by Ahmed Sule, CFA

Between 15 January 2018 and 28 January 2018, the world’s best tennis players pitched their tents in Melbourne to compete in the 106th edition of the Australian Open Championship. In the run up to the tournament, defending champion and the Greatest Of All Times, Serena Williams pulled out from the tournament citing her unpreparedness for the event due to complications resulting from child birth. Serena’s absence from the draw ensured that the ladies section of the draw was wide open with people like Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep emerging as favourites. On the men’s side of the draw the top players turned up although there was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the physical fitness of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Stan Wawrinka.

On Wednesday 23 January 2018, I set off for the 16,900 km journey to Melbourne. When I got to the airport, I was informed that my flight had been cancelled due to a damage to the aircraft and I wouldn’t be able to travel until 24 hours later. This meant that I would be missing the ladies singles Semi Final. Fortunately , an earlier flight was arranged so I left later in the day and arrived in Melbourne 24 hours later at 5:20 am on Friday ( Australian Eastern Time). Due to my late departure, there was no time for me to catch up with the jet lag. Immediately after I landed, I took the Sky Bus to my hotel, showered , changed clothes and walked to the coffee shop to take two shots of double espresso to keep me awake throughout the day. By 9:30 am , I was at Melbourne Park ready for the days events.

In the ladies first semi final, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6–3 7–6 to reach her maiden Australian Open final.

In the second semi final between number one seed Simona Halep and 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, it seemed that the match would be a one sided affair as Halep ran to a 5–0 lead in the first set after 13 minutes. However, Kerber dug deep and although she lost the first set 3–6, she took the second set 6–4 to take the match into a deciding third set which she eventually lost 9–7 to Halep.

British hope, Kyle Edmund lost his semi final match in three straights set to Croatia’s Marion Cilic. In the Semi final match between Roger Federer and South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, the latter retired in the second set after suffering from severe blisters on his foot.

The ladies final between the number one seed Simona Halep and number two seed Caroline Wozniacki was a classic. Playing under the sweltering Australian heat, both players battled it out with using long rallies and sharp angles to outwit one another.

Wozniacki took the first set in a tie break. Halep was suffering from injury and took a medical time out. She later shook off her injury and took the second set 6–3. Wozniacki then got injured and also took a medical time out. After 2 hours and 49 minutes Wozniacki upon winning the match point threw her racquet into the air and fell to the ground in joy and she celebrated her victory over the hard hitting Halep.

With this victory, Wozniacki won her maiden Grand Slam title and banished the demon of being among a select group of number one seeds who had never won a Grand Slam. In the aftermath of the ladies final, Simona Halep was admitted into hospital and placed on drip after suffering from severe dehydration.

Every sports has its poster boy or girl and tennis is no exception. Without a doubt, Roger Federer is the poster boy of tennis. Throughout Melbourne , his image appeared on billboards.

Inside of Melbourne Park, one could hear his voice booming out of the loud speakers. Some of previous match interviews were converted to hip hop sounding tracks and during match breaks his voice from the Rolex advert could be heard throughout the Rod Laver Arena. Unlike most of his colleagues who had to play most of their matches in the sweltering heat, Federer played most of his matches during the night session and at the Rod Laver Arena. Shortly before the final match between Roger Federer and Marion Cilic, it was announced that due to the extreme heat policy, the match will be played under the closed roof.

The men’s final was a roller coaster affair with Federer taking the first and third set 6–2 and 6–3 respectively and Cilic taking the second and fourth sets 7–6 and 6–3 respectively. In the fifth set, Federer upped his game and showed no signs of his age as he battered his opponent 6–1 to win a record equalling sixth Australian Open title and a record 20th Grand Slam title and cement his place as the Greatest Male Tennis player of all times ( emphasis added).

Twenty years after his father Peter Korda won the Australian Open men’s singles title in 1998 , Sebastian Korda defeated Chung Tseng in straight sets to win the junior boys singles title.

En Laing defeated Clara Burel to take home the junior girls title. Timea Babos teamed up with France’s Kristina Mladenovic to win the ladies doubles. If there was an award for fans of the tournament, it would go to the Colombian fans who turned up en mass to cheer the men’s doubles pair of Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah all the way to the final. The fans cheered each point won by the Colombian pair as if a goal had been scored in a football match. Unfortunately for the fans, Cabal and Farah lost in the men’s doubles final to Oliver Marach and Mate Pavić (who later paired up with Gabriela Dabrowski to win the Mixed Doubles).

Japan’s Shingo Kunieda and Australia’s Dylan Alcott won the wheelchair men’s singles and quads respectively while Diede de Groot won the Women’s wheelchair singles title.

Even in the absence of the Queen of tennis, overall it was a great tournament. I look forward to further Grand Slam tournaments when Queen Serena will be back to cement her place as the GREATEST.

The pictures that follow are what I captured during my stay in Melbourne.

Happy viewing.

Ahmed Sule , CFA

Wozniacki’s Winning Moment





Writer and social critic

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