The Australian Open tennis championship took place in Melbourne between 17 and 30 January 2022.
It was the 110th staging of the event and the 54th of the Open era.
As one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, it’s always a big occasion both for the tennis calendar, and Australian sport.
The build-up was clearly overshadowed by the “will he, won’t he?” story involving the men’s world number one, Novak Djokovic, his brush with the Australian immigration authorities over his vaccination status, and whether he’d be allowed to compete.
Once that was sorted, we were able to settle down and watch an extraordinarily good tournament packed with high-quality tennis and a series of tense matches.
Indeed, you got the sense that all the players were making a conscious effort to make us forget the awkwardness of the build-up.
Over two weeks the Rod Laver Arena was the stage for some wonderful tennis that the Rockhampton Rocket himself would have been proud of. So, read our five “smashing” highlights from the event.
1. Ash Barty is a true tennis superstar
Coming into the event having won 12 of her last 14 tournaments, the home hero, Ash Barty, was the favourite to win the women’s singles.
She was battling history, though, as no Australian had won the singles since Christine O’Neil beat Betsy Nagelsen in 1986.
However, the Queenslander rose to the challenge wonderfully well to totally dominate the event.
She didn’t lose a set in any of her matches and only lost more than four games in a set once – when the American, Danielle Collins, forced a tie-break in the first set of the final.
Barty went on to win the final convincingly and notch up her third Grand Slam, adding to the French Open title she won in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2021.
Her positive attitude to tennis, and sport in general, together with her interaction with the home crowd made her a very popular winner.
2. Rafael Nadal was a hugely popular winner of the men’s singles
Apart from Stan Wawrinka’s win in 2014, one of the big three – Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal – has won the Australian Open men’s final every year since 2006. Up until this year, however, Nadal only had one win to his name.
With Djokovic out of the picture and Federer seemingly at the twilight of his extraordinary career, Nadal stepped forward and took his chance with both hands.
You’ve always had the impression that, with his fallibility and heart-on-the-sleeve attitude to the game, Nadal has been the soul of men’s tennis for many years.
However, many feared he was past his best and that a series of injuries were finally catching up with him, but it’s clear that – even at age 35 – you should never write him off.
Nadal had lost in his last four Australian Open finals since his only previous win in 2009, and there was a belief that one of the younger challengers would seize their chance and he’d never get to lift the trophy again.
Those fears seemed justified when Nadal lost the first two sets in the final to Russian, Daniil Medvedev, but after some extraordinarily high-quality tennis, he came back to win a match that lasted close to five hours.
It was the Spaniard’s record-breaking 21st Grand Slam win.
3. More joy for Australia in the men’s doubles
After Ash Barty’s win, there was more joy for the hosts as the men’s doubles final turned out to be an all-Australian affair.
Wild card entrants, and old school friends, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios beat Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in straight sets to post the first Aussie win in the event since 1997.
This win has led to some speculation, on Tennis.com, for example, that Kyrgios – always a controversial figure – may have found his niche in the doubles game.
There was no Australian joy in the women’s doubles as the Czech pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova beat Kazakh Anna Danilina and Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia in three sets.
4. Australian pair miss out in the mixed doubles
Australian pair, Jaimee Fourlis and Jason Kubler, were hoping to win their first major title in the mixed doubles final. However, they were easily defeated by Kristina Mladenovic and Ivan Dodig in straight sets.
Though it was their first title as a pairing, the win earned Mladenovic her third mixed doubles title and Dodig his fourth.
5. The curtain comes down on an extraordinary career
After seven consecutive Australian Open titles, there was hope of a dream career-ending win for wheelchair sensation, Dylan Alcott, in the men’s quad final.
Having announced that he’d retire immediately after the final, there were expectations that Alcott would sign off with a victory. But, to the disappointment of the packed crowd, it didn’t happen as he lost in straight sets to Sam Schröder.
He had a consolation prize, however, being awarded the prestigious “Australian of the Year” award in a ceremony in Canberra a few days before the final.
The post-match comments of the winner, Schröder, were a perfect epitaph for the whole tournament: “It’s always great being back here. I love the weather and I love you guys coming to watch today. It was very special.”
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