite this, the tennis still goes on. Tournament favourites Djokovic and Nadal have progressed to the Quarter Finals, despite Djokovic having several issues with his fitness in his match with Taylor Fritz, before the mysteriously disappeared against Milos Raonic. Nadal has been in imperious form, and looks the favourite to win the tournament. US Open champion Dominic Thiem was knocked out by an excellent Grigor Dimitrov, while British interest in both the Men’s and Women’s singles is over. The dark horse of the draw is Daniil Medvedev, who has swept aside his opponents as ruthlessly as ever.
The women’s side of the draw is as ever, extremely unpredictable. Home favourite Ash Barty looks to be the strongest, followed by the likes of Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep. Halep will play Serena Williams in the quarter-finals, which should be an interesting clash. Halep looks to be the favourite in that particular match up, having dismantled Williams when the pair met at Wimbledon in 2019.
As we move into the second week, we will really see who has been able to cope with the circumstances. Can the old guard keep winning slams, or will the likes of Dimitrov and Medvedev break new ground? Will crowds return on Wednesday, or will we have another silent slam final like in New York? Stay tuned.