2021 Australian Open: Who and What to Watch


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Australian Open before Covid-19.

By Emily Chin, Staff Writer

The two-week period of the 109th Australian Open has officially begun. The Australian Open is the first event to take place out of the four Grand Slam tournaments. This year the qualifying events were in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates due to Australia’s strict coronavirus protocols.

You might have even seen players on social media practicing inside their hotel rooms while serving their mandatory 14-days of quarantine. The preparation for the 2021 Australian Open was rocky, with players and other organizational members catching Covid-19 left and right causing cancellation, delays of games, tune-up, and qualification events.

Finally this Sunday, Feb. 7, the first round for both men’s and women’s singles began. As for the three doubles tournaments, there haven’t been any clear announcements on the line-up and schedule. Last year’s Australian Open singles champions were Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin, while doubts winners were Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (men), Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic (women), and Barbora Krejcikova and Nikola Mektic (mixed). Going into the first round which players and which teams will be worth the watch?

For men’s singles, it’s no secret that Rafael Nadal and Djokovic won’t put up a good match for the viewers. While Nadal is chasing his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title, Djokovic will be attempting to hold on to his men’s singles champion status.

A serious must-watch match of the first round will be the up-and-coming players Dennis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner. Shapovalov has the advantage when it comes to experience, but Sinner has been on a phenomenal roll the past ATP season. The Italian teenager has already broken many age records by becoming the youngest quarterfinalist to reach the French Open since Djokovic in 2006 and reaching the quarterfinals on his debut year since Nadal in 2005. His most notable strength on the court is his two-handed backhands, in contrast to Shapovalov’s famous one-handed backhand.

Another match to watch out for is Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic, both meeting a total of six times–Cilic leading 4-2. The match is well anticipated seeing that only one gets to move on to the second round. Looking at Dimitrov’s stats he had a strong season run, maybe just enough to edge out the former U.S Open champion and two-time Grand Slam runner-up.

For women’s singles, Serena Williams is ready to kill it on the court. No shocker that Williams is looking to achieve more records, if she is able to win the women’s singles: she becomes the oldest Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era, will tie with Margaret Court for an all-time record of 24 grand slams, and finish off her career as the fourth mother to lift a major singles trophy.

The other two prominent players to watch out for are Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka. Starting off with Barty, The Australian has received a newfound love that no other player has experienced. Barty is known for her dynamic serves and backhand slice which are two deadly components in her game. Naturally, she has the ability to attract fans from all around the world through her quick-paced and exciting matches, not to mention she’s in her home country so she will be a fan favorite.

Sabalenka is another strong player who had a long winning run during the ATP season. With her powerful serve and aggressive baseline groundstrokes, she is able to hit a lot of winners. The only problem that may interrupt her Australian Open run is that she’s not as consistent when it comes to top players. Other notable players to watch in the women’s singles category are Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza, Elise Mertens, and Kenin.

Through the doubles draw schedule hasn’t been stated, a team that will be deadly is Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil. The two Canadians combined will make a doubles dream team. On one side you have Pospisil, a righty who is a Wimbledon champion with an aggressive on-court tempo, paired with Shapovalov, a lefty with his signature one-handed jump backhand, the pair couldn’t get any better. Both are generally singles players, but the duo will be an exciting sight to see.

An exciting new partnership is Barty and Jennifer Brady. Barty is going to be a dominator whether she’s playing singles or doubles. She has powerful groundstrokes both on the ad and deuce side, but when she’s at the net that’s where she tends to excel. Brady on the other hand is more dominant when she’s playing at the baseline. Her forehands and serves are her two components that mainly catch her opponents off-guard, both quick and aggressive. though they are new in their partnership, they are able to cover each other’s weaknesses and will be a fun duo to watch.

As for the mixed doubles teams, nothing has been declared yet. Once the teams are determined, and draws for all doubles matches come out, the Australian Open will be at its full capacity of singles and doubles matches. Some important dates to keep in mind are that women’s doubles finals and mixed doubles semi-finals are scheduled for Feb. 18, while women’s singles and men’s doubles finals are scheduled for Feb. 20. Leaving the tournament to conclude with the mixed doubles and men’s singles finals for Feb. 21.